YES I compost, YES I do, YES I compost, how about YOU?
Sorry. Some of the enthusiasm I occasionally run into when I talk about composting within earshot of the WEE crowd (Wild-Eyed Environmentalists) brought to mind an old cheer from high school basketball games when I thought about starting this particular blog, and that led to memories of friends and classmates who were high school cheerleaders or "pom-pom" squad, and that, of course, revived other old enthusiasms and left me mentally wandering....but I digress.
Actually, to be truthful, I was late to the composting game as a gardener and I still do it haphazardly. For the first years of my gardening life, I was fond of throwing the weeds back down where I pulled them and letting nature do the work (I still do, to the chagrin of my wife, if I'm weeding far from the compost pile). I am certainly not a religious convert to the organic-only mindset and, forgive me Gardener, but I routinely sin and don't compost many items which are compostable. I don't, for instance, walk my wife's coffee grounds down the hill in the freezing Kansas wind to add them to the pile. Nor the banana peels, or eggshells, or wilted celery. My desire to compost, I'm afraid, ends at the onset of cold weather. Just last week I read a locally-written article on how we should turn our compost piles every month in the winter. Really? I don't know about you, but here in Zone 5B, my compost pile has been frozen rock solid for the past three weeks and it'll likely remain that way through March. I wonder if the local writer has really gotten out and tried to turn his compost pile lately, or if he was reading and passing on information written in Britannia or southern Texas?
Towards my salvation, though, over the past several years a good friend who lives amidst the trees has provided me with as many bags of fresh fallen leaves as I can drive away with. Routinely, that means that in making the compost pictured above in my makeshift compost pile, I've added about 50 large bags of leaves to the mix annually. In fact, as you can see pictured below, I have several bins where leaves remain half-rotted until I begin cutting summer grass and pulling weeds. I mix in the leaves with the green fresh material as it becomes available, and then turn the pile back and forth between bins until finally, all those bushels of leaves and grass become the pictured half-bin (2X4X4) of mostly compost.
I certainly don't make great compost, however. Somehow, I never reach the black, crumbling texture described in all the books, even though my soil thermometer tells me that I reached the prerequisite temperatures at least twice this year. Perhaps, being intrinsically lazy, I don't turn it enough since I probably only turn it completely about 3 times in a summer. Sue me, I just can't face turning the compost pile when the July sun is high and the temperatures start at 90F and end up at 109F. And I probably don't water it enough. Although I try for the "wrung-out" sponge dampness, I mostly see repeatedly watering the compost pile as a bit of a waste of water in a landscape where water is a precious commodity during the summer. And maybe I fail because I mix in whole leaves and grass clippings and I don't chop them up fine enough.
But, even half-finished, the plants don't seem to complain when they're mulched with my meager offerings. And I trust the ingredients of my compost enough to put it on my vegetable garden, in contrast to the local municipal compost. The latter, while free and available in large quantities, tends to have a bit of gravel, bottle tops and rubber items occasionally mixed in. I might not mix my partially-aged compost into the soil for fear of losing a little available nitrogen, but the worms seem to appreciate its presence as a mulch.
I'll leave you with this very deep thought: however reluctantly and imperfectly, I suppose all gardeners eventually compost.