Compost is one of my favorite things. It’s sweet-smelling, comforting to let spill through your fingers, and full of remnants of plants and memories from the garden. I feel like a real gardener when I take the front off a finished bin and the rich brown earth” spills out, still steaming slightly, and full of fat worms and sometimes partially recognizable fibers from last year’s begonias, corn husks, and dill stalks.
It may seem odd to be so enamored with such common stuff, but then it’s a gardener’s right to be eccentric, isn’t it? Compost is a feel-good garden tool since it is evidence of recycling from the garden and kitchen. And the things it does for the garden are nothing short of magic. It not only improves the soil’s tilth (isn’t that a great word!) but also improves its nutrient-holding and water-holding, and provides some extra, inexplicable disease resistance for the plants.
Compost is the ultimate soil conditioner, texturizer and nourisher, and something I need in unmanageable quantities right now. When I left my old garden, the one thing I couldn’t move was the compost. Composting is very personal, and I would never assume that someone moving into a new house would want to continue my compost pile. So, like a good, dutiful gardener, I politely spread all that was left on the existing beds for the next owners. It hurt, knowing that I would be starting anew, without compost, and here was all this black gold from which they would reap the benefits.
But enough grousing at what I left behind. It’s time to concentrate on starting my new compost pile. Since I’m in the city, I don’t have lots of room for piles. So, I’ve started with a commercial recycled plastic bin and a wire bin for leaves. So far it seems to be working well.
I’ve never used any of the commercial compost accelerators or synthetic fertilizers, and it seems to be decomposing well with only occasional turning, the addition of soil and shredded leaves every so often, and occasionally some water.
I don’t use commercial fertilizers in the garden, and I find that my plants thrive as long as I pay careful attention to the soil. The only thing I add is compost as a top dressing or mulch a couple of times a season. I wish I could say that I follow a careful schedule for this, but mostly I topdress when I have enough finished compost. I turn under what’s there in the fall and then add more the following spring.
Even though I don’t have nearly enough compost to use this season, there is a great feeling of comfort at looking at my bin, knowing it will be chock-full by the end of the gardening season and just waiting to be emptied on next year’s garden.
One of the benefits of great soil is great vegetables. My peas are coming on strong, and it won’t be long until I get to enjoy them fixed in a myriad of ways. A favorite is green pea bruschetta or dip:
Green Pea Dip or Bruschetta
1 cup shelled garden peas (or thawed frozen peas)
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh basil leaves (you can change out the herbs to suit your taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
Pulse in a food processor until almost smooth but there is still some texture left.
Serve as a dip for fresh vegetables or spread puree on toasted slices of French bread and top with a dollop crème Fraiche and a swirl of Sriracha or chipotle tabasco.