A Compost

Compost Happens!

Hot tips for composting in cool climates

By Marion Owen, Fearless Weeder for PlanTea, Inc. and
Co-author of Chicken Soup for the Gardener’s Soul

Making compost is like baking a cake!

My neighbor, Mrs. Crayneck, is a great baker. But when her world famous banana bread doesn’t turn out quite right, she doesn’t sweat the small stuff.

“What’s the worst thing that can happen?” she says. “I just put it in the compost pile!”

Sooner or later gardeners come across the word “compost.” As easy as it is to say, compost has a reputation for being difficult to master. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. If I can make hot, 160-degree compost during an Alaska winter, you can too–no matter where you grow your tomatoes. It’s easy. In fact, you can compost 163 materials! Here’s how…

“If you can read, you can cook!”

One day, when I was 12 and still climbing trees, Mom came into the kitchen and said, “Honey, how about making dessert for tonight?”

Having just endured months of salad-making for our family of seven, I was ready for a change. Mom picked up an old copy of Gourmet cookbook and started flipping through the pages. It was like watching Wheel of Fortune.

Finally, she pressed her finger to a recipe and said, “Here you go, make this.”
Her finger pointed to a chocolate souffle recipe. I was stunned. “Don’t worry sweetie,” she said. “If you can read, you can cook.”

So began my love affair with cooking. That experience also taught me a fundamental lessons: You can do whatever you set your mind to. And if you need help, follow a recipe, like Mrs. Crayneck, whether you’re building a house, installing software, or making compost.

Let’s begin this lesson by de-mystifying compost. We’ll make it easier by following a recipe. And as you’ll see, making a compost pile is a lot like making a cake. And we can do it in 3 easy steps.

Gather up your ingredients

Stir them together, and let it cook. Even Bette Midler knows the value of compost…

Why the Divine “Miss M” loves compost

“My whole life has been spent waiting for an epiphany, a manifestation of God’s presence, the kind of transcendent, magical experience that lets you see your place in the big picture. And that is what I had with my first compost heap. I love compost and I believe that composting can save not the entire world, but a good portion of it.”

–Bette Midler, in a Los Angeles Times interview

I’m sure Bette Midler would agree that making and using compost is not only a life-changing experience, but it’s the world’s best soil conditioner.

Compost recycles organic materials, from apple cores and coffee grounds, to dried leaves and Shredded Wheat.
Compost improves any–and all–soil.
Compost provides the basic nutrients of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) as well as dozens of micro- and macro nutrients that are vital for healthy plants.
Compost “gives back” nutrients that flowers, herbs and vegetables remove in their normal growth processes.
Compost prevents nutrients from leaching away from plant roots.
Compost protects soil against wind and rain erosion, drought, dust storms, earthquakes and other extreme conditions.
Compost extends the life of landfills by reducing space needed for food and yard wastes.