One of the most important aspects of gardens using all natural methods is the building and use of compost. Compost is organic matter that has broken down into a fine humus*. Plants love this black gold and can readily uptake it through their root systems to build strong healthy stems and leaves. Strong pants resist insects and are more nutritious for us to eat and grow larger as well.
There are numerous ways to build compost piles. I would like to introduce you to a method that works well here in the tropics where we garden all year round and get plenty of rain and sunshine most of the time. Always build your pile in full sunlight if possible, the heat makes it ‘work’ faster and the resulting humus is more broken down and readily available to your plants.
Building a compost pile takes a little preparation. Here in the gardens we plan a few days in advance and gather everything we are going to use and we place these piles of ingredients close to where the compost pile will be built .
The first thing you will need is an abundance of green clippings from grass, trimmings from plants, leaves etc. Another important ingredient is EM a microbial element available at any good garden store (this will greatly speed up the rate at which your pile will break down). You will also need a source of nitrogen. We are lucky at Honua Lani Gardens, we have sustainably raised cattle near by so we gather their droppings.
Once you have gathered all your materials including your kitchen waste and have your EM brewing, you layer your compost items with soil, watering liberally as you work. Build the pile a minimum of four feet high, douse with EM as you go (I use a watering can) and cover with a good quantity of soil. Water again and cover with a tarp for a couple of months.
Turn the pile a couple of times adding kitchen waste, soil and EM. A pitch fork works wonders for turning the pile and it is good to have someone holding the hose as it will become dry in the sun and you want it to maintain lots of moisture so it will continue to break down.
In about six months the pile will have shrunk about seventy five percent but you will have a dark, almost black, rich soil like substance that crumbles between your fingers. This is *humus and is the best growing medium for your garden. All plants thrive on humus.
Sprinkle three to four inches on top of your beds before you add the straw and work loosely into the soil for best results. Plant your starters immediately.
Humus can also be added when the plant is half grown to boost its vigor and bring on strong mature plants ready for harvest.
Make composting fun for all. It is gold for your garden so get the kids and your friends involved when you build and turn your pile. Many hands make light work.
Enjoy a garden lunch together when you are done. Celebrate the good you are doing for yourselves, your environment and your garden! It is worth celebrating recycling your waste and creating strong sustainable plants for you and your family to eat.
Please share your tips or questions about composting. I would be delighted to hear from you.