Compost - it's the cornerstone of an organic garden and even chemically inclined gardeners will find it a great ally. The more you know about it and the ecosystem it is, and provides, the more profoundly you'll appreciate it.
For me Ellie Schoenfeld's poem, Patriotism, is the perfect tribute to both soil and compost and captures my own feelings about this remarkable and humble servant to the garden.
by Ellie Schoenfeld
My country is this dirt
that gathers under my fingernails
when I am in the garden.
The quiet bacteria and fungi,
all the little insects and bugs
are my compatriots. They are
idealistic, always working together
for the common good.
I kneel on the earth
and pledge my allegiance
to all the dirt of the world,
to all of that soil which grows
flowers and food
for the just and unjust alike.
The soil does not care
what we think about or who we love.
It knows our true substance,
of what we are really made.
I stand my ground on this ground,
this ground which will
recruit us all
to its side.
from The Dark Honey
© Clover Valley Press, 2009
Published with permission.
What Does Compost Do?
Compost is a remarkable substance resulting from the decay of organic material such as kitchen scraps, weeds, shredded paper, leaves, and other things we otherwise would just throw away.
Most of us see soil as a static nutrient holder and convenient anchor for plant roots. But whether or not our plants can actually use the soil nutrients depends more on the life in the soil than on nutrients the soil happens to have. Consider this:
Compost in not a fertilizer, it is an ecosystem. It seeds the soil with billions of diverse life forms who work together to make soil function.
Compost works because it feeds and provides a habitat for the soil microorganisms. They are the true miracle workers making the nutrient cycles cycle and ultimately feeding us all - just and unjust alike.