compost bin
PHOTO: By Irene Hannestad


Black Gold For Roses

     One of the easiest and most rewarding things that you can do to ensure that your roses are healthy and strong, is to top dress them with home made compost. Because it provides plant nutrients in a balanced and ready-to-use form and enriches the texture and structure of the soil, compost is truly black gold for your roses!

     Your gardening success depends on the health of your soil, and the health of your soil is directly related to whether or not you enrich it with compost. This rich, earthy substance is what remains after hundreds of different organisms including bacteria, fungi, worms and insects break down organic materials.

     Compost is the result of the activity of a myriad of tiny organisms that need two main compounds for their life processes carbon for energy and nitrogen for growth and reproduction. As the differing organisms go through the organic materials, the byproducts undergo progressive decomposition and eventually most of the digestible material is consumed and transformed, leaving behind a rich soil amendment. Compost is an outstanding and invaluable source of organic matter for the home gardener.

     The benefits of a healthy garden will repay you many times over for the relatively small amount of work it takes to make your own compost. Garden soil that is regularly amended with compost will have improved soil texture and structure, increased water retention in sandy soils and loosened clay soils, control pH, feed helpful earthworms, control weeds, aerate the soil, retain moisture, provide healthier, more productive and more disease resistant plants, promote better drainage, provide soil nutrients, increase beneficial microorganism activity, provide mulch and recycle garden and kitchen waste. Can you ask for anything more?! Compost is indeed black gold for your garden.

     Furthermore, compost will warm the soil in the spring, stimulating plants to grow sooner in the season, and cool the soil in the summer allowing plants to perform better in the summer heat. Also, if you keep your garden well composted you will not need to water and fertilize as often. With all these beneficial reason to make your own compost, you can see why interest in composting has literally exploded in the last decade!

     The art and practice of composting is an ancient one dating back thousands of years. The ancient Romans and Greeks deliberately piled animal manures and soil in such a way as to aid in decomposition. The Bible also speaks of it. The value of crushed bones, wool waste, wood ashes and lime is spoken of in old Arabic manuscripts. The Medieval church preserved the knowledge and composting continued through the Dark Ages, Renaissance and in the New World by the native Indian tribes and early European settlers.

     Since then, researchers and agricultural scientists have refined composting techniques and developed new products to make the process easier. In fact, for 2,000 years or more, composting and manuring were the only methods available for farmers to enrich their land and make it yield. It has only been since the nineteenth century that chemical fertilizers have been available

     For the backyard gardener, composting does not need to be laborious or time consuming. Effective compost can be done as simply as you wish. My first endeavors into composting were simply a heap of leaves and grass in the corner of our back yard. Another simple way would be to pound four wooden sticks or metal stakes into the ground and wrap with chicken wire. As far as the materials used, you can make it quite easily by simply recycling ordinary garden and kitchen waste from around your home.

     In fact, nearly anything that once lived is a candidate for your home compost pile. Grass clippings, chopped leaves, vegetable peelings, egg shells, pine needles, wood ashes, shredded paper (but not glossy paper), seaweed, hair clippings, sawdust (not cedar or black walnut) coffee grounds and tea bags, barnyard manures, alfalfa pellets and weeds (before they have developed seeds) are all excellent ingredients for your homemade compost. Remember to exclude human and pet excretement, meat products (they attract animals and pests) and diseased plants.


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