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The Art of Composting: Nourishing Your Garden, Nurturing the Earth

June 27, 2024

Table of Contents

The Art of Composting: Nourishing Your Garden, Nurturing the Earth

The Garden Within

Have you ever thought of yourself as a garden? It may seem strange, but follow me on this thought. Your mind is like a garden; your hobbies, habits, and routines are like plants, and your thoughts are like the water and sunlight you give your plants to grow. When the plants are tended to, the garden flourishes. When the plants are neglected, the garden suffers. You, as the gardener, are responsible for the success of the garden. You choose what grows and the level of care the plants receive. When invasive weeds, such as negative thoughts, pop up, it’s your job to manage them. If an infestation, like a depressed mindset, develops, you need to address it — the longer you wait, the greater the problem will become.

Now you can see that you have more in common with a garden than you initially thought. So, how do you nourish the soil of your soul? Your soil is the foundation of your garden. The quality of the soil and the amount of nutrients present determine the health of your plants — if they can get what they need to grow and flower, and if wildlife can be sustained. In the perfect garden, the soil is rich, the plants are strong, and the wildlife has healthy sources of food. Some people consider wildlife to be enemies of their garden, but for me, gardening is about life coming together in a balanced way.

The Cycle of Life

Where do the nutrients in soil come from? Believe it or not, they come from what has come before. Dead leaves, old sticks, grass clippings, and compost are full of the nutrients necessary for healthy soil, and they pass them onto the soil as they decompose. This is why it drives me mad when I see plastic bags of raked leaves on my neighbors’ lawns, left out to be picked up by the trash collectors. By taking away the leaves, we take away a key source of the soil’s health. And insects and critters need the leafy environment over winter to prepare for spring.

Anyway, soil is constantly building upon itself in the cycle of life. The old becomes the new, and this is what happens with us. Think of all of your experiences, positive and negative, as the dead leaves, sticks, and compost that nourish the soil. You can learn from your past experiences and use those lessons to grow in the future, much like your food scraps as compost support the plants in your garden. If you want to nourish the soil of your soul, pay attention to the choices you make and the experiences they yield. Learn from those experiences and use them to guide your choices in the future. Turn every experience into a lesson, and your soil is sure to be nutrient-rich and healthy.

Planting Seeds of Growth

With a healthy foundation, you can focus on your plants. What do you want to grow in the garden of your mind? Kindness, patience, and positivity are good seeds to plant. Seeds of negativity are likely to take over your garden and stunt your overall growth, so I recommend doing your best to keep these out of your soil.

Remember, your plants grow together, just like your mind, body, and spirit. Plant seeds of dedication to your well-being, resilience in the face of challenges, and perseverance in finding solutions to problems that develop. The seeds you plant and the sprouts that ensue represent the person you want to be and the level of well-being you seek to maintain.

As you tend to these growing seeds, remember to continue nourishing your soil with the lessons of your experience so your soil is constantly getting new nutrients. After a plant absorbs nutrients from the soil, the soil needs new nutrients for future plants. A good practice for learning lessons from your experience is journaling. Write down what you learn from your experiences so you always have them to review, and I bet you’ll find a new lesson in each experience as time goes on.

Tending the Garden Within

By tending to the garden within you, you set yourself up for success in mind, body, and spirit. You will notice that you are less intimidated by challenges because you are energized, confident, and motivated. You will have improved relationships with those around you because you are focusing on positivity, which yields patience for others. Have you ever noticed how people are drawn to genuine positivity like moths to a light? If more of us took the time to tend to the gardens within, I think we would have fewer problems in the world, happier people, and a healthier planet.

Thankfully, this reality is more than possible. It starts with us, and it starts now. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked.

The Art of Composting

Now that we’ve explored the garden within, let’s dive into the art of composting — the foundation for nourishing your actual garden and nurturing the Earth. Composting is a magical process that transforms your kitchen and yard waste into a nutrient-rich soil amendment, perfect for feeding your plants and replenishing the earth.

Thornapple Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is a wonderful local resource for learning the ins and outs of composting. As a member of their CSA, I’ve learned so much about the powerful role composting plays in sustainable gardening and environmental stewardship.

The Composting Essentials

At its core, composting is all about creating the right conditions for organic matter to decompose. There are a few key elements to keep in mind:

  1. Carbon-to-Nitrogen Ratio: Composting thrives on a balanced diet of carbon-rich “brown” materials (like dried leaves, shredded paper, and straw) and nitrogen-rich “green” materials (like fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, and coffee grounds).

  2. Moisture and Aeration: Compost piles need to be kept moist but not waterlogged, and they require regular turning or aeration to introduce oxygen and prevent anaerobic conditions.

  3. Microbial Activity: The real magic happens when the compost pile is teeming with a diverse community of decomposing microorganisms, like bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes.

Building the Perfect Compost Pile

To get started, choose a dry, shaded spot near a water source for your compost bin or pile. Then, layer your carbon-rich and nitrogen-rich materials, alternating between “browns” and “greens.” Add a bit of water to each layer to keep it consistently moist, like a wrung-out sponge.

As the pile grows, be sure to mix and turn the materials regularly with a pitchfork or aerator tool. This helps incorporate oxygen and ensures even decomposition. You can also add a bit of finished compost or soil to introduce those all-important microbes.

Over time, the materials will break down, and you’ll be left with a rich, dark, crumbly compost that’s ready to be worked into your garden beds and potting mixes. The entire process can take anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks, depending on the materials, moisture, and temperature.

The Benefits of Composting

The benefits of composting are numerous and far-reaching. Not only does it reduce the amount of waste going to landfills, but it also:

  • Improves Soil Health: Compost adds essential nutrients, increases water-holding capacity, and promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the soil.
  • Supports Plant Growth: Plants thrive when their roots have access to nutrient-dense compost, leading to healthier, more vibrant foliage and bountiful harvests.
  • Sequesters Carbon: As organic matter decomposes, it helps remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and stores it in the soil, mitigating climate change.
  • Conserves Resources: Composting diverts organic waste from landfills, where it would otherwise decompose anaerobically and release methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Composting, Gardening, and the Bigger Picture

Composting is truly the foundation of sustainable gardening and a vital part of a larger, interconnected system. When you nourish your garden with compost, you’re not just feeding your plants — you’re also nurturing the entire ecosystem, from the microbes in the soil to the pollinators that visit your blooms.

As Marilyn McHugh so eloquently wrote, “Gardening is a communion with the earth, a way of expressing gratitude for the abundance we are given.” By composting, we close the loop, returning our organic waste to the soil and helping to maintain the delicate balance of our natural world.

So, as you tend to the garden within and apply the art of composting to your outdoor garden, remember that you’re part of something much bigger. You’re not just growing plants — you’re cultivating a healthier, more sustainable future for all.

About Us

Thornapple CSA: A community-driven initiative championing sustainable agriculture. We connect members with fresh, organic produce, celebrating the bond between land and community.

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