I almost didn’t see the box tucked behind the flower pot by the front door. Who knows, it may have been there for a couple of days.
But I did finally see it.
Inside was my new-to-me copy of The Complete Book of Composting by J. I. Rodale and staff (Fourth Printing, 1967). Coming in at 1,000 pages plus (if you count the index), it’s a hefty tome.
I look forward to the secrets of composting which will surely be revealed to me as I ponder the wonders within this book.
The first few sentences of chapter 1, The History of Compost, draw you right in, don’t they?
“In the soft, warm bosom of a decaying compost heap, a transformation from life to death and back again is taking place. Life is leaving the living plants of yesterday, but in their death these leaves and stalks pass on their vitality to the coming generations of future seasons. Here in a dank and mouldy pile the wheel of life is turning.”
And if that isn’t enough to make a gardener want to go out and at least give a friendly pat of thanks to her compost pile, if not a hug of gratitude, they’ve included a poem by Walt Whitman.
Behold this compost! behold it well!!
Perhaps every mite has once form’d part of a sick
The grass of spring covers the prairies,
The bean bursts noiselessly through the mould in the
The delicate spear of the onion pierces upward,
The apple-buds cluster together on the apple-branches,
The resurrection of the wheat appears with pale
visage out of its graves.
That the winds are not really infectious,
That all is clean forever and forever,
That the cool drink from the well tastes so good,
That blackberries are so flavorous and juicy,
That the fruits of the apple-orchard and the orange-
orchard, that melons, grapes, peaches, plums,
will none of them poison me,
That when I recline on the grass I do not catch any
Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such
endless succession of diseased corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts
such leavings from them at last.
Yes, we can poke a little fun at the idea of 1,000 pages written on the subject of composting, especially now when people seem barely able to stay focused through a few paragraphs of information glowing at them from their computer screen.
But composting really is an important topic not only for the home gardener, but for everyone involved in tending the earth and growing crops, whether on thousands of acres or on a tiny urban plot.
For everyone who gardens soon learns that the soil must be replenished. And adding compost, adding organic matter, is how soil is replenished. That’s how it was eons ago. That’s how it was 55 years ago when this book was first published in 1960, and that’s how it is today. There is no substitute for adding back organic matter to your soil to replenish it.
If you are gardening and you aren’t composting, make it a resolution to start a compost pile, or two or three, somewhere in your garden this spring.
You’ll be a better gardener for doing so.
And you’ll have better soil, too.