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A Step-by-Step Guide to Composting

The New York Times

How’s that compost coming?

If you live in a New York City apartment, it may be on hold, because the city has suspended its composting program (although there are workable alternatives). But if you’re lucky enough to have a garden of your own, there’s no time to lose.

“The answer to so many gardening questions is, typically, ‘compost,’” said Daryl Beyers, the author of “The New Gardener’s Handbook,” published this year. “Whether you’re adding it to help improve fertility or water-holding ability: Compost, compost, compost. Until people truly grasp the importance of building healthy soil, they will struggle in the garden.”

Encouraging new gardeners to foster healthy, productive soil — and to recycle kitchen and garden waste into compost, as the crux of that effort — is Mr. Beyers’s favorite part of the class on gardening fundamentals that he has been teaching at the New York Botanical Garden for 10 years.

Mr. Beyers, who preaches the virtues of soil science in his class and in the free Zoom question-and-answer sessions he has been holding on Mondays at 6:30 p.m., admits there is a certain irony in that. When he took the soil course in college, it didn’t go so well. “I did really badly, and almost failed,” he said. “And then it turned out to be the most important thing.”

He shared some basic composting advice, as well as his favorite system: pit composting, which doesn’t require buying or building anything, but rather digging a series of holes in the ground.

Lesson No. 1: Compost Is Not Fertilizer
It is decayed organic matter, or humus, that improves soil structure and promotes fertility when added to the garden. It does this by making nutrients and water more available to plants, while creating a living soil hospitable to all the essential organisms whose (mostly unseen) job is to recycle.

“Humus happens — composting is going on in every field and forest in the world,” Mr. Beyers said. “To support our garden soil, we just have to learn to mimic that process.”

Read the full and original article at The New York Times

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