You’ve seen the ads this time of year. Nearly every car dealership is running them on TV.
It’s the one where it’s Christmas morning, and out in the driveway is a brand new car with a giant red bow on it. The family is ecstatically jumping around because their wildest dreams have come true. Clearly, this is not the home of a gardener.
If this were an ad for a gardener, the scene would be completely different. On Christmas morning when the gardener of the house rushed outside, he or she would find in the driveway — not a shiny new car — but a giant pile of compost. Next to the steaming pile of organic matter would be a shiny new wheelbarrow and pitch fork, both with the obligatory red bow.
That, my friends, would be a dream come true for a gardener.
There is something almost spiritual about compost. It represents rebirth and resurrection, the validation that life is a continuous cycle of dying and being reborn again: Through the soil food web, leaves and food scraps get “recycled” into a rich soil conditioner by microscopic bacteria and fungi.
There is nothing more exciting to a gardener than turning the compost pile on a cold February morning and seeing the steam rising and feeling the heat from the pile because billions of microbes are hard at work, transforming green waste into soil.
It’s not a stretch to say that compost is the cure-all for our gardens’ ails — and perhaps even the entire planet. For sandy soils it helps retain moisture, and for heavy clay soils it lightens them up, allowing better air exchange. It adds life to the biology of the soil and, to a lesser extent, some nutrients. It even has some antibiotic qualities which, when made into a tea and sprayed onto foliage, help plants resist infections.
Compost is probably the single most important component to a healthy soil and, therefore, a healthy garden. As far as I am concerned, you can never have too much of it.
Last summer I visited Ireland and toured The Burren, a barren landscape of limestone that would make our own glacial till look like fine sandy loam. The early settlers managed to garden in this landscape by hauling up sand and seaweed from the shore and spreading it over the rocks. Thankfully, we don’t have to go to that extreme to make “soil,” but we should still be continually working to replenish our compost.
If you have the room and the inclination, it is very rewarding to make your own compost. But if not, then at least send your yard waste off to your recycler, where they can do the work for you. Fortunately for us, nowadays all we have to do is order our compost from one of the many vendors in our area.
Be it bagged or in bulk, compost can make a much-appreciated Christmas present for the gardener in your life. It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Just remember to add the big red bow and, if you are feeling generous, throw in that wheelbarrow and pitchfork, too.
Steve Smith is the owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at email@example.com.