For those of us who enjoy working in the garden, composting is a very important practice. It reduces the amount of garbage and returns the trace vitamins and minerals found in fruits and veggies back to the soil.
Since most of our diet is very vegetarian, we’ve been composting for many years now and using the compost soil in our small garden plots. Harsh chemicals contaminated the soil for many years before we moved to this location, and as a result, the land was still hesitant to recover. Few flowers would bloom and our first attempts at gardening were a disappointment.
In recent years, we’ve planted a few things and even set up a greenhouse. We prepared the soil with natural fertilizers, as well as compost soil, and reaped some small rewards in a bountiful cucumber crop—our first success! Though the strawberry plants performed poorly, some transplanted mint took hold and spread rapidly.
Then, two years ago, a squash plant appeared in our third compost pit and yielded a single butternut squash. Out of the same compost pit grew a large cucumber plant that we had to stake up as it got longer and thicker. We harvested over 2 dozen cucumbers from that one plant that summer!
This year we have a total of 6 compost pits, half of them retired for some time, but the other three we had barely finished stirring in veggie scraps when they were suddenly alive with more squash plants! Compost Pits 1, 2, and 3 were growing as well and soon bright yellow squash flowers appeared. We even carried some of the older compost soil (black gold, for sure!) to the other side of the yard, placed it inside old tires, and planted some sprouting onions. Soon the scallions were sharing the space in the tire with squash plants!
So here in the autumn season, our harvest for the year has been amazing indeed! The count?
16 butternut squashes
I think the ‘awesomest’ of all these was the peaches. Our first compost pit had its beginning around six years ago; we dismantled the wood frame we had around it a few years later when we dug new compost pits. Even in the heavy shade from overhanging trees, from this fertile soil a fruit tree grew and produced a pair of small peaches. We had all but forgotten our first compost pit so it was almost by accident we found this peach tree. And it was definitely a surprise!
Just in case you were wondering, I cooked up all the squash and made our recipe of Butternut Squash Soup—enough to feed a large family. Every squash I used in making soup (the numerous times that I have) sent peels and seeds to the compost. This grew more squash and I made more soup…and the cycle continues onward.
The future holds bright returns as we revitalize our gardening plots. The squash plants still hold a few more surprises as the large leaves hide the tiny green butternuts yet to ripen. The fresh basil plants we’ve purchased (and eaten from) are now planted nearby and continue to put out more of their delicious leaves. A distance away, the mint dominates the hillside, soft young leaves still growing on the tall plants.
For some, these results may seem small, but for us…all of this is a true blessing.
The pic posted above reveals some of our harvest.The quarter on the right side is a reference to help determine size.
PS. Rhetorical question: “Is compost worth it?”
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*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.