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The Art of Composting


6.  Compost Activators: Do You Need Them?

While some garden stores may try to sell you “compost activators,” most likely you’ve got all the good microbes and fungi you need clinging to your garden/yard waste already. If your compost doesn’t have the ‘oomph’ you’d like it to, you can spray EM-1 solution on your pile, or add alfalfa meal and/or comfrey leaves to the pile to super-charge the contents.

Comfrey leaves are probably your cheapest and easiest, simplest bet. All you need is a bit of spare ground, or better yet, a garden bed you’re not using. Comfrey’s deep roots absorb nutrients from below the topsoil (subsoil), which is then transferred to and stored in the leaves. As this plant grows, the leaves and the soil they are grown in become nitrogen-rich, which is part of the reason growing this plant right in your garden can be a great idea.

It’s super easy to grow, and once the leaves are big enough you can use them for a covering for your compost or to make a beautiful compost tea (the leaves can irritate the skin so wear gloves when you’re picking them.

When your compost is ready, you should be able to see the difference between the dark, earthy, sweet soil it has become and the depleted soil from your garden. You’ll learn to love this beautiful humus, teeming with life and potential, and treasure it for the rich earth it has become. Whether you choose to use your compost to build the soil in your garden, fertilize new or existing pants, top dress your lawn, make a compost tea, lay it around trees and shrubs, on house plants or to create your own potting mix, I’m sure you’ll have a hard time ever throwing an apple peel or fall leaves in the garbage again!



Image: Grant Cochrane /

Read more: Eco-friendly tips, Environment, Green, Lawns & Gardens, Nature, ,

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Alisa Rutherford-Fortunati

Gentle World is a vegan intentional community and non-profit organization, whose core purpose is to help build a more peaceful society, by educating the public about the reasons for being vegan, the benefits of vegan living, and how to go about making such a transition. For more information about vegan food and other aspects of a vegan lifestyle, visit the Gentle World website and subscribe to our monthly newsletter.


+ add your own
12:33PM PDT on Jul 18, 2013

Going to have to get comfrey now - it sounds helpful!

3:06PM PST on Nov 12, 2011

thanks so much

3:41PM PDT on Nov 4, 2011

useful :)

10:58AM PDT on Nov 4, 2011

Great article! I live in a trailer park so I put my compost in those super large planter pots. They work great as long as the carbon-nitrogen ratio is balanced and you TURN the pile and keep the moisture content right. Plants love it.

11:26PM PDT on Nov 3, 2011

I also ad old news papers to mine

2:55PM PDT on Nov 3, 2011

Thanks, this is good information. I need to go out and buy a second compost bin as I dont think my current one will ever be ready if I keep adding to it.

2:57AM PDT on Nov 3, 2011

Thanks for these lessons in composting.

2:28PM PDT on Nov 2, 2011

When I have a place of my own I am going to have a big garden to grow some of my own food as well as a compost bin or bins. Thanks for the info!

6:07AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

I grew up composting-my parents had a series of three fenced piles in their backyard and would rotate from one to the other as needed. Now I do it as well; my husband and I lucked out with the house we're living in. Not only did it come with a HUGE (20' x 75', I think) vegetable garden, it also came with one fenced-in compost pile. We added a second fenced-in pile last year so we could "flip" from one to the other instead of shoveling off the "fresh" compost to get to the black gold at the bottom, and every fall we spread it on the vegetable garden to overwinter before the spring tilling. The result? Abundant crops for the table and freezer, and less waste in the garbage! Between composting and recycling everything we can, we only generate maybe two or three kitchen-size bags of trash to be taken to the curb per MONTH! That's pretty darn good for a family of four!

5:52AM PDT on Nov 1, 2011

I have three composting boxes which I rotate, using each of them for approx. four months, while the two others rest. In this way, every 4 months I have new rich compost ready to use.

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