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A Composting Story

 
pollinator
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Location: Southern Illinois
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I wanted to share this story about the long term benefits of composting.  A few years ago I had a spring where we fertilized our lawn (NOT garden) and had really excessive springtime grass growth.  Normally I would just leave the grass in place, but that particular spring we had hay fields and I had to get the extra clippings off the lawn.  That same spring I was starting a small orchard on another section of my property and had recently planted 6 peach trees.  I went ahead and raked the grass and moved it to near the peach trees.  What I did not know was that the pile of grass (perhaps 4' tall with a 5' diameter base) was located ever so slightly uphill from one particular peach tree.  That pile of grass really heated up.  It got so hot that I almost burned my hand while feeling it kind of hot.  I added a few more materials to it and gave it some water and it just kept on giving off heat as it slowly shrank into an eventual pile only 6"-1' tall where later that fall I removed that now small pile of grass to fertilize a garden bed.  

The real story began next year.  The place where the pile had been was obvious, and in addition to a nice fertile circle 5' across, I had a roughly 10'-12' long ellipse of especially green grass that stretched downhill from the original spot.  That green ellipse was a leach field from the original pile and all of the nutrients and microbes from the pile worked their way into that leach field.  Near the end of that ellipse was a baby peach tree.  That peach tree grew twice the size of the other peach trees that first year and continued growing larger and more healthy than any of the other trees for the next 5-10 years when the ellipse stopped being so prominent.  To this day, people still ask me what type of tree that one particular tree is and I always tell them that it is the same variety as the others, but it just got the benefit of the compost leaching downhill and getting indirectly fertilized.  Since that time, I have always tried to keep my compost heaps in the garden.  Even if the composting process is incomplete or imperfect, the soil beneath is magically fertile.

Eric
 
pollinator
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Location: San Diego, California
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Nice!!

This is making me rethink putting my Compost pile at the bottom of my hill, start at the top, and anything that leaches out might just travel down to the plants below it - cool idea/observation!
 
gardener
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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Ah the magic of compost heaps and gravity. Good story Eric, glad you made that discovery and brought it up here for others to benefit from.
Part of that magic is the dispersal of microorganisms (they travel in the liquids that leach out of the heap), improving the soil life where they come to rest.
 
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