Cover image for The Rodale book of composting : simple methods to improve your soil, recycle waste, grow healthier plants, and create an earth-friendly garden
Title:
The Rodale book of composting : simple methods to improve your soil, recycle waste, grow healthier plants, and create an earth-friendly garden
ISBN:
9781635651027
Edition:
Second revised edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Rodale Books, [2018]
Physical Description:
ix, 293 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.
Contents:
Composting throughout History -- The Benefits of Compost -- Life inside a Compost Heap -- Compost and Plant Health -- The Frontiers of Composting -- Materials for Composting -- Using Manure -- Methods -- Composting with Earthworms -- Compost Structures -- Shredders and Other Equipment -- Using Compost -- Large-Scale Composting -- Appendix: Resources and Information -- Index.
Summary:
"Even though this book was written over 25 years ago, composting is experiencing a renaissance - and this revised edition includes all the latest in new techniques, technology, equipment. Gardeners know it's the best way to feed the soil and turn food scraps into fresh produce, but even urbanites can get on board thanks to programs like compost pickup and citywide food waste initiatives. There's no better way to reduce landfill waste (and subsequent emissions) and dependence on fossil fuels while nourishing the earth. The Rodale Book of Composting offers easy-to-follow instructions for making and using compost, helpful tips for apartment dwellers to suburbanites, farmers and community leaders, and ecologically sound solutions to growing waste-disposal problems."-- Provided by publisher.
Subject Term:
Series Title:
Series Sequence:
Holds:

Available:*

Library
Material Type
Call Number
Status
Searching...
Book 631.875 Rodal 2018
Searching...
Searching...
Book 631.875 Rodal 2018
Searching...
Searching...
Book 631.875 Rodal 2018
Searching...
Searching...
Book 631.875 Rodal 2018
Searching...
Searching...
Book 631.875 Rodal 2018
Searching...
Searching...
Book 631.875 Rodal 2018
Searching...

On Order

Summary

Summary

This revised edition of The Rodale Book of Composting includes all the latest in new techniques, technology, and equipment. Gardeners know composting is the best way to feed the soil and turn food scraps into fresh produce, but even urbanites can get on board thanks to programs like compost pickup and citywide food waste initiatives-there's no better way to reduce landfill waste (and subsequent emissions) and dependence on fossil fuels while nourishing the earth.

The Rodale Book of Composting offers easy-to-follow instructions for making and using compost; helpful tips for apartment dwellers, suburbanites, farmers, and community leaders; and ecologically sound solutions to growing waste-disposal problems.


Author Notes

Grace Gershuny has written extensively on soil, compost, and food system issues. As a staff member of USDA's National Organic Program in the 1990s, she helped develop the organic regulations. She lives in Barnet, Vermont, and teaches at Green Mountain College.

Deborah L. Martin earned a BS in horticulture from Purdue University. A former extension agent in the USDA's urban gardening program, she's edited books on gardening and contributes to Rodale's Organic Life . She lives in Allentown, PA.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Chapter 1 Composting throughout History Composting is, in broadest terms, the biological reduction of organic wastes to humus. Whenever a plant or animal dies, its remains are attacked by soil microorganisms and larger soil fauna and are eventually reduced to an earthlike substance that forms a beneficial growing environment for plant roots. This process, repeated continuously in endless profusion and in every part of the world where plants grow, is part of the ever-recurring natural process that supports all terrestrial life. The entire composting process is difficult to contemplate in its full dimensions. Let's just say that compost and composting are, like water and air, essentials of life. A different, more common, definition of compost requires human participation in the process. The word compost comes from the Old French, meaning a mixture of various organic materials. The word humus comes from the same root as human and humility. Ordinarily, when we speak of compost and composting, we are referring to the process by which we transform organic wastes into a soil-building substance for farm, orchard, or garden. Even when considering this common definition, however, the origins of human composting activities quickly become buried in the sands of prehistory. The best we can surmise is that sometime after people began to cultivate food to augment hunting and food-gathering activities, they discovered the benefits of compost, probably in the form of animal manure. Noting, perhaps, that food crops grew more vigorously in areas where manure had been deposited, they made the connection between the two phenomena and began a more selective application of the composting process. Indigenous Compost Knowledge Ancient and indigenous cultures worldwide have handed down their knowledge to guide modern composters. Compost was known to the Romans; the Greeks had a word for it, and so did the ancient Middle Eastern civilizations. The Bible is interspersed with references to the cultivation of soil. Dung was used as fuel and as fertilizer. Manure was sometimes spread directly onto fields. It was also composted, along with street sweepings and organic refuse, on the dunghill outside city walls. According to the Talmud, raw manure was not to be handled by the truly religious because it was unclean. A Talmud commentator set down the rule for the faithful: "Do not use your manure until some time after the outcasts have used theirs," thus advocating the use of rotted or composted manure instead of fresh animal matter. Beyond Europe, rotted organic materials were widely used by indigenous cultures on every continent, including the Americas. The practice of burying fish in corn planting hills was taught to early European settlers in New En­gland, along with the collection of seaweed from coastal areas. The ancient Mayans and other Mesoamerican peoples used sophisticated systems that integrated fish culture and plants to fertilize crops with the rich sediment from their fishponds. Sub-Saharan African civilizations began to domesticate cattle and presumably used their manure to help improve crops such as millet and sorghum as these crops entered cultivation. Ancient African village sites later became fertile ground when farmers found rich black earth in decomposed middens, which had mixed with ash from cook fires. Similarly, ancient Amazonian civilizations are believed to have grown on soil made fertile by incorporating charcoal to create the rich "terra preta," a recent discovery that has spurred interest in using biochar (a form of charcoal created by heating carbonaceous material under conditions of low oxygen) in composts. Back in the early 20th century, American agricultural scientist Franklin Hiram King traveled to Asia to document the farming practices that had allowed some of these lands to be maintained under continuous cultivation for thousands of years. His Farmers of Forty Centuries remains a classic treatise on sustainable practices of the peasants of China, Southeast Asia, and India that include use of human manure and meticulous collection and return of organic matter to the soil on terraced hillsides. Composting in Europe and Its Colonies Much of the agricultural wisdom of the ancients survived the European Dark Ages to reappear--along with other fundamental scientific knowledge--in the writings of learned Arabs. Ibn al-'Awwam, variously assigned to the 11th and 12th centuries, goes into extensive detail on the processing and use of compost and other manures in his Kitab al-Falahah, or Book of Agriculture. The medieval Catholic Church was another repository of knowledge and lore, thanks to the efforts of a few devoted monks. Within monastery enclosures, sound agricultural practices were preserved, applied, and, in some instances, taught to the neighboring farmers by the abbot, acting as a sort of medieval local extension agent. Renaissance literature makes numerous references to compost. Shakespeare's Hamlet advises: "And do not spread the compost on the weeds, / To make them ranker." Public accounts of the use of stable manure in composting date to the 18th century. Early colonial farmers abandoned the fish-to-each-hill-of-corn system of fertilizing when they discovered that by properly composting two loads of muck and one load of barnyard manure, they obtained a product equivalent to three loads of manure in fertilizing value. Many New England farmers found it economical to use the whitefish or menhaden abundant in Long Island Sound, as well as manure, in their compost heaps. Stephen Hoyt and Sons of New Canaan, Connecticut, made compost on a large scale, using 220,000 fish in one season. A layer of muck 1 foot in thickness would be spread on the ground, then a layer of fish on top of that, a layer of muck, a layer of fish, and so on, topped off with a layer of muck, until the heap reached a height of 5 or 6 feet. This was periodically turned until the fish (except the bones) was completely disintegrated. Our first president was a skilled farmer and a strong advocate of proper composting methods. According to Paul L. Haworth, author of the 1915 biography George Washington: Farmer, Washington "saved manure as if it were already so much gold, and hoped with its use and with judicious rotation of crops to accomplish" good tilth. Thomas Jefferson was also an innovative farmer. Noting the difficulty and expense entailed in carrying manure to distant fields, he came upon the idea of stationing cattle for extended periods of time in the middle of the field that needed fertilization. Both Washington and Jefferson were slaveholders who undoubtedly relied on the skill and expertise of their enslaved workers. It is well established that African slaves were responsible for the introduction of rice as well as cattle raising in the "new world." The famed African American botanist, chemist, and agriculturist George Washington Carver advised the farmer to compost materials and return them to the land. In a 1936 agricultural experiment station bulletin titled How to Build Up and Maintain the Virgin Fertility of Our Soil, Dr. Carver wrote, "Make your own fertilizer on the farm. Buy as little as possible. A year-round compost pile is absolutely essential and can be had with little labor and practically no cash outlay." Dr. Carver also stressed the importance of covering the heap to prevent the leaching away of nutrients by rain. He explained: It is easy to see that our farm animals are great fertilizer factories, turning out the cheapest and best known product for the permanent building up of the soil. In addition to this farmyard manure, there are also many thousands of tons of the finest fertilizer going to waste all over the South, in the form of decaying leaves of the forest and the rich sediment of the swamp, known as "muck." Every idle moment should be put in gathering up these fertilizers. Relatively small quantities of plant material were composted in this period because there was plenty of barnyard manure. However, in some sections of the South, cottonseed was composted with muck. The heap was started with alternate 6-inch layers of muck and 3-inch layers of cottonseed, finished off with a layer of muck. This was turned and repiled once a month, with regular watering, until the cottonseed was completely decomposed. As America grew older, many of the sons and daughters of the early New England settlers trekked westward, searching for more abundant, lower-priced land. Some of them found soil so rich in organic matter from buffalo droppings, plants, grasses, and dead animals, all nicely composted, that little thought was given to composting. Only a few farsighted settlers in this newly discovered land of plenty continued composting practices proven effective by farming poorer soil. Organic Origins Composting has been a basis of the organic method of gardening and farming since the days of Sir Albert Howard, father of the organic method. Howard, a British government agronomist, spent the years from 1905 to 1934 in the district of Indore in India, where he slowly evolved the organic concept. By carefully observing the practices of the farmers where he was stationed and conducting his own experiments, Howard found that the best compost consisted of three times as much plant matter as manure. By this means, he devised the Indore method of compost making, in which materials are layered sandwich fashion, then are turned (or mixed by earthworms) during decomposition. Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner outlined the principles of biodynamic agriculture in 1924, emphasizing composting as a central practice. Biodynamic farmers and gardeners approach composting with a kind of reverence; making compost entails use of specific preparations, which are thought to inoculate it with beneficial organisms and stimulate their activity. Adherents of biodynamics have been highly influential in promoting the idea of gardening in harmony with nature. In 1942, J. I. Rodale, pioneer of the organic method in America, began monthly publication of Organic Farming and Gardening. In his publications, Rodale assimilated the ideas of Howard as well as Steiner, through his contact with Steiner's student Dr. Ehrenfried Pfeiffer, and added knowledge gained by further experimentation. From the beginning, Rodale's advocacy of the organic method extolled the use of compost and stressed its importance as a garden necessity. Subsequent developments in composting included adding ground rock powders to the heap, sheet composting, shredding materials for quicker decomposition, digester composting, and numerous other innovations discussed later in this book. The history of compost, then, is both ancient and modern. Compost has been understood by indigenous cultures on every continent as a transitional force in the life cycle. For millennia, people depended on compost to sustain croplands and to feed themselves. It was not until the 19th century, in fact, that we began to substitute chemical fertilizers for compost in the new "scientific" method of farming. France's Jean-Baptiste Boussingault laid the foundations of agricultural chemistry in 1834. Then, in 1840, the great German scientist Justus von Liebig published his classic monograph on agricultural chemistry. Up until that time, the humus theory had prevailed. It was believed that plants actually ate humus in order to grow. Liebig disproved this theory, demonstrating that plants obtained nourishment from certain chemicals in solution. Since humus was insoluble in water, Liebig dismissed its significance in plant growth. For the next century, agricultural practice became increasingly chemical in nature. It is ironic that in 1940, exactly 100 years after Liebig's classic work, Sir Albert Howard published his own magnum opus, An Agricultural Testament, which set in motion the movement to organic farming and gardening that today is widely accepted throughout the world. Even farmers and gardeners who depend heavily and routinely on chemical fertilizers now know of the value of compost and organic matter. Today, the organic method of farming and gardening is more popular than it has ever been. Gardeners have led the way in reestablishing organic methods, and increasing numbers of farmers are making the transition to eliminate harmful pesticides and fertilizers. After Rachel Carson galvanized the environmental movement in the 1960s, waves of new farmers began learning about the dangers of agrichemicals, and consumers have become increasingly aware of the nutritional and environmental damage caused by the industrial system of agriculture. Thanks to the introduction of the USDA's National Organic Program, implemented in 2002, certified organic products of every description are available throughout the world. Organic farming, once considered the province of fanatics, has become established as a legitimate agricultural alternative. With the advent of a federally sanctioned organic marketing program has come increased funding for research and education concerning best organic practices. The benefits of organic management systems and innovations that improve production and efficiency are being demonstrated at numerous land grant agricultural institutions as well as independent nonprofit organizations. The Rodale Institute, founded by J. I.'s son, Robert Rodale, has led the way in establishing long-term research plots comparing organic and conventional methods. In addition to improved soil health and water quality, organic methods are promoted for their support of healthy biodiversity and endangered pollinators. Not least among its many benefits is the mounting recognition that organic land management can mitigate the planetwide crisis of climate change. The sequestration of carbon in the form of soil organic matter, ­combined with eliminating the use of highly soluble synthetic fertilizers--­especially nitrogen--can actually begin to draw down the dangerous levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, in addition to benefiting the health of everyone who eats. Composting has also gained considerable attention as a solution to the solid-waste crisis now facing municipalities nationwide. Whereas just a few years ago proponents of municipal composting were generally regarded as impractical, now escalating landfill costs and tighter restrictions on disposal of potentially hazardous sewage sludge have dramatically increased the economic attractiveness of large-scale municipal and industrial composting systems. Urban gardeners now have a wide array of bins and barrels available commercially that allow them to make compost quickly and easily. Even nongardening urbanites have begun saving kitchen scraps and yard wastes for their composting neighbors, in order to cut their trash disposal costs. Several municipalities have instituted mandatory food-scrap recycling programs, complete with curbside pickup available to residents. It seems clear that composting, which has sustained us since the beginning of history, is now entering an era in which the intelligent use of scientific methods will enhance the quality of life instead of destroying it. In this ­scenario, compost and composting will find an increasingly welcome place. Chapter 2 The Benefits of Compost Plants, animals, insects, and people are all inextricably linked in a complex web of interrelationships with air, water, soil, minerals, and other natural resources playing vital roles. Compost, too, plays an important role. There is a cycle, a continuity, to life. We are only at the very beginning of an understanding of all the parts of this cycle of life. But we are learning that upsetting the life patterns of only one kind of plant or animal, even in a seemingly minor way, can have effects on many other living things. All of the environmental problems we face are rooted in a failure to appreciate the life cycle and to keep it intact. We can use our understanding of the interrelationships of living things in active ways, too, to increase the productivity of our fields, forests, orchards, and gardens. Composting is one way to work within the life cycle in the furthering of our welfare. Excerpted from The Rodale Book of Composting: Simple Methods to Improve Your Soil, Recycle Waste, Grow Healthier Plants, and Create an Earth-Friendly Garden by Grace Gershuny All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.


Table of Contents

Introductionp. vii
1 Composting throughout Historyp. 1
2 The Benefits of Compostp. 8
3 Life inside a Compost Heapp. 26
4 Compost and Plant Healthp. 45
5 The Frontiers of Compostingp. 64
6 Materials for Compostingp. 81
7 Using Manurep. 133
8 Methodsp. 143
9 Composting with Earthwormsp. 182
10 Compost Structuresp. 195
11 Shredders anti Other Equipmentp. 214
12 Using Compostp. 228
13 Large-Scale Compostingp. 242
Appendix: Resources and Informationp. 281
Indexp. 285