Why, what and where to compost? A look at the basics

Here’s a riddle: What will weed, feed and water your garden, and take care of your garbage?

“Ideal teenager” is not the answer. It’s compost!

Compost is hard to define. In some sense, the apple core I tossed on the ground a month ago is on its way to becoming a compost of some sort. But compost is usually taken to mean a pile of organic material — stuff that is or was living — deliberately assembled for relatively fast decomposition.

The finished product is a witches’ brew of partially decomposed vegetable and animal matter, teeming with living bacteria, fungi and animals. A key ingredient to a good garden.

Compost will “weed” your garden when applied as a mulch. Weeds have a hard time fighting their way to the light through a 1- or 2-inch blanket of compost laid over the soil. A well-made compost pile will get hotter than 140 degrees F, which is hot enough to kill most weed seeds (and most disease organisms) that might find their way into the pile as old plants, pulled weeds and other organic materials are added.

Of course, a weed is just a plant in the wrong place, and one welcome weed that the compost mulch brings to my garden is tomato. Tomato seeds resist the temperature of composting. Tomato plants are easy to weed out; some gardeners leave some to grow on and fruit.

The 10-10-10…