Notes from Mountain Spring
Most of my herbs don't require fertile soil, but I grow plenty of other types of plants that do and some source of compost is always welcome. Composting should be far from a boring subject since a well tended compost heap can become almost like another member of the family. Let's look at composting in a more dynamic light and explore some herbs with worldwide reputations for making compost better.
There are so many sources of information on making the perfect compost pile, so I won't duplicate that here. Rather, lets delve into the philosophy of composting and how to make this a more natural and useful process.
Man is busily destroying nature very quickly, so any attempt on a personal, backyard level to increase the earth's fertility is greatly appreciated. Aside from the benefits to the environment, contributing on a daily basis to a "pile of fertility" reminds us of our own rich, inner resources that provide us with vitality and ideas- the proverbial "food for thought". Let your compost pile be a symbol of personal nourishment.
One of the finest attributes of compost is that it requires us to recycle. Why waste foods, grass clippings or pulled weeds when they can be used to make the earth better than it was? Plenty of good intentioned folks have had their composting failures, though, and others warn against putting weeds into the pile. There are tricks to help us maneuver around these problems.
A good compost pile needs to be hot, it needs air circulation and to be turned. It needs attention. Once constructed properly, with appropriate levels of organic materials and proper aeriation, there are still some failures. The herbs chamomile, valerian, yarrow, nettle, comfrey and dandelion can help make a success of your compost heap.
Bio-dynamic gardening, developed in Germany, is a method of soil stewardship that has gained international attention. One of its basic tenets is that there are "Dynamic" plants- ones which change the environment of the soil around them and enhance growth or destruction in neighboring species. Due to chemical constituents or the nature of its biological activity, these plants can be used to encourage the growth of certain crops or inhibit unwanted ones. For some reason, the six herbs mentioned, act on compost to speed and complete the decay process. Some people put fresh herbs into the pile if they have them, while others make a strong tea of all or some of the plants, poke a hole into the heap and pour it in. In either case, the compost is ready sooner than with the regular method and the pile never stops "cooking" even when neglected. Dandelions create humus around themselves, doing the same kind of work that earthworms do. Chamomile has been used to increase production of wheat, tomatoes and other herbs. It helps them to grow better and releases fungal inhibitors. Pretty fantastic!
Recycling your weeds is no danger either, if done property. First, by adding the herbs, the compost remains hot which kills most seeds, but it may not kill rhizomes. Seedy weeds, then, need to be placed in the hottest section of the pile- near the bottom center. Rhizomes should be placed on the top as they don't like bright light. Should sprouting occur, just turn them over. This disturbs the growth process and kills new sprouts.
If we grow flowers, herbs or food, we are looking to take something from the earth, be it for enjoyment or sustenance. Returning something for what we've taken is a show of gratitude. It helps the earth and it keeps us humble.
About the AuthorTina Finneyfrock has studied herbs and healing traditions for 21 years. She is a certified childbirth educator, a Master Herbalist and Wholistic Therapist who earned her degrees from Wild Rose College of Natural Healing in Canada and holds certificates in Homeopathy, Iridology and Women's Health. Originally from the Washington, DC area, Tina has established six herb and flower gardens during her 17 years at Mountain Spring Homestead. She also tends a quarter-acre organic vegetable garden which provides the family with a bounty of natural foods... In addition to teaching workshops, Tina maintains a wholistic health consulting practice, lectures on herbs and related topics and has published Wholistic Healing for the Family... She teaches to pass on the knowledge of the natural world taught to her by her grandparents.