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Compost builds the soil in sand or clay. In a sandy soil, it helps hold in water and nutrients. In clay soil, it helps loosen it to drain better, and it releases nutrients. Compost really supercharges the microbes in the soil, causing them to proliferate and produce a lot more of the nutrient material from the compost that your plants need.
So, how you build a compost pile? Well, there's a number of ways to do it. First of all, I want to say, if you read about making compost in three weeks, or get worried that you need thermometers and a bunch of fancy gear, you really don't need anything special. You simply can't fail at composting! Eventually, everything is going to rot back into the soil so even if it takes a long time that's still ok. So, don't be intimidated by it.
The secret to it is to keep the organic matter moist so that it can decompose. You want a mix of things—leaves, grass clippings, garden prunings, and vegetable scraps. Some people like to speed things up by mowing over their leaves or prunings before putting them in. Food scraps can also go in the compost—especially vegetable scraps, coffee filters, and tea bags. You want to avoid oil and meat products because they tend to draw varmints to the compost pile. You can even empty your vacuum bag or dustpan into the pile.
We do like to stay away from pet droppings. If you've got those types of things you can bury them in the ground. Remember how the Native Americans taught the Pilgrims to put a fish in the hole and then plant a seed on top. You can do that same sort of thing. We call that compost holing.
But in the compost pile we want to avoid attracting rats, so we stay with vegetable trimmings, leaves, and grass clippings. You want to make sure and keep the pile moist and also turn it occasionally if you want it to speed up. If you don't turn it or moisten it, it will still decompose; it will just take longer.There's no problem using diseased plant materials—most of that will die in the composting process and, also, keep in mind that one particular plant disease doesn't typically affect another plant. So, if you have leaf spots on those tree leaves, it's not going to cause the tomatoes or flowers in your garden to get a fungal leaf spot infection. It just doesn't work that way, so just compost anything you can get your hands on because we can't get enough of that good garden gold for the soil.