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People, towns, businesses, farms and gardens all grow in Michigan soil.

Compost Secrets

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There are clusters of small, pale pink flowers whose fragrance is picked up by even the slightest breeze. Image by Malcolm Manners. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mmmavocado/2346072379/

There are clusters of small, pale pink flowers whose fragrance is picked up by even the slightest breeze. Image by Malcolm Manners. http://www.flickr.com/photos/mmmavocado/2346072379/

We all garden in limited space. My garden was the first 6 feet just outside the condo. I clipped shrubs and pampered daylilies, iris, and forget-me-nots. I longed for things like a potting shed, a cutting garden, and a compost pile.

I lived in an “end unit” which meant I had more exterior wall. I found places to tuck in more plants. I read gardening books and magazine articles. I loved the idea of projects. If you clip a branch on a yew, it will form two branches and continue growing, adding strength and structure to the bush. After a few years, my row of yews hid the stepping stone path along the building leading to the spigot.

I became fascinated with the idea of turning garbage into compost. There were rules for condo owners and bad smells were high on the do-not-do list. So, rather than a secret garden, I had a secret compost pile. I buried the garbage.

I dug a pit about 3 feet deep and wide near a corner with no direct line of sight. The pile of dirt sat next to the hole. I saved raw food scraps, banana peels, and coffee grounds. Every couple of weeks I would add the “remains” and a bit of the saved soil to the hole. Before long, the hole was gone, so I dug another hole and filled it in, and then I dug another hole. I had randomly placed, buried compost piles. I began to feel rich.

Composting season ended with the first frost. The following spring I started planting. My first candidate was a ‘Blush Noisette’ rose found online at garden.com (now defunct). The description talked about a woodland home, reblooming, fragrance, and hardy to Zone 7. I lived in Zone 5 in an area now relabeled as Zone 6a. I placed an order.

A horticulturalist from garden.com phoned me to say she couldn’t ship the plant because it wouldn’t grow in my climate. I pleaded. The spot was on the east side of my condo, behind a rather tall viburnum. My nearest neighbor had an overgrown cedar that blocked the early morning sun. I confessed to my secret compost project. A barberry hedge ran at an angle out from the corner of the building and was a fine wind break. She relented.

The rose shrub thrived, excelled, drew rave reviews from my neighbors, and was gloriously sweet smelling. It was a combination of factors that created the microclimate home for the old fashioned rose. But I credit the secret compost, and I still bury the garbage.

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