``You'll never have enough!'' That's the experienced organic gardener's usual response. A newly constructed pile of garden waste - leaves, spent plants, lawn clippings, enriched perhaps with some kitchen waste and a few sprinklings of soil - can often reach impressive proportions.
But the active compost heap - sometimes described as a ``teeming farm of microorganisms'' - quickly reduces in size to about one quarter of the original volume, to the surprise of most first-time composters.
This ``finished'' compost is then further reduced as soil organisms convert it into plant food. As a result, it takes a major influx of organic materials from the outside (collecting bagged leaves from around the neighborhood is an example) to make an observable difference to soil volumes in the garden.
On the other hand, there is a noticeable improvement in the quality of the soil within a single season. Heavy soils become fluffier; sandy soils are given added substance. In other words, the soil is quickly made a lot more ``comfortable'' for the plants.
Just how may compost be used? In several ways:
1.If the garden soil is poor, dig up to three inches of compost into the top 12 inches of soil.
2.Once the soil is in good condition, an effective method is to spread an inch of compost as a mulch on top of the soil each season, allowing rainwater and earthworms to take the nutrients to the plant roots.
3.What is called the ``oasis'' approach works well. Put a trowelful of compost into the bottom of each hole, and the roots will grow down into it.
4.Compost water, a nourishing ``soup'' for plants, is easily made by dumping a shovelful of compost into a bucket of water and stirring it vigorously. Pour off the tea-colored water and feed it to the plants.