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Book Review: The Rodale Book of Composting

Easy Methods for Every Gardener
Edited by Deborah L. Martin and Grace Gershuny
Illustrated. 278 pp.
Rodale Press. $15.95.

If you're looking for proof that composting is as much an art as it is a science, look no further than The Rodale Book of Composting. This book is a wonderfully thorough and informative guide to the hows and whys of composting. However, it doesn't stop there: there are fascinating tidbits about the history, politics and sociology of composting scattered throughout the book.

This book is designed to appeal not only to die-hard backyard composters and organic gardeners but to anyone who is curious about the past, present, and potential future environmental benefits of composting. There is a whole chapter about the history of composting which includes literary references to composting that date back to the Romans, the Ancient tribes of Israel and the Renaissance. Shakespeare's advice about the use of compost, "do not spread the compost on the weeds, to make them ranker", is quoted as is that of Sir Francis Bacon, Thomas Jefferson and many other notable historical figures.

The humanities-related content of this book makes it a unique volume and makes it enjoyable for readers of all stripes, but compost aficionados should take heart: the bulk of this book's content relates to the biology and methods and applications of composting. Every imaginable composting method and material (and then some--just look in the chapter entitled "The Frontiers of Composting") gets a mention and an explanation. This book has so much innovative and detailed content that more illustrations or some photos would have been welcome and useful in order to help get some of the concepts across. However the illustrations that are present are relevant and informative.

The Rodale Book of Composting is as useful for experienced composters as it is for those who have yet to turn their first compost pile. Tips for selecting and maintaining specialized composting equipment and detailed descriptions of complex composting methods are side by side with information about how to start your first backyard compost pile. Factoid lovers will relish this book's extensive lists and charts which compare and enumerate everything from the moisture content of various composting materials to the range of compost pile temperatures (from hottest to coolest) produced by 13 different composting methods.

Although this book was published in 1992, the vast majority of the information in it, including recommended readings and sources for purchasing composting supplies equipment, is still up-to-date. What’s more, being published by Rodale Press, the brainchild of organic agriculture pioneer J.I. Rodale, makes this comprehensive, meticulously-researched book an automatic classic.

Digg! digg it

Tammy Biondi has been growing organic produce for over 10 years. Besides running Blue Horizon Farm, Tammy teaches about sustainable farming at the Central Carolina Community College. She also is a successful freelance writer, focusing on agricultural topics. Contact her at tammy@bluehorizonfarm.com.