Dung Repository

George Washington was not only the father of our country. He was also the father of American composting. Weak soil at Mt. Vernon led Washington to experiment with putting organic material back into his soil. He devised a “dung repository” to process manure. “The “repository for dung” was designed to compost animal manure and a variety of organic materials to “cure” into fertilizer for use in the nearby gardens and orchard.  The building illustrates George Washington’s dedication to finding ways to increase the fertility of his soil and to convert Mount Vernon into a model of progressive farming.  The original 31 X 12-foot, open walled structure was built in 1787 and was reconstructed in 2001.  Archaeologists revealed remnants of the brick foundation walls along with the virtually intact cobble stone floor, and they have been incorporated into the reconstructed building.”

Composting is an ancient practice that was lost for a time with the advent of manufactured fertilizers after WWII.

Modern composting was introduced by Sir Albert Howard who studied agriculture in India for three decades.
Howard developed a process so that Indian farmers could easily produce their own “fertilizer.” Sir Albert’s process included “all available vegetable matter,  including the soiled bedding from the cattle-shed, all unconsumed crop residues, fallen leaves and other forest wastes, farmyard manure, green-manures and weeds (which) pass systematically through the compost factory, …(and) also utilizes the urine earth from the floor of the cattle-shed together with the available supply of wood ashes from the blacksmith’s shop and the workmen’s quarters. The only other materials employed are air and water.”

“The first articulate advocate of Howard’s method in the United States was J.I. Rodale (1898-1971), founder of Organic Gardening Magazine. These two men made composting popular with gardeners who prefer not to use synthetic fertilizers.”

Today, “compost” generates 9,000, 000 Google hits.

Composting is a natural process which will happen by itself with the right combination of materials available. Anyone who has dug a trail through the woods has seen the natural composting which takes place on the forest floor. With a compost pile we just try to speed up the process.

Much more on composting (and compost tea) to come.

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