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The Back to Basics Growing series is published by Atlantic Publishing Group. One of the titles in this series is “How to Build, Maintain and Use a Compost System: Secrets and Techniques You Need to Know to Grow the Best Vegetables” and it is written by Kelly Smith. Ms. Smith’s previous books have dealt with quilting, so I was intrigued on how much knowledge she would impart on composting, which is nothing like quilting. She definitely showed that she does know a thing or two about composting!
She starts off by explaining what composting is and why people do it. In Chapter 1 she includes some “Common Myths About Composting,” such as: composting is difficult, it smells bad, isn’t for people who live in a city, you can use any type of worm if vermicomposting, etc., and then proceeds to debunk these myths. She moves on to discuss the different types of composting. Who knew there were so many?! There are compost bins, holes, trenches, cone digester systems, rotating barrels, stationary bins and indoor systems. Going into detail about each type, it makes it easier for the person who is new to composting to figure out which type would work best for them. She even includes a table that shows at a glance what type of system works in what type of living situation (e.g. rural, suburban, city, condo, and apartment). She also details about what can and cannot be composted and what type of substances can be added to help the composting process. As with the other Back to Basic books, this book also includes many case studies throughout where individuals share their stories about composting. I like the personal touch that the case studies add. In Chapter 4, there are instructions on how to make your own composting bins. These can be made out of many things: cardboard box, chicken wire, trash cans, trenches, concrete blocks, and more. There are instructions for those with experience in building on how to build a tumbling barrel composter which is covered in about 14 pages including pictures and diagrams. Building a composting system doesn’t have to cost much and is much more economical then purchasing one.
The author covers how to use compost and about vermicomposting, which is composting using worms. In the back she includes the web address for each state’s Cooperative Extension System (these sites include agricultural information specific to your state) and information about companies who sell composters.
Ms. Smith definitely has done her research and this book is a good one to keep on hand when deciding to compost. With it, the reader can make a determination of what type of composting would work best for them and cost effective ways to start and maintain a composting system.

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In this book, Kelly Smith makes composting accessible to anyone who is interesting. From indoor systems for those who live in apartments or condominiums to larger systems for those who want large amounts of healthy fertilizer for gardens, you can find the answers you need by reading the book.
The contents balance the science you need to succeed with layman’s terms so the process is easy to manage. She provides plans on building different styles of composting systems along with many helpful tables. The tables provide quick reference to the nutrient balance of different ingredients, the qualities of different systems, and many other topics.
You don’t have to read the book cover to cover to get the answers you want. In fact, Ms. Smith designed the book so that you can read the first couple chapters as your baseline and then skip around to the information you need for wherever you are at in the composting process.
One of my favorite sections covers the myths of composting. Starting on page 23 you’ll hear many of the common things people believe about preparing your own compost that simply aren’t true. For example, I simply did not know that while earthworms are great in the garden, they aren’t a good choice for an intense process like focused composting. This is just one myth that is dispelled making it easier for each person to get started, large or small, with their own composting projects.
As with everything I’ve seen from Atlantic Publishing, the book is laid out well and the print is a pleasant size to read. I’m sure like many others I’ve read and recommended, you’ll find this book a great addition to your gardening resources. No doubt you’ll refer to it repeatedly over the years and get exceptional value for your investment in “How to Build, Maintain, and Use a Compost System.”

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As the ‘green’ movement moves to mainstream life, many people ask the question, ‘What more can I do to reduce my carbon footprint and help the environment?’ Enter composting! Author Kelly Smith gives the ‘whys’, ‘hows’, and ‘wheres’ in her new book (which is printed on recycled paper), “How to Build, Maintain, and Use a Compost System: Secrets and Techniques You Need to Know to Grow the Best Vegetables”.
“How to Build, Maintain, and Use a Compost System” is an organized and comprehensive discussion on all things compostable. Smith begins by introducing the beginner to the subject with vivid descriptions and lots of possibilities. The benefits as well as potential issues are also discussed as well as myths and answers to a myriad of questions. She also gives plenty of options that range from the inexpensive set ups to store bought systems. Sidebar articles from people who compost regularly are also included to give readers various viewpoints on the subject. Further, the extensive appendices offer helpful sources for additional reading, finding others in your community that also compost, a glossary of terms, and places to purchase composting items.
I found the book to be exceptionally thorough on what goes into composting. There was probably more than I’ve ever thought I’d want to know but reading from the perspective of someone with no background or knowledge on the subject, it was a perfect introduction. Smith’s clear descriptions as well as her pictures assisted greatly in understanding what exactly she was trying to convey while her obvious passion got me excited about starting a compost pile of my own. I especially liked the included building plans for an enclosed system; I think this is something many people - who wouldn’t otherwise want an open pile of decaying matter in their yard - would be extremely interested in having. She not only takes the concept of ‘living green’ into account but aesthetics as well.
Good for the environment, less garbage trucked to landfills, readymade fertilizer for your garden – these are all benefits from the simple act of composting. Large yard or small plot and even no yard at all, “How to Build, Maintain, and Use a Compost System: Secrets and Techniques You Need to Know to Grow the Best Vegetables” gives you the down and dirty on how to get started and do your part!
Reviewed by Vicki Landes, author of “Europe for the Senses – A Photographic Journal”

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