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By Jerry Orton

For many people worldwide, gold is an obsession. But, all that glitters is not gold. To a gardener, gold is brown—the brown of the soil. And for those who want the ultimate in perfect soil, the name of the game is compost.

When my wife, Peggy, and I lived in San Diego, California, we had a small lot (as lots tend to be in Point Loma), so we could either grow Bermuda grass or a garden. We elected to put our whole back yard into a garden. The growing season in San Diego is phenomenal, so we had something going almost year round.

However, the soil in our back yard was poor. Even soil amendments we bought at nurseries and Home Depot never quite satisfied. Then, one day, my wife bought a book at a yard sale: “Crockett’s Victory Garden” by James Underwood Crockett, copyright 1977, Little, Brown and Company, which was the companion book for the PBS series by the same name. This book is perhaps the finest garden reference book of its kind; simple, but elegant. Unfortunately, it is only available nowadays through outlets such as Amazon.com at greatly inflated prices, because it’s become a collector’s item. But, I stray from my main topic.

On page 180 of this book begins a section on composting, entitled “The Composter, or the Brown Gold Cadillac.” Space doesn’t permit a complete recapitulation of this article, but to summarize, it defines compost as “the gardener’s best friend.” For the poor soil of our back yard in San Diego, this proved one hundred per cent accurate.

More than just a testimonial, the article provides plans for a 3-bin composter, which I built with materials purchased from Home Depot. We began depositing lawn clippings from the front lawn, table scraps, and an occasional bag of manure into bin #1, applying water copiously, and before long, we had a mixture we could transfer to bin #2, then to bin #3. The final product was a soil that was truly magnificent. When blended into the native soil, this proved to be the brown gold that Mr. Crockett promised. Our garden took off like gang-busters.

One important point that I must stress (as the book explains) is that no meat scraps are to be added to this mix. Only vegetation can be used. Meat won’t decay at the same rate as vegetation, gives off an unpleasant smell, and attracts undesirable critters.

The only negative is that this is labor-intensive. Turning the compost into each bin with a shovel on a routine basis is hard work, plus the need for regular watering is tedious. Being of the engineering persuasion, I thought there ought to be a better way. Since we moved to Missouri, I’ve tried a purchased composter made of black plastic that has proved to be an expensive bomb. For less money, the Crocket composter is a real winner.

I’m attaching a scan of the plans for the Crockett composter, and believe me, if you follow the plans scrupulously, you will produce compost that is truly brown gold. Try it and see.

Crockett Composter 001

Crockett Composter


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Despite the weatherman’s forecast of occasional showers on Sunday May 3, and Monday May 4, the Bakersville Planting Festival will go on as planned!

We have lots of indoor space and attractions, and several large tents where folks can get out of the rain if we do get an occasional shower. There will be about one hundred vendors of plants, crafts and lots of other cool stuff, not to mention a top-notch selection of gardening speakers sheduled for both days.

So whether you’re looking for heirloom plants, organic-lifestyle crafts, or maybe just want to enjoy a day of bluegrass music and camaraderie with like-minded neighbors and friends, do plan to attend either day. Or better yet, come on out both days! Don’t let a little rain stop you!

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Heirloom SquashThanks for dropping by. We decided to start a blog as a means of keeping in touch with you more often. Whether it’s an ice storm that is slowing us down and delaying your order, preparations for a festival, an announcement of a new issue of The Heirloom Gardener going to press, new critters around the farm or road trips we’re on, we want you to know about it. Through this outlet, we hope to provide a place for you to take a glimpse into our days at the seed company and around Bakersville. There is never a dull moment around here!

Currently we are working as hard as we can to process the many orders that have been flooding our facilities. To those of you who are waiting on your order, we thank you for your patience and understanding. The start of the year has been amazing–both stressful and exciting! It’s inspiring to see how many first-time gardeners are jumping in with both feet to suppliment their grocery budget. So many people want to get back to the basics and learn how their Grandparents made it through tight times. As the old saying goes, what goes around comes around. We’re so glad to see so many families coming full circle and getting their hands dirty in the garden again!

Once again we appreciate you stopping by, feel free to leave us a comment anytime. We look forward to keeping in touch with you and sharing all that is happening on our farm.

Many blessings,
Emilee Gettle

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