Posted by: Anne | 27/12/2009

Compost – the circle of life.

I am busy reading a whole array of different books at the moment.  But I turned to my gardening books that advise what should be done at the moment and one clear message was coming through – turn your compost and keep topping up with kitchen scraps and garden cuttings.

The idea of compost had a profound effect on me 10 years ago when my lovely Dad died.

My son Oliver was 7 at the time and I had to explain to him what had happened to his Grand dad whom he adored.  As you know from previous messages on this blog, my Dad was a very keen gardener and I now live in his house.

Oliver wanted to know all the facts about what had happened when Grand dad died and what was going to happen to his body now he didn’t need it.  I knew I had to answer his questions as honestly as I could without making his loss any worse.  I told him there were two options, one, to bury his body in the ground.  He didn’t like this option.  ‘What is the other one?’ he asked.  Gulp….

‘Well’, I found myself saying – ‘his body is changed into ash in a very hot place and the ash is put back into the ground.’  Silence – ‘then, because the ash is full of nutrients, it helps plants to feed and that’s how things grow.  And because Grand dad was a gardener, he understood this and  that’s what he wanted to happen when he died.’  I shut up.

After what felt like ages, he replied, ‘well if that’s what Grand dad wanted, its fine with me’.  Relief washed over me and we had a good cry together.

Some months later whilst gardening in what is now my garden I checked my Dad’s compost heap and decided it was ready to add to the borders.   I had missed my Dad so much and wanted him back in our lives.  But as I started to dig up his compost that he had put there as grass cuttings, fallen apples, cuttings and vegetable peelings months before, it had magically turned into black, crumbly nutritious plant food.  At that moment, it all made sense to me.

Plants and people live and die and get put back in some form or other and grow and die.  Babies are born on the same day as someone else’s life ends.

Now I love my compost heaps, and have 5 in all.  When friends visit, they are always careful to put vegetable peelings in my boxes ready to take up the garden.  They do laugh at me sometimes but they do it anyway.

And I get a kick out of watching them build up and then, removing the sides watch this beautiful black compost emerge.  And I think ‘this works’, just trust nature to do what is necessary.

I hope I haven’t left you needing a tissue.  I don’t mean to sound sad, but you may need to tell someone in your life about death one day and I hope this story helps you.

In the meantime, get out in your garden these coming weeks and tidy up all the fallen leaves, plants that needs cutting back and kitchen peelings and put them in your compost heap and be glad in a few months when you can put it all back into the ground to help your plants grow.  Contact your local council for compost bins.  They usually sell them at a very good price.


  1. Thanks for inspiring me to start again with my compost heap! My plastic bin got broken when someone decided to jump over our fence into the back garden! I have still used it but it isn’t quite the same.
    Do you use the plastic council ones, or are yours a wooden construction?
    Well done for handling the tricky question at a difficult time too.


  2. My Dad’s original compost heap was a wooden one. I purchased my first plastic dome shaped bin, then discovered the council do them cheap! You need them to be wider at the bottom with a lid at the top. You know when they are working as they steam when you take the lid off.

    Am I telling you something you already know? Probably. Can you get a replacement lid or tie some plastic over it?


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