How to Create Living Compost

Episode 158: Longtime organic farmer Mark Sturges believes that when we create a better habitat for beneficial insects, we create a better habitat for ourselves. Mark is a master compost maker whose compost is filled with life. When Mark creates compost, he encourages the “whole neighborhood” to move in. The cast of characters in Mark’s neighborhood are vast and include beetles, rotifers, fungi, nematodes, springtails, enchytraeids, and Beauveria bassiana- an insect “eating” fungi.

Mark and I chat about compost tea and how its application can re-invigorate plants, soil, and large areas of land. You’ll hear about Mark’s successful use of compost tea in a vineyard suffering from a Phylloxera infestation. Mark’s tea was sprayed on a Pinot block and the grapes were saved!

Mark is a so-called entrepreneurial “Entra-Manure” who fills us on the importance of manure in the compost loop. He tells us why we shouldn’t use chemical de-wormers on our animals and what effect these products have on beneficial insects, especially beetles. In turn, a lack of beneficials can lead to devastating impacts on pasture land, soil, animals, and climate.

After hearing Mark talk about beetles, maybe you’ll obtain Beetle Enlightenment like I did! I now have a deep appreciation for these unsung heroes of decomposition who also have an important role to play in mitigating climate change.

Mark Sturges makes and ships organic compost and compost creatures nationwide from his Chili Nervanos farm in Bandon, Oregon.

Mark is a writer whose work has appeared in Acres USA. His book of poetry The Return of the Fertilizer King and Other Tales is available online. Mark doesn’t have a website. His work is all word of mouth. You can reach Mark at: ChiliNervanos382 (at)

9 Comments on “How to Create Living Compost”

  1. Wow thanks for this message. Would be nice to live close by to see first hand composting, compost tea brewing.

  2. I’m trying to start a garden from scratch. While trying to hot compost. I have used very old barn material horse manure and straw to start seeds. I have added manure(several months old) and punky almost powdery decayed wood.
    I can’t get any seeds to germinate in this mixture.
    Roll it back to one. Try again.
    I’m worried about several factors. Too N rich? Wouldn’t think so. Pathogens? Probable.
    Using heat mats and hood to keep moist. Removing hood every other day.

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