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Billings master gardener has mastered art of composting

Wayne Burleson 9.jpg
Posted at 4:10 PM, May 03, 2023

BILLINGS — May in Montana is a backyard gardener's dream. Gardening is a hobby for most, but for Wayne Burleson, it's a lifestyle. And it all starts with something many overlook.

"They talked about the plants, but I thought, if you can change the soil on that ranch, you can make a huge difference in that particular ranch. So, I said I’m going to learn about how you change soil, and that’s why I call myself a compost evangelist because everywhere I go insist on teaching people how to make compost," said Burleson.

Burleson is a Billings native, MSU graduate and self-proclaimed lover of all things agriculture. That love started on his grandfather’s ranch in Luther.

That's where his dream of soil perfection was born.

"Soils are the stomach of the world. You get the soil right; you get out of the way," Burleson said in an interview with MTN News.

The recipe is a simple one: Dry grass or leaves, green grass, topsoil, manure, wood ash, kitchen waste, more grass and water.

Compost recipe.PNG

"Once you get the soils right, and you put the seed in there, and you see the dark green color of the leaves, you got a healthy plant. It’s the soil," Burleson said.

He lays it out in his book, "Gardening for life – No money required", and it certainly yields impressive results.

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Burleson does more than just keep his family fed with his incredible veggie vitality. He also loves to give back.

He's traveled the world from South America to Africa, teaching people how to perfect their crops.

And their success, he says, is music to his ears.

"The one reason you’re over there is to help people make money and feed their family healthy food," Burleson said.

He's sharing that philanthropic approach with Billings. He's helped teach people at the Montana Rescue Mission how to produce their own gardens and hopefully get them back on their feet.

"This kind of food you can’t buy in a grocery store. It’s fresh, it’s grown in this beautiful black soil that’s nutrient-dense. The vegetables become nutrient-dense, full of health. When you eat it, you get healthy..... It's eating healthy and you can do it without spending a whole bunch of money," Burleson said.