Growing Wisdom

Composting is a great way to make your own soil

Home gardening has really become a bigger and bigger part of many people’s lives over the past decade. Part of this trend is the desire to grow one’s own food. The graphic below from the National Gardening Association gives us a good idea not only where people are gardening, but what we are growing as well.

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Part of having a successful gardening is having good soil and part of having good soil is being sure you adequate compost.

There are all sorts of types of soil across the country. Heavy clay, sandy loam, earth with lots of peat or some very rocky areas are but some of the types of soils we find. For many growers of vegetables, a sandy loam, rich with compost is an ideal blend to grow a wide variety of vegetables.

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If you aren’t a plant person, you can still participate in the home gardening movement by making your own compost. Of course, then you’ll have the issue of what to do with the compost. If you are successful in making it, you can always find a gardener willing to help take it off your hands.

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Composting Is Educational
There are all sorts of reasons to make compost. For kids and adults, it shows how soil is made. I have this presentation I show to elementary school kids where we talk about where soil comes from and who are the parents. Composting lets you do this in real time.

While composting is easy, it’s not just a matter of throwing a bunch of food and leaves in a pile and walking away. That said, over time that method would eventually break down, it would just take much longer that it needs to.

How To Make Compost
Making compost is basically mixing carbon based and nitrogen based materials in the proper ratio. For the best results you’ll want to have much more carbon than nitrogen. A simple rule of thumb is to use one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. The carbon based materials help to feed the microorganism which live in your compost pile. nitrogen-rich material, which can release odors if exposed to open air, with carbon-rich material, which often gives off a fresh earthy smell. If in doubt, add more carbon.

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Create layers of greens and browns to start a pile. This helps to get the pile breaking down faster and its a good way to keep the food scraps covered.

Turning the compost pile helps it break down faster, but by using straw intermixed in the pile, turning becomes less necessary. Once the compost has formed, mix in new materials into the existing compost rather than layering.

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Compost piles, like your garden soil shouldn’t be allowed to dry out completely or be soggy.

I’m happy to answer questions about composting on Twitter @growingwisdom. Please follow me there.

There are many physical structures available to make compost. I have several commercial bins I obtained from the local town department of sanitation. I also have a compost turner I got on Amazon a few years ago. I have a wire composting bin from Johnny’s Selected Seeds as well. If you don’t want to purchase a bin, you can make one or just find an out of the way part of the yard and make the compost right on the ground. Animals will likely become an issue if you just leave the compost open however.

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In the video below I give some other tips about composting and show you some of the ways in which I am composting. There are many great resources available to learn more about composting. Give it a try, it’s fun, environmentally friendly and can be fun for the entire family.

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