Friday, October 30, 2009

Home Vegetable Gardening: It’s All About the Compost

The best thing for your soil is compost. It contains all the nutrients your plants will need to grow and thrive. Here is how you can easily create your own and add good quality compost to your soil all year round.

Compost is the process of organic material breaking down into a rich dark black soil through the process of aerobic decomposition. Bacteria and other microorganisms feed on this organic material which breaks it down. Then as you move up the food chain other creatures such as the earthworm and nematodes, either eat the bacteria or the decomposed material creating even better compost.

The underlying environment is so advanced that it can take your left over food scraps, grass clippings, twigs and leaves and turn them into every nutrient your vegetable plants will ever need. The best part of this ecosystem is that it is already there and the only thing you need to do is supply it with an organic food source (more on that in a moment).

The most common form of composting is a compost pile. This is where you keep a pile of organic material such as leaves, twigs and grass clippings (to name a few). As the bacteria and microorganisms breakdown the material the center of the pile starts to heat up. When the temperature reaches a level that will make it harmful to good bacteria (usually around 150degrees) you then turn the pile over to bring fresh material to the center and the process starts over. You continue this until all of the material is broken down into a dark rich looking soil. From there you can mix it right in with your soil, brew compost tea, or add more organic material and keep the process going until you have the amount of compost you need.

An excellent second way to create compost is through creating vermicompost. Vermicompost, also called worm castings, is when earthworms eat organic material and their waste is what is leftover, creating the best compost your soil could have. The best organic materials you can feed to earthworms are your food scraps and leftovers. I find it easiest to simply dig a hole in my garden about eighteen inches deep and dump the food scraps into the hole, then cover the hole with dirt. The worms and the underlying ecosystem take care of the rest.

Of course this method makes it impossible to use the vermicompost to brew compost tea and if that is what you are looking for then your best bet is to maintain a vermicompost bin also known as a worm box or worm farm. You can make one yourself for fewer than fifteen bucks with a couple of Rubbermaid containers or you can buy one from your local home or garden center.

You simply add in food scraps, a little soil and of course worms. Then when the food scraps have all been ingested by the worms you remove the vermicompost, brew your tea, and add it to your soil or whatever your heart desires. You can repeat this process all year round, unless of course you run out of food scraps.

As you can see it is fairly easy to make your own compost. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you can add nutrients to your soil that will yield better harvests for your fruits and vegetables.

About the Author
Mike is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person: A Guide to Vegetable Gardening for the Rest of Us, available where gardening books are sold. Sign up for Mike’s vegetable gardening newsletter at his website: and he will send you a free pack of vegetable seeds to get your garden started.

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