There are two questions I receive quite a bit from newcomers to vegetable gardening. The first question and the most popular is what should I grow? The answer to that is simple. Grow what you like to eat. The second question and one that I am going to outline here in this article, is what steps can you take to make your home vegetable garden more successful? The short answer is compost. The long answer is outlined in the six reasons I am about to give you.
Reason #1: Nutrients
The end result of compost called, humus, provides all the nutrients your fruits and vegetables will ever need, especially if you put together a balanced mixture from a variety of organic sources. Such sources would be, food scraps, fish waste, grass clippings, leaves, and twigs to name a few. Balanced together the end result when it is done breaking down, will yield tremendous amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium (as well as other minerals), also commonly known as the N, P, K on your fertilizer bags.
Reason #2: Water Retention
In many areas of the world, rain storms can be few and far in between which leads to drought and watering restrictions in developed communities. Imagine if your soil could retain as much water as possible so that you can reduce the amount of watering you will have to do to your vegetable garden. Compost, has shown in studies, to be extremely absorbent. This in turn creates a soil environment where more moisture remains long after the watering ends.
Reason #3: Friability
I am not even sure if “friability” is a word but friable is! It means crumbly, in other words loose soil. When you have loose soil that is filled with nutrients, your deep rooting crops such as carrots and potatoes will not only thrive but have to expend much less energy to move the soil around it in order to grow.
Reason #4: Prevention
It is said that adding compost to your soil can help prevent diseases in plants. Although I was unable to find a specific study on this particular reason, I thought about it some more and it makes sense. If compost adds plentiful amounts of nutrients to the soil, this gives your plants the equivalent vitamins and minerals it would need to remain healthy, just like we would as people, if we ate a healthy diet and/or consumed a daily vitamin.
Reason #5: pH Balance
It is the most overlooked reading for gardeners when it comes to their soil and that is the pH level. The pH level is a scale from zero to fourteen that measure how acidic (under 7) or alkaline (over 7) your soil is. Most plants thrive well at pH levels above 5 and less than 8. Adding compost to the soil has shown to keep soil pH levels more balanced and in that range, although what you put into your compost pile will affect the outcome of the pH level. Adding more acidic items such as citrus fruits will lower the pH level.
Reason #6: Ecosystem Improvement
Organic material breaking into compost and eventually humus is the result of an entire ecosystem at work that you don’t even see. Literally millions of microbes and bacteria do all the work for you. When you add compost to your soil you increase the strength and the nutrient providing abilities of the underlying ecosystem. It becomes a more encouraging environment for various life forms to live and thrive.
If you do not have a compost pile, start one today. The sooner you do, the faster you will be on your way to healthier and more improved soil conditions for your home vegetable garden.
About the Author
Michael C. Podlesny is the administrator for the largest Vegetable Gardening page on Facebook.