Whether you start your vegetables directly from seed or you buy a plant from a local garden or home center, you won’t give it much of a chance if your soil is simply not that good to begin with. What I mean by that is, and this stems from a conversation I had with a friend, if your soil lacks in nutrients or the pH level is too high or too low, seeds may never germinate and plants will never grow to their full potential. Then what happens is you blame the seeds, maybe they were too old, or the plants, ah they looked dead to begin with, as opposed to getting at the root of the problem…literally.
Like a skyscraper, your plants need a solid foundation. If a skyscraper has a poor foundation it could never get built because the base would never be strong enough to support it. Same goes for your plants. If you have a poor foundation, in this case your soil, they will never grow. You are in luck. There is one technique you can implement immediately that will have a long lasting effect on your foundation for many years to come…composting.
Composting is when you take organic material (i.e. leaves, twigs, grass clippings, last night’s left overs etc.) and let them decompose into its final usable product, humus. There are a number of ways you can compost, and which one you choose should not only fit the amount of space that you have but your lifestyle as well.
For example, trench composting, which I will touch on again in a moment, is one of the easiest and least labor intensive forms of composting is virtually ideal for anyone, especially those with very little time. You dig a big hole (hence, trench) and dump your organic material into the hole and then bury it. Nature does the work while you are hard at work uploading your vegetable gardening photos to our Facebook page.
Other forms of composting include vermicomposting, the use of red wiggler worms to do the work, and a compost pile. A simple Google or Bing search on any of these will give you step by step instructions on how to get started.
Always start small. I recommend you keep a big Tupperware bowl close by where you can put your coffee grinds, egg shells and food left overs in so you can bury them in your garden. When the Tupperware bowl gets full or near full, take it out back and dig a hole about 24 inches deep, put the contents of the bowl into the hole and then cover. Repeat these steps over choosing a new location each time and never use the same location earlier then 1 to 3 months. On a side note, do not bury steak or ham bones or meat for that matter. The bones will never break down and the meat could attract unwanted rodents.
After you get the hang of trench composting move on over and start a compost pile. This is where you will put all of your leaves, twigs and grass clippings. Over time the pile will breakdown into a nice, rich soil that your plants will love. Just remember to turn the pile over with your pitchfork once in a while. It will help speed things up.
So why do you compost in the first place? Beyond the “keeping it out of the landfill” aspect, composting adds nutrients into your soil, creates volume in your soil which allows for better soil retention and water drainage and helps maintain a constant yet beneficial soil pH level. All items you need in order to grow healthy and safe vegetables.
About the Author
Mike Podlesny is a contributing writer for Mike the Gardener Enterprises, LLC, who operates the largest Vegetable Gardening page on Facebook and the widely popular Seeds of the Month Club.