Soil & Compost
Soil and compost are essential to plant productivity. If you want to grow anything successfully — from snap beans and snow peas to raspberries and rhubarb — consider your soil health first. Soil is a complex, living compound. At its core, it’s an aggregate of four basic components: Mineral solids, water, air and organic matter. Depending on how much of each is present in soil determines its potential to be used to grow food, or just for flowers to adorn your dining table. Characteristics of healthy soil include:
- Good soil tilth
- Sufficient depth
- Proper levels of nutrients
- Good drainage
- Large populations of beneficial organisms
- Resistance to weeds and degradation
- Resilient when unfavorable conditions occur
Soil and compost go hand-in-hand because the organic matter in compost strengthens your soil’s health. Composting is a fundamental aspect of homesteading and a great practice for anyone whether you live on 50 acres or a ⅕ of an acre. Learning how to make compost not only enriches your soil, which will enhance your livestock and food crops, but also helps you reduce your contribution to landfills.
When composting, mulch, yard and kitchen waste gets turned into hummus, which can then be turned into the soil. By working with the natural organisms, and allowing sufficient air and water into the system, you can speed up the natural process of decomposition. The ideal composting conditions vary depending on where you live. On average, keep these considerations in mind:
- Keep 40 to 45 percent moisture present in your compost
- Maintain sufficient depth of material to help generate microbial heat (140°F to 160°F)
- Turn the materials weekly for aeration
- 25-to-1 CARBON to NITROGEN ratios
- CARBON: “Brown,” dry materials – bedding, leaves, newspaper, sawdust, shredded cardboard, straw & spoiled hay
- NITROGEN: “Green,” wet materials – garden waste, lawn clippings, weeds, poultry manure, coffee grounds, kitchen scraps.
Learning how to compost at home and creating compost promotes healthy soil life and organisms, and increases water and nutrient retention. With little to no money, a basic compost bin design, and a small investment of time and energy, you can start composting today and your garden will reap the benefits of nutrient-rich soil tomorrow.
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