Build a Solid Foundation
Soil and Compost
Soil is literally the foundation of your garden and composting both improves the soil and turns household waste.
Soil is literally the foundation of your garden. Healthy soil will promote strong, vigorous plants that:
- Resist diseases
- Resist insect attacks
- Need less (or no) fertilizing
Unless you live in a completely undeveloped area, native soil is probably not a large part of your landscape, and you are stuck with what you have.
The good news is that gardening science has shown us what the ideal soil looks like: a combination of clay, sand, and silt, with a bit of organic matter. We know that pore space within soil is critical for retaining both water and oxygen and that compaction is primarily to blame for lifeless soil and struggling plants. We have easy tests to determine soil texture and pH, and university and government labs can provide us with additional information about nutrient levels, organic matter content, and possible contamination.
Armed with this knowledge, it’s possible to turn nearly any soil into great soil.
Gardens with high soil quality will be:
- 25% air
- 25% water
- 40% mineral matter
- 10% organic material
- sweet smelling
- compress into a loose lump in your hand when moist
- full of earthworms
While no soil is perfect, the best thing you can do for your garden is build up a healthy soil.
First, get your soil tested or check it yourself with a garden soil test kit to find out what its’ current state is, and what you need to do to improve it.
- Add organic matterMixing compost (read more on compost below) with natural soil amendments improves soil structure, texture and aeration — and adds nutrients. Adding organic matter is one of the best things you can do for your garden.
- Get the correct pH. Most garden vegetables, grasses, and ornamentals do best in a slightly acidic soil with a pH between 5.8 and 6.8. Adjusting soil pHto within this range, allows roots to absorb and process available nutrients.
Increasing Soil pH. Adding limestone is probably the easiest way to increase the alkalinity of soil.
Decreasing Soil pH. Elemental sulfur is most commonly used by organic gardeners, but it takes awhile to kick in, so be patient.
Composting both improves the soil and turns household waste (that would otherwise end up in the landfill) into “black gold.”
Adding compost to the soil:
- improves soil tilth (a.k.a. the general health of the soil)
- helps maintain a neutral pH
- helps soil hold more water and nutrients (compost can quadruplethe amount of water soil holds)
- feeds microbes and earthworms that support plants
Elements for Making Perfect Compost
- Start with a container.
- Get the ingredient mix right.
- Remember a few simple chores.
Avoid Common Mistakes
- Don’t start certain bins too small.
- Keep things moist
- Don’t depend on one material
- Don’t get overwhelmed.
Arrives fully assembled so you won’t spend hours putting it together! The Good Ideas® Compost Wizard is a dream to turn, it kicks out finished compost in about two weeks, and it keeps the critters out of your food scraps. Load it up, spin once a week, and you’re done! This workhorse is completely made in America of 100% recycled materials.
Almost all organic waste your household products can be used for making compost. That includes: grass clippings, vegetable peels and scraps, egg shells, tea leaves and coffee grounds. Meat and dairy should not go in the compost pile.
How much compost your garden needs depends on the soil health, length of your gardening season, and amount of precipitation you get.
You can apply compost any time of the year — it won’t burn plants or pollute the water the way synthetic fertilizers can. For best results:
- Add compost 2-3 weeks before planting
- Work compost 6-8 inches deep
- Try to get a compost to soil ratio of 50:50
- Side dress quick growing plants in late spring or early summer
- Consider watering your plants with a compost tea if possible.