Comopost, Compost, Compost

As if I didn’t need a reminder of how important compost is to a vegetable garden, note the tomato above. It’s on its way out, but it grew with no supplemental water in hard-packed clay soil contaminated with lead and zinc in a hot side yard. Why did it do well while the rest of my vegetable garden did not do as so good this summer?

Homemade compost.

I didn’t have enough compost for the rest of the veggie garden so I bought some at a nursery. The homebrew compost obviously had much more life in it. 

And life is the point. Soil is a living thing. Plants, particularly vegetables, need microbial life to thrive.

For more on the importance of microbial life read the USDA’s soil biology primer written by Dr. Elaine Ingham.

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  1. No watering? That’s amazing! Homemade compost definitely makes a difference. We moved last winter and have a very small yard here so I’ve been trying to figure out where to put a compost bin.

    • For very small yards, if drainage is sufficient, the solution is often “trench” composting: a trench can be dug, and the soil from it used to produce two raised beds on either side of the trench. Compostables can then go into the trench, topped off with several inches of mulch.

      A large enough trench can become thermophilic, allowing those two beds to be planted much earlier in the season than you otherwise could.

      This is probably best for clean stuff (fall leaves, grass clippings, coffee grounds wouldn’t bother me like food scraps would) and/or for fruiting plants. It may also be worth looking into vermicomposting, which can take food waste and is yet more compact.

  2. Your tomatoes are a beautiful red! I will be composting leaves this fall. We have a wooded acre and will be blowing some of them into a big pile and shredding them with the mower. Last year we left a small pile of shredded leaves in the corner of the yard and a few months later, it had become the most beautiful brown dirt. I was so excited because we live in an area with red clay and have to amend the soil in our veggie garden.

  3. Compost make all the difference. When we lived in CT we made regular in-a-pile compost and used it everywhere. Now that we live in FL, and by HOA rules cannot have a compost pile, we make ‘instant’ compost from all the kitchen scraps – put them in a blender with some water, usually cooking or veggie washing, blend well. Put in the EarthBox or other planting container and raised beds and it’s done. I’ve even tried digging it up the next day and it’s pretty much gone – usually only the citrus peels and onion skins remain. Helps tremendously with water retention and since we’re in a drought condition, for the last 4 or 5 years and public water is really expensive, it’s terrific.

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