Whether you have a large garden or a few containers on your patio, ensuring your plants and vegetables have good soil can make a huge difference in whether they will thrive. A vegetable garden is often a big investment of time and energy, so making sure that you start with a nutrient rich soil is an essential ingredient in getting the best yield. Of course, every farmer and successful gardener knows that the best growing conditions are achieved when compost is used. Every gardening book and website recommends that you get your soil tested and one of the main tests is for pH. You can get a professional lab to do the test, or you could use one of the convenient test kits made for gardeners.
Benefits of Compost for the Garden
Adding compost to the garden is an excellent way to dramatically improve the condition of the soil. Good soil will crumble easily and allows for some moisture retention, but drains easily. The compost will allow the soil to retain nutrients and provide a better growing environment for your garden plants. In addition to adding the essential nutrients of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus to your garden soil, compost also brings a number of important micronutrients, such as manganese, zinc, copper and iron. Compost gives your garden the nutrients it needs in order to flourish.
Making Your Own
You can certainly purchase compost that is ready to add to your garden. In fact, most large home improvement stores and garden shops will offer bagged compost that is ready to go. While this can save you time and energy, it’s going to add to the overall cost of your garden. Additionally, when you make your own compost, it will be a higher quality and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve returned to the soil what was taken from it.
Making your own compost certainly doesn’t have to be difficult and there are numerous websites, such as The Impatient Farmer, where you can learn the steps necessary to create your own compost for your garden. It basically comes down to choosing the method that works best for you. Traditionally, farmers would have a compost pile set far enough away from the house in order to discourage pests, but close enough that they would be able to add kitchen scraps. Today, urban dwellers typically don’t want a compost heap in their backyard, so compost bins and tumblers have become extremely popular. These devices make it easier to keep the composting material enclosed and tumblers even offer an easy way to aerate the decomposing matter.
Is the Compost Ready?
Depending on the size of your compost pile as well as whether you are using piles, a compost bin or a tumbler, you can expect your compost to be ready in about 3 months. It’s important to not use compost before decomposition is complete. If you spread compost in your garden that isn’t completely decomposed, the bacteria in the compost will compete with your garden plants for nitrogen. You will likely end up with plants that are yellowed with stunted growth.
Your compost is ready when it has an overall dark brown color. It should have an earthy odor and a crumbly, but light consistency. You should not see any signs of rotting or mold in your compost pile. There should be no signs of the original components that were used in making the compost; everything should be broken down and decomposed to the point that you have an organic material that is consistent throughout.
A healthy garden starts with good soil. Fortunately, composting can be done even in urban locations and it allows you the opportunity to create an excellent boost for your soil.