The Benefits of Compost
Healthy soil is the key to successful vegetable gardening. As a living organism, soil needs to be fed and nurtured. One technique for sustaining a healthy soil food web is to regularly add compost. Each time you set out a planting or whenever it becomes available work a 1-2 inch layer of compost into the top few inches of your soil. When you feed the soil instead of your plants over time you will discover:
improved soil texture and structure
better water retention (less watering!)
improved pH balance
a flourishing of the micro-organisms that protect plants from disease and insect invasions
Compost is an ideal soil amendment that is made right here at our garden. This is how we do it …
1. Intake and Preparation
Compost begins with a mix of brown materials, green materials, oxygen and water. The more material we collect, the more compost we can make so we always welcome offerings.
What do we need?
Please put green material in the green receiving bin. Brown materials can be stacked or piled next to the bins.
Large pieces take longer to break down so whenever possible please cut up vegetable scraps. Shredding leaves using a lawn mower or shredder really helps too. Freezing kitchen scraps before bringing them to the site can reduce pathogens and speed the process.
2. Active composting
Once we have collected a good balance of green and brown materials (about a 1:1 ratio) a pile can be built. Mixing green and brown materials activates the organisms that turn these ingredients into compost.
As living beings those organisms need water and oxygen to survive. They are most comfortable when a handful of material feels like a wrung out sponge. If we’ve had a string of hot days please feel free to water the bin as necessary.
The pile organisms also need oxygen. Turning the pile adds air to the mix and distributes moisture. Scheduled work days make the job easier as many hands make light work but you are welcome to turn a pile at any time.
3. Sifting & Curing
The organisms are hard at work when the pile feels warm to the touch. When the nitrogen has been eaten up the pile will begin to cool. Look for material that is almost black in colour and velvety soft. You will see few traces of the original ingredients.
The final step is to cure the compost for about a week to make sure it is stable and won’t hurt your plants. To test for stability, take a handful and put it in a bag. If the temperature remains cool for a couple of days the compost is ready to be used. Any larger pieces remaining can be sifted out to be used for the next batch of compost.
When it is finally time to share the compost we will hold a work and distribution day. Come on by to receive your share and help build the next pile.