When renting, it’s not uncommon to find poor soil left untended and unfit for your much-anticipated summer garden. Fortunately, solving this problem doesn’t have to mean an expensive trip to the home improvement store. In just a few weeks, you can have rich, fertile soil using nothing but what you’ve cleaned up around the yard and a few discards from your kitchen.
How to compost
Composting isn’t a complicated science project involving lots of hard-to-understand rules. It’s a simple process occurring in nature all the time. All you have to do is harness what would otherwise be trash, put it in a suitable container, keep it moist, turn it occasionally, and enjoy the fertile bounty nature rewards you with.
First, choose a good place for your compost heap. You can buy a compost bin, or simply make one out of an old garbage can, some unused lumber, or another container. The best place for your compost is an area away from the home (it doesn’t smell too good, and it does attract insects) yet convenient to the garden where you want to plant.
Composting do’s and don’ts
A healthy compost pile contains brown and green matter. The brown stuff is what is already dead, such as last fall’s leaves. If the leaves are already gone, some discarded paper you’d like to recycle is ideal. The green stuff includes grass clippings and discarded waste from the kitchen such as banana peels, apple cores, wilted lettuce, and all the other fruit and vegetable matter you normally throw away.
Don’t add items such as pet droppings or materials treated with insecticide or chemicals. Toss in some garden soil or a few handfuls of potting soil. If there are bugs (especially earthworms) in your compost, don’t fear! These bugs assist the process, it’s nature’s way of breaking down the materials. Chop everything you add into small sizes, because these rot more quickly than large chunks.
Growing your compost pile
Each time you add a layer of green and brown compost material, add some water too. You want to keep the compost moist, but not wet. During warm weather, you’ll need to add more water because it tends to dry out. The most important part of composting is turning it regularly. This helps prevent dry spots and speeds the rotting process. If the compost heap gets too big, break it up into two or three smaller heaps. Small heaps are ready to use more quickly than large ones.
Adding the compost to the soil
Put your newly prepared compost into the ground a few weeks before you’re ready to plant. This gives the compost time to work its way into the soil so it doesn’t burn or damage the fragile new plantings. You’ll immediately see the benefits of composting, as your plants are healthily fed by natural, organic nutrients. Each week, you’ll be taking less garbage to the curb, which is easier for you and better for the local landfill.
The benefits of composting
You’ll be spending considerably less on fertilizer because compost contains everything needed for healthy flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Compost doesn’t just help the soil and plants now, it also builds better soil for future plantings. Any type of soil benefits from adding compost, and it’s an all-natural way to grow any plants.
At the end of the growing season, toss your expired plants back into the compost heap to supplement next year’s garden.