If you live in an area with good soil or you already take action to nourish your soil, that's wonderful! For everyone else, did you know your plants need more than water? They need to get minerals and nutrients from the soil. They also like to grow where the pH is in the recommended range for that plant. There are two ways to go about nourishing the soil. Most large, commercial farms do it through chemical fertilizer. Organic farmers and many home gardeners try to stay away from synthetic chemicals and use things like compost from their compost bin.
Here in South Carolina, we have poor soil. Most of it is either sand or red clay, neither of which are great for growing plants and they both make it hard to water your plants correctly. What can you do if you are like me with poor native soil? One idea is to add compost. Old leaves are great and many gardeners can't believe some people just bag them up and throw them away. You can also start a compost pile. I am adding a list of do's and don't's for composting at the end of this column. Something really simple that anyone can do is to keep a small compost pail in the kitchen. I put my coffee grounds, carrot peelings, etc. in mine (it's stainless steel) and every few days I either empty it in my outdoor compost pile or I dig a hole in an area where nothing is growing, cover the composting material back up with soil, and let Mother Nature work it in through decomposition, earthworms, etc. This has not attracted critters" nor caused an odor
Compost matures into what scientists call active organic matter, a dark, crumbly soil amendment that's rich with beneficial fungi, bacteria and earthworms, as well as the enzymes and acids these life-forms release as they multiply. Did you know that adding compost to garden soil increases its water-holding capacity, enhances the soil food web, and provides a smorgasbord of plant nutrients? Compost also contains substances that enhance the plant's ability to respond to challenges from insects and diseases. It sounds like a good gardening idea!
Good Compost Ingredients
Fruit and vegetable trimmings
Herbicide-free grass clippings
Manure from horses, cattle, goats, poultry and rabbits*
Paper or Cardboard, torn into strips or hand-sized pieces
*You use the compost containing manure only after the materials in it have broken down over time. Don't put fresh manure on plants. It can burn the plants and might result in disease. It is totally fine after it is well composted.
Do Not Add
Very fatty, sugary or salty foods
Chips or sawdust from treated wood
Clippings from herbicide-treated lawns
Manure from omnivorous animals (dogs, cats, humans, etc)
Compost Pail from Gardener's Supply Web Site
Written by: Jeanne of The SandLapper Shop