Archives

How to Choose a Composting Container

There are many sizes, shapes, and styles of composting bins to choose from. You can
make one yourself or opt for not using one at all and create a compost pile or heap.

A compost tumbler is a cylindrical shape much like a drum laid on its side. It can be
turned on a base that is supported on the flat ends. By turning the drum you are rotating
and aerating the materials at the same time. It is an easy and effective way to rotate your
compost.

A bio-orb container is shaped like a round ball and comes in various sizes. The benefits
of this type of container are the ease of getting it around (you can roll it over to your yard
waste and roll it back to its base), and the act of rolling it also aerates and rotates the
contents. There are many small round holes in the container to let air in too.

A wooden box with slats or a wooden framed box with mesh sides can be purchased or
easily made at home. If you can find four wooden pallets, you can nail them together to
create a compost bin very inexpensively or you can find a roll of wire mesh at your local
hardware store. Both of these options allow air to circulate as long as the contents are not
too compacted.

If you do not want to use a bin, start with a pile of glass clippings or leaves and start to
layer your food scraps on top. As time goes by and your pile continues to grow make
sure you rotate and stir it frequently. Be warned though, it is not as easy to turn a pile
that is not contained. They tend to grow in circumference over time as the pile spreads
out after rotating.

Misconceptions Surrounding Composting

Misconceptions Surrounding Composting
Misconceptions Surrounding Composting

Composting can benefit your garden and the planet (when done on a large scale) in many
ways. A lot of people may shy away from composting because of some common myths
or misconceptions. Listed below are some of the most common untruths followed by the
real information.

* Composting is creating new dirt. Actually composting is not dirt, soil, or earth
but it is humus  decayed matter that provides nutrients to soil.
* It takes a lot of time and effort to compost. Once you have your compost bin set-
up all you will only have to add new materials and turn or rotate the piles once in
a two day period.
* Having a compost is too smelly. If your compost bin has a bad odor, something is
wrong. You need to ensure there is enough air circulation and the right
combination of green and brown foods.
* If I have a compost in my back yard, animals are going to come and dig through
it. If you have a cover for your compost bin and ensure a good layer of brown
food (at least one inch) is on the top you will not have any animal control
problems.
* If I donít measure the exact ratio of green to brown food it will not work.
Composting is not an exact science if you add more green food one week and then
balance it out with additional brown food the next week ñ that is fine. You will
be able to tell with time what your compost pile is lacking or needing.

Composting is easy, environmentally friendly, and an inexpensive way to fertilize your
lawn, garden, or house plants. With some time and patience your mature compost will be
ready to use anywhere from one month to one year.

Store-Bought Fertilizer versus Mature Compost

You may wonder what the different benefits are between fertilizer purchased from the
store and compost humus that you make at home. The aim of both is the same, to
improve the quality of your garden, lawn, and soil but there are differences too.

Many fertilizers that you purchase at your garden center contain artificial or toxic
elements to make your lawn look nice ñ not necessarily healthier. The benefit of this
type of fertilization is the ability to purchase a mix that meets the needs of your specific
lawn. If your lawn is too dry, patchy, or has a lot of weeds ñ there is a product available
that can target each problem (be aware that a pesticide is part of this solution). If you are
using a commercial mix in your garden, read all labels carefully to ensure the product is
safe to use around vegetation that is going to be consumed.

In contrast, when you use compost humus as a fertilizer there isnít a lot you can do to
customize the end result. But the good thing is, you donít really need to. Mature
compost is a process that occurs naturally (in a forest, the leaves on the ground are
composted with only help from Mother Nature). The compost contains a wide range of
benefits for your lawn that do not involve chemicals.

It will really depend on your personal preference whether or not you use commercial
fertilizer or compost. If you like the idea of using compost but not the idea of making it
yourself you can purchase the compost from some gardening centers. Also contact your
cityís recycling department, they may have a program set-up that allows residents to
donate food and other organic waste for composting and then share in the mature
compost when it is ready.

The Pros of composting Versus the Cons

There are obviously downsides to composting or everyone would be utilizing this
resource instead of buying commercial fertilizers and other lawn care additives. The
downside is the time it takes to upkeep, the space to house a composting bin and the
amount of time before your first mature compost will be ready.

The benefits of composting far outweigh the downside. For the time you invest, the
space you give up in your yard and some patience you and your yard will get:

* A lesser need for commercial fertilizer or eliminate it altogether (saves money)
* Increased water retention in your soil. If there is a dry spell your garden and lawn
that has been treated with compost will fair better than those that have used
commercial products
* Improved plant growth. You will also find an increased amount of fruit or
vegetables that your plants produce when using mature compost.
* Protection for your plants from diseases or pests that can destroy your vegetation

The environment also benefits from the time you invest into composting. In addition to
eliminating the amount of waste that goes to the city dump. In some cases organic
material makes up to 45% of the garbage that ends up in a dump ñ this can be greatly
reduced by composting.

* If there is an area of contaminated soil, you can add compost to assist in the
cleaning process
* Compost can help prevent and stop erosion
* Eliminates the need for adding chemical pesticides to your garden or lawn
* Decreases the amount of methane gas that is produced at the dump (by reducing
the amount of organic matter that is thrown away)

Like any new project or habit, composting will take some time to get used to. Once you
have completed the initial start-up process the time and energy you need to maintain the
pile is not a lot.

Soil Basics – Creating Fertile, Healthy Soil

Soil Basics - Creating Fertile, Healthy Soil
Soil Basics – Creating Fertile, Healthy Soil

Have you ever looked at the soil in your garden and considered it as anything more than soil? If not you should because there is a lot more there than meets the eye. It performs many functions that you may not be aware of and having good quality soil in your garden is essential for your plants. In this article we will look at the functions of soil, what different types there are and finally some ways to make it healthier.

Functions of Soil

The most immediately apparent function of soil is a medium to support plant life. It provides support both physically and biologically. Physical support is provided by allowing the plant to grow its roots through the soil to hold itself in place. Biological support is provided by its ability to hold nutrients and water that the plant needs. It also supports other types of life as well. Microorganisms and insects live in the soil and they in turn aid plant life by helping to decay organic material and adding structure to the soil. Soil allows the growth of food crops which are consumed by humans and also plants used in the creation of medicines. Microorganisms like fungi and bacteria that live in soil and are used to produce antibiotics. All life on earth is dependent on it either directly and indirectly. This includes the plant life in your garden.

What is Soil Made of?

The four major components of soil are mineral matter, organic matter (humus), water and air. Mineral matter refers to the inorganic elements in the soil e.g. stones, gravel and makes up to 40%-60% of its volume. This part of the soil usually originates from the bedrock that lies beneath the soil. Organic matter (humus) is the decayed remains and waste products of plants and animals and has a great effect on the chemical properties of the soil e.g. availability of nutrients. Almost 40%-60% of a soil’s volume can be space and this is occupied by water and air.

Different Types of Soil Texture

Soil texture is defined as the size distribution of different mineral particles. These mineral particles are at their most basic level the following: sand, silt and clay. Sand particles are 2 to 0.05 mm diameter, silt particles are 0.05 to 0.002 mm diameter and clay particles are less than 0.002 mm diameter. Combination of these particles exhibit different properties in soil and some combinations favor plant life better than others. The following are the most common classes of soil texture:

Clay soil
Contains a high percentage of clay particles and feels lumpy to the touch. The small size of the clay particles means that they clump together quite readily and there is less room for air spaces. Consequently clay soils have poor drainage and do not hold nutrients very well. This is a heavy soil and is sticky when wet making it hard to work with. As much as possible you should take steps to improve the drainage of this type of soil. You will learn how later on in this article.

Silty soil
Contains a high percentage of silt particles and feels smooth to the touch. This soil is a well drained soil due to the size of the particles allowing space for water to permeate. This soil holds nutrients more readily than clay soil due to the spaces. It is easy to cultivate but can be compacted quite easily.

Sandy soil
Contains a high percentage of sand particles and feels gritty to the touch, Allows for quite a lot of space in between particles and as a result is very free draining. This has its disadvantages however as it does not hold water and essential nutrients can get washed away.

Loamy soil
This is the best type of soil texture you can have in your garden. This is soil whose properties are controlled equally by the percentages of clay, silt and sand particles. It is well drained but does not loose water too easily as is the case with sandy and sometimes silty soils. The fact that it retains water means it also retains nutrients for your plants to use. It has a great structure and is easy to cultivate.

What Makes a Soil Healthy?
Healthy soil must be fertile and have a good structure.

For a soil to be fertile it must have nutrients readily available and a pH value at a recommended level for the plants that will reside in it. Nutrients that should be available are the essential nutrients nitrogen (leaf growth), phosphorous (root growth) and phosphorous (overall health). As well as the essential nutrients there should also be trace elements like calcium and magnesium. The pH level of the soil refers to its acidity or alkalinity and each plant has its own preferred value range. Plants placed into fertile soil will grow up to be very strong and healthy specimens (that is if other conditions like light levels and climate are favorable as well).

The other determiner of a healthy soil is its texture. We learned about different types of soil texture earlier in this article. Soil having a loamy texture is the healthiest and it should be strives for if at all possible. In general a soil that retain nutrients and allow water and air to permeate it will be beneficial for the life of your plants.

How to Create Healthy Soil
No matter what type of soil you have the addition of organic matter will work wonders for its health. Organic matter is plant and animal residues in varying forms of decomposition. It will replenish the nutrients in your soil and improve its texture. You may have heard countless times about adding your leftovers and glass clippings to a compost heap. This is a great idea as your compost is the best form of organic matter. Compost in an advanced stage of decomposition (dark and without smell) is magic for your soil. It encourages microorganism activity causing soil particles to clump together and form aggregates. The aggregates allows for spaces in the soil therefore increasing its drainage. This is especially beneficial for clay soils, which have poor drainage. Other forms of organic matter are animal manure and peat moss.

If your soil is lacking in nutrients and you don’t have access to a compost heap you have a choice of using inorganic or organic fertilizers. Inorganic fertilizers (inorganic salts, manufactured chemically) can be purchased at your local garden and are applied in a dry form that is raked lightly at the base of a plant or in a liquid form. While inorganic fertilizers will work fine they have a number of disadvantages: they release their nutrients too quickly and there is some evidence to show that plants develop a resistance to inorganic fertilizer methods over time, requiring more and more to achieve the same effect. Organic fertilizers are more in tune with nature because they are created from the remains or by-product of an organism. They act slower but they ‘amend’ the soil rather than the quick ‘feeding’ it like inorganic fertilizers.

The pH of your soil will also affect its fertility. Each plant has its own preferred pH value range. To learn more pH and how to change it read my Soil pH article here http://www.gardenstew.com/blog/e3-9-soil-ph-and-its-effect-on-your-garden.html

Conclusion
Soil like a lot of things in the garden requires maintenance. We have learned about the different types of soil texture, what constitutes a fertile, healthy soil and how to create it if it does not exist. The next step is to step out into your garden, take a look at your soil and help your plants out if your soil is of a poor quality. Your plants will thank you ten-fold believe me. Good luck!