by Charlene Burgi
Years ago I would gloss over articles about compost and soil while poring over articles about plants. I eagerly immersed myself in every book and magazine, frequented any nursery that crossed my path, and took classes about plants and landscape design with the intent of knowing more about sun exposure, growth habits, water needs and companion planting. But dirt was dirt. Right? Wrong. How could I have forgotten those years working the soil with my godfather as a child?
I did a great disservice to my garden by failing to acknowledge the tiny living microbes that fed the soil, which should have fed the plants. It was only when I began working in the nursery that I started the journey into the world of soil and its benefits. Truckloads of bagged amendments, chicken manure and planting mix would go out the gate faster than we could stack them. Curiosity led me to take some of those smelly bags of chicken manure home and spread it in my vegetable garden. Surprisingly, the plants flourished and provided bumper crops. If the chicken manure could work, what would compost do?
The compost bin consisted of three wooden pallets nailed together to form an open-fronted box. I didn’t understand anything about combining green nitrogen material with brown carbon, adding water and fluffing it to bring in the air. Chemistry was never a strong suit! To say that the pile of waste was a cool method of composting would be kind. Instinctively I knew scraps of leafy green leftovers needed to go into the pile. That job was always left to my son and daughter, who had to trek all the way around the other side of the house to make the deposit—a chore often met with disdain. It is no wonder neither of them have the same passion for gardening as their mother. And, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the final outcome of my lack of knowledge and their endeavor to feed the compost bin was hardly a glowing success. Come to think of it, neither of them have a compost bin in their homes!
In time, I learned. The plants showed they would flourish if:
- they were fed well the organic way;
- the soil was prepared to provide a healthy growing medium for the roots; and
- amendments, compost and mulch were generously used.
The reward was found in the yield of vegetables, fruit and an abundance of color in the garden.
Another benefit of nurturing your soil is teaching children the joy of successful gardening. Your children may thank you for this knowledge!