Gardening seems full of lessons to be learned mostly by personal experiences not necessarily by study or research (though all of that can help too). With this in mind, our local VISTA, Daphne Gooding gave the Grow Appalachia participants and the children from the after school program an experience of the value and benefits of composting.
About a week ago Daphne enlisted the help of several children to fill 10 containers–some just with dirt and some with compost that had been maturing behind the community center. Some containers were covered with a hat of decayed straw and some without. After a week with these various containers sitting in the greenhouse, it was time for a group inspection. What might we find?
We didn’t do any kind of sophisticated testing of the soil. We were doing a visual inspection of our containers. The most noticeable difference between the dirt and the compost was that the dirt was already quite dry and looked like it had lost its vitality. The compost containers had soil/dirt that was still moist. The containers with compost and decayed straw hat were not only moist – the soil stuck to your hand. It was ready for seeds or plants. No additional water needed.
With last summer’s drought still on everyone’s mind, we were all impressed by the containers with compost and their straw hats. The water storage capacity of the soil/compost in these containers was striking.
Daphne explained how composting introduces a vitally positive cycle, improving soil quality so that it doesn’t require chemical fertilizers and the plants can do more with less water in the event of another summer with long periods without significant rain. Finally composting will add micro-nutrients to the soil making the plants stronger and more resistant to disease and/or pests. Year after year of composting makes your garden better and better.
Many of our families have received back yard compost bins which turn easily and keep the compost well aerated. The older after school students are shown below helping to assemble one of the bins. Several more families have requested bins as funds allow.
So we are eager to gather all that waste – food scraps, leaves, grass clippings – and turn it into fertile garden soil. There’s new meaning to that old saying: “One man’s trash is another one’s treasure.”
Afterschool students put together a back yard composter