By Billie and Robert Nicholson
Spring is in the air and your garden is waiting. Deciding what your garden will look like requires a plan and is almost without limit. We compost in our garden year round and this keeps our worms happy. We save almost all uncooked vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and tea bags in a closed bin in our kitchen and turn them into our garden regularly. Remember do not bury meat or dairy. This is a sure way to entice dogs and rodents into your garden.
The nutrients from these scraps provide a rich tapestry of microorganisms that pay dividends all year long. When our scrap bin gets full we dig a trench in our garden about one foot deep to deter pests. We rotate our composting locations and soon we have rich organic soil. A nice side benefit is these kitchen scraps are free. What a great way to recycle. This method of amending our soil is much better than using chemical fertilizers. Yes, chemical fertilizers have nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium, but that’s about it. Chemically treated soil becomes devoid of other elements of life and the resulting yield on your table has less nutrients in them.
We save our eggshells too. This free garden resource has many uses. When broken into chunks these eggshells cut the bodies of slugs, snails and cutworms as they try to get close to your tender seedlings. We also grind some eggshells to a powder and by returning them to the soil we add calcium, an essential nutrient to plant cell walls. Newly placed transplants, like tomatoes, will appreciate crushed shells placed in the bottom of their transplant holes. You can mix small pieces of eggshells into birdfeed by oven heating them first to kill pathogens. This helps mother birds with the calcium intake they need.
Chipped yard debris from trees and other plants make a good free source of mulch. When green, they add nitrogen to the soil. Chicken and rabbit manure and green grass clippings also add nitrogen when mixed with your soil.
Another way we recycle is to use the output from our paper shredder in our garden. We limit our shredding to matte papers (no glossy or plastic). We love to shred our brown paper bags from the grocery store. Worms love paper and move through the soil, aerating it and depositing nutrient rich worm manure casings as they go. A thick layer of shredded paper also slows down weed growth.
In a nutshell: Composted vegetable scraps placed in your garden contain N-P-K (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium), trace minerals, enzymes, vitamins, and lots of organic matter. They do take time to breakdown so now is a good time to start adding them to your soil. Of those ingredients, 100 percent are useful to the soil and plants. In contrast, synthetic fertilizers contain no organic matter and with each application the soil becomes less likely to produce full-bodied vegetables or flowers for our tables.
Billie and Robert welcome your questions and comments. You may reach them at BillieandRobert@gmail.com