Feeding the Soil that Feeds You

Soil is the foundation of every great garden. Composting is a great way to improve your soil for gardening, especially here in the desert. Desert soil is usually poor and alkaline and will benefit from just the right compost mixture. Compost will add microorganisms and beneficial bacteria to the soil and increase water retention. Composting could also save you money by reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides.

Compost is a mixture of carbon and nitrogen materials, air and moisture. The carbon material is referred to as “brown” or “dry” and could include shredded newspaper, dead leaves, straw, dried plant material, and dryer lint. The nitrogen is “green” or “wet” material and could include kitchen scraps, fresh garden debris, and manure. The ratio of dry to wet material can vary, but the range could include 50% - 80% dry material to 50% - 20% wet material. Meat and dairy are not recommended for your home compost pile.

Keeping compost moist during the hot, dry months is a bit of a challenge. Depending on what type of compost container you use, you will need to adjust your wetting accordingly. The more the compost is exposed to air, the more evaporation will take place.  Plastic containers can help retain moisture. You want to create a damp, not soggy environment. Stir your compost at least weekly to aerate the mixture and avoid methane build ups. Harvest your compost seasonally by adding the good compost to your garden and leaving the un-composted materials to further break down.

Want to learn more? Check out some of these resources, opens a new window available at Pima County Public Library.