Prepare Compost for Your Vegetable Garden

It is time to prepare your vegetable garden soil for the upcoming spring planting season. You should consider making your own compost. It replenishes your garden soil with the rich organic matter necessary to successfully grow healthy vegetables.

Veteran gardeners swear by compost. It’s unrivaled for adding readily available nutrients and beneficial bacteria to the vegetable garden soil, or adding to the mix when planting shrubs, trees, perennials, annuals, and container plantings, promoting the healthy and vigorous growth of plants. Plus, compost is an environmentally smart way to turn household food waste and vegetative landscape and garden waste into something besides a bulge in your garbage bag.

Making your own compost is very easy- nothing more than piling up leaves, clippings, kitchen scraps, and other materials into a heap, and waiting for it to ferment (a month to two months). But, if you have an aesthetic sense, building or buying a compost bin is in order (like the one pictured, of a plastic barrel drum used to collect rainwater).

Here are a few tips on how to create a vegetable garden soil compost:

  • Begin the compost pile/ heap by adding 12 inches of organic matter (kitchen scraps, yard waste, etc.).
  • Apply one to two pounds of high-nitrogen organic fertilizer such as dried blood, guano or manure.
  • Add two inches of soil.
  • Continue building the compost pile in this layered fashion as you generate organic matter.
  • The center of the pile should be concave to hold rainwater.
  • The center of the pile should begin to heat up within a couple of weeks.
  • The composting process should be complete within two to three months, depending on the material and outside temperature.

Large material such as tree limbs, corn stalks, etc., should be chopped into smaller pieces to facilitate decomposition. Some materials, such as lawn clippings, will decompose very rapidly; others will require turning the compost pile (which aerates the pile) and adding more high nitrogen organic fertilizer. This will restart the heating and decomposition process.