Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Do It. Impromptu composting.

If one of your New Year's resolutions is to be a better gardener, one thing that may help you is might be impromptu composting. Unfortunately for those who lack a green thumb, California soil is very poor in nutrients (because Southern California is really just a big desert). Areas near the beach are often have even worse soil quality because they are usually quite sandy.

Like many people, until recently I lived in a small apartment with very little space, which really doesn't work for the full-size compost pile, like the ones my parents used to have when I was a kid. A compost pile takes a long time to break down all the components, and a giant heap of garbage at a small home is just a recipe for disaster.

Certain food waste, though, is particularly helpful for the novice gardener. It can get very technical, with measuring acidity, carbon and nitrogen, and pH levels (just thinking about all that is exhausting) but here are a few things that work well in quickly improving soil quality.

Egg shells, banana peels, and other potassium-rich food reminants will make your roses bloom. Coffee grounds, which you can actually pick up at almost any coffee shop for free, are also a tremendous boon for your garden, too much though and they can stick together and prevent air from getting into your dirt, and essentially suffocate your plants. Orchids also love black tea, both the leaves from the bag, and the brewed tea--cold of course--but they're quite fussy, so I wouldn't deviate from their normal care too much.

If you do end up going all out and composting on a large scale avoid all animal bones, meats, pet waste, and grease.

Just bury or pour these ingredients over your plants and it will definitely prolong the life of your plants.

-- Lauren Williams

Photo credit: Picture courtesy of Cambridge, Mass. website.

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