Improve Your Soil Without a Compost Pile

It’s All About The Soil

We all know that a big part of successful gardening is a healthy and strong foundation. Plants need soil that is high in well-rotted and decomposed organic matter that came from similar vegetable plants that worms, fungi and microbes digested and converted into nutrients that plants need to grow. The best seed in the world will go to waste if the soil is severely lacking in nutrients. One of the most popular methods of amending is through adding compost.

Compost itself is simply decomposed organic matter. It can often be confused with fertilizer, but there is an important distinction between the two. Fertilizer, while it goes into the soil, is intended to specifically feed plants. Compost, on the other hand, is intended to enrich the soil itself, maintaining moisture more effectively and giving plants a better environment to thrive and flourish.

Composting

Some of us have compost bins at the garden or at home which we use to amend our soil. Those of us who do compost will admit there is work that needs to go in to home compost. If home composting is not something you are doing, don’t fret. There are some easy things you can do to improve your soil condition without the entire composting process.

Simple Kitchen Ingredients

There are some simple ingredients you most likely have in your kitchen right now that can help improve your soil.

EGG SHELLS

  • The next time you make your morning omelet rinse out the egg shells and allow them to dry for a few days in a bowl on a sunny window sill. When they are dry they crush very easily. This will help them to break down quickly when added to the soil.
  • Crushed eggshells improve drainage and the addition of  the calcium is excellent for promoting plant growth and preventing blossom end rot in tomatoes and squash plants. If you have an old coffee grinder or food processor you can grind them up in a snap.
  • They are also a good deterrent for slugs and snails.  Scatter a decent size barrier around any young seedlings to keep the pesky pests away. Some say this is the human equivalent of walking barefoot on broken glass. Ouch!

COFFEE GROUNDS

  • You can add coffee grounds directly to the soil. They will act as a general fertilizer, adding organic matter, improving drainage, water retention and soil aeration. As they break down they will continue to add nitrogen which we know is so good for plant’s growth.
  • Used coffee grounds will not affect the PH level of your soil unless used in very concentrated amounts. However unused coffee grounds or leftover coffee is always such a wonderful pick-me-up for acid loving plants. So feel free to dump the rest of the pot on your blueberry plants.
  • Coffee grounds also work very well as a mulch around plants. This keeps earthworms very happy as they seem partial to a little caffeine hit too!
  • Don’t worry if they look a bit moldy, this is just part of the natural breaking down process and a sign that it’s working.
  • If you’re not a coffee drinker, tea bags are good for the soil too.

BANANA SKINS 

  • Banana skins are another excellent way to improve your garden soil. They can also be added directly to the ground as long as they are cut up into very small pieces. They’ll break down faster and offer all the micro-organisms in the soil a lot more surface area to work their magic.
  • This creates plenty of new organic matter resulting in a light, well drained soil which is full of lovely earthworms. Once the banana skins have broken down they will add a powerful cocktail of nutrients; calcium, magnesium, sulphur, phosphates, potassium and sodium, all of which help plants to grow well and develop their fruit.

ORANGE PEELS 

  • Cut up peels into small pieces and bury them in your garden. If you cut the peels into very small pieces they can also be added directly to the soil. They’ll break down faster and offer all the micro-organisms in the soil a lot more surface area to work.
  • They will add a punch of phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium.
  • They also work to deter small critters!

NUT SHELLS

  • The Nut shells are a good addition to your garden because they don’t break down as quickly as other items. This includes peanuts, pistachios, and even sunflower seeds (yeah, I know not nuts) to aerate soil.
  • Make sure to wash off any salt or seasoning before adding to the garden.
  • Nut shells also work well as a mulch, the reason is same– they don’t break down easily. In compost, they can help vary the thickness of it, this later helps in soil aeration.
  • A warning: don’t use black walnut nut hulls because they have a large concentrations of juglone which is toxic to many plants.

So the next time you plan on throwing away a banana peel or those coffee grounds, give them to your garden instead. Your soil will thank you later!

Happy Gardening and Happy New Year!
Mary Church

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