So, gardening for me is a passion, a love, something that invigorates my soul and captures my spirit. Having said that, gardening was not something that I grew up doing, or had exposure to that allowed me to internalize some basics. Gardening was a decision I made, and one that I was determined to learn how to do.
I fell in love with nurturing the soil and growing food for my table when I became a Mom. A Mom who wanted to have more control over my children’s food and wanted to nurture my family, and in doing so, become connected with, and learn to nurture the earth. So, having no real experience, I did what I always do. I bought books. And I read. I lived in a foreign country that I did not spend summers in, so for three years, I read. And I just kept reading. I learned a lot about gardening, but I also learned that until I put my hands in the soil and started my own compost, and failed a time or two, I didn’t really learn anything.
I had the best of intentions that first year of keeping a detailed time log of seeds and starts, and plantings and feeding the soil and a journal……. oh, how I wanted to keep a journal. But I am a Mom, and a business owner, and a full time employee outside of the home, and gardening is forgiving. Well, at least some of it is, and that is what I learned most. I can be successful if I plant later than recommended. I can be successful if I didn’t pick the best spot for ratio of sun/shade/insect repelling plants…. I can be successful if I just try.
Don’t get me wrong, it does take effort and time, but if you set up your garden to thrive with some simple necessities in place, it can be easy, rewarding, and above all, flexible. So, if your like me, really busy and well, a little more free spirited, you can stick to some basics and still have an amazing garden. The best thing I learned to do for my garden was to make compost.
Composting can divert as much as 30% of your household waste and has helpful organisms that aerate the soil and break down organic material for plant use and ward off plant disease. All compostable materials are either carbon or nitrogen-based and the secret to a healthy compost pile is maintain a balance between them. A simple way to look at it is one-third green and two-thirds brown materials. This allows oxygen to penetrate and nourish the organisms make it their home. Too much nitrogen makes for a heavy, smelly, compost that decomposes slowly. Cover fresh nitrogen-rich material, which can release odors, with carbon-rich material, which often has a fresh, wonderful smell. And, if you are not sure, I say, err on the side of carbon.
Examples of carbon-rich matter is dried leaves, peels, bits of wood, branches, stems, bark dust or sawdust pellets, shredded brown paper bags, coffee filters, conifer needles, egg shells, hay, and peat moss.
Nitrogen or protein-rich matter is manures, food scraps, leafy material like lawn clippings and green lives. Nitrogen provides raw materials for making enzymes.
No, I am not of fan of smelly things, so I use an open aired compost bin that I turn weekly with a pitchfork or shovel and frequently add a layer of dried leaves to the top. It has three wooden sides, no bottom (so the worms can easily find their way) with the front side open for easy access. I have heard a lot of people discuss fears of rodents taking over their lives if they compost or do not have a completely enclosed bin. I have found that if I eliminate meat, dairy and any leftovers that are high in fat from my compost bin, I don’t have any rodents and my dear, sweet, dog stays out of it as well.