Improving Your Soil

Learn how to improve your soil and increase the quality of your harvests.

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Making Your Own Compost

Everything your garden produces as crop residues, spoiled vegetables, weeds, and prunings can, in theory, be composted and reincorporated into your soil forming part of a virtuous circle of cultivation, production, and recycling. Regular turning mixes all the ingredients and increases aeration; water lightly if the ingredients seem dry.

Composters
Choose ready built or made-to-measure composters and ideally they should be big enough to hold all garden waste for at least a year. Space for a composter in a small herb garden can be difficult to find, but if there is only room for a small 3 ft (1 m) square container, it can produce usable compost if fed with the right materials and treated correctly.

Woody and Excess Material
Woody material takes longer to break down, as does dry bracken or straw, but both are valuable additions to the compost bin, helping to aerate the heap. Cut woody stems into pieces the size of a finger and mix in well. Chop up surpluses of any one type of material and store in punctured garbage bags until it can be added in proportion.

Unsuitable Material
Diseased plants and roots of perennial weeds should not be added as they are likely to reinfect plants or regenerate in subsequent seasons.

Turning CompostEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Filling Your Composter

Any organic matter can be added and it will rot if kept moist, so cover the heap with old carpet. Avoid cooked or processed food waste, which will rot quickly but is likely to attract rats and other pests.

Add Organic Matter to Compost HeapEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Layering

In addition, layer green leaves, grass cuttings, vegetable remnants, woody chips, and straw in roughly equal quantities, ensuring that no single component dominates. In smaller composters, add a compost activator.

Compost Bin LayersEnlarge Photo+Shrink Photo-DK - Simple Steps to Success: Herbs © 2009 Dorling Kindersley Limited
12Next »

Excerpted from Simple Steps: Herbs

©Dorling Kindersley Limited 2009

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