Let’s talk Dirt!

Compost pile with green cover
Compost pile with wood shavings

No matter if you have a small raised-bed herb garden, a five-acre truck farm or five-thousand acre commercial Ag operation, dirt is important! Good dirt is essential; rich, nutrient-dense, composted soil is even better! At The Lazy Acres we are blessed to have very rich soil. We deploy several strategies to help sustain our soil fertility; including, planting winter cover crops, planting ‘green manure’, i.e Hairy Vetch and crop rotation. Perhaps the best method is composting.

Composting is a simple way to add nutrient-rich humus which fuels plant growth and restores vitality to depleted soil. Creating compost is simple and much cheaper than purchasing it. In most cases,creating great compost is a matter of routine. Instead of discarding old vegetables, yard clippings, leafs and other degradable items, compost them. Composting acts as a soil conditioner and provides many benefits to the garden.

One of the greatest benefits is soil fertility. Natural soil fertility is far superior to adding synthetic fertilizers; also it’s much cheaper!

  • Synthetic fertilizer cost can vary from season-to-season making it difficult to establish a manageable budget.
  • Continuous synthetic fertilizer amendments may actually degrade the quality of the soil; making it less fertile in the long-run.
  • Applying a soluble fertilizer will feed the plants, however, it does very little to improve the quality of the soil. In other words, the soil doesn’t feed the plant, it merely acts as a foundation to hold plant roots. Once the plant is harvested, the soil is still little more than a foundation with almost no nutritive value.
Dylan and Nathan helping load FREE wood shavings from a local lumber mill.
Dylan and Nathan helping load FREE wood shavings from a local lumber mill.

Adding compost will build long-term soil fertility; however, composting is not an overnight solution. Particularly if you are striving to become sustainable farm operation, building enough compost is an investment in time. In my experience, it takes a full year to produce usable compost. At The Lazy Acres we use a method of composting described in Eliot Coleman’s book, The New Organic Grower. We’ve created a compost pile inside bales of hay. The hay is stacked like building blocks. We add a layer of dry material (brown leaves, dry corn stalks, old hay, wood chips, manure from the pig pen, etc) and then a layer of green material (pea vines, clover and vetch clippings, yard clippings, etc). We’ve even included the entrails and hide from the deer we killed during deer season – we just make sure that it’s covered with plenty of dry material. After a year, this compost is rich, crumbly and has a distinctive earthy aroma.

By using our own farm-produced compost with our own farm-produced raw materials, we are striving to create a sustainable environment. We use less and less input material from outside sources and the only thing that leaves the farm is our excess vegetables and livestock.

If you’ve already discovered the benefits of composting, then I don’t have to tell you the value that it brings to the garden. If you haven’t started composted, what are you waiting for?! Get started today!