Dirt. We love to get our hands in it, plant seeds in it, drive 4-wheel trucks through it.
How about making your own? That’s right, make your own dirt.
It’s so much easier than you think, and you won’t need a fancy container either, unless that’s your motivation to get started.
- Placement: Select a spot in your yard (unless you’re using a container, then it can sit on concrete, etc) where you’ll get a good amount of sun, at least 4-5 hours a day. Choose an area that is accessible to water, or open enough to be rained on. Here in Florida, that’s pretty easy, but other parts of the world will present their own challenges. Two things to keep in mind when selecting your spot: sunlight and water
- Type: If you don’t want your compost pile right on top of your lawn, consider digging out a spot you’ll use, or place a barrier between the heap and the ground. Remember, insects are your friend here and if they have access, the breakdown process goes much faster.
- Layer: Be sure to layer “greens” and “browns”. Green layers (think wet) consist of food scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc. Brown layers (think dry) such as newspaper, dried leaves, grass clippings, etc. Combine green and brown to create enough of each so that the brown layer helps break down the green layer. Continue to layer as you add to the heap. If you notice any bad smells, add brown!
- Avoid: Don’t add meat, melon, bones, dairy, citrus (attracts vermin), feces, grease, rooted weeds or other plants, or pressure treated wood or shavings. Remember, this is soil you’ll use to plant a garden, repot other plants, etc. You want it organic and chemical free.
- Water: If the skies aren’t opening up enough, hand water your compost at least one a week. Give it a thorough soaking.
- Turn it over: About once a month, I turn the heap over and give it a really good mix.
- Wait: The bottom of your heap will be ready before the top is, and you can see the progress when you turn the pile. Depending on sunlight, temp, and water, you can expect to see usable dirt anywhere from 1-4 months.
- Add: If you’re in drier conditions, or it’s cool, or cloudy, add some earth worms. They just love to burrow deep inside and munch on all those scraps.
I keep a small self-contained bin inside the house and fill it as I go. When it’s full, I bring it to the pile and add brown if needed. Remember: bad smell = add brown.
Enjoy the beautiful rich dirt you made and marvel at the incredible process that happens all over the earth every single day. Have fun, Earth Lover.