Once you get serious about producing your own food, you realize the secrets all lie in the soil. The soil type, texture, pH, macro-nutrients, and micro-nutrients will make or break your harvest every year.
Of course, there are plenty of things you can add to soil to balance all of these components and get them just right for each plant’s specific needs. However, none of the commercial solutions will be available after Doomsday, so if you’re going to survive it, you’re going to have to learn to make your own soil-fixer: compost.
To start composting, all you need are some kitchen scraps. There are two types of plant and animal material you can use: brown matter and green matter.
Essentially, brown matter are things that were not recently growing, such as dried and processed plant matter, from paper to dried leaves to wood chips. Green material was more recently growing, such as green leaves, food scraps, and manure. The two colors provide different things to the compost. Brown provides carbon and green provides nitrogen.
You need about three times as much brown material as green in the compost for it to develop properly. You can tell if you have too much brown material if the compost isn’t getting hot (which is necessary) – in that case, add more green material.
If you have too much green, the compost will smell worse than normal, in which case just add brown. It’s also important to layer up the green and brown material; in fact, if you can get the layering just right, the compost will be created faster.
The compost pile also should be kept wet. One of the easier ways to keep it wet is to put it in a container. Though it’s popular to build a compost bin, and it will retain moisture, it’s completely unnecessary.
You can simply pile it, put it in rows, and hide it all behind the barn. In fact, there may be advantages to this approach because the compost also needs airflow. Containing it in a plastic bin or another air-proof container is going to hinder it. Besides, you also have to turn the compost, airing one side and then the other, and keeping it in a container can make that harder.
So, once you’ve made it, where do you put it in the garden? The simple answer is everywhere. Clay and sandy soils will both be improved by the introduction of compost, which might seem odd, but it works. It also balances out pH whether it is too high or too low.
That’s not ideal for all plants, but it is for most. It will also add in the macro and micro nutrients that plants need, depending, of course, on whether the materials you started with have the micro nutrients in them (they have the macro).
Another great thing about compost is that it closes the gap between growing plants and raising animals. Your animal waste goes into making compost, which goes into making plants, which feeds the animals, and the cycle continues, but that’s not all.
Bone meal and blood meal are excellent additions to soil all on their own and meet specific requirements some plants may have. You can add them into the compost to spread their effect throughout the garden, or you can target it.
Blood meal will raise the acidity of your soil and add more nitrogen, but it must be added carefully. Bone meal, on the other hand, adds in phosphorous and calcium and is best used in neutral or alkaline soils.