Composting for good soil

Issue 22 Words: Beth Askham

There is more than you think living and working in your garden. Composting can help your soil teem with life.

Soil, such lovely stuff sitting there humbly underfoot, provides the place, space and food for plants to grow. Often overlooked, soil can be teeming with microscopic life and when it is, it is most likely your plants will want to live there too. One way to bring more life to your garden is through composting.

Soil biodiversity and why it matters
If you are thinking big in your garden, it’s best to start by thinking small. Microorganisms (like bacteria, fungi, protozoa) and insects that live in the soil are the tiny powerhouses that make nutrients available for plants and can help them thrive.

A good look up-close at some of your best soil will probably reveal some worms and insects but there’s other life in there too, such as bacteria and protozoa, which you won’t be able to see. Just one teaspoon of lovely garden soil contains several million bacteria, around a million fungi and around ten thousand protozoa. In that teaspoon lives a small and complex feed web of microorganisms that is changing the soil’s chemistry and structure.

Composting
The best way to increase the amount of life in your soils is to add compost. Composting sometimes seems harder than making an award winning sponge cake: ratios need to be right, the pile needs to be moist but not wet and your compost needs the right amount of mixing. All this, not to mention the pests that you might be fostering and feeding, makes composting seem difficult at the best if times. But compost is so good for your garden (and it saves your kitchen waste from landfill) that it is worth persevering with.

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Cover of Issue 22
You can read more about Composting for good soil in Issue 22 of Sanctuary magazine.

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