Noncomposting: The Secret To Great Garden Soil?

Looking for a soil-building alternative to traditional composting? Try noncomposting instead!

You probably already know how important compost is to the health of your organic garden soil. But what if you don’t have enough materials to make your own compost? If you live in an urban or suburban home and don’t have much to contribute to your compost pile besides kitchen scraps, it will likely take a very long time to accumulate a usable amount of compost.

You will also need to spend some time managing your compost – adjusting the ratios of materials, turning the compost to add oxygen and speed up decomposition, and of course, removing finished compost to the garden and starting new piles.

Instead of composting, some small gardeners may wish to practice “noncomposting.” There are a few different methods of non-composting that can help you create marvelous garden soil. Here are 3 noncomposting ideas from The Urban Farm to start with – choose whichever method seems most feasible to you, and give it a try. You have nothing to lose – only great garden soil to gain!

1.) My favorite way of noncomposting is to feed it to the chickens. I know, your first reaction is “I can’t keep chickens in my yard.” Now I am not talking about roosters, just hens and they are very easy to keep, are effective at weeding and controlling bugs, they eat your kitchen and yard scraps, provide lots of great compost material, and give you the added bonus of the occasional egg or two for your breakfast enjoyment.

The basic thing you need to know about chickens is that they like to have a coop area to roost in. I use the coop as a place to contain them for their first month, so that they learn that this yard is their home. Once done they can run wild in your yard if you like, with the caveat that they will eat any new tender plants that are coming up. So I have a designated chicken yard as their living space. There is also the notion of building a chicken tractor (portable chicken coop) that you move around your yard so that the chickens do the work of preparing your beds for planning. As for the kitchen and yard scraps, I just put them in their coop area and the chickens do the composting.

2.) Now if you aren’t quite up for keeping chickens, you might try worms, which are much more innocuous. They do their own kind of digging, provide their own kind of manure and do a really good job of munching on your kitchen scraps. They are as easy to keep as putting a bucket under your sink with some shredded newspapers and worms. Or, you can add an old bathtub in some corner of your yard and vermicompost away (the fancy word for worm composting).

3.) One of my favorite methods of noncomposting is called lasagna gardening. It is a process by which you build the soil in your garden and compost at the same time. The name says it all. Start by putting down a layer of dry material usually 1 to 3 inches deep. I like using dried leaves, hay or straw. Then add a layer of manure to facilitate the slow composting, then another layer of dry material and manure. You can add layers to your heart’s content and if you want to plant right away, dig a little hole, add some soil and plant. Over the course of a few months the layers break down and create awesome slow-cooked composted soil. The added bonus, is that you can take your kitchen scraps and tuck them into the lasagna garden and let nature take over.

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Rose S.

An avid gardener since childhood, I love sharing my passion for gardening with others! I have gardened in a number of different climates and settings, from large fenced garden plots, to tiny patio and container gardens, and I firmly believe that everyone can learn to grow at least some of their own food - no matter where you live. Growing your own food can help you take control of your own health and food supply, and there has never been a better time to get started!

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