Composting is the time-honored practice of using natural microbial processes to break down organic materials such as grass clippings, kitchen wastes, yard and garden debris, leaves, and sometimes livestock manures to create a valuable soil amendment.
Having a compost pile cuts down on the organic waste a household contributes to the community's waste stream. Applying compost to garden soils:
- Increases soil organic matter.
- Improves a soil's physical properties.
- Helps retain and release soil moisture.
- Supplies some nutrients essential for plant growth.
The whys and hows of home composting and where to buy it locally:
Composting in the Back Yard or on a Small Farm Basic fact sheet from Maine Organic Farming & Gardening Association.
Composting This online resource fromeXtension, a national Cooperative Extension site, offers links to comprehensive information about home composting.
Purchasing Compost Tips for buyers, plus a list of N.H. compost vendors.
Using Your Compost You've made some; now put it to use.
Worming Your Way to rich black compost Here's how to let redworms compost your kitchen scraps indoors.
A "cover crop" is a crop planted to protect and cover bare soil. Gardeners typically plant a cover crop to prepare a new garden plot for next spirng's planting or after harvesting a summer or early fall crop to protect the soil over winter.
Some gardeners sow certain cover crops to protect the soil between beds or rows planted to food crops.
Growers may incorporate a mature cover crop back into the soil to decompose or allow it to winter-kill to provide a light mulch for the spring crop.
Cover crops can serve many purposes They protect bare soil from erosion, reduce nutrient leaching, hold moisture in the soil, help suppress weeds, and boost soil organic matter. Some cover crops help attract beneficial insects. Leguminous cover crops (clovers, field peas, beans) fix nutrogen that becomes available to the crop planted next.
Green Manure Cover Crops Developed for Minnesota gardeners, but information suitable for New Hampshire growers, too.
Buckwheat: A Good Cover Crop for Home Gardens Developed for Oregon gardeners, but suitable for New Hampshire growers.
Cover crops for weed suppression Technical paper on using cover crops to foil weed infestations.
Photo Credits: Kathy Martin, Skippy's Vegetable Garden Used with permission.