Quick question: how has your garden soil been looking lately?
If you've ever thrown a passing glance at a gardening magazine or almanac, you'll know that the key to a successful garden lies right under your feet. Improving soil quality is almost always at the top of a gardener's to-do list. That's because healthy soil equals healthy plants.
Next question: how, then, do you improve the quality of your soil? The answer is, surprisingly, very near at hand: the contents of your kitchen garbage bin.
This article is going to walk you through all the ways that your household food waste can actually nourish your garden soil. Time to get our hands dirty!
Up to 50% of your household waste is composed of uneaten food. Food waste which decomposes anaerobically (no air) in the landfill generates methane gas, which is ~25X worse for the environment than CO2. However, if handled correctly, food waste can actually do wonders for both the environment and your garden soil.
Soil that is rich in organic matter (also called biomass, humus or compost) has the best chemical and structural composition to allow your plants to thrive. Have you ever wondered why the soil in forests is so rich and dark? That's because the forest floor is saturated with leaf litter, animal waste and other woodsy materials - organic matter. This naturally occurring organic matter will, over time, decompose aerobically, mulching down into the soil beneath.
So - what does organic matter actually do for your plants?
1) Adds nutrients
Organic matter adds a host of nutrients to the soil: one of these is nitrogen, a key building block of healthy soil. With every percentage increment of organic matter, 20-30 pounds of nitrogen is released into the soil. One of the three most important macronutrients required for healthy plant growth, nitrogen supports stem development and the production of chlorophyll.
Higher percentages of organic matter also increase the amounts of sulphur and phosphorus pentoxide (P2O5) in soil. These compounds help plants photosynthesize light and carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a key process of metabolizing starches and sugars, which plants use to generate energy.