You might ask yourself, “Should I add soil to compost pile?” Maybe somewhere along the way you have heard some information like this! In the Master Gardener world they insist on calling “dirt” soil. We could have just as easily asked if I should add dirt to my compost pile or compostumbler. I tend to rebel against the more sophisticated label of soil and mostly use the word dirt!
It is an excellent idea to add soil to any compost pile. Because the soil is teeming with bacteria, fungi, worms and other living things that break down vegetable matter into humus for your garden. The final product from a compost pile is called humus. A more general term for a single celled organism such as these bacteria and fungi is a microbe. These microbes and other living things speed up the process of composting by introducing a bunch of them in the beginning. And when I say a bunch–I mean a bunch.
There are more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are people on the earth. This fact comes from a Ohio State University Extension fact sheet. So you can see why adding just a small amount of dirt to a compost pile can make a big difference. You are giving the compost a jump-start by adding all these microbes at once.
Should I Add Soil to Compost Pile?
Here you can see the beginnings of my latest compost pile in my compostumbler lots of leaves and dirt–the kitchen scraps are mixed in. And I definitely added soil which you can see in the picture. This soil will jumpstart the process of composting.
Other “compost critters” are the sow bug and the pill bug. These are actually not bugs but crustaceans which are relatives of shrimp. It is hard to tell these critters apart but one sure way is that pill bugs can roll up into a little ball which a lot of kids call a roly-poly! Both the pill bug and the sow bug eat the decomposing vegetable matter and then they create their own manure which helps create the humus which is so good for our gardens!
The soil beneath our feet is a whole new world, only partially discovered. It is really like another universe except it is finite. It is a living entity filled with micro-organisms that help plants grow and decompose all of our dead, whether animals, plants or other organisms. I am putting two free educational links on this page so we can learn more about our wonderful dirt! From 2008 until 2010 the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History presented an exhibit called: Dig It! The Secrets of Soil:
“Soils Make Life”
Plants grow in and from soils, and plants—directly or indirectly—feed almost all life on Earth.
“Life Makes Soils”
Soil-dwellers such as bacteria and fungi recycle once-living organisms into nutrients and organic matter (humus)—vital components of all soils. Without soils, life would not exist as we know it.”
Fortunately for us, they have created an audio visual tour of this exhibit. This is a fascinating site and I highly recommend looking at it. You do need to have Flash installed to view parts of this exhibit.
For the kids in the family, and for the adults who are kids at heart, there is another great website with a educational game all about soil , what lives there and cleaning up toxic wastes.
There have been experiments where worms have cleaned up toxic wastes. So all the organic things that we add to our garden plots are building up the soil. Adding compost, manure, vermicompost and mulching are all good things we can do to enhance everything that we grow.
Back to making mud pies and playing in the dirt! (See previous post for the health benefits.) Just to get you started, Little Tikes sells the Little Tikes Mudpie Kitchen which is currently unavailable.
One review suggested just get pitchers, bowls, pots and spoons from the thrift store and let the kids make mud pies with these. The thing that is so nice about the Little Tikes toy is that there is a reservoir to hold water and a faucet that you can pump for water. See below for an alternative idea to this since this is unavailable.
My husband came up with an alternative to the water reservoir and faucet that is also very appealing. Take a 2 1/2 gallon spring water container and set it up on a child’s picnic table or a small table. Show them how to pull out the dispenser and push it in. Cut a hole in the top so you can refill it with the hose and voila you have instant water for the mudpies!
So while you are gardening, your kids can be enjoying playing in the dirt and making mudpies. It is healthy for them and then they are more prepared to plant and dig in the dirt with you planting a vegetable or flower garden. Both of you will benefit from the bacteria in the soil, see Soil Bacteria Can Increase Serotonin Levels.