Category Archives: Dirt

Add Soil to Compost Pile?

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?

Should I add soil to compost pileHere 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–A Whole New World

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 andThe Soil Beneath Our Feet-a Whole New World 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.