As you’ve probably noticed, the soil here is really, really red.

They say the red soil is very fertile but as my aunt says, it just looks so wrong!  All these years in Michigan we strove for that deep, rich brown/black soil that signals super-healthy soil.  I know that the secret to a good garden is good soil so the first week we were here we started a compost pile.

I’ve tried composting for years in Michigan and never had any success!  One year in the community garden on our property we even created separate compost piles and added equine manure, grass clippings, table scraps, leaves, etc.  We’d mix it up occasionally.  It never composted properly — maybe not enough brown matter?  I could never figure out why it didn’t work because my good friend Shelley always got the most beautiful compost just by raking her leaves into a corner of her yard in the fall.

So, I bought a South African gardening book and Danny, our gardener, and I followed this recipe below.

Because we were at the height of summer (January) we used newspaper and cardboard boxes as our brown matter (we tore them up into little bits, no larger than 2″ x 2″).  We had about 6-7 layers. About once every 3 weeks or so we’d poke a stick down to the bottom to aerate it.

Well, it’s been three months so we dug in to see what we had today.  Believe it or not — it worked!  Woo-hoo!

I’m not sure if you can tell here but the layers have really melded together.  You can slightly see the striations (remember we started with bright green grass clippings and brown cardboard and newsprint so the striations were very clear and obvious).

It’s difficult to tell but the compost is definitely darker than the red soil.  Can you see it below?  (Compost is on the left.)

Best yet, the compost has that wonderful earthy smell whereas the regular soil doesn’t really smell at all.  Below is a better comparison of the compost versus the original soil (both are completely dry).

Today we started building our second compost pile.


About Kimm X Jayne

Gravatar Photograph from the exceptionally talented Ben Heine.
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7 Responses to Composting

  1. Maureen Witte says:

    Are you certainly that the red soil is not as fertile as the black? I wonder…

  2. Mikey says:

    Red is iron baby. If you can see it though the organic content isn’t that rich. More organic will give you iron AND turn black.

  3. Kimm X Jayne says:

    That’s what I thought and then I found this:
    What do you think?
    I’ve actually sent a message to this woman so hopefully she’ll respond.

    • Mikey says:

      I think it does depend on your climate. In places with heavy rainfall (eastern US), the black soils are acidic because they are rich in organics that breathe. In drier places (western US) the rain isn’t as regular and plants would dry out, so the soil with clay is alkaline and really tight to hold onto the occassional rain. So if you really enriched your soil with too many organics it would probably breathe and your plants would dry out. But isn’t this stuff that Thom’s would know more about?

  4. Mikey says:

    I found this summary…

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