Soil and Compost

 Compost bins—Photo credit: Linda Shepherd Soil-humus—free online image

Soil Science, Fertilizing, and Composting

All about soil: more than dirt! You’ll learn about gardening with soil stewardship in mind. The class includes how to improve and maintain soil fertility so you can grow nutritious produce; the importance and limitations of soil testing; how to read a soil test, fertilizing and amending soil; the value of compost and how to make it; and a discussion of gardening methods that foster healthy & fertile soil. Below are many resources to enhance your learning:

Soil PPT Slides

Soil PPT Notes

Composting PPT Slides

Resources on Soil

Basic level online information on soil:

  • Soil & Soil Dynamics — This highly recommended 9-minute video from an environmental science course explains how soils are formed and classified.
  • Understanding Your KCD Soil Nutrient Test Results  is a webpage with two YouTube presentations. The shorter is a  31-minute  King Conservation District (KCD) presentation about how to collect a soil sample and interpret soil tests results. It also features a  51-minute version that includes a discussion of soil health, organisms and soil composition.
  • Soil Organic Matter — Cornell University Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet 41 is a two-page publication defining organic matter and describing its benefits to soil.
  • Soil Biology Primer by Elaine Ingham — this classic describes the creatures living in the soil and how they affect soil structure, water availability, decomposition, nutrient cycling, and agricultural productivity as well as protect crops from pests and diseases.
  • Cover Crops for Home Gardens West of the Cascades  — WSU Extension Publication FS111E, a free 8-page download PDF, explains the benefits of cover crops, their characteristics, and when to plant them.
  • Methods for Successful Cover Crop Management in Your Home Garden — WSU Extension Publication FS119E, a free 9-page download PDF, explains how cover crops can be an effective way to maintain soil organic matter, supply and retain nitrogen, reduce soil erosion, and suppress weeds. It covers more on planting, timing, and terminating cover crops in home gardens.
  • Organic Soil Amendments in Yards & Gardens: How Much is Enough? — WSU Extension Publication FS123E, a free 4-page download PDF, describes various types of amendments, their benefits, how much to apply, and the drawbacks of over-amending soil.
  • Growing Healthy Soil  — Seattle Public Utilities’ 8-page online PDF describes how to enrich your soil, mulch your plantings, and fertilize moderately and responsibly.

Intermediate level online information on soil, more details:

  • A Home Gardener’s Guide to Soils & Fertilizers — WSU Extension Publication EM063E, a free 23-page download PDF on soil science, explains the impact of soil pore size, soil organisms, soil pH, cover crops, and organic and processed fertilizers and amendments for Washington gardeners.

Other WSU online information on soil:

Resources on Composting:

  • Backyard Composting — WSU Extension Publication EB1784E, a free 9-page download PDF, describes the science of composting, and how to do fast “hot” composting and slow “cool” composting.
  • Using Coffee Grounds in Gardens & Landscapes — WSU Extension Publication FS207E, a free 6-page download PDF, examines the science and myths behind using coffee grounds in gardens and provides recommendations for using coffee grounds appropriately.
  • Composting with Worms — Oregon State University Extension EM9034, a free 13-page online publication that describes how to build a worm bin, obtain and feed worms, and harvest vermicompost.
  • Composting Yard and Food Waste at Home  — Seattle Public Utilities’ 12-page online PDF describes the benefits of composting, various methods, the “food web” of the compost pile, recipes for composting yard waste, food scrap composting, and worm bin composting.

BOOKS available through the King County Library System

Basic level information:

  • Healthy Soils for Sustainable Gardens edited by Niall Dunne, Brooklyn Botanic Garden 2009.
    Short, excellent overview with complete information and abundant illustrations.
  • Building Soil: a Down to Earth Approach by Elizabeth Murphy, Quarto Publishing Group, 2015.
    Thorough book on soil science, targeted to home gardeners. Abundant illustrations.
  • Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations by David R. Montgomery, University of California Press, 2007. A big picture look at soil and civilizations, with clearly explained science too. A page-turner!

Intermediate level, more details:

  • Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis, Timber Press, 2010. Well written, detailed look at soil biology for gardeners.
  • Teaming with Nutrients: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to Optimizing Plant Nutrition by Jeff Lowenfels, Timber Press, 2013. Well written and thorough, clear scientific information with recommendations for gardeners.

2018 Class:

Class 2 Outline – Soil

Class 2 PPT – Soil

Class 2 – Soil-Notes to PPT

Class 2 Outline – Composting

2019 class:

Soil 10-30-19 Notes

Soil 10-23-19 PPT slides

Composting 10-23-19 PPT slides

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