How to Make Great Dirt

Saint Anthony has thick clay like soil that isn't always the best for the garden you have always been dreaming about. But never fear! You can make your own nutritious dirt that won't send you to the hardware store every spring to get a few bags of soil. Setting up a composting pile in your back yard is a great way to give your plants a nutritious snack.

Composting Benefits

Benefits to composting include but are not limited to:
  • Learning. By creating a composting pile in your backyard you can educate your kids and neighbors about the neat microscopic process that is happening in the soil.
  • Less waste. The average American households rubbish is commonly made up of 30 to 60% of materials that could be composted. This means less space needed for landfills, because food waste is unable to decompose in landfill conditions
  • Plant nutrition. Plants that are treated to compost will thrive in this high nutrient dirt.
Handful of Soil

Getting Started

First, you are going to need a bin to store all of the compost that hasn't reached that rich dirt stage you are striving for. You can go to your local hardware store, buy one on the Internet, or even create your own! Feel free to utilize resources provided by:
After you have your bin, you will want to think about where to keep it. Here are some general things to look for when setting up your composting bin:
  • Distance. Composting is easy and you should keep it that way. Place your bin somewhere easy to get to for maximum convenience.
  • Good drainage. Make sure your compost will not be sitting in mud. This will make the pile too wet and can create a smell. Choose a spot that becomes dry relatively quickly after rain.
  • Shade. Compost likes shady areas. This doesn't mean the pile must be in the dark at all times but constant direct sunlight is not ideal.

Ratio Matters

When adding materials to your compost you have to keep in mind a very important ratio of brown items (dead leaves, newspaper ect.) to green ingredients (food waste, grass clippings ect.). The brown items are Carbon - rich materials and the green ingredients are Nitrogen - rich materials.

The Ideal Ratio = 2 Brown : 1 Green

To create good compost you need to have a good ratio of carbon (brown) to nitrogen (green). If you have too much carbon in your pile then you will slow down the decomposition process. If there is too much nitrogen in your compost then the pile will begin to smell. For best results layer these nutrients when adding them to your compost pile.

When adding food scraps keep in mind that the smaller the material the faster it will decompose into nutritious soils. Many people use a blender to chop up food but a cutting board and a knife will do just fine as well.

What is Brown & What is Green?

Brown Material
Green Material
Dead Leaves
Chopped Up Fruit Scraps
Chopped Up Vegetable Scraps
Wood Chips
Shredded Newspaper
Coffee Grounds
Nut Shells
Egg Shells (Rinsed)
Broken Twigs
Food Scraps (No Animal Products)

More Information

Yard debris such as sticks, branches and large quantities of leaves that out weigh your own composting needs should be taken to Ramsey County Yard Waste Sites. Use the link to learn more and find your nearest location.

See these resources and guides to backyard composting:

If not interested in "doing it yourself," all Saint Anthony residents are invited to utilize Ramsey and Hennepin County yard waste sites for both organics and yard waste.