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Soil

Chaney and FriendsThe vitality of your garden depends on the health of your soil.

The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.
~Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture

Compost

Composting eliminates plant and food waste, recycling it back into a rich, nutrient-dense dirt and helps the plants grow even better!

Free compost for Community Gardens

City of Minneapolis compost program | Ramsey County/St. Paul compost program

Build your own outdoor compost bin

Check your city's zoning regulations for backyard bins before you build:
Minneapolis  |   St. Paul

The University of Minnesota Extension has a useful guide for soils and composting.

Compost bins for sale in the Metro

Purchase a compost bin from Hennepin County

Recycling Association of Minnesota sells compost bins for a reduced price. Pre-order online and pick up at a distribution event near you.

Compost indoors with red worms

Getting started with worm composting from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Using manure as compost

Brief introduction to using manure in the garden from Organic Gardening

U of M Extension on using manure for fruit and vegetables

Join COMGAR to receive announcements or make requests for available manure from local farms.

Compost and Mulch for purchase

The Mulch Store sells compost and soil blends to community gardens at a discounted price! Delivery available.

Find Sustane compost tea and other soil amendments in locations across the Twin Cities!

Drop-off and pick-up yard waste and organics

Ramsey County: Yard waste | Organics 

Hennepin County: Yard waste | Organics

Other composting resources

  • Hennepin County's Rethink Recycling program has several excellent guides to composting
  • This series of short videos from North Shore Recyling in Vancouver explains different facets of composting.
  • The Compostadores Project, originally incubated by Gardening Matters, was a demonstration project that helped make progressive changes to compost legislation in Minnesota. If you are interested in finding out more about the Compostadores, please contact Patsy Parker
Soil Testing

Test your soil before planting  to ensure it doesn't contain toxic chemicals. Many urban soils have some contamination, but that doesn't mean you can't garden!

Gardening in Urban Soil
A quick guide on soil contamination, testing, and remediation created by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, and Minnesota Department of Health. 

Urban Gardens and Soil Contaminants
This guide outlines primary contaminants, soil testing, minimizing exposure risk, and additional resources. Compiled by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA), Hennepin County, and U of M Extension. 

Reusing Potentially Contaminated Landscapes: Growing Gardens in Urban Soils
A guide from the EPA including information on common urban soil contaminants, identifying contaminants, reducing exposure, improving soils, growing in mildly contaminated soil, and additional resources and technical assistance).

If you have questions about possible lead contamination in the soil:

  • Purchase a soil test for lead through the University of Minnesota Soil Lab: 612-625-3101.
  • Minneapolis Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control: 612-673-3719 
  • Ramsey County Environmental Health Department lead program: 651-266-1138

If your tests reveal contamination levels that are considered unsafe, there are a variety of ways to garden above the soil. Lasagna gardening, raised beds, and container gardens are perfectly viable ways to grow food, too! See our Garden Layout page for more information.

Mulch

straw mulchMulching the garden helps with weed control, water retention, and can provide a barrier between gardners and contaminated soil.

If you mulch with compost or other organic material, it will decompose and add nutrients to your soil. 

The U of MN Extension has prepared this comprehensive chart that compares the pros and cons of using different types of materials for mulching.

Cover Crops

Planting cover crops helps replenish nutrients and prevents soil erosion. Plant on unused areas, or after the growing season on your entire garden bed.

U of MN Extension highlights which types of cover crops, (or "green manures") are used most commonly in Minnesota.