How do you make soil/compost from scratch?

Columbus, OH(Zone 5b)

My husband is in the Navy and presently deployed in Djibouti.
(don't ask me the zone - I dunno-it's just HOT)

I sent him some seeds, peat-pots and a small bag of potting soil for a salsa garden. It's hard barren ground, and he is trying to prepare enough soil to pant the seedlings once they are large enough.

Here's what he says:

Well I planted my seeds today. I got my eyes on some ammunition containers (used) to transplant them to when they are ready. I've sectioned a spot off in my private covered patio behind the medical building - I call it my Chief's lounge. It's got some shade cloth over it, a table and benches set up - that and some camouflage netting on a few sides it should keep the out birds and the killer sun. I am still working on my dirt - half the fun trying to figure out how to make good soil from next to nothing. I'm going to use the bag of soil you sent as my starter. I started saving egg shells - (had to start eating hard boiled eggs for breakfast.) My coffee grounds pile is getting bigger and I've put an order in for fish guts from a unit here from Guam who sometimes go fishing. I will work on other amendments as I think of them.
I'll keep you up to date on the progress.

So now you have it. He has 1 small bag of potting soil (about 6 quarts), Djibouti dirt (see photo of the red hard-packed stuff) and what he can scrounge from the kitchen. I mentioned shredding news paper in to the mix ( he does have a paper shredder in his office) One of the biggest problems will be the heat, right now the days fluctuate between the high 90s and 110 degrees. He thought the news paper would make good mulch, I was wondering how long it would take to break down into compost.

Any suggestions on making soil from next to nothing?

Thumbnail by dovey
Columbus, OH(Zone 5b)

Come everybody...
somebody out there must have some ideas me?

SE GA, GA(Zone 8a)


Here are some thoughts I had.

Your husband should get all available coffee grounds, tea bags, etc. from the mess hall. Any banana peels, potato peels, veggie scraps, etc. will be good too. Those types of things will decompose very rapidly and without a lot of effort.

The shredded paper is a good idea and can be added to a lasagne bed format or compost bin if that is what he is wanting to try. I would think that a compost bin would not be practical for him. Lasagne gardening would probably be his best bet.

To get started, I would suggest that he dig the soil to a depth of 10 to 12 inches if possible. Then dig in some of the compostable items he is getting from the mess hall. (Of course the fish guts will need to be as deep as possible to avoid them being offensive.)

Mulch the area with the shredded paper from his office and keep it as moist as possible in order to get the "additions" to begin to break down.

That is all I can come up with right now. I will let you know of any other revelations that I may have.

Please tell you husband this. On behalf of my family, "THANK YOU" for your service to our country and "THANK YOU" for keeping me and my family safe. We really appreciate your service and sacrifice.

To you, dovey, I say also a hearty "THANK YOU" for the sacrifices that you make as he is overseas. It takes a very special individual to be a military spouse or dependant. Your sacrifice is no less significant than those who actually wear the uniform. "THANK YOU" for being a military spouse and for allowing your loved one to serve our country and protect us.

I wish you both a very Happy Easter and hope that your husband will return home safely very soon.

Good Gardening!


Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Aubrey...that is a great post you just made. Many thanks, from a lot of us!

Great ideas given there, dovey...and many good thoughts/well-wishes.

Hoping your hubby is gonna continue his gardening over there.


Columbus, OH(Zone 5b)

Thank you so much for the suggestions and especially for the words of support.
I passed the whole message on to my Husband. (Thank goodness for email)
I'm sure it will be much appreciated.
He recently sent me a photo of his sprouted tomato plants.
He says everyone is talking about "Chief's salsa garden" and they hope to have fresh salsa by the 4th of July.

Here's a picture of the "Greenhouse"

Thumbnail by dovey
Columbus, OH(Zone 5b)

My Husband and I both love gardening and so this is something we can share although we are apart. It makes us feel connected.

Here's a picture of his tomatoes *S*

Thumbnail by dovey
Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

I also echo Aubrey's thank yous. Freedom is NOT FREE!

Willingboro, NJ(Zone 7a)

An even louder echo here for Audrey's words of thanks!!!!!!!!!!

God Bless you all!!!

Also a great big hug of thanks to you all from my 8 month old son who you are fighting for every day!!!!!!!!

gratefuly yours,


SE GA, GA(Zone 8a)

How is your husband's project coming along?

I just wanted to check in with you.


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