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Activity #6: Compost in a Jar

The gardens at Agecroft Hall both today and 500 years ago required sun, water and fertile (rich in nutrients) soil. How can we help the soil to be the healthiest it can so that our plants grow well and stay healthy?

500 years ago, Tudor gardens were fertilized (made healthy) with animal waste (poop), vegetable waste/scraps, and by mixing soils. The Tudor kitchen would provide food and vegetable scraps for fertilizer. There would be a spot on the kitchen floor where scraps were heaped or swept to, and later these scraps would be fed to the animals or used for plant fertilizer. The Tudors did not waste any food or scraps.

Today we often throw our food scraps into the garbage can or the garbage disposal. Some people keep their fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and other materials to compost them to enrich and feed their garden soil. To “compost” something means to allow organic (natural plant) material to decay for use as soil enrichment.

How would you like to create your own garden compost? Don’t worry; we won’t use any animal waste (poop), just fruit and vegetable scraps and some paper! This project will give you some nutrition-rich compost to use in your garden in 2-4 weeks. Have fun making the compost, and keep a record of its changes in your field journal. Remember, be patient!!

Collect the materials for Day 2, Activity #6. You will need to provide/collect some fruit and vegetable food waste and some paper, grass and leaves.


  1. Fill the glass jar about 1/3 of the way to the top with soil.

  2. Break or cut your food scraps into small pieces and place them on top of the soil (until the jar is a bit less than half-full).

  3. Cover the food scraps with another thin layer of soil.

  4. Add a layer of shredded paper. This will take you to about the half way mark of your jar.

  5. Add a layer of torn leaves and grass.

  6. Add more soil.

  7. Repeat with more layers, until the contents reach the top of the jar.

  8. Add a little bit of water to DAMPEN the soil, but not to soak it.

  9. Put the lid on the jar, and place it by a window. * If it looks like your compost is not breaking down, replace the lid with a piece of tin foil and secure with string, rubber band or tape. Poke a few holes in the foil to allow oxygen into the jar.

  10. If you want to keep track of your compost’s progress, add a small line and the date at the top of the soil line. Add new lines to your jar to help keep track of progress! Record any observations in your field notebook.

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