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The Rich Story of Compost

Have you ever wondered how the dirt we use in our raised beds becomes healthy soil? Here’s the long story … just kidding! Simply put, the soil recipe ingredients are decaying plants and animals, rock particles, and organic material, and takes millions of years to completely break down to make the soil as we know it. Long time, right? Thank goodness we

don’t have to wait that long with plenty of soil available for our use.

Why do we add compost to our gardens? Because adding compost to our gardens provides nutrients not provided by the soil and it also helps the soil base retain moisture. It will also increase the earthworm and microbial population, which naturally helps to prevent pests.

So, how is compost made? Glad you asked. Compost is a compilation of natural biodegradable products. Those items consist of food scraps, fruits and vegetables, eggshells, some paper products, and oak leaves. The combination of these items sits and cooks in a compost bin for a period and is rotated (or mixed and watered added) periodically to maintain the proper temperature for decomposition. Weekly your compost team moves layers of the compost bins down the line until eventually, the results of the decomposition are ready for sifting. The process takes several weeks to several months to complete. The sifting process removes larger, non-broken-down items and either tossed back into the bin for additional breakdown or returned to the environment. Sifting produces the fine “black gold” to be distributed to our gardens.

Where do we get all the compost items for our compost bins? We are fortunate to have a partnership with the Carrollwood Food Pantry (part of Feeding Tampa Bay) located at Village Presbyterian Church in Carrollwood Village. Daily, they receive produce deliveries from area grocery stores such as Publix, Sam’s Club, Whole Foods, Fresh Market, Sprouts, and Target. Every day volunteers sort the fruits and vegetables and keep the fresh products and discard damaged or spoiled goods into orange compost buckets. The buckets are then placed outside for a VISTA compost member to pick up and toss into the intake bin at VISTA Gardens. We do this every day except Saturday. The food pantry is always working to provide healthy and balanced groceries to those in need. People may pick up their groceries once a month on Sunday or Wednesday and there is no verification of need. The pantry is always looking for volunteers from Sunday – Friday. If interested in helping, reach out to Monica Wilson at Groups welcome!

For more information about joining the VISTA Gardens compost committee, contact Becca or Rolfe, your co-chairs, at or

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