In order to have a successful garden, it is VITAL to have healthy soil. The nutrients present in the soil alone are often not enough to support plants, especially in a field or a garden; the plants simply use all of those nutrients up. What can you do to help your soil? Composting!
When I worked on an organic farm last summer, composting was everywhere, but I never actually had a hand in doing it. And not everyone has access to a large yard or open space to do it in, and sometimes, it stinks. But after some snooping around on the internet and a link to a YouTube video, the solution is here. I'm not sure how long it takes, because I have never actually done it myself, but I hope I can try it soon. This video gives a demonstration on indoor composting. I also found this very descriptive blog entry on indoor composting. Some points differ on the two; for instance one uses just black and white newspaper while the other uses color ads. As I am not an expert I'm not sure which is better... but it appears that both work. And apparently, they don't smell!
The idea of indoor composting is very exciting to me, because that means anyone can do it, pretty much wherever you live, and there is no reason it has to be expensive! You can find a use for your old food scraps, and make compost for a community garden or your own garden. The blog entry suggests ordering worms online, but worms are also available in the ground or in more abundancy from a local bait shop.
A few other notes on compost: I toured a facility a few months ago called Growing Power in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and they use what they called "compost tea". Basically, you use a bag of compost like a tea bag; find a mesh bag or something similar, put compost in it, and put the bag into a bucket of water. The compost will ooze out into the water if you leave it sit, and then you have water that plants LOVE. Another way they utilized compost was for heating purposes. They were able to extend the growing season all year round for hearty plants like spinach, because they used compost under their greenhouses to heat them. This means they extended the growing season without electricity. I saw it, it works. Of course this takes a LOT of compost; they had access to food waste from several area restaurants. But it's something to think about!