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Greetings all! I've been away for awhile (tending to a plethora of personal and professional goings-on). Hope everyone is well & enjoying a season of growth in their landscapes.
I'm trying to catch up on my yard/gardening, and want to get a load of compost delivered tomorrow to take advantage of my "stay-cation" 3-day weekend getting my yard back in order. My question is this - I can get either 2.5 or 5 cubic yards delivered, and I'm wondering how much I should get, how thick to spread it, etc. My yard is approx a 1/4 acre (including the house), and I have various beds around with gardenias, azaleas, cannas, banana plants, elephant ears, lilies, etc. Simply put - is it possible to put "too much" compost on these plants and in/around them in the beds? My thinking is to spread it heavily (couple inches) around the flowers/plants and beds, and perhaps use it to create some mounds for other/new beds in other areas. Also, since I have a couple of nice neighbors, I thought they might want to load a wheelbarrel or two for themselves too, because I know 5 yds is a LOT. But if it's not wise to spread it that thick on the plants, then I will just stick with 2.5 yds.
I'm not only trying to improve my plants but also my overall soil quality in the yard, given I have hard, red clay 3" down. If I can get this done this weekend, then I plan to get a load of mulch delivered next weekend to dress all the areas up and help retain moisture.
Any thoughts/advice on this? I've not worked much with compost in the past, and have not been as diligent with creating my own as I'd hoped due to other things going on. Appreciate your input!
I wish I could remember where I read that it's better to spread compost over a whole bed than to concentrate it in spots. The book argued that as long as your soil is passably friendly to the beneficial microorganisms that feed on compost, you get more of 'em by "spreading the love."
Quoting:Though mature compost is an incomparable soil conditioner and a valuable source of nutrients (with an average nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium equivalent of 1-1-1), perhaps its primary value is as a soil inoculant, stimulating greater biological activity and release of nutrients for plants. Accordingly, the best results come from spreading the available compost thinly over a large area rather than concentrating it in a smaller area.
That's on page 56, in a section written by Grace Gershuny, described in the book as "a consultant to the organic industry."
I'm not the best one to advise on this, but I do know that 'compost' is very different from source to source and you would be well advised to ask for an analysis of what yours is made of.
I know I buy 'mushroom compost' from several different dealers and some of it is quite strong with lots of manure content and other brands/sources are aged and mellow and made of a combination of additives. The 'composts' I buy by the bag are yet again different. I think the recipe would make a difference in how you use yours in your beds.
(Also, some 'compost' is quite smelly and other's not so much.)
But given that it's already Thursday, you probably already spread yours around last weekend..., so do tell us what you decided to do? I'm always interested in what other gardeners are up to! t.
>> Accordingly, the best results come from spreading the available compost thinly over a large area rather than concentrating it in a smaller area.
My opinion is that it would be even better to spread it THICKLY over a large area.
Or put it another way: a few inchs of compost is not "thick". Six inches deep would be "good". Who thinks 8-10" deep would be too much? Why? It will certainly decompose and sink into the soil over time, self-correcting if it is too much.
There is only one way I can think of, that that would have any downside.
Is the compsot real heavy? I mean, would it pack down like soggy leaves and seal the soil away from the air? That would be bad. In that case, i would turn it into the soil until you had a mix with some structure and drainage. Or mix the compost with some really coarse mulch to make it porous.
Maybe, also, if the compost is raw, or really rich and smelly, like incompletly composted manure or biosolids, you might not want to pack it right against plants stems and leaves. Maybe leave a gap of a few inches in that case.
Otherwise, more comost is better.
Hard red clay? If you got 10 yards, and spread that mountain 6" deep twice a year for several years, that would not be "too much". And if you turn it under, 50% clay and 50% compost down 24" would be wonderfull.
(On top of lawn, I would not BURY the grass compleltely - but I might let it grow 4" long first and then lay down 2-3" of compost and rake it in ... but I know nothing about growing that kind of grass.)
Lets see: one acre is 4840 square yards.
1/4 acre is 1210 square yards.
Lets say your non-house, non-driveway gardenable area is 300 square yards.
A 6" layer EVERYWHERE would be 1/6th yard deep.
1/6 x 300 = 50 cubic yards.
If you went much over 50 cubic yards, you might need to worry about "too much compost".
If you have that problem, I'll take some off your hands!
More likely, your gardens where you WANT compost are 540 square feet or less (60 sq yards.)
108 linear feet of 5-foot-wide beds.
You could still use 10 cubic yards of compost to lay down a 6" layer, just once, and use it all up.
Thanks so much for the info Tabasco & Corey. I haven't ordered or spread it yet as I wasn't sure yet how much, where, etc. And I didn't want a mound of compost sitting in the yard until I am ready to work it into the yard. I have been giving thought to constructing raised beds for some of my plants, so until I decide for sure on how, what & where, I am holding off. I will probably need to get a 50/50 ,is vs. Straight compost if I do the beds, as I will need to fill them.
As for the source, I was planning to get the compost from the city (Raleigh).
>> And I didn't want a mound of compost sitting in the yard until I am ready to work it into the yard.
AWWW! My feeling about having a mountain of compost would be "I am the richest and luckiest peasant in the valley!"
>> I will probably need to get a 50/50 ,is vs. Straight compost
It is a tough decision whether to just replace your soil (or plan to grow on top of it), or try to amend it and use it. I tend to remove my soil down 4-12" and cart it off to a pile where I can screen it and amend it over a period of years. Then I fill the RB up with soil that I have partly amended, and keep adding compost as the budget and time permit.
Straight compost (or even Class A biosolids, which are like "concentrated compost" will go the farthest if you are trying to improve and use your own soil. Mixing that 50-50 with your own soil might be almost as good as buying 50-50 topsoil/compost. And you get twice as much soil for the same amount of hweelbarrowing.
I beleive those who say that, as you grow in a RB on top of heavy clay soil, that "the good stuff" leaces down into the clay and gradually softens and improves it, so that roots eventually penetrate it and improve it further.
And that's a good reason to assure good drainage down and away from your RB, even from deeper levels that you plan to amend.
Or, if you have half-decent subsoil instead of impenetrable clay, your don't need to worry about drainage at all. Water can drain straight down, instead of "away". What a mircale that must be!
I have found it is far better to pick a project that you can complete without stressing out or killing yourself. Think it through thoroughly, ask other gardeners for suggestions and then get'er done. After your'e done, sit back with a glass of wine and admire your work, thank God for the strength, guidance and resources, then start thinking about the next project.
Red clay is a lifetime program of just rotating through different parts of your land. It is never really done, it just gets easier over time. :)
>> Red clay is a lifetime program of just rotating through different parts of your land. It is never really done, it just gets easier over time. :)
>> I have found it is far better to pick a project that you can complete without stressing out or killing yourself.
I haven't figured out how to do that yet. Instead, I savor the moment (three years later) when I finally complete a project that I originally thought might take 3 weekends.
I have a five year plan ... that will probably take decades ... unless I get distracted ... in which case maybe several lifetimes. Meanwhile, at the end of every day, I sit wherever in the yard I happen to be, and daydream about what-will-be-where "Some Day" ... when I have all the time and all the compost I could possibly want ...
Fortunately it is a small yard!
I used to keep a To-Do list - but it got longer faster than I could complete things.
>> Each evening I plan out what I can do the next day
>> then, in the morning I get up early enough to get it done!
Yikes! Wonder Woman!
I went to that kind of extreme very briefly, while I was most highly motivated: while building my first set of raised beds and first few square yards of usable soil. Now it's chaos and sleep late on weekends.
What was that word someone told me about once? Was it "discipline"? Or "planning"? I've got to look those up and find out what they are.
No, no, Corey - not Wonder Woman. Crazy old lady, maybe.
This morning's plan was: water the garden, have breakfast, and dig up all the bamboo shoots that grew overnight. Took all of four hours!
I did pick some broccoli side-shoots this afternoon.
Tomorrow: put clothes in washer, have breakfast, dig up all the bamboo shoots that grew overnight, take clothes from washer and hang up to dry (I don't own an electric dryer). Pick, shuck, blanch peas and put them in freezer.
>> dig up all the bamboo shoots that grew overnight,
Yikes! Do you eat them, or are you trying to contain it by ceaseless vigilance?
I have a little clumping bamboo (Fargesia rufa) that I started from a Home Depot 1/2 gallon or 3/4 gallon pot. It's in its annual growth spurt right now.
It's been years, it's just over chin-high, and barely thicker than thick grass.
It may have spread a few inches over 2-3 years.
Not exactly the prolific producer of 1/2" poles and stakes I was hoping for!
Maybe I should fertilize it, or move it on top of some imprioved soil. I thought it had very shallow roots.
honeybee you have bamboo??? what kind and how long have you had them? I'm just getting started with Bamboo, just picked up a very pretty black bamboo and will container grow it until we decide on where we really want to live forever...LOL
I think so. Fargesia robusta claims to have slightly thicker culms, but I suspect "same old smae old".
One thing I won't do is plant a "runner" - I have a small yard. "restrained clumpers" only.
But I would consider anything that can take some shade, and is either COMPLELTY hardy down to 0 F, or only loses leaves down to -5 F. My average minimum is 10-15F, but I have seen some "0" years, and I figure there will be some -5 years.
I wouldn't mind the compost pile so much, but it would be on the side of my house (only place a truck can easily dump it for me), and I am just trying to be courteous to my neighbor who would have to look at it every day. Plus, the rain might wash away a good portion of it until I can get to it all.
I do, however, still have a good bit of composted horse poo from a friend with horses. I have an open invite from here to take as much as I want, and will probably make another trip down in the not too distant future for more.
My biggest concern with using straight compost on/around the plants was based on something I read about it "burning" the plants (e.g. It being too rich) or something. For this reason, I was rethinking going with the 50/50 mix of compost & top soil instead. I don't have the budget or muscle to do the entire yard. Was just going to focus on the beds for the time being.
Quoting:Yikes! Do you eat them, or are you trying to contain it by ceaseless vigilance?
No, we don't eat them, they are too small for that. And, yes, I am trying desperately to contain the running bamboo by ceaseless vigilance!
When we moved in here in November 2006, there was no bamboo evident. The following spring, I noticed some growing in the far corner of the lot. I knew running bamboo could be invasive but did not know how to control it. In April of 2007 I was offered a part-time job, which I accepted. I asked my hubby to please keep the bamboo cut back. He didn't!
I was laid off last September and by then the bamboo had progressed to the edge of my flower bed - about 50 feet from where it started! I whined (yelled) enough that hubby finally cut back every bamboo on our property, plus those in the woods. The tallest was 26 feet.
Since spring of this year, I have diligently cut back every culm (shoot) that pokes through each morning.
This fall I plan on whining some more - 'cause bamboo goes dormant during the winter - we are going to start digging it out!
I hope to live long enough to win the war against this terrible invasive plant.
Here's a link to a site where I learned how to control running bamboo
jlj--given budget concerns (we all have!) I think it best to buy straight compost and use it less liberally, unless you do have to FILL low spots. But finished compost should not burn. Thats why its supposed to be finished.
I'd only be sure you don't mound it right on any plant but plop it between the plants and then rake it to get it around and under the leaves.
I sure wish I was closer as I would come up and help and just ask for some of the plants in return. Are your's the kind that you can eat? If so why not dig and start selling them... just thinking out loud... now I'll be quite.
Okay, so I am back on the compost wagon lol. I have a friend who just gave me a few hardy bananas from his landscape. He said he has gotten the compost several times from the city and said it is good stuff. If his landscape is a true indicator, he is right. His 'nanas are huge, healthy, and already producing fruit - in NC! I looked at the city site, and they advertise it to be US Composting Council Seal of testing Assurance (STA) certified. I think what I will do is grab a couple bins and get those filled to try it out in a quantity I can manage vs a dump truck load. I have an SUV so I can probably get 4-6 rubbermaid tote bins in there. That way, I can use what I need now for my bed areas and not have a load on the side of my house for a month. Little more effort, I know, but it works for now. it's not like the place is far from my house (maybe 5 miles). And they are open Saturdays so it's easy enough to get more as I need it.
I was basically planning to spread it on top of the beds I just dug & planted ... Much like we would mulch them. Am I understanding that I should keep the compost from actually touching the base/trunk of the plants, or just avoid mounding it up around the plants? In new beds, I will mix it in with the soil (like double digging) to plant in.
This link takes you to to another area of The American Bamboo Society (the same site sallyg gave you a link for), but this is specifically about eradicating organically.
I found their recommendations intriguing & very different from any I've seen.
It's possible you've already tried this method & if you have, I apologize. If not, it might be worth a try. Even though it almost seems counter-productive, it really made sense.
I believe the reason (if I'm remembering correctly from what I've read) that you might be seeing fewer as this is the start of the slowed grow period now.
I wish I was closer as I would be more than happy to come do some digging. They also say that you can use a mower to keep it in check or I would think a weed wacker might work... Too bad you don't know if that variety is one that you can eat, if so since you are digging them out anyway, why not get paid for them... Call around find out if yours is a variety that can be eaten, if so dig and contact some local restaurants to see if they would be interested in them. Goggle to see what the going price is and make them a price to beat what you found and make some money...
>> Each and every morning I go out with my digging tool and pruners to cut back the culms.
I wonder: if you have a big pick, maybe it would be easier to swing the pick under the rhizome, then "lever it up" and out of the ground, using the weight and leverage of the pick instead of arm strength.
And you might get more of the rhizome that way.
I've never done this, I'm just speculating.
I wish my little, clumping, slow-growing Fargesia rufa WOULD spread faster, and get thicker and longer sooner.
I've noticed that the rhizomes are easiest to dig up when they are in soft ground - which is encourging me to go ahead and put in some raised beds in the area where they are growing. I hate having a large area of my homestead unavailable for vegetable production because there are lots of edibles that hubby and I would like to grow there.
I agree. Those Hive Tools are one of the most useful items you can own. We keep two of them around & have for years. I can't begin to tell you all the things we use them on. My husband couldn't live without one in his tool chest.
I'll find the link for the beekeeping supplier we've ordered from. They're in Illinois, but they ship all over the country.
>> I have a heavy duty garden fork which is working quite well at getting under the rhizomes. Then I wack off the rhizomes with a lopper!
Cool! I have a long-armed thing like a bolt-cutting for chopping hard roots and woody stems. If the soil is not TOO rocky, I may chop at them with a mattock, but the "bolt-cutter" always hit the target and take it out with one snip.
Sometimes I dig well-established low junipers out of rock-and-clay soil.
Pick, mattock, bolt-cutter.
Pick, mattock, bolt-cutter.
Remove one shovelfull of clay & rocks.
Pick, mattock, bolt-cutter.
Pick, mattock, bolt-cutter.
Remove one shovelfull of clay & rocks.
HoneybeeNC - Dadant's website says they've been in business over 140 years!
It's been over 30 years since I had bees. I no longer had any supplies, but when my husband was looking for a tool to help him do a particular project & he planned to make the tool himself (something he has done often) I remembered the Hive Tool & showed him a picture. The rest is history.
>> he planned to make the tool himself (something he has done often)
Yeah! You go, boy!
I don't bend over very well, so I bought a cheap golf club from Goodwill. When i find just the right tip at the dollar store, i plan to graft a weeder tip onto the shaft of the club.
A long-term plan was to grind down a bayonette into a two-prong tip, but that would take HOURS of grinding and still only be 20-25" long. Plus, what would the neighbors think?
I already use a "spike bayonett" for really toguh weeds in heavy clay. I have to bend over, but can thrust it fairly deep, and then a little wrist action works it like a swizzle stick around the root, and sometimes I can pop out a cone of root + clay.
If I could find the WW I hardware that joins a bayonett to a rifle, I might mount THAT on a golf club, and have a long-handled bayonett.
When the police come and take me away, please tell them that "DG" isn't some militia group, that we really ARE gardeners!
Jan, thanks for the link to bamboo garden - I have saved it for future reference.
I think I might try establishing some raised beds next year where the bamboo is growing, and hope I can keep the culms (shoots) under control. The area is large enough for about six 24' x 3' beds, and I can certainly use the extra space to grow more food.
They were on my list of vendors, but either I never looked closely at their prices (including S&H) or somehow I forgot. They have GOO DEALS!
I'm puting "Bamboo Garden" at the top of my list.
But I still have to decide what species, if not Fargesia robusta (culms may be too thin). I've started to think that if it "can grow to" 1 1/2 inch diameter, in my yard it MAY only grow to 1/2" diameter.
First and foremost: I have small yard so CLUMPER, not RUNNER. I guess I would consder a "spreading clumper".
We have rare winters down to zero Fahrenheit, so I was picking that as my Hardiness limit. But average winters only go down to 10 F. I heard that "hardiness" zones for bamboo might indicate when LEAVES die and fall off, but not severaly damage the plant itslef. What do you think? I don't want to plant something that take 5+ years to grow to full size, but is killed or severaly damaged by frost every 10-20 years.
I think half-inch poles would meet my needs, and I would like to get 6-10 foot usable lengths. So maybe I should look for a species "rated at" 1-2 inch diameter and 12-20 feet tall.
I have a bundle of rather thin poles from Home Depot, and used them by overlapping them tip-to-tip, and lashing them together for more stiffness and length.
Please don't hate it so, but I know it is hard when you have a runner like yours. But for those of us with small back yards a clumper is the way to go. Now its not to say can't do a runner but I would so lay down a liner before I would ever attempt to grow one.
If I already had a place (and not renting) I found on craigs list some old concrete ponds that had been used in a fish raising business... I would get those in a hart beat and dig our enough dirt to burry them half way down and then plant bamboo runners in them. That concrete would keep them contained. The wouldn't get as big as if they were planted in the ground but so what as least I could have the variety of bamboo that I want.