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Soil and Composting: Spot composting in existing beds continued by popular demand

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sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

June 12, 2011
8:45 AM

Post #8625498

Last thread was so well used,
http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/1039554/
here will be a continuation. The previous thread has plenty of good Q and A and discussion.

Generally, spot composting in existing beds means: instead of the whole compost pile thing, you take your materials to in-use areas, dig small holes or trenches, and put them in 'fresh' (or as fresh as some compost additions can be !)

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sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

June 12, 2011
8:47 AM

Post #8625500

Question from Cindy, not yet answered
" (I've heard that it's better to use locally grown material for mulching - other than the carbon footprint of transport or the introduction of non-native pests/disease, is there any other reason to do so?"

None that I can think of.
nutsaboutnature
Algonquin, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 12, 2011
9:21 AM

Post #8625561

YAY!! Thanks so much sallyg for starting the new thread. I've never done it before & I didn't want to mess it up...

Your post went in while I was writing so there's one more post after your link. I mentioned some things that have worked well for me & could possibly be useful for some of you so it might be helpful going back & reading my post if some of you skipped right to here.

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

June 12, 2011
9:52 AM

Post #8625612

You're very welcome! It takes a couple syeps and may be confusing but Really all I did was
Start a new thread
Open the old thread in another window so I could copy the link (http url thingie)
Add the link of the old thread into the post of the new
And for bonus points. its nice to add a link to the New thread, in the Old thread,
nutsaboutnature
Algonquin, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 12, 2011
10:00 AM

Post #8625622

You're right, it sounds confusing...

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

June 12, 2011
10:10 AM

Post #8625634

Thats ok. One could always just start a new thread without the linking stuff

Hey now that my plants are grown in thick in places, I am guilty of just hiding some scraps under the foliage. Which leads me to think to myself, I probably should not have things planted close enough that I can do that! I would not do this in my back bed where the voles run rampant already , nor in my fruit and veggie areas where I do not want any more encouragement of fruit mold than I already would have.

For the vole playground I did plan to bury some dog waste--see how they like THAT in their back porch.
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

June 12, 2011
9:46 PM

Post #8626778

I have started digging in the leaves that fall on top of the soil from my neighbors trees. Not many but instead of cleaning them up and putting in the large compost pile, I just scrape a hole, put in the leaves and cover.

But I have been spot composting for over 7 years on this property so the soil is easy to move around. Sharon.
Pewjumper
Glenwood Springs, CO
(Zone 5b)

June 13, 2011
6:03 AM

Post #8627133

When I was growing up in Southern California we had som huge fuerte avocado trees. I remeber digging a large hole, throwing in the leafs, filing with water, adding a layer of soil, compressing it with my feet and then repeating with another layer. I was really amazed next year when I dug in the same area and found none of the leafs, but the soil seemed to be be much richer.

Sonny
CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

June 13, 2011
7:35 AM

Post #8627334

nuts - Your soil sounds a lot like mine - hard packed clay under a few inches of workable stuff. I wonder how the auger would work in breaking up the hard soil in a new bed while making holes for compostables?
I will definitely try burying my compost a little deeper and see if the raccoons are still as nosy. I've been planting annuals and I have to patrol each new planting for a few days because the 'coons seem to be curious about the new plants and will pull them out of the ground. Once the plants have been in the ground for a few days, they're left alone.
Has anyone come up the quick, no fuss way of chopping up kitchen waste to bury? Those banana peels are quite a challenge to stuff in a hole. I've used the sharp end of my spade in the past but I end up getting quite the upper body workout. And I think I'm too impatient to put all of the scraps through an old blender. I don't want things too easy, do I? :)
And thanks for resurrecting this topic!

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

June 13, 2011
5:28 PM

Post #8628363

(off topic slightly but Cindy, maybe a couple loose bricks will help with new plants. Plant the plant then put two or three bricks around it so it is hard to get to for the racoons to pull up.)

After confessing to just hiding scraps under my plants., I felt messy and went and buried them.
CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

June 14, 2011
6:45 AM

Post #8629402

(sallyg - off topic but I'm planting dozens of annuals so the brick/rock thing probably won't work plus I'd have to buy bricks.:) )
On topic - curious - is there any benefit to hiding the scraps under plants?
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

June 14, 2011
8:29 AM

Post #8629633

[quote="CindyMzone5"]Has anyone come up the quick, no fuss way of chopping up kitchen waste to bury? Those banana peels are quite a challenge to stuff in a hole. I've used the sharp end of my spade in the past but I end up getting quite the upper body workout. And I think I'm too impatient to put all of the scraps through an old blender. I don't want things too easy, do I? :) [/quote]

Well, heck, I use an old blender. What could be more convenient? I pour the slurry into an old plastic coffee container with a tight lid & keep it on my counter. Every other day or so, I go out to my compost bin, dig a hole about a foot down into the center, pour in the slurry, & cover it back up. Piece o' cake.

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

June 14, 2011
10:43 AM

Post #8629938

Oh, Cindy, I meant that I was taking scraps to the garden and dropping them on top of the ground but where the foliage of plant hid them from casual view. Could be buggy and smelly at times.

Pirate- It just might be one task / appliance too many. it is for me. But a great system if you can do it!
CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

June 14, 2011
1:43 PM

Post #8630285

sally - I know what you meant. :) I was just curious if there is any benefit to leaving them on top of the ground (other than for the raccoons in my yard who wouldn't have to dig for their "treats").
Thanks for the tip, Pirate, but I have to agree with Sally. And I don't get out there every day (but wish I did).

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

June 14, 2011
3:14 PM

Post #8630447

=^)
Actually, I feel like the fungus gnats, fruit flies might be appreciated by toads and birds, if I leave rotten stuff laying on top. Rotting fruit is 'supposed' to attract butterflies but has only worked once for me.
CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

June 14, 2011
4:06 PM

Post #8630549

Speaking of butterflies (and totally off-topic), the butterfly feeder I got for DGD was so busy with bees that the butterflies couldn't get near it. Oooo - might be a good reason to bury fruit, especially in the summer.
seran72
Bozeman, MT

July 6, 2011
3:44 PM

Post #8676748

I have been blending up my kitchen scraps. The slurry goes to one of three places: 1) the compost pile; 2) the worm bin; 3) a hole in the ground in my perrenial bed.

Sometimes, I even just pour the slurry right out into the soil.

I do this, instead of always just putting it in the compost or worms, because I have hard, clay, packed soil. And my theory is that maybe the slurry will attract worms to come help break up that soil.

My results are preliminary and anecdotal, but I think it is making a difference. :-)



I haven't had any pest problems, other than my own dog. But what's funny (sort of; it's also annoying) is that she will occasionally dig a hole where I poured the slurry. But there's not really anything solid for her to uncover. It's just dirt with slurry smell. So she digs, but can't find anything to eat. Ha! Take that, dog! :-)
nutsaboutnature
Algonquin, IL
(Zone 5a)

July 6, 2011
7:56 PM

Post #8677219

seran72 - That sounds like a good idea pouring the slurry over the soil. It probably also adds nutrients - kind of like adding an organic liquid fertilizer. I also have hard-packed soil & clay so I may try that.

I've been using bulb augers to make holes between perennials to not disturb the roots. Sometimes I cheat & fill them with finished compost. . . if I have enough, plus used coffee grounds, then cover up the holes.

I dug some larger holes in a more open area where I wanted to plant some new perennials & filled them the same way then left them for a couple of weeks before planting. I noticed when I planted those areas they already seemed to have more worms.

That's hysterical that your dog has been digging looking for "phantom" goodies!

CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 6, 2011
8:11 PM

Post #8677239

I have noticed more crumbly soil and more worms where I've done spot composting and thrown coffee grounds on top. Also means that the top layer, while more permeable, dries out quicker. Thinking I need to top dress with some compost. Speaking of which - my compost doesn't get hot since it's in the shade. Anyone have any ideas how to handle sprouting weed seeds from the compost? The only thing I can think of is not to throw weeds in the compost pile.
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 6, 2011
8:21 PM

Post #8677261

I just pull them up and feed them back into the compost. I have 3 tomatoes that I moved away from the compost pile and I will let you know how they do. Maybe winter tomatoes.

HoneybeeNC

HoneybeeNC
Charlotte, NC
(Zone 7b)

July 7, 2011
7:08 AM

Post #8677876

CindyMzone5 - I used to think compost bins had to be in the sun to have them heat-up. Recently I read that they are better kept in the shade to keep them from drying out too quickly.
CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 7, 2011
8:44 AM

Post #8678056

Honeybee - thanks for that info. I'm thinking that I probably need more "green" stuff in my pile since it contains so many oak leaves (unshredded). I've been putting kitchen scraps into it as well. We have a mulching lawn mower so most of the grass clippings go back onto the lawn. I'm torn though between adding my precious coffee grounds to the pile as opposed to adding them to the garden beds. Maybe I can compromise by hoarding coffee pot dregs and sprinkling the liquid on the compost pile. They currently go to feed my Hinoki cypress. Sorry to get off-topic.
Sharon - I thought tomatoes loved being near a compost pile? I can't even think of winter tomatoes - what a treat.
nutsaboutnature
Algonquin, IL
(Zone 5a)

July 7, 2011
9:05 AM

Post #8678100

Cindy - I have a small compost bin in the shade. It Gets really hot whenever I first add stuff if I put a fairly even amount of greens & browns, but it doesn't last long because it's a fairly small bin. It doesn't seem to matter though, as I still get nice compost.

I take weeds & dump them way in the back yard behind the garden shed. They eventually break down & the soil there...over the years...has turned pretty nice. I don't plant anything there, but it's some nice soil if I ever want to use it.

I always add coffee grounds to my compost bin...filters & all. That compost goes on the beds or in holes that I dig in my beds so I think it helps. Go to your local "Starbucks". Many of them have bags of "Grounds for your Garden" that they put in a big basket. Others will allow you to leave a 5-gallon bucket that they fill for you. That way you can use it in compost, on garden beds and in holes that you dig.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 7, 2011
11:26 AM

Post #8678367

I suspect that spot composting in beds works better when the soil is already somewhat established and has some life and drainage in it.

I'm not sure that clippings and scraps decompose very fast when buried in raw clay that does not already have lots of worms, insects and microbes (and drainage, and aeration).

Composting goes fastest when the conditions encourage many kinds of living things to grow. A hole dug into clay that is too dense might just fill with rain water and turn into a mud-puddle with some slowly-rotting garbage in it. Instead of a tiny, aerated, below-ground compost heap.

I'm sure it does help the clay eventually, but maybe it helps more to pre-compost the greens and scraps in a heap where they have air and water and worms and bugs - then add that finished or semi-finished, life-rick compost to the dead clay (or add a little clay to the compost, is more like it).

To exagerate, "you can feed almost anything to live soil with benefit, but feeding dead clay doesn't work as well".

Better to create some compost with lots of life in it, and mix THAT with the dead clay, to jump-start it.

But I admit I have not tried to make compost in a hole in my clay. Sometimes I lean the compost pile over on TOP of my clay-pile, hoping the "drippings" will soften it a little.

I usually excavate and remove the dead clay from a future RB site, screen it, and mix it gradually with compost and other amendments, to keep it draining and aerated as soil life establishes itself in the clay.

Corey
CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 7, 2011
3:39 PM

Post #8678859

The beds I'm composting in were actually dug up some several years ago so some of the stuff on top was introduced into the clay at that time. Just not deep enough (OK - I'm a lazy bum when it comes to possibly double digging). Now when I spot compost, I use a long trenching shovel to dig a deeper hole. There were always a few earth worms (not many) but the coffee grounds I added two years ago (and continue to add) have attracted more to do the digesting work.
I did start out by collecting grounds from Starbucks but haven't done that in about a year. I did save all my grounds over winter but it's just not enough. Hmm - maybe I need a "compost only" mega bag to get the pile cooking.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 7, 2011
5:58 PM

Post #8679175

>> Now when I spot compost, I use a long trenching shovel to dig a deeper hole

Yeah, I love my trenching spade for "going back later" and turning composted compost or bark fines or sand down under.

I also use it for making furrows: if the bed is raised and full to the brim of the RB walls, I can use the side of the spade to make a furrow with well-controlled depth and one very clean sharp side to lean root balls upon.

And I use it as a cane. You need to sharpen that leading edge, Rick!

Corey


WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 7, 2011
8:08 PM

Post #8679431

I do not turn my compost pile. It is at the end of the raised beds that is more shaded. I use that bed for herbs and a holding garden.

There are so many worms, they devour it. I will take a photo and show you my pile. I just started this one about a week ago because I was pulling up many annuals that were done. I do need to get two pieces of plywood though because two sides are resting against a stuccoed and painted block wall. Not to smart. I bet a thick piece of card board would do the trick maybe wrapped in thick plastic wrap. . Free boxes at the Post Office.

I actually saw a very large, like night crawler, worm in the bed yesterday when I was adding some green. Have not seen one ever in this garden. Always something exciting in the garden. Sharon
CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 8, 2011
7:06 AM

Post #8679998

I do like the idea of using the spade for a cane. Does double duty that way. The trenching spade is my fav these days because I can dig among established plants without doing too much damage. My other fave is straight-edge for slicing through clay and grass - great edging tool.
Congrats on the nightcrawler! We get them a lot here in compost-y soil, especially in the woods. Now I can understand moving the tomatoes if they were in shade.
nutsaboutnature
Algonquin, IL
(Zone 5a)

July 8, 2011
8:08 AM

Post #8680102

WormsLovSharon - When my husband & I need large pieces of thick corrugated cardboard we go to furniture stores and look in their trash bins . . .yes. .the trash...

Many of the items come in huge boxes that are removed when they put the furniture on the showroom floor. It's generally nice and clean and great for a variety of uses.

Most of my clay had a thin layer of soil over it from when they originally built our house (plus huge rocks, pieces of concrete & other leftover contstuction material that they dumped). We ammend any beds we start with a variety of organic materials, but many of them eventually pack down anyways because of the clay.

The two beds that haven't are one long narrow raised bed that had most of the soil/clay removed down to about a foot deep & filled with good soil in bags plus leaves, peat moss & compost. The other is small bed we started last year in the middle of the grass. For that last one we left the soil/clay that was there, but mixed in several big bags of Cotton Burr Compost, leaves & peat moss.

For the others, I have been digging holes & using two sizes of bulb Augers (on a drill) to make holes and adding food scraps, coffee grounds & homemade compost. It seems to be helping & my worm community is growing...yay!

CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 8, 2011
2:31 PM

Post #8680713

nuts - you're right about the amended clay beds tending to re-compact. I've used hardwood mulch nuggets in the past to help break up the clay but it's still rather clay-ey.
seran72
Bozeman, MT

July 8, 2011
4:30 PM

Post #8680925

WormsLovSharon - I would love to see a photo!

Corey - Although I definitely have clay, mine must not be as bad as yours. Because I definitely have life in mine. I even have a fair number of worms.

I'm admittedly not terribly knowledgeable about soil, but there must be some life in yours too. There r organisms n the most inhospitable corners of the solar system. I wouldnt want u to waste good composting material on an experiment, but I secretly believe if u poured slurry, the worms would come. :-)

Cindy - some people say compost should always b n shade because if it heats up w microbial activity AND is in the sun it can get too hot and kill the microbes.

Interestingly, I recently read that hot piles kill more pathogens bot cold compost has more soil disease resistance because hot piles kill the protective microbes.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 8, 2011
6:25 PM

Post #8681150

>> there must be some life in yours too.

I'm sure it isn't STERILE, but imagine modeling clay. That's about how much air it has in it before I start amending. The compost heap and amended beds do acquire worms etc from surrounding spots where a hole was amended for shrubs, and I carry soil from the better beds to poorer beds to "innoculate" them.

And if I don;t get enoguh compost into it, it very rapidly falls back to the consistency of pudding. The developers clearly plowed off and hauled away anything remotely soil-like.

But it doesn;t look bad where it has been amended enough, for long enough, for living things to discover it and colonize. The older beds were looking better at first, but then i think they finished digesting their first load of organic matter, and are reverting to crustier, wetter pudding.

The beds where I didn't add enough compost, or first-year beds, are just obviously not "soil" in the sense of living, thriving and inviting roots.

Right now my main "compost" is what I can haul home in bags in the trunk of my car. I plan to buy a yard or two of Cedar Grove biosolids-sawdust "compost". And mycorhyizzia (sp?) innoculent.

The only "real compost" I've been able to make myself (worms, bugs, smells like soil) adds up to 1-2 wheelbarrowsfull after 2-3 years.

Maybe I ought to take the time and money to improve my existing beds more, instead of following my inclination, which is to create as much growing space as I can.

Corey

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 8, 2011
6:32 PM

Post #8681157

>> if u poured slurry, the worms would come. :-)

I'm approaching it from the other direction: I'm not trying to improve large areas, I'm createing a few raised beds. removing some clay but mostly building UP so there is any drainage. Then I try to create half-decent soil to fill the bed by screening clay, and adding as much commercial "compost", pine bark fines and coarse sand as I camn afford and haul.

By growing things in half-decent soil, I hoped that roots and invading soil life would improve it for me. But I that The Plan has to include adding 2-4" of some kind of compost every year. It gets digested! My budget must increase, or my ambitions must decrease.

Some have suggested growing a cover crop for compost-pile-feedstuff. If I have to give up on the next 2-3 square yards of raised bed I planned, I may do that there ... if I can create at least an inch or two of something for the cover crop to get its roots into!

Having a full-time job really cuts into my gardening time!

Corey
CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 9, 2011
7:22 AM

Post #8681788

Corey - I am an impatient gardener, forging ahead on projects just to get to the finish line. I wish I had taken more time improving soil as I went along because it's tough to do after the beds are planted. What about taking the lasagna composting style to your "future" beds, letting nature do some of the work while you work on existing beds? After the "lasagna" cooks for a season, you could dig it in all at the same time.
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

July 9, 2011
11:28 AM

Post #8682221

Corey,

I use crimson clover as a cover crop on areas where the local clay soil is packed hard like concrete. Through trial & error I've figured out what works here.

I start by wetting the hardpan as much as possible, just to soften it some. Then I jab a garden fork into it until it looks like Swiss cheese. Next comes a layer of compost, ideally a couple of inches thick. Onto that I scatter crimson clover seed. Last, I water it gently in so that the compost gets down into the holes.

It gets treated a little like a newly seeded lawn until the clover takes hold. After that, it's self-sufficient. Clover roots are spectacular diggers, especially if you don't cut the plants back at all.

Whenever the mood strikes, I scatter more compost over the established clover patch, just to kickstart the microherd down in the soil.

Once the clover flowers & goes to seed, I crush it without uprooting it. As the roots rot, water gets down into the clay. Over the winter, the ice heaves & expands those tiny channels for me.

In the spring, I scatter more compost and watch for new clover from the seeds of the last crop. If need be, I reseed the bed. This time, though, I don't let the clover go to seed. I crush it just before it flowers, then cover it with one more layer of compost.

A week or two later, the bed's ready for whatever I want to put there.

My way takes a few months, but I'm cheap & I'm in a manual wheelchair. I end up saving money and back aches.
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 9, 2011
12:06 PM

Post #8682264

This is my compost pile. You can see I have a few plants that need to be moved this week. The bed is 3 feet deep. You are seeing the top of the pile.

Thumbnail by WormsLovSharon
Click the image for an enlarged view.

WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 9, 2011
12:13 PM

Post #8682278

This is the rest of that bed. This is my holding garden. Holding anything I purchased that is to small to go into landscape and extra plants I am holding for planting later or growing for someone else. I have wire vine in the holding bed. I create my own plants. I just cover some of the branches, they root and then I cut them and plant where I need them.

We had two great rain storms yesterday. All my plants are very wet and happy.

This is the flower bed it took me 4 days to rehab. African Sumac root problems, old age and heat is why it took so long. Lowes had one gallon coleuses for $3. Instant garden. And then I transplanted many plants I had in the holding garden.

I will be back tonight. I need to get to work. Sharon.

Thumbnail by WormsLovSharon
Click the image for an enlarged view.

WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 9, 2011
12:19 PM

Post #8682280

This is the same bed when I started. The plants, mostly ground cover had been removed, but roots were still hidden.

You may notice the rehabbed bed is larger in one area. I moved some large rocks to get to the roots and it was easier to make the bed bigger than move back the rocks.

Thumbnail by WormsLovSharon
Click the image for an enlarged view.

CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 9, 2011
2:29 PM

Post #8682461

Puddle - your method sounds like it produces some really healthy soil.
Nice instant garden, Sharon.
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 10, 2011
9:29 PM

Post #8685129

Had a micro burst about 10 miles closer to downtown today. 80+ mph winds and a big down pour. SW is so weird. No rain or enough rain to need an boat. High humidity which is unusual. But after the tornadoes and sunami, I will never complain about the weather ever again.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 11, 2011
2:38 PM

Post #8686517

How have I ever missed this Thread??????

Shame on me! All the talk I have talked on the "Need your Opinion" Thread...

I thought of doing the processing of kitchen scraps about 25 years ago.
Only had one blender--and did not want to yuk it up. BUT! The idea was there...

Will follow this now...Gita
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 11, 2011
7:59 PM

Post #8687206

Welcome Gita. Sharon

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 12, 2011
11:56 AM

Post #8688338

Cindy,

>> What about taking the lasagna composting style to your "future" beds,
>> letting nature do some of the work while you work on existing beds?

Besides time, my limiting factor is compost. Several years of collecting and shredding and composting whatever I can get my hands on has added up to about 2 wheelbarrows-full. Then I have to buy it by the bag.

If I had unlimited compost, "modified lasagna" would be one of my strategies for beds I was in no hurry for.

In some ideal world, with unlimited time, money, compost and energy, I would dig the clay out, grade the bottom of the bed so it drains, then screen and amend the clay as the first step. Then layer yet more organic matter on top. It seems to me that must subtract years from the date when the clay 12" down becomes real, draining, aerated soil.

And my imagination can barely grasp the idea that anyone has SO MUCH compost and compost-makings that they can cover entire beds with layers six or more inches deep.

It also confuses me that the lasgna method seems to be planting plants directly in compost or shredded clippings, some inches above the hard clay, but clearly it DOES work, so many people have said.

Corey

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 12, 2011
12:04 PM

Post #8688361


Puddle Pirate:

Saving money and effort sound good to me. A cover crop would surely multiply the value of the first few inches of compost. I used to try to minimize the time to get more flowers growing, but I see now that if I don't give each bed ENOUGH organic matter, each year, it is going to go back to being anaerobic clay.

I may have to go slower, in order to get anywhere!

Crimson Clover, and Daikon Radishes, and Fall Rye. Maybe Buckwheat. I agree, or rather, I'm coming to the conclusion that I have no other option. It's either "grow the OM" or buy the compost one bag at a time.

As recently as last year, I thought "I'm in a bigger hurry than that, I want to plant flowers & Bok Choy NOW, not cover crops". I always have more things to plant than space to put them.

And each bed or future bed is a few square yards at most: I thought cover crops consumed too much space for the return when there's only 1-2 semi-sunny spots.

But i'm not splurging on cubic yards of delivered compost, so I might as well plant clover in partial shade as look at naked clay!


>> Next comes a layer of compost, ideally a couple of inches thick.

Yeah, that's the key thing and the limiting factor. Right now, my partly-established beds have an even more critical need for compost, since they are reverting to clay before my eyes.

Interestingly, TWO kinds of clover volunteered on the naked hard clay above a ditch that drains my best bed. Not even dandilions can pentrate that clay! But one white and one purple clover plant bravely forced their way into it.

I thought "clover" was a LITTLE plant that hid under the grass. Wow! These guys, after they got their roots in, spread up and out and cover almost a square yard now. Pretty, too! I haven't weeded that ditch lately, and similar clovers are starting to smother the other weeds and grass that grows down there.

"When I get the time and compost" available, after more urgent tasks, I'll probably do what you both suggest in two little spots that will become my next RBs. One is mostly cleared and scraped already, the other half-cleared of low juniper bushes.

Dampen & scratch the clay with pick & mattock.
Maybe screen or rake out some of the rocks.
Mix a little compost in 2-4 inches deep (& pine bark for aeration/drainage).
Rake a little more compost into the top inch.
Then (if I'm smart instead of impatient) grow cover crops for several seasons.

Corey
nutsaboutnature
Algonquin, IL
(Zone 5a)

July 12, 2011
3:18 PM

Post #8688751

Welcome Gita - So glad you joined us!

This is a wonderful thread . . . this is actually "part 2". The last one got too long, but it's still full of great info if you ever want to check it out.

Sharon - I like the idea of the "holding" garden. I have sometimes used pots, but I may try that. BTW, one of the worst rain storms we experienced was many years ago in Las Vegas. Having been there so many times before we never even packed umbrellas because "it never rains in Las Vegas".

Puddle - I've read about using cover crops, but I don't have too many beds so I've never wanted to tie any up, although I bet it wouldn't be a bad idea to try late in the season.

Do you ever have a problem with the Clover spreading all over the lawn after it seeds? We already have clover everywhere (don't know what kind it is).

Corey - I've considered Lasagna gardening to start a new bed in late Autumn so it will be ready in Spring with not a lot of work. I wonder what would happen if you plant clover, then, after it seeds, crush it like Puddle said and cover it with Lasagna layers for the Winter.
seran72
Bozeman, MT

July 12, 2011
3:24 PM

Post #8688766

Corey - "Having a full-time job really cuts into my gardening time!" Amen, to that!

When I first started gardening, I had absolutely no concept of the importance of the soil. I didn't know there was any distinction between kinds of dirt. It was all just dirt to me. When my plants looked unhealthy, I couldn't conceive of any reason other than not enough watering. So, I'd water them even more! Ha!

A guy who sold me some trees came to check up on them and told me I was watering too much for my clay soil. I looked confused and murmured "clay?" He said, "Yeah, you know how it sticks together and doesn't crumble? That's called 'clay.'" Like I was a moron. Which I was.

Now, I compost and amend. And pour slurry. :-)

This is my first year to compost and I've noticed the same problem with composting that you have: IT SHRINKS! I had such a mountain to begin with. And it gets smaller every day... Makes it easier to turn, but, sheesh, there won't be much left when it's all done.

I have read that anaerobic composting results in more volume at the end. Maybe someday...

I've just started with a worm bin too, and maybe that will produce more actual compost to put on the garden.

Otherwise, I'm pretty much relegated to buying bags of compost at the hardware store too.

Sharon - Thank you so much for the pictures. I love to see how other people do it!

Sarah

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 12, 2011
4:09 PM

Post #8688850

nutsaboutnature:

>> I wonder what would happen if you plant clover, then, after it seeds

My problem comes before that first step: getting the clay draining enough that even clover will sprout and grow reasonably. Two brave clover plants DID sow themselves in one spot, and took 3-4 months to become larger than the palm of a hand.

Once the clay has been improved that much, I can handle it any of many ways and cover crops are probably smart, until I can buy and haul enough compost to make good soil "manually". But I'm impatient.

I agree with PuddlePirate: even a cover crop benefits from improving the soil if it started as hard, impervious clay.


If I had enough makings for compost that I COULD lay down a multi-inch layer anywhere, or make a few big compost heaps, I would do things like the lasagna method and spot composting in holes between plants.

For me, a "lot" of finished compost would be a 1" layer, or 2". It's a scarce resource for me.

But whether I start with digging and screening, or start "lasagna-ing" first, I am eventually going to remove the rocks and stones which have been up to 50% of what I dig. Usually 20-30%.

And whether I go shallow or deep, the very first step has to be grading the impervious layer so that our incessant rain will flow OUT of the bed and downhill to something that will carry it away. I forgot that once, and created a deep mud puddle, like 18-20" deep.

Usually, once I start grading the floor of a new RB with pick and mattock (or garden hose and shovel!) I just keep going down until the bed is about as deep as I expect it to be for a few years. I'll backfill it with half-decent soil that at least drains, so I can grow things in it and let the roots enrich the soil ... and eventually worms will eat the clay under the RB.

I though at first that would get me maximum flowers in minimum years with minimum compost, but I see now that the beds needs MORE COMPOST every year. or I should say MUCH more compost.


Corey

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 12, 2011
4:22 PM

Post #8688872


Sarah,

>> Otherwise, I'm pretty much relegated to buying bags of compost at the hardware store too.

Thanks - almost every bit of advice I get includes "lay down LOTS of compost" (or clippings / chunks / slurry). Sure it is GOOD advice, like "have lots of money in the bank".

>> I didn't know there was any distinction between kinds of dirt.

Yeah! The most important things about gardening are hardly ever said so that they can be learned by people who don't already know them.

My theory is that gardening is best learned by apprenticing: find a person that already knows all the mojo and WATCH them. At least look at their soil: in seedling trays, small pots, well-established beds and beds marginally able to grow shurbs. Then you know what will and won't work.

Watch how they water their kind of soil, and when they plant what in their climate.

I suspect that there are many people great at gardening who don't know how to communicate "The Secrets" because they just do what they do, and it works.

Which parts are crucial?
Which are overkill?
Which are frivolous?
Which are needed in her climate but harmfull in yours?
WHY must each thing be done?

>> the same problem with composting that you have: IT SHRINKS!

Yeah, but I like to think that they are concentrating the good parts!

Maybe that is why many people put raw plant parts right into their soil instead of composting first. The worms and microbes must digest some of it to CO2 in the compost heap. Maybe that part would have been better left in the soil, being digested there. And yet we would lose no minerals unless they leach away ... or maybe SOME N is denitrified or converted to ammonia and evaporates.

I guess I am slow to change "what worked for me" and flet good from childhood: grow things in SOIL and put clippings into a compost heap. Encouraging things to rot right next to plant roots seems questionable ... and I thought that sheet composting was supposed to give insects and slugs places to hide ... but obviously it does work for very mnay people.

Anerobic composting? Isn't that stinky and might it encourage pathogens? Or maybe it's another thing that works whether or not it appeals to me! When people on this thread talk of digging holes and burying garbage, I think "Their subsoil must drain a lot better than mine, and their soil must breath freer, or it would go anearobic and STINK".

Corey

CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 12, 2011
7:13 PM

Post #8689248

Nope, doesn't stink. I started with an inch or two of contractor soil on top of hard tan clay. I think just the action of digging a hole which loosens the soil allows some air in. And usually the roots of surrounding perennials and shrubs are a few inches away from the digesting compost. Have never planted anything right with my veggie/fruit scraps.
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

July 12, 2011
8:12 PM

Post #8689349

If you really want to stretch your compost, try mixing compost tea and watering the clay with that. Also, maybe letting that tough patch of clover grow for a year or more would really do a good job of breaking up that clay:

http://managingwholes.com/new-topsoil.htm
http://www.seedsofchange.com/enewsletter/issue_46/cover_crops.aspx

Using multiple cover crops together or in sequence is supposed to work well too, but I haven't tried it:

http://groworganic.com/organic-gardening/articles/cover-crop-solutions

Got any nearby livestock you can borrow for a little helpful trampling? Yes, I'm serious:

http://managingwholes.com/--environmental-restoration.htm

Thumbnail by PuddlePirate
Click the image for an enlarged view.

CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 13, 2011
6:51 AM

Post #8689731

Puddle - lots of great references!
nutsaboutnature
Algonquin, IL
(Zone 5a)

July 13, 2011
6:54 AM

Post #8689739

Thanks for the links, Puddle!

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 13, 2011
9:47 AM

Post #8690079

Great links!

The livestock I would most like to borrow are slug-eating ducks.

>> If you really want to stretch your compost, try mixing compost tea and watering the clay with that.

Agreed. My version of that is leaning the little compost over and against a pile of clay. I figure that during rain, the "juices" leach down into the clay. That encouraged some worms to drill tunnels from the compost a little way into the clay.

With more time and more plant clippings to make a 5-time-bigger compost heap, I would screen all the excavated clay, make a layer of the clay that I was not planning to use for a year, and build a BIG, DEEP compost heap on TOP of the screened clay. Let the rain make the tea and let the clay capture the elluviated solutes & colloids - waste not, want not.

>> Also, maybe letting that tough patch of clover grow for a year or more would really do a good job of breaking up that clay

Yup - too bad they're growing right where I have to run the "staircase" down to the bottom of the trench/walkway! But I will use the clay they broke up and enriched as soil, while using pure clay for the treads and risers. It will be interesting to see exactly how far down the clover roots have gone. That spot is perched above a steep cut, so if anygrading can aerate and drain that clay, that spot has it.

Maybe I could jog the stairs around that patch when I make the adjacent RB, but that would waste some sunny square feet and that must not be! Your suggestion to give it a few years unfortunately agrees with my timeline for getting around to that RB. I have two other RB sites closer to being ready for soil, and I'll be lucky to make enough soil for those two, this summer.

This clay is good for one thing: construction! A little slit trench I cut several years ago has carried and held rainwater without the sides crumbling at all. I didn't even fill it with gravel. I can wlak over it, or run a lawn mower and wheelbarrow across it without crumbling the sides., Think "concrete".

Corey

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 13, 2011
10:24 AM

Post #8690133

Corey:
>> When people on this thread talk of digging holes and burying garbage, I think "Their subsoil must drain a lot better than mine, and their soil must breath freer, or it would go anaerobic and STINK".

CindyMzone5:
>> Nope, doesn't stink. I started with an inch or two of contractor soil on top of hard tan clay. I think just the action of digging a hole which loosens the soil allows some air in. And usually the roots of surrounding perennials and shrubs are a few inches away from the digesting compost. Have never planted anything right with my veggie/fruit scraps.

I think your clay may drain better than my clay, and your surrounding pants have deeper roots than mine. If I dig a hole, it fills with water that stays there for days. I would have results like yours in the top 3-4 inches right above my shrubs. Deeper than that, or away from the shrubs, it would flood.

But maybe periodic flooding and anaerobic conditions are not bad for composting scraps the way it is for roots? Maybe the bottom layer does rot anaerobically some of the time, but the upper layer of scraps contains the stink and then worms can mix it all up when the rain drains. Interesting!

My compost heap is near a pine tree: those roots ought to drain the clay better than most of my yard! Maybe I would get some mileage out of submerging part of the pile ... but I think for that effort I would be better off putting it on TOP of some screened clay, for maximum aeration and saving the 'tea'.

I guess I should say that my main goal is not minimizing the amount of dirt I dig, the goal is to get more square feet of somewhat-useable soil in RBs absolutely as fast as I can (without going over-budget buying compost). Up until this year, I thougt that "ASAP" mean "buy a little compost and drainage amendments" and spend my time digging new beds and screening clay. Now, I suspect that the amount of compost needed EVERY YEAR for each bed dictates that the few RBs spend a year or two producing cover crops and "wasting" sunny square feet.

Said another way: if I bought five times as much compost, every year, I could grow in that compost on top of the crummy clay underfoot.

But cultivating the soil is a beloved hobby ... until I really got into seeing masses of flowers and snacking on Bok Choy and Snow Peas, cultivating the soil was more interesting to me than cultivating plants. But I hate spending tons of money on really really lame bulk "compost".

Corey




nutsaboutnature
Algonquin, IL
(Zone 5a)

July 13, 2011
11:02 AM

Post #8690184

Corey - Have you tried:

>Containers?
>Straw Bale Gardening?

You've already mentioned you have (or have had) raised beds & you just mentioned that cultivating the soil is a "beloved hobby", but it sounds like you just want to do it "on the cheap" as, no doubt, most of us do (I find "free" to be very rewarding.

If you're not already doing it, I would recommend collecting everything you can get for free that's good for the soil:

>Coffee Grounds (as much as you can). . . good for the soil, the plants, your compost, plus the worms love it.
>Newspaper & Cardboard (also worm favorites).
>Leaves that other people are getting rid of (I found a thread last year about putting leaves in a plastic trash bag, making holes in it, wetting it ...even putting in a few worms ...then sealing it till Spring). I can't remember who started it (sallyg?).
>Grass clippings
>Sawdust & Wood Shavings
>Various types of manure

It's amazing how much free stuff there is out there!



RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 13, 2011
6:32 PM

Post #8690920

>> it sounds like you just want to do it "on the cheap"

Exactly, and that seems to contradict living in an urabn area and not having much free time or a truck. And i share finaces with someone who sees little point in "buying dirt". And I never relaized how many expenses are incurred if you want to stick a seed in the ground and maybe water it.

>> I find "free" to be very rewarding.

Bingo.

>Containers?

Only for flowers, but I have two RBs only 10-12" wide and 8" deep. I think that counts as a container, at least the one that sits on pl;astic to protect it from roots.

>Straw Bale Gardening?
No, I priced them at the yuppie "grange" store. FFFPPPTTT. Clearly they were targeting people whose pampered pets demanded designer straw. But after they dissolved, they would have made grand compost feedstock.

Did you know how much some people will pay for a tiny bag (like, quarts!) of alfalfa pellets? Sheeze! "Let them eat cake!"

Few of the rest can I get at - very urban setting, no truck. Tried multiple baristas & Starbucks. i looked at the pile of unwnated phone books and thought I might tear the covers off and let paper and gluey spine compost ... but I still want a source of nitrogen to help compost the brown leftovers from my first heap.

Someone suggested calling every landscape business in the book for lawn clipping. Others suggest finding a neighborhood with YARDS and trees and cruising it for bags of leaves in the Fall, which would be smart to do. I almost took a rake and bags to a local business park where i saw unraked leaves on a Friday ... but it was right accross from a police station and it rained that Saturday so I chickened out.

Asked at a fruit stand for their garbage: they give it to a guy with chickens & goats.

When i ask neighbors, they nod knowingly and say that they try to compost too ... kitchen scraps & coffee grounds like me. Its a manufactured home park, much nicer than most mobile home parks, but small yards and many with no lawns.

I MIGHT cruise restaurants for garbage ... but instead I might buy enough 5 gallon buckets to fill my trunk and drive to the city of Everett biosolids plant (sewage farm). if I had enough biosolids to provide N, I might even buy some of the rip-off "compost / mulch" that might as well be called 'designer sawdust" for my "browns"

The practical thing is just 10 bags at a time of composted steer manure, $1.27 each last year. At least it has some N in it!

Corey

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 14, 2011
7:17 AM

Post #8691695

Corey---Hello again!

Try a 7-Eleven for coffee grinds. They have about 5 or 6 coffee brewers going at the same time.
NOT a big, fussy business...Lots of people run in there for their coffee...

That reminds me--I am out of grinds as well...gotta go pick their trash cans...
OR--take them a 5gal. bucket and they will throw all their spent coffee in there for me...
as long as I come and get it the same day..

Gita

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 14, 2011
9:05 PM

Post #8693278

Hi, Gita!

How are the yerllow tomatoes? If it were me, I would water or spray with ANY soluble high-N stuff I could get my hands on, fast, to test the theory and start the recovery. Insuffiicent N (if that's the problem) is like starvation. It won't kill them as fast as no air or no water would, but a quick shot of anything immediatly might be better than the most perfect fish or kelp concoction a few days from now.

>> 7-Eleven for coffee grinds

I wonder why my first thought was to check all the "bikini barista huts" first? They all mix their trash and garbage in with the grounds. Even the fully-dressed barista huts do that: very limited floor space. And Starbucks around here already have someone they give all their grounds to.

I DO know where there's a 7-11! I'll ask.

Decades ago, I was between consulting jobs and had time to check every Deli and collect dirty 4-gallon tubs for free. I had dozens: great wealth for a gardener, even though I had no outdoor garden then. Then I had to move 7-8 times and had to GIVE THEM ALL AWAY. I still wince at that memory.

But I can buy garish orange 5-gal buckets from Home Depot.

Corey

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 15, 2011
5:23 AM

Post #8693539

Corey--

I need to ask...are you a male Corey or a female Cory?
Just want to know when I communicate this much...

I have already removed all the yellow leaves. I also already sprinkled hand-fulls of dried blood
around each veggie plant and watered it in well.
Might have been a one-time cause of some kind...lets hope so.

Liquid spray??? I have MG and also Schultz all purpose.
Schultz is 20-30-20. MG is higher in the P.

Found some 15+ year old packets of Optimara Plant Food. 20-5-10.
They are sealed little packets. Might still be viable. I will use these.
Also on my destroyed Cucumber plants.

You DO know I work for a HD--Yes? 13 years and going...I hate that garish orange as well.
And I have to wear that apron every time I work...I work PT--3 days a week.

Wanna see something amazing that just opened up in my garden???
I have had this Epi since 2005--and it has never bloomed.
Now it is dazzling me! HUGE flowers!!!! Glad something is doing well...:o)
Gita

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Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 15, 2011
5:25 AM

Post #8693543

One more---I don't want to get too off-topic...
I am just too excited!!!!

Thumbnail by Gitagal
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sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

July 15, 2011
8:41 AM

Post #8693848

Gita I think Optimara is your best bet since it is sealed.
If cukes looks bad already "destroyed" you can't save them, but it might be early enough to rip them out and plant new seeds.

A basic truth about scavenging compostables- If its got good N it will stink (if not now then soon) and those places cannot save it indefinitely for you. You have to be dependable on pickup, or just get lucky and go when they have it.
I'm tickled that I now know where I can go on my own time and dig from a big dumpster at a horse barn. They get it hauled away every other week so worst case is I might go the day it got changed and have to wait a day or week.
Starbucks that is not 'harvested' regularly will put bags of grounds in the dumpster. I once found six huge bags of fresh "out of style?" grounds in the dumpster in a clean cardboard box...

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 15, 2011
2:11 PM

Post #8694360

I love the idea of dumpster-diving Starbucks! I found that even moldy coffee gorunds work fine in a compost heap.

>> Optimara is your best bet since it is sealed.

As long as "more N" is what you want. That is our current theory. Once the tomaotes look healty again, you might wnat to be moderate with the N and give then more P.

If the fertilizer is just soluble chemicals and not organic fish-or-kelp-stuff, I don't think it CAN go bad. Even if it's big hard chunks, just mash them with a hammer or pliers so you can dig them out and measure them - they'll still dissolve.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 15, 2011
2:15 PM

Post #8694367

Gita:

>> You DO know I work for a HD--Yes

sorry, no, or I would have said that some clerks don't know as much as other, well-informed clerks who are also members of DG.

I figure the orange buckets are free advertising for HD.

>> are you a male Corey or a female Cory?

Last time I checked, fairly male. Fortunately I decided to start growing YOUNGER when I hit 50, so now I'm "41" instead of "59".

Corey

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 15, 2011
6:40 PM

Post #8694857

I already sprayed the Optimara on ALL my veggies and flowering plants.
Even sprayed it on my half-dead Cucumber plant. Had to use what I had mixed up--ONE gallon.

Cory---I have never grown old!!!! The mind and my thinking is what keeps me a young 74...
As the saying goes--"Mind over matter"...If I don't mind--It does not matter..."
That is my motto for life. You can click on my name and see my picture at the bottom.
It is 4 years old, though. Bur--only my eyeglasses have changed...

Other than selling the Orange buckets--they are also used as shopping baskets.
Wonder how many customers end up buying the bucket after they have
carried their selected merchandise in it...????

There was another Thread on the Tomato Forum about yellowing leaves...
It said something about a fungus...

Not gonna loose my sleep if my Maters die--I will be sorry--but life goes on...

Gita

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

July 15, 2011
7:29 PM

Post #8694999

Hmm, if you had started growing younger at 50, you'd be around 25 now. That is about how energetic you sound!

Corey
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 15, 2011
8:24 PM

Post #8695103

OFF TOPIC...Gita, I am going to be 69 in a couple of weeks. Tell me how you felt turning 70. I kdeep think to my self, OMG, I will soon be 70. But I am like you. I go 90 miles a minute and just keep gping.

Corey, I assumed you were a male but glad you made it clear.

The bug man came and put up some traps for the rats. He says there is more than one. And he does not charge for the traps, so no reason to say so. My neighbor across the street called this morning and said they had a dead rat in the pool. They are waiting for tomatoes.

I did nothing today except sit on the back patio this morning and then I went to PT for my shoulder. I had a thing to list in my head when I woke up but did not sleep well last night so I did nothing. I am retired so there is always tomorrow.

Gita, if I worked at HD, they would fire me soon. All the places around here bring in plants that do not grow here. I could not believe the tulips. They were hauling the tulips by the dozen pots. One guy at a nursery was buying tulips for his wife for, I think, Mother's Day. Young guy and his wife loved tulips. They do no grow here. Then there were the hydrangeas. Big pots, $30. They were hauling them out like they were free. I have know the owner since h was a kid. His father was the original owner. I told him. "Shame on You". He just laughed. Have a great day tomorrow. I will check in later in the day tomorrow.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 16, 2011
5:10 AM

Post #8695383

Sharon--

Recently there was an article (Larry Rhetting????) on Big Box stores and
all thee plants and all that. Please find it and read the comments section.

Oh my! Did we all get into how the Box Stores are run and all about the plants.
People listed links and comments. it got quite "hot"...and long. Good reading--
eye-opening...
There was a HD Vendor that wrote a very long Post about exactly what you mentioned above.
How frustrated he was about the inappropriate plants for some zones sold, etc...

I do not know how to find previously written articles--or I would have posted the link here...
WHERE does one go? Sally!!! YoooHooo!!!!

Turning 70??? Just another day...I got a few cards and that was it.
I live alone--(long divorced) so my life is not very exciting...lots of work taking care of house and yard.
Working at HD is, in a way, like my second Family...

All through the growing season, on Sundays, I set up a table in outside garden and
try to "educate" people--if they ask. If not--I approach them and offer information.
Here's one of my tables--this is from 2008.

Gita


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Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 16, 2011
5:17 AM

Post #8695394

Found it! Here is the link---read and enjoy...or not...

It is by Larry Rhetting.

http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3313/
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 16, 2011
7:57 PM

Post #8696712

OMG, I think I could have written that. Gita, I am assuming you are the one in the orange apron. So nice to put a face to a name. Sharon.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 17, 2011
3:35 AM

Post #8697086

sharon--

I have my picture on my home page. Just click on my name and scoot all the way down.
There it is! It is about 4 years old, though...

G.
CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 17, 2011
8:26 AM

Post #8697458

I know this is a spot composting thread so forgive me if I'm straying. Has anyone used peat moss as a top dressing to help retain moisture or is it counterproductive? Had some leftover and was wondering about using it up.
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 17, 2011
3:02 PM

Post #8698124

I only use it in my worm bin.

I cannot imagine it would be good as a top dressing because it is so difficult to get wet. But wait for the experts to show up.

Gitagal

Gitagal
Baltimore, MD
(Zone 7a)

July 17, 2011
3:22 PM

Post #8698165

Cindy--

Peat Moss is good if it is well dug in and incorporated with existing soil. Water in well!
Then it becomes a good, slightly acid soil amendment.

Peat moss as a top-dressing? NOPE! At least the fine kind.
It will dry in the hot summer and form a water repelling barrier. Counterproductive!

Let me share an experience with you.

Several years ago, I bought one of those Gift Packs of Amaryllis bulbs at X-Mas time.
It came with a 6" plastic pot, a baggie of dried, fine peat moss, and the bulb.

I put the peat moss in the pot and thought it should be moistened before I plant the bulb.
So I poured water on top of the PM and decided to let it sit overnight to slowly absorb.
I never checked the next day--but the second day I did go and look.

The water was still sitting on top of the peat moss in the pot.
Not a drop of it was absorbed. "Nuff said!

Gita
WormsLovSharon
Las Vegas, NV

July 17, 2011
5:22 PM

Post #8698390

Yes and when you want to get peat moss wet you put peat moss in the bucket first, then the water. I found out the hard way. It just will not go down in the water. Sharon
mraider3
Helena, MT

July 18, 2011
12:48 AM

Post #8698799

I have not had a chance to review this thread entirely but will do so shortly. I DITO with Sharon on the soaking of peat moss before using. I use a five gallon bucket to a half bucket of peat moss and add warm water from the base of my water heater, then mix it well using rubber kitchen gloves. After 24-hours of soaking I take a large aquarium net to extract the moisture from the peat moss thus reducing pH and making it more manageable. I use lots of peat moss for mulching in the garden and in cultivating as well, however I go through a vermiculture process before using it. For instance my corn which has just now reached the 10 to 12-inch point is being mounded up with a blend of composted manures (cow and horse), some Miracle Grow fertilizer and vermicompost material added in. I place a scoop of these grated dried materials around the base of the corn plant, mound it up, and tamp down with my foot. I will repeat this process again when the corn silks. I do similar things as well when transplanting or cultivating tomatoes, cucumbers, squash and pumpkin.

Once you get the hang of it soaked and drained peat moss is easy to work with and it acts as a sponge absorbing and holding water. I manage to go through two to three of the 3.8 cubic foot bails of peat moss each season after processing it with red wigglers in 20 gallon plastic bins and there is never enough of this material. I see immediate and sustained results when using this in combination with manure composts and occasionally some commercial fertilizers.

CindyMzone5
Hobart, IN

July 18, 2011
12:36 PM

Post #8699893

I kinda thought the peat moss thing was counterproductive but hey - I admit to being lazy. Been a crazy summer and I haven't even thought about mulching or sifting compost.

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