Friday, February 24, 2012

Bridging the Soil Knowledge Gap Part 2

I left off yesterday by mentioning composting! 

Composting is the process of preparing organic matter (dead stuff) for the garden. We think of this as when the leaves or banana peels start to look less like recognizable food and more like soil, but it also involves shifting the microbial balance. Adding compost to heavy clay soils allows better movement of air and water and helps sandy soils to retain water better.
What types of organic wastes do you put in your compost heap?
  1. Coarse Landscape - branches and garden stalks. These break down slowly, so chop them into one inch pieces.
  2. Grass clippings
  3. Fine kitchen waste - coffee grounds, egg shells, vegetable peels, etc.
  4. Fine landscape waste - leaves and clippings from the garden
If you have the space, consider a separate compost for slower, decomposing coarse waste. Having separate or rotating composts also makes life easier as you don't need to do the heavy work of turning your compost over.
Organic matter in your compost is often categorized as the "greens" and "browns":
  • The "greens" add protein and nitrogen. They include things like vegetable and fruit peels and cores, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags, weeds (not ones with seeds), and grass clippings.
  • The "browns" add fibre and carbon. They include things like leaves, corn stalks, shredded newspaper, paper products like card board, sawdust, twigs, and, to a limited extent, pine needles. Both are important. And you need a balance of both in your compost.

Fallen leaves from trees in the autumn make great organic waste for your compost, however, avoid using oak leaves because they take a long time to decompost. And walnut leaves release a toxin called juglone that can inhibit some plant growth, so avoid them too.

That's enough for today.  Check back in tomorrow for a few more No Guff Vegetable Gardening composting insights.

-Miss Greenish Thumb

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