Mary Mary said to me, "That's great info about composting and all, but we haven't been very good at composting this year, and now it's too late. What should I do?"
Well Mary, you're going to have to go out and get yourself some compost. Here are some options for ya:
Animal Manure - don't add it directly to your garden. Compost it first. Here's why. As it composts, it can get too hot for your plants. Also, composting first allows the microbial balance to shift from harmful to beneficial. Manure is a good thing though. Add it to your compost to "fire it up" and get it going.
Green Manure - is when you grow a fast-growing crop and then till it into the soil before it's mature. i.e. rye, peas, buckwheat. To make this process even less labour intensive, No Guff suggests planting something in the fall that the winter will kill and you can just till into the ground.
Peat Moss - is good at improving the properties of soil. It's essentially sterile and is recommended for starting seedlings. No Guff calls it an eco-extravagance if you have access to kitchen waste to compost. I agree. If I understand correctly, bogs are mined for their peat and ecosystems can be drastically and negatively affected from this practice.
Municipal Compost - Every spring and every fall, my son and I drive up to the landfill and load up the trunk of the car with bags of the free compost our municipality gives away. I am a true sucker for anything free. However, the gardener must be cautious of municipal compost since there is no control over what folks dispose of into their municipal green bin. There can be killer levels of salts which could make muncipal compost less than ideal for the home gardener. That being said, if you're willing to take the risk, it's a lot of wonderful, rich dirt in exchange for a donation to the local food bank. Win win!
In a nutshell, it seems that you don't need to know a lot about your soil to know how to optimize its use in your garden. Keep adding organic matter and compost compost compost.
Thanks for all the info, No Guff Vegetable Gardening.
~Miss Greenish Thumb~