Charlie MV
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1544
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 3:48 am

compost distribution... a different kind of compost question

I have about 2000 square feet of garden. I have enough compost to spread it about 10 inches thick over the whole thing. Should I plow some in and spread the rest on top? Plow it all? Spread it all? What to do? Nice problem to have though.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27816
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

:roll: Charlie, you just wanted to tell us that, didn'cha? 8) :wink:

Well, let's see,
- Use for seed starting mix
- Use for transplant soil mix
- Use for container soil mix
- Start a/nother raised bed
- Use for making compost tea to foliar feed transplants and fruit trees and against mold/mildew
- Use as mulch under shrubs and trees and around the garden
- Spread with spreader over lawn grass

And if you STILL have more than you can use...
- Bag and donate to senior or handicapped homes with therapeutic gardening programs
- Bag and donate for fund raising
- Bag and sell for yourself (local Craigslist, roadside stand, plant sales, etc.)

That's all I can think of at the moment.... oh and bag and ship a truckload to me, of course! :wink:

Charlie MV
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1544
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 3:48 am

No No No, not bragging, I am using it in the vegetable garden. Should I plow some in as well as spread on top? Or should I spread it all on top? I'm a second year serious gardener. I had no compost last year and I guess I over-did production. I made compost with a chipper/shredder all fall and winter with trees shrubs garden plants rye grass and leaves. I really have a lot and I'm not sure how to best use it all.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27816
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

OK, OK. :D
I'm by no means an expert and I've NEVER had compost to spare.
That said, I think the usual recommendation is "a couple of inches" of compost as spring and fall amendment, and around 4" as mulch. I suppose that's not to say you can't add more, especially if you're dealing with overly clay or sandy soil, but some seeds may not sprout well in too compost rich soil, and some veggies may get too much growth and less fruit, especially if your compost is N rich with manure. I have a list of heavy feeders that NEED extra vs. light feeders that SHOULDN'T be overly composted somewhere but I'll have to dig it up.

Whether you till that in or not depends on which guru you are following. We've got the biointensive double-digging John Jeevons to no till/no cultivate Masanobu Fukuoka to choose from. I think most of the various techniques have been discussed at length at one time or another in various threads here.

Some do say that digging/plowing/tilling disturbs the existing soil micro-ecology and is, in fact, detrimental.

Since I have a small garden and no power tools/equipment/machinery (no air/noise pollution, thank you :mrgreen:) and limited physical strength, I'm going with forking with a garden fork to aerate without digging then sheet and/or plain mulching on top. I'll be prepping my gardens that way just as soon as we're past these nightly temps of teens~twenties and the ground thaws and dries out a bit. :roll: (I did spread compost and mulched with straw over most of the garden last fall. I have one area that I *thought* I was going to let some things re-seed -- like dill and borage, etc. Now I'm stuck wondering if I should put a layer of compost there or not.... :oops:)

Good luck and have fun with your earthly riches! :wink:

Charlie MV
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1544
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 3:48 am

No tilling? Ok now you're just screwin' with me aren't you. I'd be dead if I forked my whole back yard. It's really big. I'm growing in the dirt, not raised beds. We have to eat year round. I'd eat a raised bed out in a week.

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27816
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Try googling for "no till gardening" :D
I'm so tired I couldn't pick which link to post! :roll: :wink:

Here, try this one: https://desertification.wordpress.com/2008/02/26/no-till-gardening-sustainable-alternative-to-the-rototiller-daves-garden/

and this one: https://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com/no-till-gardening.html

g'night!

Charlie MV
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1544
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 3:48 am

Applestar, that dog's not gonna hunt. I wouldn't garden without a tiller. It's half the fun.

I got 48 hits on this post and nobody will tell me if i should till the stuff in or just spread it?

User avatar
JustPeachy
Full Member
Posts: 29
Joined: Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:16 am
Location: Eastern NC

If you don't mind tilling your garden I say spread first, then till it into the soil. I have seen good results from tilling in the compost. My dad has done it for years. Good luck!!!

~Emily
;)

2cents
Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:04 pm
Location: Ohio

Charlie,
I double dug(near equivalent to tilling) in 6-15 inches of similar sounding material last fall. Yesterday, I turned one of my beds which had the heavy layer of compost. It was nearly gone, no sign of leaves and not much woody material left.
This spot has had lots of composting there for several years. There is a build up of the right types of fungus and "compost eating tiny critters" in this soil, so it breaks the compost down quickly.
Your ground will have these little critters also........BUT........
If you've not been adding compost to your garden for 2+ years, it likely has a limited amount of the critters/fungus.........
IMHO, If I Were You, my goal would be to build the ground up with these living organisms, by "feeding them".
In other words, absolutely till in part of the compost, say half, this will feed the good organisms for this year.
Then use the rest in the walking paths, especially the large woody stuff, it will act as a mulch, making weeding easier. This will cause the good fungus to build up in the soil right under the paths.
When you till in the fall it will incorporate all that good stuff from the walking path right into the ground and you will have added OM to the garden for 2010s garden.
Just an idea :wink:

TZ -OH6
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2097
Joined: Fri Jul 25, 2008 11:27 pm
Location: Mid Ohio

If you just started it last year, and it has a lot of chipped wood/brush in it, it will not be aged enough, and will pull nitrogen out of yout garden soil. I've used "winter" chip compost the following spring but I ammended it with alot of nitrogen fertilizer so it was not too bad, but some vegetables would not grow in that part of the garden. I needed it for amending bad clay soil in a new garden.


If you do not have to use it for exceptionally poor soil, I would recommend letting the pile age for another year or two. That way you can work in the recommended 2 inches per year for a while to come. This year I would suggest putting 2-3 inches on as top mulch to keep weeds down, preserve soil moisture.



As for the No-Til thing... Many people don't seem to understand what the whole story with that is, and so it often comes to us like a negative political campaign sound bite.


Tilling yearly adds oxygen into the soil at higher than usual rates, which increases the decomposition rate of organic matter. Decades of tilling resulted in decreased soil organic content of alot of farmland, and since soil microbes feed on the organic matter, the soil microbial system was starved to death in these areas. This is farmland where mineral fertilizers were used and so no organic material was added (manure, compost)...so mineral fertilizers get accused of killing off the soil too. No-til farming is a way to help build back the organic content of depleated soil. The old roots from the previous crop stay where they are in a relativley low oxugen environment so they decompose more slowly and feed soil microbes. But no-til for farmland is much different than no-til for gardening.

Tilling will help a new garden becasue it loosens the soil for better root penetration. The soil has not been worked so it is high in organic matter and the microbial community will not be adversely affected too a significant extent. Tilling in compost will feed the soil microbes and build up their populations. If you do not have soil compaction problems, and do not plan on adding organic ammendments, then you might consider not tilling that year, but native soil organics have a shelf life of many years, so skipping a year of compost ammendment now and then, but still tilling won't hurt the soil.

Tilling year after year with the same blade depth can cause problems of hardpanning at the bottom, and root growth will be restricted so you might consider deep digging the whole garden occasionally, or shovel tilling some years rather than rototilling to the same depth all the time.

2cents
Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:04 pm
Location: Ohio

TZ,
excellent post
IMHO

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27816
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

Second that. I was hoping someone would jump in and explain in more detail -- I was too darn tired to last night :lol:

The hardpan at the depth of tilling as well as that you're actually destroying the biological micro-ecosytem, I think, are something that needs to be re-iterated.

The key to the no-till technique is that the garden area is originally built up by loosening up the soil (apparently there IS a machine for doing this in large scale as mentioned in the 2nd link above) WITHOUT turning it over, then layering woody/carbon rich organic matter/manure/compost, as well as cover cropping/initial planting with deep rooted plants that will do the digging FOR YOU. These roots would have reached down 4~6 FEET or more and left their fibrous roots behind in the soil to add to the organic content. No machine can do that as well. Kudos to Mother Nature. :wink:

Now, if I remember correctly, Charlie has been HOT composting like a maniac all last season. So his compost is likely to be very lovely and ready to use. If your large garden does not have the benefit of initial layering/building, then it's probably necessary to till in the compost. But in the same situation, I would seriously consider taking the opportunity to start plots of built-up garden. Potatoes are the usually recommended first squad, followed by fast growing bush beans/fall peas and then winter root veggies like turnips and daikon. Rutabagas should be good too. Winter wheat, rye, barley or legume should be considered for cover crop. I've been sticking to oat and peas that winter kills or clover that can be left in place (no tilling :D )

As usual, caveat emptor -- I'm just telling you what I've been reading up on. Many many experts out there who can really explain the science behind it all - search for "sustainable agriculture". My experience so far is limited, but this is the direction I'm going to go with. I CAN tell you that so far, it seems to be working. Ask me again in 10 yrs or so. :wink:

BUT You know what, I don't want to sound like I'm pushing this on anyone. Find out what you can, and make up your own mind. Really, the point of it all is that we're ENJOYING the miracle and bounty of the earth. :mrgreen:

User avatar
hendi_alex
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3567
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2008 11:58 am
Location: Central Sand Hills South Carolina

As you say, [what a problem to have!]

I'm more of a site specific enricher, as opposed to enriching an entire area. My approach would be more to identify planting zones and go for those with gusto. If panting tomatoes, cucumbers, mellons, peppers, etc., would enrich planting holes wide and deep. If planting deep rooted row crops, would likely dig a trench between one and two feet wide and one foot to 1.5 feet deep and rebuild the soil from the bottom up. For block zones, would do the same, by digging down a foot or more and rebuilding the soil of the whole block.

Also would save at least 1/3 of the compost for use later in the summer. A person never knows what projects will come up, and you are wishing for some of that supply of compost. Also, I like using about half baked compost as a top dressing/mulch product. That insulates from the heat, retains moisture, blocks weeds, and eventually give a top down trickle of fresh nutrients.

Finally, I would blend in a moderate amount of somewhat higher nitrogen fertilizer and would also blend in some lime in the process, unless the ground is already alkaline. Partially decomposed compost could be somewhat on the acid side and also could decrease available nitrogen for a season or two.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

Charlie MV
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1544
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 3:48 am

Ahhh, Thanks all. I was afraid I'd made everybody mad. Applestar, you are right.I've been hot composting for the last 10 months with a chipper. All my compost is rich, black and flaky. I don't see how it couldn't be ready.

My plots were used and augmented for fifty years. My FIL died in 99 and we move onto the "farm" to help my 89 year old MIL. The ground was still rich and black last year even after this considerable time. We got 11 foot tall corn and enough veges to fill two freezers using organing fertilizer [it smelled like desicated chicken crap] and composted cow manure. We also added azimite with great results.

This year I have the compost which I didn't have made last year. It sounds like [from most replies] that I can plow in my manure and compost. Then [as last year, I'll mix dirt,manure chicken mix fertilizer,and now a bit of compost in my trenches and holes and then cover the whole area in 3 or 4 inches of this black gold.

Alex, when you say nitrogen , the only nitrogen I see around here doesn't say "organic"on the bag. I'm sure you know Aiken is farm country and I don't think their is much in the way of organic in my feed store. Will the place I bought my harmony fertilizer have some organic nitrogen?

Thanks to all. TZ, I do pile rows with a shovel after tilling but they don't seem to last long since the soil is so sandy . As to the hard pan, everything deep root gets dug up and mixed pretty deep. My MIL is reduced to shucking, canning and shelling at 89 but she still has given us [we moved ashore from 4 years on a boat] sailors pretty good instruction. She just said "Well I never seed that big a leaf pile and you need to ask someone what to do with it all. :D

2cents, I'd hate to think about digging this much without tilling but I'll do a combo of both. Thank you.

I really appreciate all the help. Living on a boat was a full time job. I'd be bonkers without this garden.

User avatar
hendi_alex
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3567
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2008 11:58 am
Location: Central Sand Hills South Carolina

That chicken manure will likely have all the nitrogen you want. My father in law was really big on blood meal. I notice that Epsoma brand is 12-0-0. Also, some of the other meals have a decent amount of nitrogen. Cotton seed meal is 6-2-1.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

Charlie MV
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1544
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 3:48 am

Perfect, Thanks Alex.

wingdesigner
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2038
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2005 9:58 pm
Location: Michigan--LP(troll)

But Charlie, I thought you wanted the exercise! :hide: Spread first, then "rough till"--don't chop it up too fine. If you row plant, spread some more between the rows (up to 4") after the second set of true leaves show up (unless it's a root crop or leaf crop, then never mind).
Happy Gardening,
Wing

Charlie MV
Greener Thumb
Posts: 1544
Joined: Fri May 09, 2008 3:48 am

I mentioned that to my wife and she said TBD or something Wing.

wingdesigner
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2038
Joined: Thu Mar 10, 2005 9:58 pm
Location: Michigan--LP(troll)

Eh? I missed something, what are we talking about now? What did you mention to your wife that I'm now in trouble for?
Happy Gardening,
Wing

Return to “Composting Forum”