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Compost Alternative

This is my first stab at a vegetable garden. I have read about composting but I never realized how long it takes to make it. I need to start getting my soil ready and I can't find the stuff anywhere and the free giveaway of the stuff doesn't happen until May-July. I wanted to know how else can I prepare my soil without it. Is there something else I can do?

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Super Green Thumb
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No offense but really you should have started before now. Though adding compost now can't hurt either. I'm sure there is somewhere around you that sells compost. You just need to be careful of what you are getting. Ask what is it made from.

Compost doesn't have to take forever either. There are as many different ways to compost as there are gardeners who compost. You can do it fast by getting the right proportions of high nitrogen (grass, veggie scraps etc) and high carbon (leaves, paper etc) than keeping prop[er moisture levels and turning once or more a week. Or you can pile it up and forget it. Or you can vermicompost with worms. Or you can use bokashi to compost everything even meats I do believe I'm not to educated on bokashi, yet.

Greener Thumb
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Hey don't despair!

Let's brainstorm. Cover crops for starters get them sown asap. I use winter rye. Just mow it down when you plant.

Compost tea! If you can find just a bit of good compost, you can easily cover your garden.

EM! Plenty of people all over the world use EM (effective microbes) to treat soil. And yes bokashi is fast. You could do it in a pile. Ferment 3 weeks, then bury (read up on it first) or top dress. It will make the worms come fast. But even that takes 2 months to become soil.

Sheet composting! Check the permaculture forum.

You can also strategize. Some plants like tomatoes need more developed soil. But squashes will penetrate deep to get nutrients. Many oriental veggies are good too.

But your absolute first step should be to assess your soil and its inhabitants. PM me if you want directions to some reading material with instructions.

Super Green Thumb
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Location: Mid Ohio

You often do not need to add compost the first year because virgin soil generally has adequate organic matter from the roots that grew in the soil before. Soil ammendments generally serve to simply replace the organic matter lost year to year from working the soil. At least that is the way for farms. Gardeners often pile on the compost more than is really needed, if they can, but if they can't it doesn't mean the garden will fail. Where gardeners do benefit from compost in the soil is water retention because the residential garden is usually not dug down through the claypan layer (around 6-16 inches deep) so roots must get water from the soil on top of that. the layer is in part caused by residential construction where the top soil is stripped off and the subsoil is compacted from all the activity before sod is put back on. If your garden spot used to be a corn field you can probably just kill the grass and stick some seeds in it and have a great garden

Virgin soil probably will not have enough nutrients in it for good crop yield so you would want to add fertilizer, either organic or granulated garden fertilizer this year, and build up a compost pile over the summer and fall for next year.

If you have poor soil, which usually means shallow topsoil over a clay layer, it is really difficult to do anything last minute to fix the soil (I.e. deep dig to break through the clay and add lots of compost, or build raised beds), so again I would say try fertilizer and water as needed the first year while you gather compost material. For a last minute garden on poor soil you can do straw/hay bale gardening and then use the spent straw at the end of the season for your compost.

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Super Green Thumb
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well aged composted manure.

Bloody Boots
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Walthree, Raised beds, either buy the wood, or get some free from any nearby construction yards. You'll want the bed to be at least 6 preferably 12 inches high. Lay down some newspaper first, then a layer of cardboard. Over that a nice layer of Coffee grounds from you local Starbucks/convenience and then layer compost, peat moss and some vermiculite.

Wait about a month before you plant anything.

Beans and other legumes would be a good first crop, but a lot will grow in that the first year. And start a compost pile now.

Though of course this is just my Opin and I could be wrong!

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Location: Adelaide Hills, Australia

There's a great Australian book called the Reverse Garbage Garden. The author Sandra Clayton grew most of the fruit and vegetables for her family by filling raised beds with any and every mulch material she could find including paper, leaves, weeds, manure, compost, shells, feathers, fur etc. She says you can start planting seedlings and potatoes straight away, and the mulch material begins breaking down into great soil. I'm sort of doing that in my vegie patch, but I'm a new gardener myself so can't really tell you how successful it is yet.

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