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Pure Compost - I may have screwed up :(

Good Morning!

I decided to start a few new vegi garden beds this year...I was given a ton of free organic compost from a friend, however, I believe it may be from mostly leafs, so, not too many different ingredients.

I turned a bit of this compost into the top few inches of topsoil, and than I decided to lay another 4 - 6 inches of the compost on the top of the beds. Essentially I'm growing in pure compost.

Well, now I'm thinking that might not have been the best way to go. tomotoe plants seem to be doing very poorly, not growing too much and have curled up / colored leaves...

I have recently added some all purpose organic fertilizer to the beds to hopefully get the plants some nutrient they may be missing because of the pure compost...

any other recommendations?? Thanks.

Cool Member
Posts: 79
Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 10:40 am
Location: Richardson, TX

I'm planted in pure compost and everything seems to be doing fine. Give your plants some time. Water often as compost doesn't hold moisture well.

Good luck!

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Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Mon Mar 23, 2009 1:59 pm
Location: TN. 50 years of gardening experience.

You probably need to feed your plants a very large dose of nitrogen and some 15/15/15 too. Leaves make great compost. Give your tomatoes some lime.

Here where I live the city has some large vaccum cleaner trucks that drive the city streets in the fall and suck up all the tree leaves that home owner rake to the street. I called the city and had several of those truck loads of leaves dumped on my garden. The truck compacts the leaves very tight the pile on my garden was 3 feet deep 6 feet wide and about 20 ft long. I got 4 load one year and dumped 10 bags of Ammonium Nitrate on them. My May the 3 ft pile was only 1 foot high and it looked like some very good compost. It took me several hours to till that into my soil with 2 bags if 15/15/15 fertilizer. I planted my garden and it was starving for more nitrogen all the plants were yellow. I started mixing ammonium nitrate with water and pouring it directly on the plants and the whole garden straightened up in a week. I had to keep giving the plants nitrogen all summer. The following summer it was had to tell 4 truck load of leaves had been dumped on my garden they had composted down to nealy nothing.

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Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 6:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

sounds like what you planted in was more like leaf mould than regular compost. As such, Gary was right, it will be high carbon and will tend to deplete nitrogen from your soil/ plants. You do need to add nitrogen. If you like to go organic, there are plenty of good organic nitrogen sources-- blood meal, fish meal or fish emulsion, soybean meal, well composted manure, especially chicken manure...

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Senior Member
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Joined: Sun May 17, 2009 9:32 pm
Location: Southwest IN

Gary350 wrote:I started mixing ammonium nitrate with water and pouring it directly on the plants and the whole garden straightened up in a week. I had to keep giving the plants nitrogen all summer.
Gary's solution is exactly why quick release fertilizer is made. Putting on slow release organic fertilizer doesn't give the plants what they need now. If you were in poor condition from lack of food a whole buffet in front of you isn't going to help you if you are only allowed to eat 1 cup a day.

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Super Green Thumb
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Location: Northern Utah Zone 5

Good compost, that is, compost that was made correctly in a hot pile, is fertilizer. It is very rich in nitrogen and other plant food. It should be used as an amendment to garden soil, not as a planting medium in itself. It is too rich in nutrients to be used solely for planting in.

What some call compost is not made in a hot pile and is left out in the weather for a season and that stuff is mostly degraded organic material with most of the nutrients leeched out. You could plant in this, but it won't have many of the trace elements that are present in real soil.

One of the symptoms of too rich a planting medium is yellowing of the plants and frequent wilting.

I can't tell what your compost was from here, but will suggest that in the future, you use compost as an amendment to your soil. An inch of compost tilled into your soil is good. Planting in straight compost may present problems. We often kill our plants with kindness, thinking that if a little is good, a lot is better. Its like feeding goldfish, a little is good, too much will kill them, or make them really sick.

Full Member
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Joined: Sat May 30, 2009 3:21 pm
Location: Connecticut

It varies a bit, depending on which species of tree the leaves came from, but leaves tend to be on the acid side. It probably wouldn't hurt to check the PH of your soil.

Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 9:04 am
Location: Ohio

I apologize for being the discenting opinion, but.......I think the nitrogen issue is a bit over blown.

A garden buddy is growing potatoes in pure leaf mold(city dumped fall leaves on his concrete pad). 2 feet thick. It is doing well. He is thinking about putting more into the leaf mold. I picked up another yard of leaf mold tonight from him.(he has 20 yard of the original 40 yds.) Puts it on everything.

I have taters, beans, and squash laid on the dirt with leaves on top and all are doing great.

I have taters on top of compost(last falls storm debri) leaf mold to cover the taters and doing excellent. Repeat they are doing excellent.......

My asparagus was looking a little sickly till I added 4 inches of leaf mold and they are now doing much better.

Have a 5 gallon bucket of pure(last fall) leaf mold(well rotted) have a sugar pumpkin in it and it is an excellent plant(need to move it) it is out growing the bucket.

Respectfully 2cents

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