Sunday, May 3, 2009

Compost - Magic Mulch

Compost can be too much of good thing when the pile is ready when all the garden beds are full. A little can be used for compost tea but what is one to do with the black gold when all the flowers are blooming and the veggies are growing to beat the band? If you do not want to dig up the soil, why not leave it and have your compost too?

For many gardeners, mulching is the best thing since sliced bread. A good layer of mulch, at least three inches thick, keeps soil cool in the summer heat and allows the roots to move out into the surrounding area near the surface where many nutrients lie. It will solve many water problems by preventing rain from splashing hard on the soil surface so as to prevent erosion while at the same time it slows evaporation by covering the soil surface. Water simply goes further. Plus the mulch aids against the age old scourge of the gardener, weeds. In the same manner that a box left on the lawn kills grass, mulch prevents sunshine from getting to those weeds and thus kills them.

While some gardeners advocate a year round mulch on the garden and even compost by burying their kitchen waste under the mulch layer, for others this is an invitation to every bug and veggie eating critter in miles. For us it is necessary to remove the mulch at the end of the garden season to allow the winter to kill the bugs. So if we are going to use a mulch it has to be added for the growing times. Furthermore, those of us with a cold spring as in most of the US and Canada, an early mulch slows the ground heating and the seeds starting.

Compost answers all the problems in the growing season. A well made compost can be applied deeply in the middle of summer without problem and serves as a feeding mulch for the plants. Every rain or watering makes compost tea that filters quickly to the roots for a feeding burst. Its loose structure and texture make it ideal for maneuvering around growing stems and leaves. If you garden in rows it can easily be added by the shovel full as you move up and down the garden. Raised bed gardeners can throw it around the plants by the handful even where the close plantings make their own growing mulch.

At the end of season the compost mulch can be left till spring or it can be dug in for winter. If left on top it serves as a barrier to wind erosion of the soil. If it is dug in the soil needs some other means of cover. In fact, for fantastic soil in our norther climate, the compost can be dug in and planted with annual rye that will sprout and hold the soil over winter. It will be dead by spring and can be dug in to feed the soil for an extra burst of nutrition as it composts on the spot.

Darrell Feltmate is an avid gardener who has been composting and gardening for over 25 years with gardens up to 1/2 acre and compost piles for each. His composting site may be found at Compost Central. You can be a master composter in no time at all.

Much of his compost uses wood shavings from his wood turning hobby. The site for wood turning may be found at Around the Woods.

Painting A French Door

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