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Soil and Compost...


By Lori


Started out to talk about compost the other time, and got sidetracked onto musing about the weather…lol.

We all obsess about plants, and weather, and bugs…but very few of us can say we are obsessive about the soil.. can’t remember where I saw it but some observant person pointed out that there is only a vowels difference between soil and soul,

What I remember from soil science were formulae for applying minerals and chemicals… per acre… After school I was educated in the organic school…and in simple terms it all amounted to this: “The human race depends on the top six inches of seven per cent of the earth’s surface for its survival.” So we had better be careful…and; keeping up the fertility of a garden plot can be as basic as supplying it with enough compost, leaf mould, barnyard manures and wood ashes…and letting the microbes balance it all out.

I started composting kitchen veg scraps, grass cuttings, and weeds, and leaves years ago…and the supply of compostable material outstripped my little black plastic composter.. besides it never seem to achieve a warmth sufficient to cook the weed seeds…. Now I have a compost AREA and it is about fifteen feet square.. if I had things to do over…I would have invested in a woodchipper years ago… I have a mulch mower and mulch in all the leaves that fall on the grass. the leaves that fall in the garden remain there until spring when I sometimes dig them in, or more often remove them to the larger compost heap. Stack the layers…succulent material…carboniferous material…sand or topsoil…again and again…stick poles through it to let air in…and work with weights because you need the training for when you have to turn it all over!!! sometimes you need water to start it cooking. some folks add yeast, but I don’t recommend it.

The soil I started with was sub-soil at best..builder schlock, full of styrofoam, concrete, and plastic. there were clumps of clay, builders sharp sand..and many, many rocks and stones..some were boulder size.
There was no insect life…the grass that I was turning over,
had been sprayed for grubs and chinch bugs…not a cricket in a hundred miles…and definitely no toads, frogs, or other beneficials.
The first composting was to turn over the sod, dig some of the subsoil and mix with as much peat moss as I could afford, then let the grass compost. Redig the bed after a week or so and remove any roots and undigested plant material…to go to the other composter behind the shed…double dig again…and plant herbs and strong colonizing plants…some alfalfa and clover for nitrogenation… crossed my fingers.
I was in a hurry but didn’t have the resources to call in a landscaper…Nature and my round mouth shovel would have to be my landscaper and I’m glad now that that was the way of it…because I learned the most valuable lessons. And they are:

Nature always triumphs…don’t plant grass…if it has bugs call in the birds, or heave it out….if it’s taking over…get to like it, or prune mercilessly or rip it out….don’t expect everything you plant to thrive…get ready for failures… if you have back trouble…you’re pursuing the wrong hobby…if it’s doing fine…leave it alone…if somethings wrong it’s a temporary wobble in the balancing act…never underestimate the value of an earthworm….plant the whole packet…if it can be seeded directly into the it….never enough space under the lights for all the wonderful new plants you want to enjoy…. don’t water at sunset…take time to smell the flowers. Tempus fugit…Carpe diem.

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I've two large compost areas built out of delivery pallets, and a couple of the black plastic bins full of fallen leaves. The rest of the leaves I let rot down where they fall. I compost everything I can, then look forward to the work out in turning sieving and spreading. Oh I convinced my mum that a shredder was a good idea for a present.
Happy composting.

4 Mar, 2008


you are right about log piles...very smart of you. I had a huge limb fall from a cottonwood in an icestorm last winter. I had to use my secateurs to cut up the small twigs and branches...and a hand pruning saw to cut the branches, it was a work-out..but I finally got it cut into a manageable size...have rabbits in the backyard now, living under the shed or near one of the bins next to the log pile.

4 Mar, 2008

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