Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Amending Your Soil

The compost was finally "cooked" yesterday -- my first bin -- effectively completed in three years. I started with anaerobic rotting vegetables, loyally adding more and more until the bin smelled and the whole thing looked like poo. Then I decided to do some reading. I thought, "Really! How hard can this whole thing be?!" And it truly is not difficult, once you learn to punch holes in the bin, add a little water (not too much,) and add some little microbial helpers to get the job done. The end result was not the "black gold" I had been told about. It was more mushy, but that tell-tale black color was there. I buried it in some of the gardens yesterday. Three years worth of goop that barely filled two of my smallest gardens. I have still have my 3 largest gardens to amend and some other small ones. I've got to get my black gold produced faster. Once I learned how to do it properly. it took about three months. I'm going to save up for one of those rotating barrels so I can "make great fresh compost from start to finish in 3 weeks..." At least I think that's what the ad said.

One of the "garden centers" I visit regularly has put out a call to Ban Naked Soil! I put garden centers in quotes because Susan's Perennials is really a large backyard garden turned garden center by a local retiree. The garden is known for its gorgeous daylilies in rainbow colors. Susan also grows tremendous hostas. She is a remarkable garden conversationalist, spouting off information for anyone lucky enough to find her jewel of nature. Susan sporadically sends e-mails with information to her customers. "Ban Naked Soil!" caught my eye because I had decide last year to no longer use shredded bark or small wood chips for mulching. I've been told that they leach nutrients out of the soil as they decompose. I haven't yet researched how accurate this is, but since I don't like how the chips look anyway and they are very expensive, that was enough for me to ban them. Susan uses a combination of chopped leaves, grass and other yardwork leftovers to cover her bare spots. I have piles and piles of such castaways in my woods. I need to find an inexpensive way to chop them up and then plan to cover my beds for a fall project.

I'm constantly looking for ways to amend and protect the soil. Last autumn I covered the gardens in straw before the first snow fall. It seemed to work well, but since we had a mild winter I'm not sure it was necessary. This summer I've been using a seaweed and / or fish fertilizer. It stinks like a beach here at times, but the plants really do seem to like the stuff. Soil amending is actually fun. As a nod to yesterday's post, I should mention the book "Secrets of the Soil," which taught me to be more present with my soil. As I amend, I think about all the critters I'm making happy.

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