Compost gardening

I read a book over the weekend called The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin.  It was an excellent book – nicely illustrated, well written, easy to understand and a pleasure to read.  They gave examples of several different ways to make and use compost in your garden.  They didn’t say too much about container gardening, which I’m going to have to use for the most part; I have a small back yard and I need to leave plenty of grass for doggies to play on.  I did learn some things I didn’t know, though, and here they are:

The Six Basic Rules of Compost Gardening:

  • Choose labor-saving sites – compost and plant close together
  • Work with what you have – don’t spend a lot of money or burn a lot of gasoline to import ingredients
  • Help decomposers do their jobs (worms and bugs)
  • Reuse and recycle – store finished compost in clean bulk containers that you already have
  • The magic is in the mix – diversity in compost ingredients
  • Compost to suit your garden’s needs

Use Purpose-Driven Composting – your goals should be:

  • Onsite recycling
  • Improved soil quality
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Healthy, productive plants

A 3″ blanket of compost annually plus biodegradable mulch will equal ideal soil in 3 years.

Slow compost is good compost.

To evaluate your compost readiness, combine your compost with an equal amount of potting soil and plant lettuce seeds.  Sow the same kinds of seeds in 100% potting soil at the same time.  If the seeds grow equally well in both, the compost is ready to go.  If the seeds in the compost mix grow slower, the compost needs more time to mature.

This list was great – I’d never seen this anywhere before.  Kitchen Clean-Out Compostables:

  • Stale crackers
  • Remnants of pasta, cereal, oatmeal, grits, cornmeal, cornstarch, tapioca, bread crumbs, rice, baking mixes
  • Moldy bread
  • Raisins and other dried fruit
  • Rancid nuts
  • Stale herbs and spices
  • Expired yeast
  • Ketchup, salsa, spaghetti sauce
  • Sprouted or green potatoes, onions or carrots
  • Freezer burned vegetables, fruits, bread
  • Fruit and vegetables from expired or rusted cans
  • Withered or moldy produce

Plants to grow primarily to make compost and break in new gardening space:

  • Alfalfa
  • Buckwheat
  • Crimson clover
  • Crowder peas
  • Hairy vetch
  • Mustard
  • Cereal rye
  • Wheat

Compost weeds and diseased garden waste in their own heaps – the heat will kill the diseases and seeds.  The authors called these Hospital Heaps.  🙂

The authors’ web site is http://www.compostgardening.com/.  Check it out!

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