Compost: Part 4: Using compost in the garden & problem solving.

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If you are starting a vegetable garden or any garden for that matter. Compost is the best material to add to your soil to keep it healthy and full of good nutrients. If your soil is healthy and happy your plant will return the favour and produce better yields in vegetables, fruit, flowers and growth. When I am making a new vegetable bed or refreshing an old bed I always add some of our home-made compost to the soil. There are no rules about how much to add though I use a nine litre bucket full per square meter. I also spread a light layer around our fruit trees each autumn and then add a heavy mulch over the top.

Troubleshooting your compost heap.

Smelly Compost. If your heap is on your nose when you approach or standing over it this is not a good sign. With a lack of air and too much moisture the ingredients in your heap become slimy and rotten. The best thing to do is add lawn clippings, animal manure and give it a good mix to let the air through. This will speed up the decomposition of your heap and get rid of the smell.

Flies & Insects. Leaving exposed vegetable matter will attract flies to your compost. The best thing to do after adding your kitchen scraps to the compost is to cover them with straw, lawn clippings, leaves or manure. By creating a barrier it will deter flies and other insects into your heap.

Ants. If you have loads of ants in your compost heap this means it is too dry. By watering your compost heap during the drier months and adding plenty of wet material (kitchen scraps) that should encourage them to leave. Also keep turning your pile to stop them from setting up camp. A few ants in your compost is fine as they also make your compost richer by moving different minerals around your heap.

Weeds. An often debated topic should I place weeds in the compost or not. If you have a hot and fast burning  compost they will decompose and will destroy any seeds and roots of the plant. If you are still worried about putting weeds in your compost you can also cook them before adding them to your heap. Simply put your weeds into a plastic bag (black is best) and leave in the sun for several days to cook – nothing should survive this.

Diseased Material. If you have any diseases in your cuttings or have simply removed a diseased vegetable plant they can be placed in to a hot compost system to decompose. If your plants have fungal disease like black spot or rotting stems they are best kept separate from your compost as you do not want fungal diseases to contaminate your compost heap.

Citrus & Onions. I find that if you are only putting a small amount of them into to a cold (slow) compost system they do break down over time. Once again they need to be covered with leaves, grass clippings or manure when put into your heap. They are not ideal to put into a worm farm.

Aeration. By turning your compost regularly with a fork it will speed up the composting process. You can also choose a system that allows the air to circulate through the system.

COMPOST SERIES:

COMPOSTING PART 1: What is compost

COMPOSTING PART 2: What goes into a compost

COMPOSTING PART 3: Hot, Cold the best system for your backyard

COMPOSTING PART 4: Using compost in the garden & problem solving

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3 Comments

  1. Great tips and thank you for sharing! I’m fairly new to composting (I got a nice little rotating bin for Mothers Day!) so your posts come at a great time to me

  2. i’m the same as lisa – i have a rotating bin. i’ve tried before and given up – i’m tryign again now. i’m just not sure it gets warm enough here – seems to take forever for stuff to break down – but as long as i don’t attract rats or it goes wet and smelly, i’ll be happy