Compost Question

castoralMarch 29, 2010

I searched for awhile in this forum as well as the compost forum and didn't see this asked, so if I missed it, please forgive me.

We started a compost pile last summer which I thought would be enough for three garden beds. After filling the beds this weekend, turns out that after it broke down, it was only enough for one! Eeek!

My husband is getting really upset about how expensive everything is costing (even though we built beds from leftover decking, using an old wooden ladder to reduce cost of trellising, etc) but I now need more compost. I need to buy it this week though, as some of my seeds need to be in the garden like last week. The only thing I saw when I looked real quick at Meijer yesterday was compost horse manure for $1.97 for a decent sized bag. They also had peat hummus I think it was called, but I'm assuming that is more like peat moss which we already have. Planning on heading to Lowes at lunch.

Any suggestions on what to look for or what they'll carry. I know it's best to have all 5 kinds of compost (which I did in my own), but is there some that are cheaper than others? Would it help any if I added some ground up egg shells to the bed even though they aren't composted yet? I thought I read in a real simple magazine (take it for what it's worth maybe) that ground eggshells and the water from boiling egg shells was really good for the soil/plants?

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You might call around to garden centers or landscape material places for bulk compost, depending how much you need, might be a better price.

Depending where you live, you could possibly find aged or composted horse manure (or sometimes goat or alpaca etc) free for the hauling. I'd check CraigsList in the Farm & Garden listings. You might be able to get away with posting a "wanted" without getting flagged in that section.

If you go the manure route, be sure to read up on the safety recommendations (should be easy to find on the compost forum) so you are making an informed decision.

Ground eggshells are said to be especially good for tomatoes. They add calcium to the soil which helps prevent blossom end rot.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tales of a Transplanted Gardener

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 12:55PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

You can also try your municipal waste company to see if they have compost. The city of Albuquerque sells theirs for $7.50 a cubic yard (a great price). We have a soil company that also sells bulk organic compost at $32 a cubic yard. Our rock place sells compost for 0.04/lb for organic compost.

The prices add up quick. One thing I will be doing this year as I expand my garden is to plant some in native soil that I amend as much as possible and space further apart than the recommendations in the book. While this is not ideal, it is what I can do for now. I can always side dress with more compost as the season moves along.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2010 at 3:28PM
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I know I have seen the answer to this question but I can't seem to find it now. I have found a supplier of fresh horse manure and I heard you should let it sit so long before adding it to your compost pile and garden. How long should it sit out? I was wanting to use it to mix in my compost to dress my garden now. I am thinking that would be a bad idea.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 12:13PM
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You can add it to your compost. You want your compost to reach high temps for a few days to aid in killing pathogens.

If you add fresh manure to your garden, the recommendation is to add it (incorporate it into the soil) at least 120 days before the harvest of any crops in contact with the soil.

I added a link (I found on the SC&M forum) to the National Orgainc Program. If you want to read great debates about it, just do a search on the compost forum. :-)

Personally, I would plan to compost it. Use it to make the pile nice & hot (turn it to maintain temps), then add the compost to the garden when it's done.

Here is a link that might be useful: NOP

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 12:39PM
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I am going to actually till up the ground this year in addition to Square Foot Garden boxes. I am going to space it out like the SFG method but the ground hasn't been worked on in maybe 4 years? I am pretty sure it needs something in the ground. I was going to till in peat moss (and leave a section for my sweet potatoes since I was told it thrives in poor soil) but if I could till in manure instead, I am sure that will be better. I did buy some...ohh what was it called...I ordered it from the Garden...someone on here told me to get it, it was perfect for amending the soil...kale? that's not it. My memory is failing miserably. ANYWAY! I was going to put some of that in it too. Do you think I should still put it in the compost instead of the ground? Thanks for the advice!! :D

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 12:54PM
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susancol(7 Atlanta)

Wally world has the cheap prices on the bagged stuff. They have mushroom compost for pretty cheap - less than $2 per 40lb bag. This could be one of your 5 sources, if you choose to go the bagged route.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2010 at 1:29PM
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I've never grown sweet potatoes but I suspect they take a long time to mature so you might still be within guidelines to till it in now. You may also be able to get HM that's already aged, maybe even composted. I would pick from the oldest pile they've got if I were adding it straight in. If I want to heat up my compost pile I'd go fresh.

You might want to search to find out if sweet potatoes have any reaction with manure. With regular potatoes it's said to increase the chance of scab. Just a thought.

The only reason I lean more toward composting first now is I looked up the lifespan of the pathogens that sometimes are in the manure. A couple of them are longer lasting than I had realized. It's purely a precaution. Lots of people don't do it that way and it's fine. I've likely used manure that I should have composted first and it was fine.

Especially if you till it in fresh, I'd suggest a good thick mulch like straw to help keep the weeds down.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 3:11AM
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engineeredgarden(7, nw Alabama)

Jengc - manure is supposed to be composted or aged for at least 120 days before adding to the garden. It's got to do with making sure the harmful pathogens are dead....

Sweet potatoes don't like alot of nitrogen, so composted manure of some kind is the recommended fertilizer for them. You want your soil ph level to be around 5 to 5.5
The low ph is what helps prevent scab disease on potatoes...


    Bookmark   March 31, 2010 at 9:03AM
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I've always read HM needs to sit for a year. I plan on using quite a bit of it but it has been sitting for several years and is suppose to be nearly humus now.


    Bookmark   April 3, 2010 at 3:54PM
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gardener_mary(6 MA)

If you do end up buying bagged compost my little bit of advice is that you only buy bags with soil that feels loose and fluffy in the bag and stay away from any that feel heavy and clumpy. Good luck.

Good gardening, Mary

    Bookmark   April 5, 2010 at 4:36PM
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