Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Lazy Boy's Composting: AKA, Easy Direct Composting

Several years ago a friend with a small flower and tomato bed began placing his kitchen wastes directly into his tomato soil. It was not long before the plants looked more healthy, and produced more. The more I pondered this the more sense it made.

I helped bury his wastes a couple of times - he's elderly - and found the older wastes that rotted were attracting and nourishing hundreds of earth worms. It's easy to see how the tomato plants benefited!

As it turns out, this way to direct bury good natural nutrients is an excellent way to nourish producing plants. It's little different than adding any plan nutrient to the soil, just takes longer to decompose into root-absorbent nutrients. The part I particularly appreciate is the earth worm part.

Passing through the gut of any creature, it's food stuff is chemically transformed into plant nutrient that is more readily absorbed by the roots. It's far, far better than the harsh commercial fertilizers, like "MiracleG..." and other salt-based soil, soil fauna, and soil flora-abusing commercial chemical fertilizers, that shock plants into growth more than nurture their growth stimulation.

Added to the gentle nature of producing this bio-nutrient, the worm's digestion adds root soluble minerals, metals and enzymes the plants use to ward off parasites and fungal diseases. Added to that key nutrient value, the steady, slow release meets the plants' long term nutrient needs, rather than the sudden shock of commercial fertilizer, even when it is longer term release modified.

In addition to plant nutrition, adding raw wastes to the root zone of producing plants provides top quality nutrients for the soil fauna and soil flora, those microscopic plants and "bugs" that also need care and TLC for their own health. It also aids air to the soil, water retention, natural fibers, and the various nutrients each food plant and natural fiber packaging material contains.

Yes! Add the plain paper and corrugated plain cardboard(Without thin plastic coating glued to the cardboard) that foods come in. Best if these are soaked a few days before burying, though.

Just don't bury waxed heavy paper, like paper milk cartons and soup containers. Their material may never break down in a garden!

To the vegetable kitchen wastes, chicken bones and some small meat scraps can be safely added. Just be certain there is more than 6 inches of soil covering these, as mice and larger scavengers can smell and dig these out. A better method is to saturate them in ammonia for a few days before burying, but make sure the ammonia-soaked material and plant roots are well separated! The ammonia will burn the tender feeder roots.

Another caveat here is soil moisture. Garden plants that require fairly dry soil may be damaged by the higher soil moisture earth worms require for their work consuming the kitchen wastes, resulting in stunted plants, or worse. A good method for giving these plants the same nutrition earth worm treat is to have the worm operation separate, and bury worm castings at the root level. The castings will hold enough water to attract the dry soil plant roots and dry out as the roots absorb both nutrients and water.

In any case, the worm castings may need added woody material, like leaves and small twigs, to keep from matting and forming a water and air barrier from their very fine particulate composition. Another reason producing natural soil via a compost pile aids soil "tilth," that quality where the slightly wet soil crumbles apart rather than make a ball when a handful is squeezed tight and released.

In the section for vermicomposting we look at qualities and applications for worm castings and "tea" made by filtering water through the castings.

You with the awesome beans and squash! Yeah, YOU! Look at the ways there are to add kitchen wastes to your verdant squash and bean soil! It's a bit different, but the same principle works; add raw material that earth worms digest and cast their wastes off for your squash and bean roots to absorb. What could be better?

Actually, group, let's dig into "What could be better for a moment. It's perfect timing to cover this key aspect of good plant soil stucture v.s. great plant soil structure, and the effects to plant roots and health this makes for us, the gardeners whose sweat, blood, a few cuss words, and tears go into our awesome gardens!

"Friable" soil structure is noticeably different, and naturally better in its visible character than sticky, clayey, silty soil. Like the "tilth" factor, "friable" simply appeals more to the experienced eye of us gardeners:-) It is producing and using this "tilth" factor that this entire soil production and application section is about.

Squash and Bean Guy, I'd like to pick on you again! No, just kidding:-) But, you have soil requirements with squash and beans the rest of us other vegetable growers have slightly different issues with. Take squash. This Hot Sun, long day, and warm night native plant can be grown quite a ways away from its preferred, native habitat, but not all that far away from it's preferred soil characteristics. Like every plant, its root system wants numerous qualities of the soil. Water in the right range of moisture to dry soil; soil that may well be little more than sand with key nutrients, and friable soil structure where the roots freely extend and find loads of readily absorbent nutrients.

The soil they thrive in may be far too loose for corn and sunflower stalks to get a firm hold in to withstand rain, wind and snapping their matured ears off. But squash does better in soil that has some of the firm holding traits, too. The difference in holding traits between squash and sunflower, for instance, is that squash does not stand up, but the standing weight of corn and sunflower plants needs a suitable, heavy, sandy or clayey soil for these and similar to hold firmly upright during nasty storms.

In the compost pile forming section, look for types of raw materials.

1 comment:

  1. I use a lot of wood chips in my garden to help with drainage and aeration of soil. The benefits of the wood chips are in-measurable and a lot of the time you can get them for free.