The Compost Project

Post image for The Compost Project

by Joe Mudd on May 17, 2010

in Gardening Tips

Compost is the mother’s milk of gardening.

Good compost just has that “smell of the earth”; that great aroma that makes plants want to grow just because of the smell. You know how the aroma just lifts you up when you walk into a bakery and smell all those fresh baked goodies? I think the compost pile is the bakery of the plant world. Open up the pile and you can hear the plants saying, “Ummm, that smell good.”

Compost has many benefits.

Compost has several advantages in your garden.

  • It is one of the bestĀ fertilizersĀ for your vegetable garden
  • It improves the soil – adding organic matter – giving the soil better water holding capacity and structure
  • The rich dark color just looks good against the fresh green plants. It’s pretty.

Compost gardening has problems too.

I’ve been using the Ruth Stout “no dig” approach to gardening for several years now. With this method of gardening you bury the ground under huge loads of mulch, and plant into the mulch. This works great for transplants – you can just pull back the mulch and make a hole in the ground for the plant, then put the mulch back around the plant. Works pretty nice.

But you don’t always transplant plants into your garden. You often plant seeds. Tossing a bunch of seed out on top of a pile of grass clippings and covering them with more grass clippings just doesn’t work so great. You need a more suitable growing medium to plant seeds into. Compost is ideal for this.

But that requires a lot of compost.

If you’ve ever built a compost pile for your garden waste, you know a good sized pile “cooks” down into a fairly small amount of finished compost. It won’t yield enough to plant a large garden.

You can buy compost by the bag at your local garden center. This can get expensive fast.

The solution – build a huge compost heap.

Last winter we had several trees removed from our yard. Most of the limbs went into a monster grinding machine. I had the two truck loads of wood chips dumped beside my garden plot. I intended to just spread them out for mulch. I’ve decided to use them in a super compost pile instead.

I use a Cyclone Rake vacuum attachment on my riding mower. I get a lot of grass clippings with this thing.

So I’m building a huge grass clipping/wood chip compost heap. I alternate several inches of wood chips then several inches of grass clippings.

I have enough chips and a seemingly endless supply of grass clippings, so I’ll probably build a couple of piles. I may even turn the piles a couple of times this summer.

Hopefully by fall I’ll have a nice supply of compost.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Joe Mudd July 18, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Joe Mudd believe it or not I am also Joe Mudd, looks like you have a similar passion for gardening that I do. What a crazy world. I am a full time gardener and have been for 6 years as well as 6 years as a Prince George’s County Master gardener previous to that I raised beneficial insects for 6 years for the MDA and am currently working on my Certified Professional Horticulturalist Certificate as well as working part time at a nursery and landscaping on the side, horticulture must be in our blood. I don’t know about you but people always get a kick out of my name lol, so its not as special as I thought.

2 Joe Mudd July 19, 2011 at 12:05 am

Hi Joe. You sound like a real gardener. I’m just an amateur, at best.

The real gardener in my family is my dad. As luck would have it his name is also Joe Mudd.

I don’t think I even knew there was such a thing as being a full time gardener. Sounds interesting. What do you do in the winter?

3 Joe Mudd October 15, 2011 at 5:26 am

Well once winter annuals are in and all the leaves are down and cleaned up there are still a few things to do to take us through winter: redesigns,training,industry seminars,snow detail,volunteer work,tool maintenance, etc. Are you related to Dr. Samuel Mudd?

4 Joe Mudd October 15, 2011 at 5:38 am

Also some good notes on compost:
– It is a slow release fertilizer, meaning unless you use and don’t completely compost something with a super high N content like chicken manure you are unlikely to burn your plants
– If you use horse manure make sure to thoroughly compost it unlike a cow, horses digestive tracts contain one stomach and therefore don’t break down seeds as efficiently
– turn your pile regularly the bacteria need oxygen composting in this manner is called aerobic decomposition otherwise your pile will go anaerobic and can possibly produce harmful compounds, you will know this is happening sometimes when your pile begins to smell like Ammonia
-Commercial compost starters are unnecessary, all the inoculant you need you can find in a shovel full of a friends compost
– brown Gold! and 100% sustainable what we need is at our fingertips

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