The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

How do you know if your garden needs more compost?

Pepper plants
"How do you tell you need more 'off farm fertility'? Plants yellow? Low nitrogen?" --- John

Lack of nitrogen is generally the early warning sign. Since I've been trying to use only on-farm compost and manure this spring, I ended up with a few low-nitrogen spots that required topdressing.

I wish I'd taken a picture of the peppers above before their dosing so you could see the difference a thin layer of chicken-manure bedding between the rows created. The leaves were slightly yellow at that time, but mostly the plants just weren't growing the way they ought.

Ripening pepperI wasn't really surprised by the problem because I'd treated the bed to the last of our garden compost pile, which is much lower in nitrogen than composted manure. Then I'd laid down a weed-control layer of newspaper (high carbon) and weighed that down with a thin layer of homegrown rye tops (also high carbon).

Luckily, garden plants are resilient beings. A week after getting their extra nitrogen dose, the plants greened up and started growing. A week after that, we had our first ripe lunchbox pepper.
Definitely worth feeding the soil a little more so the soil will then feed us!

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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Do you know if using newspaper and black plastic keep out atmospheric nitrogen?

Do you have any controls to study this?

Comment by adrianne Mon Jul 4 07:18:14 2016

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