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

Hydrophobic compost

Raised bed built by lasagna methodThe four tons of compost Mark bought me a few weeks ago was actually more than I needed.  I can't quite understand the concept, but I added a five gallon bucket to each of my garden beds and had a lot leftover, enough to make some extra raised beds using the lasagna method.  I put down layers of cardboard and paper as a weed retardant, then piled up masses of compost, leaves, and mostly composted wood chips.  The wood chips are full of happy soil critters, and I'm hoping they'll inoculate the whole pile before I need to plant the beds in a month.

I was so pleased with myself...until I went out to look at my new beds after last week's rain.  Did you know that if you buy compost that has been allowed to dry out all the way, Compost tea running out of a bed of compostthe compost becomes hydrophobic and is very difficult to rewet?  Despite nearly an inch of rain, our lasagna beds were bone dry.  Yikes!

So we hooked up the sprinklers and started soaking the new raised beds.  I watered half the beds for an hour, then let the liquid percolate down through the compost while I soaked the other beds for an hour.  Alternating this way for about fifteen hours finally wet the majority of the compost and I'm hoping the dry spots will equalize out over time.

Eastern tiger swallowtails on compostAs with any farm trauma, there's always a silver lining.  The tiger swallowtails are quite happy with the damp compost and have gathered by the dozen on newly wet raised beds.  Nothing like hordes of fluttering butterflies to brighten your day!

Want to skip other common homestead mistakes?  Our automatic chicken waterer ensures your birds always have clean water.

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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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Hello! I wanted to thank you for the information about dry compost. I have been trying to find out what is wrong with the compost we purchase. I know it is full of nutrients, but never fluffy, loamy or rich smelling. I am considering trying to rehydrate it before it is added to the garden, but if not, I will use your method to rehydrate it.

Comment by Christine Lemieux Thu Mar 19 09:07:59 2020

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