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

Imperfect compost

Handful of compostWarm weather dried up the creek enough that I was able to haul in a golf cart load of the storebought compost that Mark so valiantly gathered in the big city.  I'm afraid I hurt his feelings when I arrived back at the trailer --- he was expecting exuberant hugs, but I was actually a bit disappointed by the compost's quality.

The color is a beautiful dark brown, but the compost's structure is heavier than I would like and the smell is musty instead of earthy.  Since it was mixed and aged in a warehouse, the usual beneficial microorganisms seem to be absent (thus the lack of a woodsy aroma).  I think the heaviness is due to the high proportion of chicken manure in the compost, which results in a very high N-P-K for compost (3-4-4), but less organic matter than I'd like.  My holy grail of compost is the sponge-like stump dirt I gather in the woods, and I'm beginning to think that type of compost may be impossible to create on an industrial level.

In loamy soil, a compost high in fertility and low in organic matter would be fine, but in my clay I need the organic matter even more than the fertility.  Luckily, the bulk of my garden won't be going into the ground for 4 to 8 weeks, so I've got time to rectify the compost's disadvantages.  I'm going to sprinkle the compost over the top of my leaf mulch in the May garden beds and hope that the influx of nitrogen will make those leaves compost quickly.  I use no-till techniques, so my soil is brimming with decomposers and ready to take on the job!

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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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Are you turning into a compost snob? :-)
Comment by Heather Fri Apr 2 10:21:05 2010
I'm afraid so! :-)
Comment by anna Fri Apr 2 10:51:28 2010

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