Compost

ianjonesFebruary 19, 2014

The soil around my place is pretty heavy on the clay. I can grow a vegetable garden and it does ok but I want to start bringing this soil into a more desirable state. I was thinking I would till in compost every spring or fall not sure what is best or maybe both to speed things up if that's ok. So I called our local gravel topsoil place and they do carry compost but he said it was a "concentrated compost". What is concentrated compost? The guy a called was not sure just said you need less and not to exceed about 25% compost to soil.

So here are a few questions I have.
What is concentrated compost?
What kind of compost would be best to fix a clay soil problem?
Is adding compost every year the best solution for clay soil?
How much compost can I till in at once?
When is the best time to till it in spring or fall? Both?

I know there are a lot of questions there but I want to get started on amending the soil this year I know it will take time to get results but the sooner I start the better!

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sweetquietplace(6 WNC Mtn.)

I suggest you give it the ol' look, feel, and smell test before buying.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 6:33PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

You might want to post this over on the Composting Forum here.

Personally I've never heard the term "concentrated compost" unless they simply mean finished compost. But then I make all my own and apply it 2x a year as well as top dress with it in mid-summer.

Dave

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil, Compost & Mulch forum

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 7:20PM
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woohooman

ianjones: Can't ever go wrong with compost -- although whoever is trying to sell you a "concentrated compost" is thinking you're a sucker, imo. You can add too much in one application, but 2-3 inches of it a couple times a year can't hurt anything. You want to apply it a good couple months, at least, before planting. Many people will add it in the fall in colder climates so that way when spring rolls around, the soil is ready to go. Good advice sweetquietplace gave -- it should smell like sweet earth.. very pleasant.

Dave: I know you're a fan of MULCH. How does one top dress with compost once mulch is laid down?

Kevin

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:17PM
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grandad_2003(9A/sunset 28)

ianjones, I'm in Dave's do-it-yourself camp when it comes to compost. It might be a bit late for you, but my approach is to collect bagged leaves during the fall. In the early spring to summer months the bagged leaves serve as mulch. Towards the end of summer, and into fall, a good amount "becomes" compost. Leaf bags at the bottom of the pile usually compost best as do the leaves in contact with garden soil.

It only took a couple or so of years to begin noticing a difference in my garden soil. But also, I found that some vegetables had a degree of tolerance with clay soil; while others were not so "happy" - For example, I remember corn was very tolerant, and I believe okra was also.

Keep in mind that there are other free or low-cost alternatives to bagged leaves.

This post was edited by grandad on Thu, Feb 20, 14 at 14:46

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 2:44PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Dave: I know you're a fan of MULCH. How does one top dress with compost once mulch is laid down?

Probably depends on which mulch you are using. I use hay and straw. Just lightly rake the mulch back from the plants along the row in say a 6" wide area, lay down the compost and lightly rake some of the mulch back over it. If you have enough to lay it on thickly then you can just use it as the mulch and not worry about raking the mulch back over it.

Dave

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 2:59PM
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woohooman

So, That settles it. I'm mulching with compost this year. WHen the season's over, should I just till it in the soil or should I recompost. What about weed seeds and burrowing larvae?

ianjones: sorry for the hijack.

Kevin

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 5:59PM
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paleogardener(9)

ianjones,
I have heavy clay soil too & I'll do my best to answer your questions.
1.) Dont bother with "concentrated compost". Use regular applications of fish emulsion instead. "Concentrated compost" means less money in your wallet.
2.) The best compost for clay soil is the compost you make. You know what you are putting in to it.
3.) Adding compost to clay soil is a solution that works. Compost can be added whenever it is available not just certain seasons. I add compost somewhere in my yard once a month. After a year & a half I have a healthy soil food web. Earthworms turn my soil & leave behind castings to further improve the ground. What was once clay is now fast draining but still moisture retentive. This has been achieved with surface application only, only a few areas have had compost tilled in.
Starting a compost system is IMO the best thing you can do for the yard & is essential for establishing a healthy garden.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 11:02PM
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daninthedirt(Cent TX; HZ10, Sunset z30, USDA z8a)

I once heard the term "concentrated compost" and was appalled. This was from a business that sold compost "mix" (mixed with soil, I guess). To them, "concentrated compost" was the pure stuff. What everyone else just calls "compost".

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 12:15AM
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charlieboring

With heavy clay soil you need to add compost every spring and fall and maybe a bit of lime. For my clay soil in the spring I add lime, humus and manure bought from HD on sale and leaf compost obtained from the county recycle center for free. Finally when the plants are up, I mulch them with free leaf compost. In the fall I add a layer of leaf compost and if no crop is growing turn the compost under. Seems to work well. The soil in dark and fertile. Plants grow well.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 6:59AM
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woohooman

Charlie: lime will raise ph. Not a good thing for alkaline soils. Especially since most veggies like it a bit on the acidic side or neutral.

If one wants to lower ph, one would add sulfur. Gypsum won't raise it or lower it.

Kevin

    Bookmark   February 21, 2014 at 1:28PM
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