Poll: do you a)fertilize, b)compost, c) none of the above?

christinmk z5b eastern WAMarch 3, 2013

Hopefully this isn't opening up a can of worms. I've noticed this can be a touchy subject with regards to "feeding" plants- for the life of me I can't understand why, lol.

Anyway, I am curious to know what everyone's personal method is. Do you have a fav commercial fertilizer you use? Do you rely on compost alone? Or have you come to grow plants that will grow fine in your native soil, without the need of any or frequent amendments etc?

Do you do an annual "feeding" of your whole garden, certain plants annually, on an as-needed basis, or hardly ever?

Personally I have been using homemade cold compost and now and again some compost tea/fish fertilizer for a good number of years now. However, I've been thinking I need to get a good granular organic fertilizer (my personal choice, not knocking anyone that chooses to use non-organic of course!). Mostly I do as-needed, when something looks a bit jaded and in need of a pick-me-up- sometimes annually on those plants that are "nutrient hogs". Some areas of the garden require a LOT more feeding than others (under trees or around large shrubs for instance...) and annual composting of those areas isn't practical since there is only so much compost I can churn out in a season, lol. So I am going to hunt down some good ferts this year and try them out and see what ones I like or work best. It should be interesting.

What does everyone else do/use?

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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

I give the clematises and roses a dose of commercial clematis/rose fertilizer in spring (no particular brand - just whatever is handy....) DH spreads a bit of compost around in various places when he empties out the finished side of the compost heaps. Other than that, things survive on the native soil supplemented by chopped leaves that were spread around the beds during fall clean-up (and spring clean-up of the remaining oak leaves that stayed on the tree until new growth starts in spring).

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 4:49PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

compost.. if you will..

BUILDS a soil ...

a side effect is that it feeds the plant ...

it also creates good drainage. ...

adds friablility ...

and is just groovy ...

how do you equate that with walking around with a bag of fertilizer.. and whipping it around the yard????

i mulch with free wood chips.. which over the years.. breaks down into a compost.. and works itself into the sand .... see above for what it does ...

i grow in mineral sand.. which is slightly more course than beach sand.. and do NOT fertilize .. and NOTHING.. EVER.. died for lack of being 'fed .... fertilized ...

when i argue plants dont NEED fert.. it is based on the premise.. that the key word is NEED .... and i qualify my answer with 'a little of this or that usually wont hurt' .. but they do NOT 'NEED' it ...

in my world.. words mean things.. and you cant ask if they NEED it.. and then argue when someone says.. they don't ... in a good soil.. all the plant NEEDS is water and sun ... it can.. and will .. do the rest ... [its called photosynthesis] ..

and finally.. when i took master gardener class.. it was suggested that the average homeowners.. as a group.. are one of the greatest polluters on the face of the earth by square foot .. after all.. what is pollution.. other than pouring something on mother earth.. that which is technically NOT NEEDED ... and usually in doses much greater than ever required .... [i mean really.. this little 50 by 50 lot.. 5 applications of lawn fert with crabgrass killer and grub killer .. mosquito sprays for the yard .... what the heck.. spray the bushes.. salt the drive... more chems than a farmer puts on 50 acres ...]

but the bottom line is.. do whatever makes you happy.. who cares what others think ...


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 4:58PM
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aachenelf z5 Mpls

I think the fertilizer companies have done an excellent job of convincing most of American we MUST FEED our plants in order for them to flourish or even exist. We now equate fertilizer for plants to roast beef and mashed potatoes for people. Of course people can't live without food, so plants can't live without fertilizer. If plants could use all the fertilizer we dump on them they would be obese just like America. They aren't.

I'm with Ken. Don't use it. Just compost.


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 5:34PM
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frances_in_nj(z6 NJ)

Hi forum friends, I actually have a question - I really WANT to compost, but got scared off by a neighbor who said that hers became infested with (shudder!!) rats. Any suggestions on how to keep the beasties out of your compost?


    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 6:03PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-Hey Francis, don’t let that scare you away. You could always try burying your veg scraps in the garden (deep enough) so they can’t get at it. Also you could try liquefying your veg scraps in an old blender and composting that with soil, leaves, etc. Might not be so tantalizing for them in baby food form, lol.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 6:41PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I actually ended up with mice nesting in my first compost pile, so I quickly had to change things. Now I compost garden debris, lawn clippings, cardboard or paper bags, and leaves. But I use two commercial compost bins that have a bottom with holes for drainage and a top that locks. I add vegetable scraps only to those two bins with the needed brown layers between. Sometimes if I have something that has been blended, or breaks down quickly like coffee grounds, I bury it in the vegetable garden during the growing season.

I use compost for the most part, but I also apply organic fertilizer once or twice a growing season to roses and any shrubs that might need a little help in my heavy shade and tree root backyard. I use Seaweed/Fish Emulsion as a foliar feeding in containers and on the vegetable garden, but not very often. Perennials usually manage just fine on their own. The compost is added where ever needed from one season to the next.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 6:56PM
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katob Z6ish, NE Pa

I throw the cheapest chemical fertilizer on the lawn to get it started in the spring, then I bag the clippings and use them to mulch the veggie garden and maybe some other plantings if I can stretch them that far. Some special plantings get compost but there's never enough to go around. I wish I could get my hands on more compostables but I don't get many leaves, the neighbors don't either, and they also put all kinds of grub and weed and crabgrass killers on their lawns so I avoid the clippings.
If things look a little pale I'll spray some miracle grow on them, usually the annuals and some heavy feeder perennials such as delphinium or phlox.
I don't generally think compost piles breed mice and rats, they're probably already around and just picked the least disturbed place to hang out.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 7:49PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

a. Fertilize = yes --> annuals and vegetables

b. Compost = not formally (as in an official compost pile) --> but I do heap on a generous amount of leaves over the beds in the fall and let nature do the rest

While I wholeheartedly agree that soil-building on an ongoing basis is key, I disagree with the statement not to use fertilizer; it depends what you're growing. If you want a really good show of annuals (and what's the point of growing them if not for a fantastic floral display...), you've gotta fertilize. Vegetables produce better when fertilized.

That doesn't mean it has to be a chemical fertilizer; but fertilizer is quite important for the above categories of plants. And roses. Anyone who thinks they can grow fabulous roses without fertilizing is delusional...

I'll admit to using Osmocote on annuals and vegetables, swear by the stuff - sprinkle once and I'm done; I'm lazy and won't continually fertilize throughout the season. I don't broadcast over the whole vegetable bed, just sprinkle around the base of each plant. I use Rose-Tone and epsom salts on my roses.

As an aside, I used to use fish emulsion and the other Neptune fish/seaweed stuff. Well, neighbor brought home a cat; said cat dug up my plants -- the beast couldn't resist the fish emulsion. So there went that... BAH!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 9:06PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Ken, if you will notice, I didn't exactly ASK what anyone thought I should do. I asked what my fellow GW members like to do, out of curiosity. What's with the guilt tripping?

That is absurd. Just because a person spreads something on their garden that isn't in compost form doesn't automatically mean they are doing something bad. Other nature-derived items can build your soil up just like compost can.

There are bagged fertilizers that use only natural, safe things such as bone meal, blood meal, kelp meal, fish meal, alfalfa meal, cotton seed meal, soy bean meal, bat guano, worm castings, sea weed extract, etc (not to mention key minerals). You can hardly say those are soil wrecking compounds or terrible options in comparison to compost. Both are great.

Good heavens, I suppose Squanto was leading the way in the ruination of American soil when he first introduced the pilgrims to the idea of putting fish in soil mounds?! Fish certainly isn't compost and it IS a fertilizer (N) so it must be bad? Can corn do okay without N/fish fertilizer? Probably. But they would likely be healthier plants and produce better if given some.

Different plants require different levels of nutrients. One can't clump them all together and say all they need is sun and water. How can you explain the evolution of carnivorous plants if that were true?

There is a difference between thriving and just surviving. With experience a gardener can tell whether or not a plant is not looking its best or downright ailing because of lack of nutrients. One can’t make a broad statement that NO plant technically needs any additional nutrients ever. It depends on the plant and where you grow that plant.

I don’t get this correlation of Not Needed Plant Food = Pollutant.

Technically you don’t even NEED compost, if one never rakes up their leaves and let them do their thang’ that is, or left garden debris to decompose on its own. You do not NEED it if your soil is fairly rich as-is. You don't NEED compost if you grow only natives or those non-natives plants that don’t require any additional nutrients for their lifetime. Most gardeners aren’t willing to limit themselves to growing only those types of plants. Many plants look much better if they do get fed now and again. Why would you let your plants get to the point of looking ill and ratty if you could simply give them some food now and again? Why is it wrong to want your plants looking their best?

More plants will dwindle away from lack of nutrients than from over feeding on GOOD plant food (except maybe carnivorous plants or those native to regions with super lean soil perhaps).

On the same note, some plants also require different pH’s than natives. I seem to recall you yourself were thinking of liming your gardens last year. Technically that is NOT NEEDED, if you grew plants that did perfectly well in your native soil. Wouldn't that technically also be polluting, even though what you are using is natural/organic/whatever?

I'm not trying to be rude or anything. I am just trying to say that one is not a Gaia killer if they decide to use something besides compost in their garden.

Everyone is entitled to use what they like, be it compost or fertilizer. I do love to use compost when I can, but I have come to find it isn't practical in all applications (such as in containers and areas where the soil level/elevation is already too high). That is why I plan to get some good organic granular fertilizer- I don’t understand why there should be such stigma attached to whether one uses compost or fertilizers in the garden community. Sure it would be better if everyone went organic, but guilting someone into it isn’t the answer…

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 10:07PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-mxk3, TOO FUNNY! I had the same thing happen once. I had fish fertilized some plants along the chain linked fence years ago. Not long afterwards the neighbor's (now ex-neighbor) dog was licking the foliage along it. Couldn't figure out why he was doing it until I got a whiff of the fish scent!

Couldn't help thinking last year what a Double Delight it would be for the neighborhood cats if I were to fish fertilize the catmint!!! Lol.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 10:11PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I have three or four (cold) compost piles going, and I use that every year, plus in the fall I put down some composted llama manure, and then cover that with shredded leaves.

I also rotate a cover crop of vetch in my vegetable beds - one year manure and leaves, the next vetch... I'm trying to see if one is better than the other, but without a *garden journal*, (lol! - see the garden journal thread!) I don't have a very good way to compare from one year to the other! So I just keep taking turns... I figure they are both good for the soil, so no harm done.

And then in spring I use more shredded leaves as a mulch.

IF I remember (and I usually do AFTER the planting is done) but if I remember I have some organic tomato fertilizer that is supposed to go in the planting hole, but doesn't always make it in. I've also used liquid fish feed occasionally (mostly on the veggies and on the annuals in my cutting garden, not really any perennials), as well as compost tea. So far no trouble with critters but I do worry about the raccoons and the fish.... I don't think ANYTHING would be attracted by the smell of compost tea.... :)

My problem with fertilizing (as usual) is either remembering to do it or finding time. I'm not necessarily anti-fertilizer, but I prefer to put my limited efforts into building the soil, and then fertilizing if/as I remember or get the chance to. To me the soil-building is more important for the health of the garden than fertilizing, so I am more vigilant in taking care of the soil and make sure I get that done.


P.S. I don't worry too much about mice in my compost piles. Considering I have them in my house and have to focus my efforts on getting them out of there, they are welcome to the compost pile, lol. (Although, I have never had them there - guess they prefer the basement!) But rats are another thing. Thankfully I've never seen any rats and certainly hope not to!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 10:41PM
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mxk3(Zone 6 SE MI)

HAHA yea the cats love the fish stuff! My plants loved the stuff, too - so too bad I can't use it anymore. DH's parents throw fish scraps over their gardens (they live near the sea and had access to plenty of fresh fish).

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 8:17AM
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molie(z6 CT)

I might fertilize with Osmocote when I plant a perennial/shrub --- or use Miracid (sometimes) on some shrubs. Our back yard slopes down to a river so I try to be careful about what goes into the gardens.

I don't compost, other than occasionally collecting coffee grounds in a plastic take-out container. I'll spread these under a Kalmai 'Minuet' that I planted in my mom's memory. The neighbors have oak trees and I love to rake their leaves into our yard and use them to cover beds in the winter.

Mostly we use the free compost our town provides. We get several truckloads each spring and amend the gardens. We turn over the soil before everything emerges.

I'm very happy when I see worms in the garden. Worms --- a gardener's best friend.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 9:29AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-Dee, that is so interesting you use cover crops. I've had it in the back of my mind since reading an article about the home gardener doing it. Do you think one could do cover crops for a few years in a row before having to add manure/compost? Or do you think the nutrients provided arn't enough? I would think not myself, but am curious to know your findings. Some neighbors have a large plot for veggies and that might be a good alternative, since they don't manure but every few years.

Hummm...I don't know what posessed me, but I've mixed fish fertilizer in my compost tea batches before. Sometimes even bits n' crumbs from the bottom of alfalfa pellet bag. :-P No creature on earth would want to touch that brew, save for flies. Gosh, the flies! As soon as I opened the lid they started congregating around it! LOL.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 2:16PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

CMK, I'm probably not the one to give advice on cover crops, since my experience is rather limited, but I don't see why one couldn't do a cover crop for several years. A friend of mine used oats for a few years, which winter kills, and then left it there (dead) for the winter and then turned it in in spring.

I chose hairy vetch, which holds on through winter then starts growing again. I turn it under by hand, which is a big job, but I cut it back a bit first and either add the cuttings to the compost or throw on top of the beds like a mulch. One year I didn't plant my usual early crops so I let the vetch go and it got a good two feet tall. It's very viney so it was difficult to cut back and turn under so I try not to do that anymore! Some people plant through the vetch and leave it as a living mulch, which I tried in one area, but again, the vines kept growing up the tomatoes so I don't do that anymore either.

I think farmers often use cover crops every year, perhaps even rotating a few different cover crops a year, so again, I think it's possible and desirable to use cover crops.

I think PM2 used hairy vetch as well. Maybe she'll join in and add her experience too.

If anyone is interested in more info, I put a link below and this link:


Sorry I couldn't be of more help. But I can commiserate with the tea. And, actually, you reminded me that it was actually alfalfa tea, and not compost tea, that I used! Haven't made a batch in a few years. Maybe it's time to do it again. But wow, it takes a brave gardener to lift the lid on that can, lol. If someone is considering alfalfa tea for the first time, a word of warning - hold your breath when you take off that lid!


Here is a link that might be useful: Cornell info on cover crops

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 9:22PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

No, it was great info Dee, thanks ;-) The article I read about cover crops had a whole list of different things one could use. If only I could find it now, lol.

Yeah, that is one reason I have never tried it. Knowing myself as well as I do, there would be a lot of procrastination and the cc would be neck high by the time I got around to mowing it down and churning it in, lol.

An observation: one can't help wanting to take a shower after ladling out that tea, lol.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 10:34PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

CMK, if you are worried about the cover crop getting out of hand, you could try one that dies in winter. For me personally, it just seemed like I would have to sow it awfully thickly, in order to have a good cover of it when it died. My friend really liked it, but it just wasn't thrilling me.

I liked the idea of something that would survive winter and still be alive and growing in spring... but not too much, lol. My biggest concern was something that might become too aggressive if let go. (You know, the procrastination thing, lol.) I think this was my concern with clover and some of the others. The vetch did seed around a tiny bit, but really nothing to worry about at all, (so I was somewhat surprised to just read tonight in those links I posted that it could become agressive, as that is not at all my experience).

Well, I swore I had a photo of the vetch in my raised beds from one autumn, but I can't find it. I did find a photo, though, of the rabbit's nest I found in it one year. There was a big indentation in the vetch, with some fur in it. I thought there had been an animal fight of some kind; my husband thought it was a dead animal. He poked at the fur with a stick... and it poked back! We jumped a 100 feet in the air, lol! And then found the bunnies, darn their cute little selves! Luckily for me, they decided they did not want to take up residence in my veggie garden and left before the season got into full swing. Sorry, got a little off track but when I saw these photos, just had to share them again!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 11:32PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

And a few weeks later:

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 11:36PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Thanks Dee. I think you are right, a crop that dies in winter would be a great option. Might have to look into a few (although if I would ever rembember to do it at the right time is another question, lol).

I've read about folks using various types of clover as a cover crop. Don't think I would go for that myself, since it likes to spread so much/is perennial. A recipe for disaster when paired with procrastination I would imagine, lol. I do LOVE it (T. repens) in the lawn though, and have even gotten seed to toss around. It is lush and green even in summer and seems to require only a fraction of the extra water lawn needs. It may be my imagination, but I think the nitrogen it provides may even green up the grass it intermingles with to a small degree. Love it.

AWWWWWWWWWWW....adorable bunnies! Although I might think otherwise if there were any over here demolishing my garden, lol. Glad they decamped before your veggie season started.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 1:43AM
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Both, depending on the plants. For example, the bamboos need a good dose of nitrogen several times in the growing season and they will never get enough of those using compost.

I have two compost bins, but the compost is a precious resource - I reserve those for my vegetable garden, and some of my favourite garden plants. I am not what you would call an impartial gardener.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 2:22AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Dee, I love your rabbit photos! I hadn’t seen that second one of the baby beside your blocks. So cute!

I did find a photo of the hairy vetch cover crop I’ve used. I did some research before choosing that particular one, because like Dee, I was afraid it might get away from me and create trouble. The folks at Johnny’s sell cover crop and are very good at helping you think through which one is what you need.

What I like about hairy vetch is the quick breakdown. I sow it in the beds that are finished for the growing season in August sometimes a little later. They grow well in the fall, hold the soil over the winter, start growing again in the spring and once I turn it over, three weeks later, it looks like it’s just about broken down.

I’ve tried what you tried, Dee, and yes if it gets too long, I do the same thing, I cut off the top before I turn it over. I used it as a mulch one year, but I really like to add it to the soil more, so I just use a trowel, in my small 4x4 raised beds and dig a ditch and keep adding the cut up top growth to the soil and bury it. That seems to work fine for me.

I don’t do every bed, every year. The seed is fairly expensive. Last year, I didn’t sow any and covered my beds with thick layers of chopped leaves and grass clippings for the winter. Which I use as mulch around the veggies the next growing season. I never add commercial fertilizer to my organic vegetable beds. Compost, cover crops, chopped leaves, grass clippings and fish/seaweed foliar feeding and that’s it.

I have a neighbor with 4 Maple trees in his yard, who rakes all his leaves over into my yard every year, which helps, since I have a small 1/4 acre property. We will often throw them on the lawn and run over them with the mower before using them as mulch.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 7:32AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

My vegetable garden has become more shady from surrounding trees that are mature at this point, but when I first started out, it was sunnier and a little larger and grew very well using organic methods and no commercial fertilizers.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 7:36AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I had trouble with witch grass that got away from me in the vegetable garden and couldn't get rid of it and let the vegetable garden go for 3 years. That last year of not using it, I figured out a way to get rid of the witch grass and the next year, I started over again with a new layout and new raised beds. This was the first year with the new beds and layout. Haven't had a problem with the witch grass since. (the squirrel insert, covers a family member who I didn't want in the photo for posting [g])

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 7:42AM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

Wow PM2, fabulous info on cover crops.

Must admit, vetch has always subconsciously deterred me. I’m not positive on the ID, but I’m pretty sure I have seen it growing wild(ly) in the undeveloped areas around here. Not sure if it is a native species or some escapee from a farm/field somewhere.

Do you guys ever add any phosphorous to balance out all the nitrogen? I’ve had the idea tucked away deep within the recesses of my mind to look into that one day. I’ve been wondering if my veggie production wouldn’t be greater with a little (although granted it very well could be the type of veg I get (slow heirlooms, lol) and the slightly shaded spot…).

Lovely veg beds by the way PM2- much prettier looking than my raised bed for some reason, lol. The cucumbers are always greener in the next veggie bed it seems :O)

LOL! I hate being in pictures, but I think I would be seriously offended having my picture covered by a squirrel. Especially since those furry jerks go and decapitate my tulips for no reason.

-Joe, I still remember that killer golden variegated bamboo pic you posted here all those years ago. Sigh…if only I had the space. I know what you mean, some plants and areas of the garden and are definitely “top priority” and get first dibs on the compost.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 1:53PM
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Campanula UK Z8

I don't use additional fertilser around any of the flowers and not all of the fruit but I certainly do for most (but not all) vegetables which really will deplete the soil over a few seasons of intense cropping. I mainly use horrible comfrey mixes, sometimes a bit of wood ash and I have 4 immense compost bays (and I still struggle to make enough although I can manage 4-5 tonnes a year). We had a set back in the UK with the use of horse manure since a lot was contaminated with Chlopyralid and aminopyralid herbicides (via treated hay which was then fed to horses) so might have to get chickens again.
I like to grow my plants hard, including roses, although I do not grow hybrid teas but mainly wildlings.
I follow the 'husband' theory (treat 'em mean, keep 'em keen).

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 6:15PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

PM2, your garden is so neat and tidy and welcoming! Geez, everyone here is not only more organized on paper than I am, but neater and more organized in the garden! I keep telling myself that since I'm not selling at the market this year I'll have more time to focus on aesthetics.

My veggies garden is also growing shadier by the year. Again, because of not selling this year, I should have some more sunny areas to give over to veggies, but I am a flower gardener at heart, so we'll see how that turns out!

CMK, honestly, I never ever had a problem with vetch getting away from me. Yes, if I didn't turn it under by the right time, it did grow and really cover that particular bed, but it has never "taken over" the garden or even reseeded much. Every now and then I see a tiny vetch vine or seedling in a nearby bed, but a quick tug takes care of that - unless I want it in that bed and I leave it there on purpose. And that one vine never really does much, so its not really much help anyway.

I've never added phosphorus, but I'm really bad at any kind of balancing - I keep meaning to get a soil test, but you can guess how that turned out! So I just keep adding my llama manure, compost, cover crops, and leaves.

Campanula, sorry to hear about the horse manure problem. And I hear you and Cactus Joe about never seeming to make enough compost! I have been thinking of getting chickens, but one of my main concerns is that they will take away from the stuff now going into the compost bins, lol!

Love the squirrel, PM2! Well, actually, I don't like squirrels (is there a gardener who really does?) but that photo is too funny. Looks like someone got caught with his hand (paw?) in the cookie jar, lol.


    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 7:21PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

CMK, I have not added phosphorous, but I am due for a soil test and if it showed I needed it, I imagine I would add it but try to find a natural version of it. I’m not really worried about too much nitrogen though and have not seen any signs of it.

My raised beds in these photos were brand new wood beds which always look prettier before they’ve weathered for awhile. That must be it. They don’t look that great this year. (g)

Well, I guess I didn’t look at it that way, with the squirrel standing in for the person. lol I just thought of squirrels that are always in the yard.

Campanula, that is a LOT of compost! I have compost envy!

Dee, honestly, I take my opportunities to grab the camera when I finally get things looking neat and tidy. Very few of those shots! And that was the year after I’d not been able to grow vegetables for 3 years, so I was pretty intense about it that year and I had help.

Also I’m lucky if just one section of my garden looks good in any given year. I have had to learn how to adjust to the fact that I can’t get it all looking the way I want it every year, too. My strategy, which tempers my disappointment, is to just focus on making ONE section look just the way I want it every growing season. So every time I feel discouraged I can go and park myself in front of the section that looks good. :-)

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 8:48PM
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Campanula UK Z8

Prairiemoon, one of my boys (men?) is a compost keenie and regularly turns the heaps over with an ancient hayfork - it has increased the turnover to around 4months per heap (used to be well over a year cos I just piled everything and waited).
Mr.Camps and sons also pee on the heap (I tried scrambling on top once with horrible results when it started to shift in mid-pee......it can be tricky because it is on a public allotment site too).

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 5:34AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Campanula, you are lucky to have someone to turn. We don't, so we content ourselves to collecting and waiting. I do try to at least keep it moist and it does take about a year before I can use it. Nothing like a young, healthy back to keep you in compost!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 1:46PM
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christinmk z5b eastern WA

-Campanula, LOL. Funny story, it made my morning. Read somewhere that man-pee ummmm.... "applied" around your yard deters deer. Ah, the many uses of pee! ;-D

Anyone ever to a hot compost vs. cold compost trial? Never tried it myself, but have always thought the cold composting method would be superiour, since the good nutrients etc arn't killed off. Wish I could get batches quicker. Sometimes I've used it while it was still slighlty "funky chunky", and have never had a problem with burning. Although I usually always use the chunky stuff in the veggie bed and turn it in and let settle a week or so, so that may make the difference.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 3:06PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

I use my half-finished compost ALL the time when I make lasagna beds. All kinds of stuff still visible and recognizable, but it goes down as a layer and no problems... well, except for the fact that I use so much unfinished stuff that I never seem to have enough left to actually turn into finished stuff....


    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 4:10PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I do the same thing, Dee.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 4:39PM
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leafy02(6 Central Kentucky)

We've been gardening in this soil for four years and are getting ready to send our soil in to be tested for the first time, so I can't say whether our soil "needs" improving or not.

We have rabbits and initially added their manure to the veg garden, and part of the reason for the soil test is to see if we went too far--last year was a bad year for the garden (and a drought) so we want to make sure we didn't create a problem.

I will make manure tea with the manure for potted plants, and also use the water from my fish tank. We don't compost our leaves, which is a disgrace since we have so many. It's a future project to set that up.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 10:43AM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

Compost: homemade, spread everywhere it will cover, veggie patch and very new beds are priority.

I never fertilize perennials.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2013 at 4:26PM
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Karchita(WA Z8)

Hi CMK, I think it's pretty widely accepted that hot composting is better than cold. It doesn't kill any nutrients (not sure where you'd get that idea) though it does kill pathogens and weed seeds, especially if you can get it good and hot for a good long time. It also is a much faster process, so you can make a lot more compost in the same amount of space. It does help to have a strong back to turn it, but turning it will make and keep your back strong. :)

I use a bit of organic fert here and there, for veggies and annuals, in potted plants, on my tiny bits of lawn, and often when I transplant. But mainly I topdress with compost several times a year. It keeps down weeds and feeds the soil. After many years of this, my soil is very rich and my plants get huge. I make most of the compost that I need, but I supplement it with the occasional pick up truck load, which I haul myself and costs about $15 for a half cubic yard.

    Bookmark   March 10, 2013 at 6:09PM
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