Growing with only compost.

EcopalFebruary 24, 2012

Hey Everybody

I just emptied out my compost pile and everything looks nicely decomposed and dark. But I have been told somewhere and I cant remember were that it is not a good idea to garden with only compost and that it must be mixed in with regular soil. I don�t think that is true but I want to be positive.

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The potting soil that I have used for years is the compost I make and I have seen no problems doing that. Some people seem to have drainage problems when they use their compost that I have not had.
I have not attempted to plant in the garden in 100 percent compost, mostly because I have never had enough compost to do that.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 6:37AM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

The only way that I can see growing with only compost would be in some kind of container but I also think there aren't many things better for a traditional "in the ground" garden than the addition of compost whether mixed in with the soil or just spread on top.

If you are talking about planting just in a container/pot than I think mixing soil and compost together would be worse than compost alone, although I believe there are better options other than pure compost for a potting soil..
Experiment and see what works best for you and good luck.

    Bookmark   February 25, 2012 at 9:52AM
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compostgal(9a-CA Sierra Foothills)

It is good to incorporate regular compost into your garden soil as organic matter, but it still needs to decompose further before the plant roots can take up the nutrients they need. Mixing in some worm compost will speed up that decomposition and will, by itself, release nutrients that are needed. Those microbes work wonders!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2012 at 2:07AM
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I've experienced garden failure(s) by just trying to grow in compost, due to drainage problems.

It's a somewhat unique situation though. My outdoor soil is heavy clay, live in CA, so it's hot and dry in the summer.

I put 6" of compost over a couple hundred square feet and planted. Also dug some 2' deep & diameter holes and put in compost for tomatoes.

Drainage was the problem, the irrigation water drained through the compost fast and got stuck in the clay underneath. So the compost was mostly dry and the clay was waterlogged most of the summer, the plants did very poorly.

I left the "top-composted" garden alone now for several years. Even weeds will not grow there in the winter (or spring, summer, or fall). The top dries out too fast and the weed seeds don't get a chance to get established.

When I mixed the compost in to a bed at a different site the plants did ok.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2012 at 9:40PM
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I compost most materials in 25 gallon nursery pots (a hardware-cloth square at top eliminates varmints, though earthworms can enter through the drain holes at bottom). I don't turn it at all. Near the end of filling I put a 3-5 inches of finished compost from elsewhere at top and plant with a tomato or pepper if spring or collards or such if fall and then the warm-season plants next spring. I fertilize but lightly. After one warm growing season everything is rotted and unrecognizable (relatively homogeneous) except the bones. Then I use the compost elsewhere. I may go to 45 or 65 gallon pots.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 8:38AM
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Great idea gonebananas!

I'm going to have to try something similar this year just to see how well the peppers will grow.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 1:57AM
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scotty66(8 Hutto TX)

I am doing something similar this year... hope it works out.
i had lots of finished compost so I made 3 raised beds out of 1x6's. they are 2' wide and 8' long. I put down several layers of newspaper of the grass/weeds and filled them with the finished compost and let them sit for a few weeks to settle. when I planted the tomatoes in them I dug out a hole twice as big as needed and mixed in top soil and mulch and then put the plant in.
Even though the compost is done, I'm expecting it to settle, but with all my grass clippings and leaves... I have a never ending supply of compost.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2012 at 3:13AM
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I am trying growing in 100% compost for the first time this year and the results are great. I like the containers because the soil here in Florida near the coast is just like beach sand with little, if any, organic material. Nematodes are also a huge problem in this Florida soil.
I grow in 12-15 gallon plastic buckets that I got from a swimming pool service company. They originally contained 100 pounds of chlorine tablets so a careful washing and drying was the first step.
I put a few holes in the bottom of each pail and filled them with finished compost and set them on top of the lid to prevent ground contact. My tomato plants are well over 6 feet tall, loaded with fruit and for the first year ever, appear to be disease free! We can't even seem to keep up with picking the beans that grow up string trellises just above the buckets, with similar results for all the other vegetables as well.
The only problem I have encountered is blossom end rot on the squash (presumably from lack of calcium) so some amendments will be necessary for certain plants.
I do provide a light fertilizer application with Miracle Grow Blossom Buster once a week but that's the only addition I have added so far.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 9:37AM
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I've heard the main issue with 100% compost is drainage and water retention.

If you can solve that problem, then I'd say you'll have good results. Since "compost" comes in all shapes n sizes, it's really hard to say what will work.

As to the "must be mixed with soil" statement, I'd say there are a lot of square foot folks that would disagree with that (they use no soil...only compost, vermiculite & peat moss).

Lastly, I don't think many folks have the luxury of having enough compost to use it as their only growing medium. Therefore, you might find it difficult to get some advice from experienced folks (i've never done it, FWIW).

    Bookmark   March 30, 2012 at 10:53AM
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david52 Zone 6

For a few years, I had unlimited access to huge, composted horse manure piles as well as a tractor/trailer combo to haul it, and covered my garden with about a foot of the stuff. and planted away.

Those were the most productive gardens I've ever had - but by the end of the season, most of the composted manure had disintegrated and hauled into the soil by a fleet of night crawlers.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2012 at 10:37AM
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toxcrusadr(Zone 6a - MO)

You shoulda gone into the worm business! That stuff must have been teeming with monstrous ones.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2012 at 2:57PM
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