Saturday, March 23, 2013

When To Compost

The composter my husband rescued
from the trash for me

It's no secret that I am a big fan of compost.  Any dedicated gardener will tell you it's the best thing you can do for your garden.  I've written about it many times before.  The Benefits of Compost, 10 Dos and Donts for Compost and Keep The Compost Going are all full of  good tips for any composting beginner.

Think of a compost as the means of returning to the earth those nutrients we deplete when we  garden.  It is a cycle of give and take that anyone can benefit from.  We enjoy the nutritious crops we harvest from our garden, than we return the nourishment back to the soil with scraps and discarded yard clippings.  Now our yield of produce will be as beneficial as it is every year.  The earth is supplying our foliage what it needs to provide tasty vegetables.  We are supplying our earth with the supplements necessary to give our vegetables a generous output.
The beginning of a good compost
with yard clippings

If you've read my prior posts on compost I've touched on the benefits of adding compost to your vegetation, as well as the benefits on the environment.  I've touched on how to begin and what is acceptable to add to a compost.  I've also discussed how best to take care of the compost so it will transform from scraps to a decomposed wonder.   But how do you know when it's best to compost?  Is it possible to add too compost to a garden?  How do you know when you've added enough compost?

When you take care of the compost you develop a rich dark soil that is full of  beneficial chemical elements.  The result becomes the most abundant soil conditioner your plot will thrive with.  The earthy aroma of your compost is a very good sign that it is ready to blend with your garden.  It's a fragrance you simply can't miss! Be sure to use only the dark rich soil by turning the compost and using what is on the bottom.  The picture on the right shows what is beneath the fresh leaves at the top of my compost.   A compound that is almost black in color and ready to go to work for me.  Another option is to simply stop adding to the debris so it dissolves completely.

When mature compost will be dark
 and smell rich
I would say the number one rule of gardening is pay attention and listen to you plants.  Before setting out seeds I like to mix in a heap of compost, at least 3 inches deep, with the ground.  Stir it in well and allow it to set for a few day and you've got a good start to a bountiful yield of fresh produce.  Adding water to the mixture is a good way to help distribute the compounds evenly. Many people recommend just layering the top of your ground with compost.  I find that blending increases the available advantages. Once your seedlings begin to sprout your will notice a very healthy appearance.  As they mature you want to continue profiting from healthy plants.  Chances are you may not need to recondition your soil.  If your plants begin to look like they are suffering from more than heat additional compost won't harm them.  This is when it is more beneficial to add a layer about an inch think around the base of your plant and add water to help penetrate the plant.

The more you compost the healthier your soil is.  If you have already been distributing compost for several years your soil is fairly healthy.  Once conditioned it is only necessary to freshen the land in early Spring, or just before planting.  For me it's preferable to compost in late Fall and again just before growing season.  If you have started a new process of composting it won't harm your plants to circulate another layer of compost in late spring or early summer.  It's difficult to "over" compost the plot, but you always want to make sure you've conditioned enough.