Author: Serina Penner • Date: September 26, 2014 • Appears in:
Fall into Composting this Season
Knowing when to compost isn't easy...
We generally only think about adding nutrients to our soil in the spring, when things begin life again and we are antsy to kick start a new growing season. This is a mistake; the best time to add nutrition to your soil is now, in the fall. Let's take a step back, just in case you're under the impression that plants just need water and sun.
Soil Nutritional Basics....
There are secrets to growing a cornucopia of produce each season. Fall fertilizing is one of them. The soil itself will not provide the essential nutrients needed for optimum growth, and with each growing season your garden and flowers will eat the nutrition that was there when you first put plant to soil. By fertilizing and composting you replenish a majority of the lost nutrients and ensure a great growing season.
There are six basic nutrients that plants require. The first three-- carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen-- a plant can get from air and water. The other three-- nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium-- need to be added by us.
Besides the big six, if you want to get to the nitty gritty of it, plants also require small amounts of Calcium to help grow and neutralize toxic materials. Also Magnesium, which is a component of chlorophyll, helps the plant to process sunlight. Additionally a component of many proteins, Sulfur, is another needed element.
If your soil is a bit tired and used up, not unlike myself, you may need to add some micronutrients such as boron, copper and iron. I just take my probiotics and hope for the best.
Okay the chemistry class is officially over.
Organic Vs Synthetic Fertilizer
So what's the big deal between the two? Can plants REALLY tell a difference? Well, the answer is yes, mostly because of the way the fertilizer is digested by the plant and soil. Organic fertilizers are made from natural matter, synthetic are made by chemical means. Synthetic fertilizers are water-soluble and can be absorbed by the plant immediately. Kind of like a shot of espresso when you need it most. Organic composts and fertilizers take time to digest, kind of like that healthy sweet potato that gives you energy evenly over time.
For this reason, organic fertilizers are best applied in the fall so nutrients have a chance to hang out and show up in the spring when needed most. Organic fertilizers stimulate beneficial soil microorganisms and improve the structure of the soil.
So what have we learnt....
Organic and synthetic fertilizers both have their place and time in the garden, but to continue to have healthy microbes and soil it's important to top up your dirt in the fall. Where can you buy this compost? Well, you could make your own with your grass clippings, fall leaves, and weeds throughout the year, or you can buy some from your local nursery.
How can I make some compost of my own?
Staring your own compost pile is relatively easy. You just need a little space. The fall is also a great time to start this endeavor as there is a plethora of clippings and general yard waste that can be used. If you have a dog, I would suggest not throwing caution to the wind by making sure your compost pile is well out of their range.
- Start your compost on bare earth. This allows nature, and the worms, to do their jobs. That being to aerate the compost.
- Lay twigs or straw first, making sure it’s a few inches deep. This will help in drainage. You do not want a pile of muck to seep into unwanted places.
- Make compost lasagna. Okay, that sounds a little gross, but it’s true. Alternate moist items (such as kitchen scraps and tea bags) with draw items like leaves, straw, wood ash.
- Add manure. You don’t need to have a cow to make compost; green manure works just as well. By this I mean grass clippings or any other high nitrogen source.
- Keep the lasagna moist. Again, in the fall this is a little easier cause it tends to rain a little bit more, but if it’s hot and dry be sure to sprinkle the pile every couple of days.
- Cover any way possible. We are talking wood, plastic sheeting, carpet scraps. Go to the junkyard and up cycle something if you did keep that plywood. This helps to retain heat so things start shaking.
- Turn every few weeks. Give it a stir, shake it about with a pitchfork or shovel. This allows the pile to breathe.
Once the pile is established you can just start to toss whatever you want in there without abiding by the lays of layers. Just be sure to move it around, keep it moist and covered.