From Compost to Potting Soil; part three

In part one and part two of this mini series we talked about where to get compost material and how to go about it.  Now lets talk about what to do with all that wonderful compost made with time, love and care.

First, you will need to screen the compost to remove anything too large.  Make a screen using a wood frame with 1/2 inch grid screen attached on all sides.  As you put the compost on the screen and shuffle it back and fourth, the smaller bits will fall through.  Pieces that remain on top go back into the composting bin.

Combine one part screened compost, one part garden dirt and one part sand.  Be sure to mix well.  That’s it!

No, really, that’s it.  You don’t need vermiculite, perlite, peat moss, or any other fancy ingredients.  If you have them, use them up, but why Compost makes a great garden better.use something you may not have access to later?   Not only are they costly, but they are also not good for our environment because their production is unsustainable due to land degradation.  Processing, packaging and shipping also add to costs both economic and ecological.

Time has passed and you start to think your home made dirt needs some sprucing up with fertilizers.  You have choices!!

  • Simply mix in more compost.
  • If you have ducks with a special duck “pond” plastic swimming pool, you have it made!  Insert a drain tube at the bottom.  Use the duck water to water your plants.
  • Cow patty soup.   Remember those cow patties you collected?  Put about a quarter of a large patty in a five gallon container of water.  When mostly dissolved strain out the big pieces and use the rest to water the plants.  Put the big pieces in to compost.  No cow patty?  Use the shovel again. Lightly water garden with cow patty soup.
  • Chicken and horse poop too!
  • Pet food.  Add it to water, let it make a soupy broth, water your plants with it.  You can also put it in the pot dry and let it decompose naturally.  It might attract animals this way.
  • Coffee grounds sprinkled around is a good fertilizer for roses.

Lets talk about the use of manure in fertilizer.  Manure from chickens, horses and cows create heat as they decompose. That is exactly what you want in the compost heap.  Not so much in the garden.  If you put too much manure in the garden the plants can burn and die or be extremely stunted.  That’s why only 1/4 of a large cow patty does so much.

There is a wide variety of other things that can be used to fertilize your garden.  Most of them have other uses, such as dandelions.  They are edible.  Why use the dandelion for fertilizer when you need to eat it?  Comfrey plant is another plant that can be used to make fertilizer.  It has a better use as a medicinal herb.  So, in case of a life changing event, don’t be in the habit of relying on commercial fertilizers but also don’t use products that could serve a better purpose as a food or herbal medicine.