Why Not Compost Directly on my Garden Soil?

by Alex Dagenais
(Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada)

Is it a good idea to take the best ingredient with the right C/N ratio, but instead of using it to make a compost pile, I use it as a mulch? I would also add good compost tea to the mulch. Will it be better for my soil since the composting is done directly on the soil? Will I get less leakage (nutrient loss) and retain more microbes?

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Jan 11, 2012
Mulching Your Way to Healthy Plants
by: Compost Junkie Dave

Hey Alex,

It's Great to connect with another Canadian composter.

You referred to the "best ingredient" in your post, what do you have in mind?

Once we know the ingredient you're talking about we'll be better able to answer your specific question. For now though, I can tell you this...MULCH is critical to your gardening success. ALL healthy natural systems make use of a mulch layer. Forest floors have a duff layer. Grasslands have a constantly decomposing layer of thatch. And the list goes on...

We like to think of mulch as Mother Nature's skin.

We consider permaculture to be one of the most successful systems of growing food (and living in general) and EVERY permaculture garden thrives in part because of its mulch layer.

The addition of compost tea to your mulch layer is a great idea, although not totally necessary.

If you keep your garden soils covered at all times with a thick layer of mulch, you'll soon be blessed with all of the microorganisms you could hope for and more.

As for nutrient loss and microbial retention, we're not really comparing apples to apples, so it's difficult to answer that question. It sounds like you're interested in using a single ingredient (e.g. grass clippings) as a mulch versus actually composting. Nonetheless, the transition zone between your mulch layer and your soil will be incredibly active. And yes, as the mulch is broken down, you'll encourage your microbial population while funneling those nutrients into your existing garden soil.

Hope this helps.

If anyone has anything else to add, please post away...

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Jan 17, 2012
Let Me Clarify
by: Alex

I was thinking of using different kinds of organic matter like grass clipping, wood chips, hay, leaves, and weeds...Maybe even some cow and horse manure, and my urine.

I thought about using compost tea since I started a new growing bed on a old meadow (bacterial dominated) and I'd like to grow perennial plants and gradually shift to fruit trees.

Should I compost these ingredients first and then add them to my bed with a good mulch or would you recommend that I just put everything on my bed as is?


Jan 17, 2012
Weeds and Urine
by: Compost Junkie Dave

Hey Alex,

Thanks for clarifying your original question.

I'd recommend composting all of your ingredients prior to adding them to your garden soil. Especially, since you mentioned that you're using weeds.

Once you have made your compost, spread it across the top of your garden beds, just as you would a mulch. I would then apply a 4-6 inch layer of wood chips on top of the compost.

Re the compost tea, yes, I think that's a great idea to help transition your soils over to a more fungal-dominated system. Just make sure you're brewing your teas with fungal-dominated compost.

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I'm happy to hear you're going to be using your urine on your plants. It makes for one heck of a fertilizer. We'll be posting more about this topic in the near future.

Keep us posted on your progress Alex.


Nov 01, 2013
Mulch requirements? NEW
by: Danny

Hello, I am new here, fairly new to the garden scene, and couldn't help but notice the reference to using human urine on a vegetable? garden? Healthwise, is it even acceptable? And realistically, is it even possible for one or two people to make a noticeable difference in a reasonably large garden? (2000 sq feet)

My actual question, the reason I was searching when I found this site, was about composting directly into the soil.
I compost all kitchen and yard waste (no meat,fat, etc) directly into the soil and work in with a spade or roto-tiller.
What would you use for this 6 to 8 inch layer of mulch you refer to, and would you use it on a vegetable garden?
I started with a soil that was very clay and very alkaline, worked in a 6 inch layer of goat manure, ( all I had room for)
and worked in about a hundred pounds of Ferric sulfate to 2000 square feet of garden, This lowered my PH from a staggering 8.9, to about 7.4, as well as loosening and airating the soil a fair bit. There are also absolutely no earth worms in the soil. Would worms be a good addition?

Nov 01, 2013
Found some answers NEW
by: Danny

Read your 5 little free books, found a lot of answers.

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