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...

If you enjoyed this post, please "Like" us on Facebook and/or sign up for our newsletter (when you do, you'll receive a free e-booklet on the benefits of mulch).


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?

Thanks

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.

CJD

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.

Aug 12, 2014
Composting directly into soil NEW
by: Efrain Torres

I'm experimenting with something similar for tropical climate.
Seed Moringa tree seeds directly into soil.
Inoculate the seeds with mycorhizae.
Add a handful of compost when seeded (The trees
thrives in nutrient depleted soils).
Once the trees grows up to 6 ft, prune the trees
and leave them in the soil.
Add extra browm material after each prune.
Add compost tea after each pruning.
If necessary, I don't know yet, add Arkansas
Jumper worms since my soil is heavy clay and
7.4 alkaline.

Periodically remove the decomposed top soil for
farming in other areas. Add compost tea a
week before to activate the soil.

If it works, it will be practical for me since there is no need to transport any material or chop the branches in a machine since the moringa branches are very easy to cut. I already made thermal compost with moringa and browns and the compost was excellent quality.
The drawback is that I have to wit 1 year to see the results. Any idea to improve the experiment is greately appreciated.

If you are going to try composting directly into soil add a layer of compost, then the materials you want to compost in the correct C:N ratio and then a layer of brown for erosion and humidity protection. My father did this procedure on banana trees and grow excellent bananas for my house consumption without any additional work.

If the uncomposted material is directly placed into soil, based on my experience, the bacteria will compete for the avalable nutrients during the bacteria growth period and affect your plants nutrients availability in the soil (remember that the decomposition process will take several months due to the low decomposition temperature). I think that woms can help overcome this nutrient starving effect during the decomposition process.




Aug 12, 2014
Composting directly into soil NEW
by: Efrain Torres

I'm experimenting with something similar for tropical climate.
Seed Moringa tree seeds directly into soil.
Inoculate the seeds with mycorhizae.
Add a handful of compost when seeded (The trees
thrives in nutrient depleted soils).
Once the trees grows up to 6 ft, prune the trees
and leave them in the soil.
Add extra browm material after each prune.
Add compost tea after each pruning.
If necessary, I don't know yet, add Arkansas
Jumper worms since my soil is heavy clay and
7.4 alkaline.

Periodically remove the decomposed top soil for
farming in other areas. Add compost tea a
week before to activate the soil.

If it works, it will be practical for me since there is no need to transport any material or chop the branches in a machine since the moringa branches are very easy to cut. I already made thermal compost with moringa and browns and the compost was excellent quality.
The drawback is that I have to wit 1 year to see the results. Any idea to improve the experiment is greately appreciated.

If you are going to try composting directly into soil add a layer of compost, then the materials you want to compost in the correct C:N ratio and then a layer of brown for erosion and humidity protection. My father did this procedure on banana trees and grow excellent bananas for my house consumption without any additional work.

If the uncomposted material is directly placed into soil, based on my experience, the bacteria will compete for the avalable nutrients during the bacteria growth period and affect your plants nutrients availability in the soil (remember that the decomposition process will take several months due to the low decomposition temperature). I think that woms can help overcome this nutrient starving effect during the decomposition process.

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