I have found free mulch, how about plant food? Should it really be that complicated?

I have found that in my city there is a free mulch. You can go to a city dump and they will not only give you free mulch, but will load it for you on your truck.
Now, I am sorry, probably I should read, but I do not have time. And the answer should be pretty simple and not require too much time. So, the mulch I was told is just to cover the soil. This is not food for plants. Correct?
But I understand that nobody lives without food. So. What should I feed my plants with. Something good, cheap, and that does not require too much of time. Also, I can not afford waiting for the food next 6 monts to be ready. It should be now because I have planted already vegetables, and have watered them last couple of days.
Now here are the questions?
1. How frequently should I feed one e.g. tomato plant? 1 Corn Plant? 2. How much food should I give to it. 1 tablespoon? 1 quart? 3. When should I do it? In the morning? After coming from work? Thanks a lot?
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Mark wrote:

Yes, the mulch just goes around the base of the plant as far out as you like - at least a foot. I also use it as a pathway between my raised beds to extend the area and dissuade the slugs and snails. Mulch also helps retain moisture, shades out weeds and keeps you from inadvertantly splashing the soil on the leaves which can cause soil borne diseases to affect the plants (like the tomatoes). It also keeps the soil warm in cooler areas and at night.
As for food, you can pick up some basic Miracle Gro for Vegetables and apply that according to the directions (I usually apply once a week or every two weeks).
Miracle Gro is cheap (I think I paid $5 or $10 CDN for a box for the season) and easy to apply. If you have only a few plants, it's just a matter of putting the measured scopeful into a watering can and watering the plants. Make sure you get the Miracle Gro for vegetables (it'll say on the package and the numbers are something like 15-30-15). The general purpose Miracle Gro is 10-10-10 I believe - better for the lawn than the veggies. Don't worry about splashing the leaves as you water with the stuff. It'll happily soak the nutrients in through the leaves.
There are other sources of "food" out there but the Miracle Gro will ensure it gets all the nutrients, and given the price of gas, you'll save money by not driving all over the place for the different components. The free mulch is awesome cause that can get pricey for larger gardens.
..
Zone 5a in Canada's Far East.
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Thanks a lot. That is what I have suspected, it must be a very simple thing to do.
Now, another question. Also I beleive the answer should be very simple, otherwise neither I nor you would be alive and kicking today.
Since numerous generations of people lived before you and me and apparently have survived (You and me are living proof of that), and these people did not have luxury of Internet, public libraries, universities, even high schoolsd, still they did know how to get (or make ) food for their plants? Correct? So, is this the where the compost comes in?
Can I take the mulch I bring from dump and make compost from it? Fast?

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Mark wrote:

Thousands of years of trial and error. Caveman Nug probably figured out that things grew better is the black soil than in the brown clay. The rest is history. (You also have to remember that we're not herbivores ...we're carnivores - when you think of the tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of years that man has been around, farming is a relatively new activity...perhaps developing as recent as 20,000 BCE).

Mulch is not really a component of compost - or it's just one component. To make compost you need to alternate nitrogen rich "green" material (kitchen scraps, grass clippings etc) and carbon rich "brown" compost material (dried leaves, straw, mulch, newspaper). It can take up to a year to get any amount. I can barely generate enough by myself to fill the composter by half. I don't rely on it as a source of "food" but rather as an addition to the peat, bone meal and bagged (composted) manure (never add fresh manure to your garden) that I add every year to invigorate my raised beds. I also never reuse the potting soil I used in the containers. That gets added to the raised beds as filler or to the lawn to repair bare spots.
Here's a site that gives the basics of composting:
http://www.compostguide.com /
..
Zone 5a in Canada's Far East.

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Mark said:

Sometimes what people did in the past is to wear out their soil and move on. But the cleaverest farmers knew how to use manure (animal and human) to return nutrients to the soil, and to rotate crops from heaviest feeders, to lighter feeders, to fallow.

Compost has sometimes been described as 'artificial manure' and intentionally making composts, IIRC, is a relatively modern thing.

If you add plenty of nitrogen (urea is possibly the cheapest source of rapidly available nitrogen). And some fresh manure would help supply microorganisms.
For *fast* you'd need to mix it well to start off and be sure to provide for constant air-flow through the compost; build it on a raised platform and/or run perforated pipe through the pile to supply air-flow.
The more varied the inputs to the compost, the more likely you are to have compost with a good 'nutritional' value for the plants. Coffeegrounds can sometimes be had for the asking (Starbucks has a national program to encourage composting). Maybe you could get spoiled hay locally, vegetable waste from a market (corn shucks, for example), seaweed (if collecting it is allow), or manure from a stable.
--
Pat in Plymouth MI ('someplace.net' is comcast)

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Mark wrote:

not really. If you mulch with manure, you can avoid fertilizing. If you mulch with wood chips, you only need to add nitrogen, and only initially. My main flower bed has only received one foot of wood chips, some leaves, and some wood ash for the iris. I never fertilize it.
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Mark wrote:

not really. If you mulch with manure, you can avoid fertilizing. If you mulch with wood chips, you only need to add nitrogen, and only initially. My main flower bed has only received one foot of wood chips, some leaves, and some wood ash for the iris. I never fertilize it.
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If you really wanna feed the garden...bury fish guts!...head...bones and all. I deepsea fish out of Florida. We usually bring home BIG fish and fillet them most of the time. Whats left gets buried in the garden. It goes nuts! Citrus tree's plums...figs...you name it. They love fishguts!
Now if I can just keep the bugs out of my veggies! Dave...Down in Florida
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On Thu, 22 Jun 2006 21:42:58 -0400, "D.Reid"

There is a commercial fertiliser called fish emulsion that causes god things to happen. There is a special blend for tomatoes (I think). It comes in the form of a spray. -- Gardening Zones Canada Zone 5a United States Zone 3a
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