after nosing through the book
the other day the only thing that
struck me as different/interesting
from what i've read elsewhere was
that the author recommended not
using charcoal in the compost pile
saying that it did not decompose.
ok, this is true and fine, but
what other substrate would you like
to use for the bacteria/fungi/etc.
to have a happy home for when it
gets spread or used elsewhere?
i would think that using charcoal
in a pile would help keep some of
those nutrients in the pile and not
as many leached out...
so gardening gurus what do you think?
does it have to be activated charcoal
instead of the stuff i would get from
an enclosed fire?
The purpose of compost is to improve the structure of the soil, not to
provide nutrients. Since compost is often applied only to the top
inches of the soil, you should want any nutrients -- as few as there
might be -- to leach down into the root zone. Inhibiting the leaching
of nutrients would thus be counter-productive.
If you are instead concerned about making sure new matter for composting
gets the necessary micro-organisms, that is easily handled by mixing
some existing compost into the new matter. Then you should also top the
new matter with a layer of compost. The required watering of the
composting matter will then move the micro-organisms to where they are
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean
Compost supplies (directly or indirectly) organic colloids eg humus, that
have a role in binding ionic nutrients It also improves drainage and tilth.
All that is part of improving structure, that is improve the way the soil
acts to allow nutrients, air and water to be available to plants. Also
compost does supply some nutrients for the plants and some for the
micro-organisms as well as directly supplying some useful microbes.
So isn't it fair to say compost supplies nutrients and improves structure?
Excessive leaching is a real PITA. I worked on a sand-based garden for 20
years and unless you were constantly replenishing organic matter and
nutrients it had very poor productivity except for the natives that were
adapted for poor soil. I will bet that most of the soluble nutrient ended
up in drains and then waterways soon after it was applied.
Now I have a clay-silt based garden and it is extremely productive after
only a couple of years. Having that clay colloid there (as well as organic
matter and compost) greatly reduces nutrient leaching so that I can grow
intensive crops with good productivity and only add manure once or twice a
I think the way that it works is during rain events or deep watering the
colloids on top (near where the manure is applied) becomes saturated with
bound ions and so the excess is carried down to the root zone and then to
the subsoil which ultimately gives those regions a chance to bind ionic
nutrients too. Despite the difficulties with drainage sometimes, I will
take the low leaching silt before the high leaching sand every time.
i think so, that is why i'm considering doing it and adding
it to my pile, because i want my top layer of added mulch/compost
to contain beneficial microbes to help counteract the negatives
i already have established. in effect i'm trying to cure fungal
troubles that are already established by getting some competing
bacteria back into the mix. i think they've gotten baked out
because there is so little organic matter in there as it is right now.
i want to give them more surface area to colonize and have
more nooks and crannies to hide in when the hot weather
comes along. considering what i've already got it really
isn't going to hurt.
i'd have amended with clay. i keep trying to trade clay for
sand to people around here but they seem to prefer to water
our productivity here is great too. i have two cherry tomato
plants that are about 6 ft across and 5ft high each. we really
should not have planted them at the ends of the regular tomato
garden as they have made it almost impossible to get in there to
harvest and have blocked most of the light and air...
we don't add manure but we do bury all debris and rotate
beans through. added sand and organic matter helps if i have
any handy, but i usually don't unless i've been thinning or
after hearing what some people around here go through in
the hot summers having to water every day or every other
day, i'd agree. it's a bugger to weed when it's dry though and
i was tilling concrete the other day (9hrs in 90degree weather,
but we'd finally had some rain so it was time to get that job
done so we could force the next round of weeds to sprout and
then have it ready to plant for the spiral garden).
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