February 18, 2011

Start Thinking about Compost

My front yard is full of beautiful gardens that make 
use of compost. Although they look like they belong 
in a moisture rich environment,
they get very little supplemental water.  

Here in the Pikes Peak area, as well as many other places in Colorado, our soils are far from perfect. They are typically alkaline, sometimes sandy or rocky, and do not have much in the form of organic matter. Compost is the best thing that you can put into your gardens to help your plants grow. Feeding the soil results in healthier plants, fewer pests, and lower water requirements. Compost provides beneficial organisms, increases spaces in the soil for air and water, and contains trace minerals that you cannot get from artificial fertilizers.

This soil definitely needs some compost to 
make it a better growing place for plants.

You can get your compost in various ways. Start a compost pile in your backyard with grass clippings, leaves, pine needles, kitchen scraps, and garden waste. Or, if you want to have an indoor composting bin, look into vermi-composting. This is composting with worms. There are many great articles on the web about this. Well aged (6 months or more) dairy cow, rabbit, poultry, and alpaca manure can be used as compost if you are fortunate enough to have a friend or neighbor who wants to get rid of some. Alpaca compost is supposed to be the best. Horse and cattle manure many time has too many weed seeds in it, so if you use it make sure it has been "hot composted" or "aged". If you would rather have finished compost that you just add to the gardens, go to your local nursery or rock yard, and buy it by the bag or by the yard.

The soil in this newly constructed garden is a combination of 
top soil, compost and aged cow manure.  You can see by the rich 
color that it will provide nutrients, moisture holding capabilities, 
and also good tilth for the plants.

Since compost is not regulated by the State of Colorado, make sure to do some checking before you purchase. Finally, if you are adding compost to a vegetable garden, make sure it is not made from the biosludge that is composted from the sewage utilities. While biosludge might be a great fertilizer, it does not belong on your veggies.

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