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Poor Quality Leaf Compost...

Sun, 24 May 2020 13:40:30 GMT

Good morning everyone! I have been having a rough spring with the cold and rain but I am realizing that one of the bigger problems is from the leaf compost bought in. I’m going to give some context to what I think the problem(s) are and if any one has any thoughts and advice for ways to help in the short term it would be much appreciated! I run a small urban farm and this particular garden I’m writing about has 37 40’ x 30’’ beds. We normally top dress a compost material 1 - 1.5 inches thick on our beds so that we do not have to till in order to direct seed and transplant into. It hasn’t always gone perfect but it has worked in the past for a lot of crops. One of the struggles is not having access to quality compost and we changed our source this year in hopes of finding a better source. I chose to not use a manure based compost to not add to some nutrient imbalances as we look more into mineral balancing. It seems that this ended up being a poor choice, though, and the leaf material is nowhere close to being broken down to serve the functions we are looking for… On t op of this, the compost was put down much thicker than we normally do; anywhere from 2 - 4 inches thick. Plants transplanted into this compost this spring have barely grown, some bolted, and directed seeded crops have struggled as well. Upon uprooting some of the plants, they have barely extended their roots out from the original roots in the potting soil. We have also had very bad issues with ants eating kale and collard seedlings and pill bugs attacking spinach and swiss chard... Last week, I started an experiment in our nursery with planting into only the leaf compost and also into a manure based compost we have access to. I have included some pictures after 7 days with transplanted spinach, beets, and direct seeded radish and turnips. The results do not come as a surprise given the issues we’ve been having but they are very drastic. I now know that I should have done this well before buying in the compost, but alas, I didn’t. Going into the future, I will do a much better job of vetting the materials we are importing and using them more appropriately. So, it appears we have planted a lot of crops into a material that is too thick on our beds and is not broken down enough to be of any nutritional benefit in the short term. What would you all recommend to rectify these issues as quickly as possible so that we can save our crops? We have since began foliar feeding with some Advancing Eco Agriculture products and trying to give soil drenches as well (SeaSheild/Forage Foliar Blend for nitrogen and macro and micro nutrients) and have a couple beds where we removed a lot of the leaf compost and replaced an area around the plants with the manure based compost. The foliar feeding and soil drenches aren’t showing noticeable results yet and the replacement of compost only happened a couple days ago so we are unsure how those results will be. Thanks. [100636298_528296571178038_4726118197894316032_n](// [99425098_3098525250204081_1482090074504953856_n](// [99269501_1670276873110850_1358670538532192256_n](// [99013818_587403988563702_3856566025453568000_n](// [100728700_882846345527300_1091012072180809728_n](// [99420593_2621324108083959_9047765585923932160_n](// [98407219_283402366163016_2776129670289031168_n](//

Mon, 25 May 2020 22:04:35 GMT

If you have a bcs i would consider top dressing with a generous N ferzilizer and running a tiller over to mix in everything with the native soil at least a couple inches below the much. I know this is a no till forum but if you wanna grow stuff in the near future this would be the fastest way to go i think. It's good you did the nursery tests this way you can rule out extreme field conditions as the main culprit (cold and waterlogged) although it can also still be a factor for such heavy stunting. Heavily stunted plants are very difficult to put back on track and often a second succession growing in better condition will overtake and outperform the earlier plantings. For big crops you can also rake aside the mulch and replant in native soil with some added fertilizer this way you don't waste the material but avoid it's shortcomings. For direct seeded /densely planted tuff i would go the tiller + fert way

Thu, 28 May 2020 09:05:34 GMT

Hey Steve, Sorry to hear about the struggles here. If you're having a cold spring some of those changes you've made may take some time. The compost issue is unfortunate. If it's not broken down enough crops simply will not perform well. However, if it feels/smell/is still fairly raw, you may be able to correct some of that immaturity with more carbon or some peat. Also I really like alfalfa meal in a situation like this––microbes love to eat high-protein grass. Keep us updated and let us know what does and doesn't work.

Fri, 12 Jun 2020 04:59:36 GMT

I realize this this a no till site but at the same time I might agree with the first poster regarding incorporating the material. I also like the other ideas presented by farmer Jesse. The photographs don't seem to indicate the product is too raw. You don't really know what's in that stuff. That's why I always shy away from third-party inputs. If you're going to continue to use this product you might consider using it on beds that you are rotating and not using this season. Or use it more like a mulch and plant in the native soil.

Tue, 16 Jun 2020 01:01:39 GMT

Hey y'all! sorry for the delayed reply. We have since had some improvements and some crop losses. We ended up pulling all of our kale and collards because of lack of growth and flea beetle damage..and completely lost our mustard and bok choi crops. What a weird experience to have kale and collards in the ground for 2 months and barely any growth! We will be replanting the kale and collards into our other garden that had a mixed species cover crop that we crimped and tarped a couple weeks ago. In addition to removing some more of the mulch we put down about a lb of feathermeal in each bed and lightly hoed it in. We also added the AEA product Rejuvenate to our soil drench and foliar because of its molasses content and the recommendation for easy to access carbon. The weather has been a lot warmer as well, so I think that has helped other crops as our soil warms more and maybe some of the inputs are able to be biologically processed more as the microbes become more active. I haven't been able to foliar feed the past couple weeks but I do think that it started to imp rove some crops like parsley, beets and peas. We have since planted summer squashes in beds with these problems early on, adding a handful of manure based compost when plant and they are actually growing. So it seems that we may be turning the corner on this garden. Thanks everyone for the help!