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What would you do?

Wed, 13 May 2020 11:43:56 GMT

Brief background: I’m managing as CSA for an educational institution. Our budget is small, so I’m always scrambling to find compost. In addition, I’m trying not to create a situation where I have leaching of nutrients. Last summer I found a local source of free compost made by a local spice business. It’s contents are cayenne and rosemary pulp and wood fines. I visited the composting facility and heard their talk about how farmers are so eager for their product. It looked great, as did the surrounding row crop fields where it’s used. They delivered 60 yds, and I began covering beds last fall. This winter, I used it in my soil blocking mix. I got excellent germination, but I began to notice that crop response was wildly variable ei: lettuce, allium and cole crops seemed fine, while some flowers are just stalled right after germination (I’m foliar feeding). I finally got an answer to my repeated request for the compost’s analysis, and it seems low in most nutrients (my soil is also quite poor in all major nutrients and many trace minerals. I’m adding rock powders accor ding to soil test recs). I’ve already covered 2/3 of my 90 beds, including 30 brand new beds. I’m planning to add fertility with a 3, 4, 3 poultry compost granulated product. I’m concerned that some plants will just stall in the compost layer, and am considering tilling it in an inch or so. Any advice? BTW, a local old timer just dropped by yesterday and let me know that local farmers hate this product...

Wed, 13 May 2020 11:58:19 GMT


Thu, 14 May 2020 08:00:53 GMT

Oh no! Sorry to hear that. Can anyone tell what the N:C ratio is here? Not good at reading these. You would want to know that Nitrogen to Carbon ratio before tilling it in because the compost could lock up your soil if it's not broken down enough. If you're only adding a few inches (60 yards for 90 beds assuming their 50 to 100 ft?), then the amending you've done to the native soil should help. If you're beds are shorter or at a depth of 4" or more of compost then you may want to balance the compost as if it is soil (I got this rec from a well-respected agronomist). The idea here is that the compost is your primary growing medium, so it should be balanced for nutrient density in the crop(s). Those are my initial thoughts.

Thu, 14 May 2020 16:30:13 GMT

My beds are 50’. The ones I did last fall are 4 inches deep, the ones this spring are 2-3”. I’ve already planted into some fall beds, but it’s hard to gauge what I’m seeing because we have had an unusually cold spring (down to 22 last week!). My peas are looking fine, as is spinach. My onions have been hurt by freezing, and the regrowth I’m seeing is a paler green than I’d like (but that’s also a cold weather response). I’ve top dressed those beds, but I might need to do more. I’d love to know the C:N ratio, and any other specifics about the test results (got to get better at reading them!) and I was anticipating trying to correct the compost if possible. Isn’t the compost you use somewhat low nutrient, Jesse? I remember you saying it was more a mulch than a compost.

Fri, 15 May 2020 21:49:36 GMT

C:N is not possible to tell from this chart but the total N value of 1.9% per weight is quite substantial for finished compost. Potash is normal and phosphorus is moderate. Based on just this it shouldn't be a bad compost for deep mulching (unless I'm missing something) as it won't overload you with nutrients when used in quantity. Keep checking growth and when you see signs of deficiency, see if extra foliar feed or liquid feeding helps. If it does you can increase your fertilizer regime a notch to complement.