Friday, October 12, 2012

Compost Makes It Better

     What makes a great soil?  Soil is a combination of broken down earth's crust in the form of minerals, organic matter and living organisms.  In fact a good undisturbed soil typically has a layer of organic material on top of a layer of topsoil - which is mineral soil and organic material mixed.  These two layers cover the subsoil which is basically just the mineral soil without the organic matter.
     Topsoil occurs when living creatures such as worms and ants carry organic material from the soil surface down into the layer where they live.  They work to break down that material during their normal activities.  As the particles get broken down, fungi and bacteria that exist in the soil kick in to further break down the material.
     When we endeavor to plant an area we do a couple of things.  First, we disturb the soil structure because we dig into it.  We also alter the way that organic matter is left on the soil surface and the kind of material that make up that layer.  Quite often we remove the organic material that would normally fall on the soil completely.  We haul off grass clippings, rake away leaves and throw away things weeded out of the soil.  This often alters the number and health of the creatures that live in that soil.
     You can help to re-create the soil process by adding organic matter to the top of your planted soil.  The best way to do this is to place a thin layer of compost onto the surface of your soil.  Consider adding compost over all of your soil.  You can easily do this at the two turns of season - spring and fall. 
     For lawn areas, toss or use a spreader for this endeavor.  Let the compost fall onto the grass surface.  It will tend to fall through the leaves of the grass and end up on the soil surface at the base of the grass blades.  From here the soil organisms will take over and carry it down into the topsoil layer.
     You can also do this in your bedded areas.  The timing is basically the same.  You are basically adding compost at the time of the year when you are going to mulch.  The compost can be placed instead of mulch if desired.  In this case place a two inch layer over the bed.  The other option is to place a half to one inch layer of compost on the ground and then cover it with an inch to an inch and a half of mulch.  The key is to reach a cover of two inches.  Do not exceed this amount as you will cause a situation that could lead to overly wet and moldy conditions.
     Where to get the compost?  You can buy it either in bulk or from home improvement stores in bags.  You can also make it and use your own.  Either way, compost on the soil will greatly enhance the soil and your plants will be healthier for it.  If you do add compost, remember that you are adding nutrients to your soil.  That means that you need to use considerably less fertilizer or if you are using a good high organic content compost you should not fertilize at all.

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