Compost/Humus

This topic contains 9 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Merbs 2 years, 6 months ago.

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  • #52657

    Unknown
    Participant

    Hey,

    Just thought to start a separate thread so it doesn’t get crowded in my other thread. This way at least it can help anyone else that may have similar questions in the future.

    I spoke to these compost companies where I can buy compost.

    Some offer Humus rich compost others just regular compost.

    I asked about Humus rich compost and they told me Humus rich compost is no good for gardens. Basically, yes, humus is the entire breakdown of compost, but humus in and of itself contains no nutritional value. The microbes have nothing left to feed on etc etc.

    So really you need humus to provide a good moisture holding agent, humus is also negatively charged so rain won’t wash minerals away from the plants but you need something to give the humus minerals in the first place.

    So as I spoke to the person, I asked if seaweed extract would be beneficial to replenish the minerals. He told me that seaweed stimulates microbial growth etc and since the compost is already rich in microbes, all I would be doing by adding seaweed is giving it more microbes (things that transport nutrients to plants and makes them available). The problem is I still wont have the nutrients too be transported. So essentially I got that seaweed would be useless as it would only provide what is already there.

    When I asked about rock dust, similar story just from a different point of view.

    So the long and short was, their compost is not rich in nutrients and some for of fertiliser would be needed to feed it.

    So I started looking at other places that may sell certified organic compost as I wan’t to grow this type of no-dig garden.

    One place I found at a reasonable price compare to $400 per cubic meter, said their compost is organic certified. I asked what base materials were used and they told me chicken manure, sawdust, hay and Biochar.

    To me this doesn’t sound like it will be nutrient rich whatsoever. I mean hay and sawdust is practically useless?

    I thought a good quality compost needs to be made from diversity, green waste, and food scraps, that way you get nutrients from the food waste (cabbage tomato, whatever else) – Plant based as well as leaves and stuff from trees.

    So what sort of compost/humus product should i really be looking for, wanting a real organic garden (certified) that is plant based rather than anything and everything thrown to decompose (dead material) that will be rich in nutrients?

    And is there any validity to the seaweed story? If there is, then the compost I need, needs to be high in nutrients so that it, itself can feed the plants what they need, in which case seaweed/rock dust won’t be necessary because the compost is high in nutritional value already.

    What am I looking for, or does what I am looking for not exist?

    My heirloom organic seeds are on the way… I need to figure out this compost thing before Autumn finishes here and I end up with nothing and all being too late.

    Thanks a bunch

    #52666

    Cleansweep
    Participant

    Now you’re above my pay grade!!
    You need to see the doctor!
    See Dr Elaine Ingham
    here:

    #52710

    Unknown
    Participant

    I listened to that webinar.

    Quite informative.

    If i understood right, shes basically saying forget using rock dust, all the minerals are already there. It is all the microbial/fungi/bacteria etc that is needed to make the inorganic minerals available to the plants not more rock dust.

    Now heres the question then…

    She mentions anywhere where you got clay, rocks, sand etc is going to have all the minerals plants need (iron, magnesium etc)…

    That is soil.

    Ok…

    No dig garden is planting directly into the compost…

    Where do the minerals come from then?

    Compost isnt sand, rocks, etc that soil is which contains all those minerals.

    Needless to say she does say to work the compost into thr soil so that it is mixed with it. No dig garden however is to put the compost straight on top and to plant into the compost… so where do the minerals come from?

    #52712

    Unknown
    Participant

    My last questions…

    I spoke to these places that make compost.

    I found what they claim is the best in Australia with high quality rich humus with all the elements that Elaine Ingham is talking about (food web).

    They are specifically made to put back into earth what is missing.

    I asked a cheap company how much i need and at 100mm thick and 4m x 1.6m it works out to roughly needing 1 cubic meter (order 1000kg).

    When I asked this place that produces this rich humus they said For that size i need 25kg only and then mix it into the soil as this will improve its structure greatly.

    Is there a problem in planting directly in this rich matured compost that is turned into humus in which I would need 1000kg of this stuff too…?

    Final question – I spoke to someone from the soil living food web and they told me usually what is missing in soil that people are trying to add which is not really found in high amounts in kelp extracts etc is Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Calcium and Magnesium.

    These elements are usually what needs to be supplemented in soil.

    With our rich humus/compost no dig method… how will I know whether its lacking those 4 and how do you get those 4?

    #52820

    earthnut
    Participant

    No compost is “rich” in nutrients compared to fertilizer. Fertilizers are concentrated – sort of like “nutritional supplements” for plants, compost is “whole food” for the plants. Plants don’t just need nutrients and minerals, they also need microzhrizae, beneficial organisms, and soil structure.

    Straw or sawdust is added to balance out the strong manure used in commercial compost. If manure only was used, the microbes wouldn’t be able to break it down into soil. It would become anaerobic (lack oxygen) and you would get a sludge like product, not a soil like product. You need enough brown woody material to make compost happen, but not so much that it doesn’t break down completely. With no “browns” you get a fertilizer, not a compost. Seaweed and fish concentrates are basically this.

    With no dig, you still have soil. It’s what you start with, and you lay the compost on top. Even if the compost is pretty thick, veggie roots go down at least 4 feet into the ground. They will reach soil and get all the minerals they need from it. There’s plenty there because minerals stick around for a very long time.

    In previous years, I added a little compost to the soil but mostly tried to maintain fertility with organic fertilizers. This year, I’m just adding a 1-2 inch layer of compost and I’m already seeing better results from my veggies than I have in years.

    You can have plenty of nutrients in the soil, but if there’s not an intact ecosystem of organisms and soil structure to make it available to the plants, it doesn’t do much good. This is what compost and no dig provides. Compost may not measure high in nutrients in the laboratory, but what nutrients it does have are *highly* available to the plants.

    FYI I have been using the cheapest compost I can get my hands on. Some free city compost, some cow/straw manure from a local farm. Not organic, nothing special done to it. As long as it’s not too woody and mulch-like, it’ll work.

    Also be careful with liquid fertilizers. Unless you know what you’re doing, most of the fertilizer will probably wash out of the garden beds before the plants are able to use them.

    How do you know if your plants are getting the nutrients they need? Watch them grow. If they are deep green, robust and growing well, they have everything they need. You can also do a soil test, but this doesn’t always tell you the whole story. Ultimately your goal is to grow good plants.

    #52826

    Unknown
    Participant

    Thanks for that earthnut.

    So though compost may not have high nutrients they are more bioavailable so in a way may provide more nutrients to the plants with less than more that is not usable… if I understood that correctly.

    Ok so compost provides soil structure and makes nutrients available.

    Since the compost is sitting on top of the soil… the soil underneath the compost is the stuff that does not have structure, is not bio-available etc (just like it is if you take the top layer of compost off your just left with bad soil you had to start with)…

    roots go down 3-4 feet as you suggested… they are now in the soil part… how is the minerals in the soil going to be bio available when it wasnt before? The compost is not in the soil its just on top… so isnt that part of the soil still the same then as it was before you even added compost?

    I understand the compost adds structure etc… does the soil the compost is sitting on top of somehow change so that if you removed the compost the soil underneath would be different to how it was before?

    The way im understanding it is…

    Planting directly in the soil is not good because the structure is not the best and the minerals are not in an available form to the plant.

    So now we add compost on top, not mixed in.

    Now we plant vegetable, it starts growing in good structure where evetything is bio available… then roots go down into the bad soil under the compost layer and the roots are now back in the same stuff it wasnt good to plant in before… again cant get minerals from the soil and again roots are in the poor structure thing.

    So essentially top half of plant is in the good stuff the bottom half is back in the stuff it cant do anything with.

    Hows that work?

    If it was mixed in i would understand you have the soil touching the compost everywhere ( as you mixed it in together) so the mineral in the soil the compost is making available as they are all touching eachother. But as a layer… top half good bottom half same stuff that was no good before…

    How does the compost make the rubbish underneath bioavailable when its not actually mixed? that i dont understand.

    #52828

    earthnut
    Participant

    Soil structure is not automatically present in compost or soil. It comes over time from not disturbing the ground. The soil you build on top of has existing structure, and the new compost will not. But the longer the compost sits undisturbed, the more structure it will gain. Soil structure is formed by fungus, animals, and microbes rearranging the particles in the ground. Digging interrupts that and makes the process begin again. Soil structure can act as conduits for roots to grow through and find nutrients.

    These same organisms that make soil structure are also breaking things down and releasing nutrients to the plants. This includes the organic matter in the compost and mineral rocks in the soil. The organic matter breaks down and releases its nutrients faster than the rocks release their minerals, but they are both continually breaking down. The minerals in the soil are becoming more available, just at a much slower rate than the compost is. Finely milling it with a machine slightly speeds this process up, some organic fertilizers are just ground up rock. Some synthetic fertilizers take this rock and treat it with acids to break it down into pure molecules that are quickly available.

    The undisturbed soil isn’t bad or unavailable. Think of it as a reservoir.

    #52849

    Unknown
    Participant

    Is there any benefit to mix the compost with the soil for the first time so that a mixed bed is ready (soil/compost) and thereafter only sit the compost on top as no dig?

    Where I am doing the garden, there was never a garden, it is all hard compacted ground. A container used to sit there (5-8 meters long), on an acreage where wild grass used to be but now dead due to the container being on it. Wondered if breaking all that hard dirt up and mixing the compost in with it would be more beneficial than just dropping it on top and leaving the underneath hard as is.

    #52862

    Derek
    Participant

    Over winter I dug out to make a base for a greenhouse. 20+ years previously a previous owner had filled the edge of the field with rubble and compacted it down to make a hard passage for tractors to pass in all weathers. I should think the ground was 70% rubble, yet still in the remaining soil I found worm life. Worries about compaction are often unfounded.
    Have faith in nature.
    Derek

    #52924

    Merbs
    Participant

    If you’re concerned about minerals in the garden, read The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon. I live in the same general area that he used to, so I’m used to seeing soil tests come back very low in some minerals.

    The soil will feed itself if you take care of it. You don’t need to add fertilizer if your creating a complete system. If you want to ensure that they’re well fed, you could go ahead and give your garden a balanced organic fertilizer of the first couple of years. The only thing I give mine is mineral rebalancing.

    I was talking to a wonderful soil scientist who is working on my company’s new HQ. He was talking about building the soil. I did some math and had to ask him how he can good soil that quickly. He told he that he plants a cover crop *in* the compost before he uses it. He says that supercharges the microbes so that he has a large population of biota going in. His results are impressive.

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