Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Easy Garden Changes Tip #3: Compost In Place

This post is part of a series of Easy Changes to Make Your Garden Act More Like Nature.  For the full story, start at the beginning with Tip #1, Get Rid of Bare Earth.

Tip #3. Compost In Place

This is one of my favorite time-savers in the garden.  Instead of hauling everything compost-able to my bin, letting it sit for a few months, turning it, watering it, and then digging it out and putting it on the garden, I just chop it up a little and toss it right on the garden in the first place.

Allow me to wow you with my artwork:

Composting in place means all the microbial activity involved in turning the organic matter into compost happens right there in my garden, instead of across the yard at the compost bin.  So instead of having all the earthworms, beneficial bacteria, and fungi hang out under the compost bin, they are hanging out in my garden soil!  Also, did you know that many of the nutrients (nitrogen/phosphorus/calcium/whatever) in compost-able materials actually leach out after just a few rains?  This way, all those good things end up in my garden soil, where I want them, instead of in the earth around my compost bin.

Another bonus of composting in place is that it helps eliminate bare earth.  For example, when my spring lettuce started to bolt in the summer heat, I cut it, chopped it roughly, and used it to mulch the zucchini, beans, and carrots that needed more time in the earth.  This is a tiny example of how nature teaches us to "stack functions," or use the same thing to do more than one job.  My lettuce provided me with food, covered bare earth, and composted in place, adding nutrients back to the soil.  A 3-for-1 deal!

Check out this more detailed description of Pat Ruggiero and Howard Markham's garden, which uses the idea of chop-and-drop composting.

Next up is Tip #4: Don't Make It Easy for Pests

Posted at Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways and Homestead Barn Hop

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