Friday, May 9, 2014

Who Loves Compost? Gardeners Do!

Many local gardeners, regardless of whether the goal is a lovely landscape or a productive vegetable patch, put a lot of effort into improving the soil for their plants.  One of the most frequently recommended soil amendments to accomplish that goal is compost.

UGA Extension Vegetable specialist Bob Westerfield, in his publication Home Gardening, wrote:
"Add organic matter to the soil when possible. It improves soil tilth, conserves soil moisture and helps root development. Organic matter in garden soils decomposes rapidly because of continued cultivation and high temperatures. Making compost is an ideal way to restore this organic matter."
The UGA publication Soil Preparation and Planting Procedures for Ornamental Plants in the Landscape, by Extension Specialist Gary Wade, echoed that recommendation in its section on how to "achieve best color displays" in planting beds for annuals and herbaceous perennials:
"A combination of composted organic matter, composted animal manure and large-particle sand, such as Lithonia granite, are frequently used to amend beds."
The UGA publication Composting and Mulching: A Guide to Managing Organic Landscape Refuse focuses primarily on composting as a way to keep yard waste out of landfills, but it provides excellent information for homeowners on making compost in their own backyards.

Necessary conditions for the decomposition of yard waste to create great compost, as listed in the publication, include aeration, moisture, appropriate particle size (no big chunks!), and the right temperature range. Ingredients for a compost pile can be a mix of leaves, grass, plant trimmings, fruit and vegetable waste from the kitchen, and other organic materials, plus some soil and a source of nutrients -- such as fertilizer -- to enhance the process. For fuller details, click on the linked publication title above.