The Miracle of Compost

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If you are looking for a miracle addition to your garden this year, I got one for you. This substance will add an abundance of fertilizing nutrients, as it supplies both macro and micronutrients.

In addition, while this product supplies beneficial organisms to soils, it can suppress some soil born pathogens that can adversely affect plants.

Figured it out yet? Let me give a few more hints.

On sandy soils it can improve water holding capacity reducing total water usage. Yet on heavy clay soils, it will increase water infiltration and improve clay soils permeability. (I know that sounds contradictory but it is true!)

Many times it will improve and stabilize your soils pH. In worst case scenarios, it will even bind and degrade pollutants. Lastly, it will improve the soil structure, porosity, and will create a better rooting environment.

This perfect, preponderous, product is compost.

At this time of the year, it is too late to talk about making your own compost. That process will take weeks to a few months for most of us, and quite frankly, everyone is itching to get gardens planted right now.

You can find compost for sale in bags or bulk at several locations around Lufkin. Bagged compost is easy to load, unload and carry to your garden site. Bulk compost will be much cheaper but includes the necessity of a truck or trailer to haul it. Often a shovel and wheelbarrow may then be needed to transfer it to a specific location in the landscape.

Many gardeners love to discuss which compost is the best. It is true that all compost is not the same, but rest assured that any is better than none.

Composts are a mixture of decaying organic substances such as leaves, manures, or other plant material. Composted manure from a cow, chicken, horse, rabbit or any other livestock will do just fine. Compost from someone’s leaf pile to which they added kitchen scraps will work great as well.

Lots of folks like to use the “mushroom manure” that originates at the Monterey Mushroom facility in Madisonville. While the ingredients can change from one mushroom facility to another, many mushroom growers use materials such as hay, straw, and poultry or horse manure.

This rich medium is used to grow mushrooms until it is depleted to a level that doesn’t grow mushrooms at the speed the business needs. This “spent” material is then an excellent medium for home gardeners.

How much composted material to add? There is not a too-much answer that I know of. Lufkin’s own retired pediatrician, Dr. Thannisch, had two-foot-tall raised beds into which he adds nothing but mushroom manure to grow an abundance of tomatoes all year.

Rev. Marlow Shubert of Huntington mixes three parts twice ground pine bark with 1 part mushroom manure to grow all kinds of quality plants.

The simple and general recommendation is to spread composted material over the garden site and then till it into the top 6 inches of soil.

Any way you decide to go, now is high time to improve the soil you have for the spring gardening season upon us.

Author

Cary Sims
Cary Sims
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is cw-sims@tamu.edu

Educational programs of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service are open to all people without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, or national origin.
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