Category Archives: Compost

Garden Cleanup

March in St. Louis is a good time to start to cleanup your gardens. It’s warm enough to work outside and most of the plants are just starting to bud out.

The first thing to do is bring your arsenal of weapons. I use lopers, hand pruners, lawn trimmer, rake, a leaf blower, hedge trimmer and even a sawzall for larger branches. Make sure you sharpen your tools before using them. I use twine to bind the larger pieces and paper recycling bags for the small stuff.

Hopefully, you will know the difference between your annuals and perennials. In general, I prefer to cut both groups off near the base and leave the roots in the soil to decay. For shallow rooted annuals, it may be easier to just pull them out of the ground.

Clean from the outside in. You want to stay off the soil as much as possible so that you don’t trample plants and compact the soil.

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I cut off most plants as close to the soil as possible.

You may notice that I use concrete blocks to define my garden. I find that it has a few advantages. It helps to define the garden and slows down the bermuda grass invasion. It also catches seeds and provides a lot of new plants in the spring.

Some plants require a bit more finesse. Each plant is a bit different and you will need to know its growing habit.

  • Buddleia – I cut to 9″ above the ground
  • Hydrangea paniculata – just trim off 6″ of the top growth. I am going for a eight foot hedge.
  • Roses (Knock Out) – I cut back to 18″
  • Trees – yes I even cut back one tree, hackberry, to a six foot height.
  • Viburnum – cut back to keep its size in check.

I do add a layer of compost/mulch after everything is cleaned up. It not only makes things look good, but also feeds the soil. I don’t use any fertilizer. In St. Louis I like the Black Forest mulch which is fine aged mulch mixed with compost.

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Filed under Compost, Misc, Mulch, No Dig

Starting No Dig Gardens

One of the easiest ways to start new gardens or even rejuvenate old gardens is to implement the No Dig System.

Charles Dowding is one of the experts in the field and has great YouTube videos on how the process is done.

I would mow the weeds and grass as low as possible and get rid of the waste. Cover the area with overlapping cardboard and then add two inches of compost on top.

If you start the process in March, you should be able to plant in May/June.
If you start later in the year, I’d suggest adding six inches of compost so that it’s easier to plant.

I have found that other local dirt/compost mixes is not optimum and may have big clumps of clay soil.

Another planting implement I have used in the past is a large bulb planter. It makes a great hole. You can throw away the clay soil, put in your plant and cover with compost.

My favorite local compost facility is St. Louis Composting
https://www.stlcompost.com/products-compost/

Below is one of the videos where Charles explains the process.

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$5.00 Compost Fertilizer

One of the things a gardener has to do every year is to fertilize the garden. If you clean out the garden every year, all those plant clippings are taking nutrients out of the soil that need to be replaced.

You have a number of choices every year from standard 10-10-10 fertilizer to organic fertilizers, but another choice is to just use compost.

A video series I have been watching recently is by Charles Dowding and his practice is to put two inches of compost on top of the soil every year and that’s it. He doesn’t dig it in, but lets it sit on top of the soil. He does this every year and is able to get two crops of vegetables every year.

While it is possible to make your own compost, it’s a lot of work.
What I prefer to do is just buy it from StLCompost.com for $25/cu yard.

They even have a calculator so that you can figure out exactly how much you will need.

I did the calculation for a 4′ x 8′ garden bed and you would need .2 cu. ft. of compost.
If you do the math, that works out to just $5.00

The only catch is that you will need to bring a pickup to get the compost. They will dump it into your truck.  If you don’t need a full cubic yard, you can share it with your friends and neighbors.

Here is a video by Charles Dowding and his method.

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Filed under Compost, Fertilizer

Compost Options

Every year I like to feed the soil with a mulch/compost mix (Black Forest) or just straight compost.  In 2018 I am trying 3 yards of Black Gold compost from St. Louis Composting. It looks very similar to the Black Forest Mulch, but is a bit more expensive.

It’s always amazing to me how compost and mulch just disappears over the period of a year. You can buy the compost relatively inexpensively for $25/yard, but you will need a trailer or pickup. To buy it by the bag, one cu. yard would cost $101.25.

My cost delivered to my house was $140 for 3 cu. yards = 81 cu feet. Black Gold Compost
Note to Self – Buy four yards in 2019.
It took Joe R. nine hours to spread three yards.


In 2019 I am spending $459.00 to pay Mark to clean up all the beds and put out 3 yards of Black Forest mulch/compost. I figured it cost $570 to have Linda do the work and Joe spread the compost from St Louis Compost.

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Compost – Basic Information

I just attended a program on Compost and Mulch at MoBot. Ron Alexander was the keynote speaker. His website – http://www.alexassoc.net/ has lots of great information on the benefits of  using compost and mulch.

Here are some notes from that program.

  • Compost and its Benefits Brochure.
  • Composting Blanket – they talked about this concept to cover eroding soils and to get seeds to germinate.
  • Composting that is done at commercial companies like http://stlcompost.com/ reaches a high enough temperature to kill off pathogens. I was concerned about putting plants with mildew into the yard waste, but they indicated it would be killed off. They also indicated that home compost may not reach high enough temperatures and thus you should throw diseased plants into the landfill if you do home composting.  One of the MoBot leaders indicated that when they took out the diseased roses, they did not put them in the compost pile, but threw them away in the trash.
  • Incorporate two inches compost into the top six inches of soil – for new gardens.
  • Lawns were shown that had been core aerated and then had compost put on top and raked in. They looked much better than surrounding areas.
  • MoBot seems to mainly use leaf mold for their mulch.
  • Planting Seeds – you can plant seeds deeper if you cover them with compost versus soil.
  • Soil Health Brochure

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Composting Tips

After taking my Horticulture 101 class and watching a couple of YouTube videos, I’ve come up with a few suggestions on composting.

  • Don’t rake up and throw your leaves away. Compost them.
  • Collect leaves from your yard and even your neighbors to get the needed leaves.
  • Use some sort of shredder to break up the leaves. You can buy a blower/shredder combo on Amazon or I use my lawn mower to shred up the leaves and some grass and I add this mixture to my compost area.
  • Don’t add a lot of kitchen waste – note coffee grounds are an exception.
  • According to one video, a 2″ layer of compost are all the nutrients that your plants will need.

Here are some video on composting.

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Filed under Compost, soil