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.
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.
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.