Improving The Soil With Compost: Notes from session held by Rachel Buchan on 23/10/2019
On Wednesday 23rd October a group of enthusiastic gardeners attended a presentation on improving soil with compost by Seed Savers Albury Wodonga Committee member Rachel Buchan.
Some of the points made by Rachel and members of the group were:
An assessment of your soil should be a first step. (Is it clay, sandy, hydrophobic, too acidic or alkaline etc?). Look for methods to improve it.
Compost helps with most problem soils.
Compost can be made using aerobic (oxygenated) or anaerobic (oxygen not used). Compost made in heaps is aerobic, compost made in closed plastic bins is often anaerobic and takes longer.
Compost requires 25 units of carbon to every unit of nitrogen.
Carbon ( brown) -leaves/forest leaves/ twiggy garden material/ shredded newspaper/sawdust/straw/animal manures of horse or dried cow pats shredded
Nitrogen (green) – clippings, garden prunings of green materials, coffee grinds, lucerne as hay or chaff, chicken manure, kitchen scraps
Source horse manure carefully. Manure from commercial stables may contain traces of medications given to horses.
Horse and chook manure should be well composted before putting on plants as it may burn if used straight.
Chook manure should not be used on native plants as it contains high levels of phosphorus.
Ensure that sawdust is well composted. It is high in carbon and can leach nitrogen from soil if used fresh.
Egg shells have neither carbon or nitrogen but provide some phosphorus and help in breaking up the soil. Grind to put in compost.
Green manure crops (legumes, mustard, kale, some grasses) are excellent for providing nitrogen to soil. Dig in before they flower.
Can also use nettles and weeds to make a tea, dilute before pouring on plants.
Rachel demonstrated soil pH testing methods with a kit and a probe. Participants were very interested to see the PH of samples that they had brought from their gardens.
Many of the vegetables we grow prefer neutral or slightly acidic soils. Azaleas, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries eggplants like more acidic soils while cabbages, cauliflowers, cucumbers prefer more alkaline conditions.
To make soil more alkaline, add lime
To make soil more acidic, add well rotted material and compost.
Rachel referred those who wanted to know more to the resources on the Seed Savers Albury Wodonga website and to the vast number of resources available on the internet.