Veggie garden or flower bed, compost as a mulch?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by JDUtah, Jun 30, 2008.

  1. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Posts: 2,636

    I know, it's basic science, and maybe not turf related but, has anyone used compost for a customers "mulch"? Or is this a shot in the dark? Was the customer pleased?

    Reason being.. "until bacteria have completed their breakdown of organic matter, crops should not be planted in soils to which only partially decomposed materials have been added. Likewise, when sawdust, straw, or other organic mulches are spread around plants in a garden to control weeds and conserve soil moisture, the soil nitrogen will be less available to the growing plants until the mulches have been decomposed." 'Introductory plant biology', Stern pp482 (nitrogen cycle)

    I might start doing this in my mothers garden. (She still makes me do the work.. haha.. good for me huh?) I used to use chicken poo but it wasn't;t broken down all the way... compost might be an alternative? Mulch in the spring, grow.. and till it in the fall, or next spring?

    Once again.. have you done it? And with what results?
     
  2. DeepGreenLawn

    DeepGreenLawn LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,372

    what about the mulch washing away and wouldn't you have weeds galore? It would seem to me that you would be creating the perfect growing conditions for weeds. What about pine straw?
     
  3. jeffinsgf

    jeffinsgf LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 641

    This is where the definitions and the word usage get tricky. "Compost" should be almost (or) completely broken down before it is used as "compost", in which case, it will not be using the available nitrogen. If it is, then it makes pretty lousy mulch, because it's too porous to prevent evaporation and fine enough and fertile enough that it will sprout any seed that lands in or on it.

    Depending on the source material, partially broken down organic matter makes very good mulch. Wood chips that have aged for several months (or even years) have burned up much of their nitrogen robbing process and do a good job of slowing evaporation. I know some gardeners that swear by mulching their vegetable gardens with fresh, but dried lawn clippings.

    Personally, I think the nitrogen robbing issue is over-played. If your shrub/tree/vegetable plant has roots that are inches or feet deep, I don't see how a little nitrogen binding at the surface is going to matter. To me, the benefits of mulching with OM that will break down and become humus in the future outweigh the fact that some nitrogen might be held up.

    In common usage "compost" implies a blend of organic materials that are completely (or almost completely) broken down. "Mulch" usually implies a single source product -- wood chips, wood bark, pine needles, etc.
     
  4. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Posts: 2,636

    interesting. Thanks.
     
  5. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,911

    ok that's a valid thought, now no science lesson, we can let that go to some one else, this is just an idea. the fert that gets put down alfalfa is not composted, but it wont rob any N, it has a surplus, the wood mulch has a deficit, so it will rob some N rom the surrounding soil. so composting under the mulch and not removing the old stuff, yes that's a great practice, just don't over feed, or even just don't feed the trees,(depends whats the trees needs), but bushes that get pruned need lots of food(you always taking from them). so the idea that comes to mind is the old forest(insert your ideal forest here) the bushes grow nice and slow will all there leaves to re eat, the trees do the same, as a mater of fact think of plants as cannibals, they eat there dead buddy's,and the new trees eat them, in the land scape the plants are pruned and the leaves get gone, more sun on the soil= less good soil? so we need to re enter the lost food= dead friends= compost, that we have robed from the forest. and wood (mulch alone) is not what the forest needs. it wants the whole yin yang thing a little of every thing. that's just my thoughts so compost on and then mulch like mad, just stay as far away from the tree as it is wide with the mulch and compost!!!! that's no joke!!!
     
  6. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Posts: 2,636

    Nitrogen question... Does Char contain a decent nitrogen value? I read fire releases the nitrogen into the atmosphere.. does charing do the same?
     
  7. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,911

    pyrolysis, carbonizing is all about the carbon, the N took off with the H,O,CO2 and the acetate
     
  8. JDUtah

    JDUtah LawnSite Silver Member
    from UT
    Posts: 2,636

    ok. thanks... next ignorant question... what's the role of carbon in the soil? I know plants get carbon from CO2 during photosynthesis.. is there another reason one would want carbon in the soil other then plant absorption?
     
  9. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,911

    look at the tera preta post
     
  10. 44DCNF

    44DCNF LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,462

    Yes you will benefit nicely by mulching your garden with compost. I put four bags of mushroom compost down on mine today before the mosquitos drove me back inside. Many of the flower beds get it too.

    007.JPG

    008.JPG
     

Share This Page