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HOW TO CURE AND USE FINISHED COMPOST.

 
 

CURING COMPOST FOR USE. Hot batch compost needs to be cured, finished off, seasoned before use, allowing partly decomposed compost particles to finish the composting process at a low temperature. Earthworms and other invertebrates will assist with this process. Make sure the compost is kept moist and aerated during the curing period, new batches of compost can be produced while curing is taking place giving a constant flow of finished compost. The curing process should take approximately 45 days allowing your compost to finally stabilize. An easy self-test to check the maturity of your compost is to put your compost into a couple of pots and plant some quick growing seeds (Radishes are often used because they germinate and visibly grow very quickly) into them. If 75% or more of the seed sprout and grow then your compost is ready to use in any application.


UNFINISHED COMPOST.  Using unfinished compost as a soil amendment may stress plants, causing them to yellow or stalling their growth. This is because the decomposition process is continuing near the plant roots and the microorganisms in the compost are competing with the plants for nitrogen. As an alternative, use compost as a mulch, and you don't have to worry about whether the compost is "finished" or not. This is because any additional decomposition is occurring above the roots, the plants still benefit from the compost.

Finished compost is dark brown, crumbly, and earthy-smelling. Small pieces of leaves or other ingredients may be visible. If the compost contains a lot of materials which are not broken down, it is only partly decomposed. This product can be used as a mulch, but adding partly decomposed compost to the soil can reduce the amount of nitrogen available to plants. The microorganisms will continue to do the work of decomposing, but will use soil nitrogen for their own growth, restricting the nitrogen's availability to plants growing nearby.

Allow partly decomposed compost particles to break down further or separate them out by sieving before using compost on growing plants.

COMPOST WILL.

Compost serves primarily as a soil conditioner.

Soil will be better able to hold air and water.

The soil will drain more efficiently

Contains a nutrient reserve that plants can use.

 

The compost encourages a larger population of beneficial soil microorganisms, controlling harmful microorganisms.

Produces plants with fewer insect and disease problems.

Fosters healthy plant growth, better able to resist pests.

Will enhance the structure and soil fertility.

Increase nutrient and water holding capacity of sandy soils.

Improve aeration and drainage of clay soils, making the soil lighter and easier to work.

As well as containing organic matter the compost contains moderate amounts of nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) delivering them in a slow-release manner over a period of years, enabling the reduction in application rate of any fertilizer.

COMPOST USED ON LAWNS. For new lawns, a 2 to 3" layer of compost is best when planting. Once the new lawn is established, a ¼ to ½" layer yearly will maintain the quality of the soil. An existing lawn top-dressed with a ½" layer of compost every year or two will be healthier than an un-amended lawn. Autumn is the best time to apply the compost, although an application in early spring is almost as effective.

COMPOST USED AS SOIL AMENDMENT. Use compost as a soil amendment. Organic matter is critical for plant development and compost will help raise the amount of organic matter in soil. Temperate soils may have up to 50% organic matter, sub-tropical soils typically have 1% or less. Because tropical and subtropical soils never freeze, microbial activity continues year-round, as a result organic material is used up quickly. Because of biological soil activity and year-round warm weather, gardeners are advised to apply compost annually, or as needed, to increase soil organic matter content. For best results, use only finished compost as a soil amendment. Compost used as a soil amendment should be applied and incorporated into the soil before planting crops, grasses, plants, etc. Apply 1-3 inches of compost ( 1-2 wheelbarrow loads for every 5 m2 /16 sq.ft ) to the soil surface and work it in to the soil to a depth of about 3-4 inches. Late autumn is recommend as a good time to spread compost over a garden bed, by spring, soil organisms will have worked the compost into the soil. Alternatively spread compost two weeks before planting time in the spring. There really is no wrong time to spread compost, the benefits will always remain the same. If your supply of compost is really limited, consider side-dressing, a way to use compost sparingly by strategically placing it around certain plants or along certain rows. To side-dress a plant, work the compost into the soil around the plant, starting about an inch from the stem, out to the plants drip line, taking care not to disturb the roots.

COMPOST USED AS MULCH. The forest floor is a natural composting system in which leaves are mulch on the soil surface, and then gradually decompose, recycling nutrients and conditioning the soil. Likewise, garden debris such as leaves, grass clippings, or shredded branches can be used as mulch in the landscape and allowed to compost on the soil surface. Finished or unfinished compost can be applied as a mulch 3-4 inches thick on the soil surface. Do not incorporate into the soil. Keep compost mulch 2-3" away from plant stems. Nutrients will filter into soil, without robbing nitrogen from the roots. Compost used as a mulch will improve soil moisture retention, insulates soil from extreme temperatures, break down to provide nutrients and organic matter for soil structure. One disadvantage to using compost as a mulch is it will not suppress weed growth, in fact it will promote weed growth unless covered with a standard mulch material. Compost or mulch should be reapplied yearly to replenish the decomposing layer.

COMPOST AS A POTTING MIX. Compost can be used as an excellent potting soil for your container nursery. Compost offers good water retention qualities and some basic nutrients. However, gardeners should   use only fully cured compost as a potting mix. 
Container grown plants need a potting soil that retains moisture, but is well drained. Most gardening enthusiasts blend compost with coarse sand, perlite, vermiculite, etc. to make optimal planting media. If your cured compost still has large lumps in it, you may want to screen compost through a 10mm screen to remove un-decomposed material that could rob nitrogen from the plant roots. Leaving some coarse or bulky material in the mix will help maintain a well-drained planting media. If the organic materials have not completely decomposed, plants growing in the compost media may turn yellow and appear stressed. This is because the decomposition process is continuing near the plant roots and the microorganisms in the compost are competing for nitrogen.

COMPOST TEA. “Compost tea” is the method of using your compost nutrients for indoor plants, potted plants when there’s no room for additional soil, and foliar (leaf) applications

To make compost tea:

Step 1 - Fill a woven bag with finished* compost.

Step 2 - Place the bag in a barrel or bucket of water.

Step 3 - Let sit an hour.

Step 4 - Remove the bag.

Step 5 - Use the resulting liquid, "compost tea" to water plants.

Step 6 - Empty the contents of the bag into the garden.

Compost Tea extracts nutrients and microorganisms from the compost and allows you to apply these beneficial components to plants. Therefore, compost tea acts as a weak liquid fertilizer, low in nitrogen but high in micronutrients. If your plants are container grown, there may be no room to add compost to the pots. Additionally, soil should not be built up against the stems of many plants. Therefore, compost tea is a good option for applying the benefits of compost to container grown plants.

*Using unfinished compost for “compost tea making” is not recommended due to possible pathogens and compounds which could damage plants. Only finished compost should be used.