Plant directly into the compost? Really?


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This topic contains 9 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by  Kathryn 5 months ago.

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  • #39460

    Maria
    Participant

    Hello all!

    I’m new here to the forum but familiar (somewhat) with the no-till system. I see Charles recommends planting young plants directly into the compost (I devoured the last episode of Garden World that featured Mr. Dowding and showed him doing just this!). I have a mountain of composted (year old) horse/donkey manure. I would love to begin, seriously, the no till process. (In years past I always chicken out and till in the compost).

    MY QUESTION: many other sites advise against planting in what amounts to pure compost. In fact, other than Mr. Dowding, I haven’t found anyone who recommends this. So I am confused!!! Would someone please reassure me?

    *(To avoid the problem of slow-to-compost shavings, I separate out as much as possible, the shavings from the manure. So my compost is pretty “pure” manure (with, alas, a million seeds which is another issue).

    Here’s a photo of my garden and, in the background, the manure-makers.

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    #39465

    charles
    Moderator

    Maria, if planting and sowing into compost caused problems, none of us would be here!
    I wonder what all the other comments you have read, are based on. They need to go in the compost heap…
    Seriously, anything well decomposed (compost) grows plants, of a quality that varies according to the compost’s ingredients.
    Your composted manure sounds a great planting medium.
    No need to till.
    Keep passing a rake or hoe through at first, to stop the weed seeds establishing into plants, stir them up as tiny seedlings so they shrivel in the dry surface.

    #39466

    Maria
    Participant

    Ah!!!! Thank you Charles for this boost of encouragement.

    (Since you wondered, here is one of the things people (like me) will read when they google the question: http://www.the-compost-gardener.com/can-you-plant-a-vegetable-garden-in-pure-compost.html

    Some quotes: “…When you are planting seeds, pull the compost away and plant the seeds into the soil. Don’t cover with the compost – just leave it to the sides. With transplants do the same. Pull the compost away, loosen up the soil and plant your plants into the soil. Again, leave the compost a couple of inches away from the stems.”

    and: “…The thing to remember is that the ideal soil only needs about 5% organic matter. The rest of the soil is made up of 45% minerals, that’s the ground up parent material, 25% is water and 25% air. That 5% is magic. It”s where the biology that makes soil function lives.”

    Etc, etc. You can see variation on this theme all over the place – which is what makes it confusing.

    We just planted (what seems like) a million onion starts into pure compost. I will let you know how it goes!

    I am a little worried about the weeds waiting to leap into action coming from the compost. But we’ll deal with that when we have to!

    Thank you so much for your confirmation – and your time.

    #39480

    Don Foley
    Participant

    Hi Maria,

    You should take note that Charles states “well decomposed” compost. That is important. Do not use fresh manure or garden compost which has not fully decomposed, as that will cause you problems.

    Don.

    #39482

    Maria
    Participant

    Yes, thanks Don! Of course, well decomposed! As I mentioned in my original post mine is a year old. I hope that’s old enough!

    My big confusion is how many people advise against planting in pure compost. So weird, and it shows the uphill climb that No-Till must make!

    And then, just last night, a friend said she needed topsoil for her planters where she plants her herbs. I mentioned No-Till and suggested (begged her) to come take some of my compost and that I’m learning that you can just plant directly into compost. She said she tried that last year – and all her herbs just sat there. They didn’t grow.

    So she’s off to find topsoil.

    ???

    Maria

    #39507

    Don Foley
    Participant

    Hi again Maria,

    I just mentioned the Manure/Compost subject in another post here.
    These two words get thrown around and interchanged “willy nilly” as if they are one and the same thing and this causes confusion for many inexperienced gardeners.
    Basically Manure is Manure until it is completely decomposed then and only then is it compost. I personally prefer to leave it to decompose for 2 years but others say 18 months whilst yet more will say 3 years! For me, I look to see if there is any trace of bedding and if there is none or very very little I use it.

    As for your friends Herbs. The common Herbs we grow will survive perfectly well in most garden soils without the need for lots of fertiliser. Well drained reasonably fertile soil is all that is required for Herbs. If she is growing Mediterranean Herbs she needs to add lots of grit or horticultural sand because these herbs love stony ground.

    Don.

    #45022

    Eric
    Participant

    Hi Maria,

    Did you end up planting directly into the manure? If so, please let me know how did it work out. I want to do the same thing. We have cow manure that is a year old. However, it does have some hard lumps in it so I’m not sure how it would work.

    Eric

    #45028

    Maria
    Participant

    Hi Eric!

    Yes, I did end up planting the onion starts in the thick bed of compost. Worked like a charm! To help with the weeds that I know are in my compost I did lay down a thick layer of mulch in between the onion rows. I will be doing it again!

    Thanks again to everyone on this site for encouragement and great ideas!

    looking forward to Spring!

    Maria

    #45030

    Eric
    Participant

    Hey Maria,

    Wow! I’m happy to hear that. Just like you I have been concerned because everything on the web and everyone I know advises against it. However, I’m going to a rebel and go for it. 🙂

    Thanks!
    Eric

    #45093

    Kathryn
    Participant

    When beginner gardeners say they’ve used compost close inquiry often discovers that they’ve actually used whatever was cheapest at the garden centre, even if that happens to be pure peat. I wonder if that is what those poor herbs got planted into. Personally I always reckon that the critical stages to watch for in compost maturity is firstly when the worms move in, indicating that the initial thermophilic bacteria have finished their work and that any vermicides in there, if you happen to be using animal manure, have decomposed. And then I look for seeds to start germinating – if they can plant themselves in there I can plant in there. Full maturity is of course indicated when the worms move out again because they’ve run out of food. I like to have a pretty permanent understory of self sown salad crops in my polytunnel – I just weed out the inedible, or at least the things I either didn’t know were edible or are too rampageous. Goose grass is edible but I try to turn it into salad at the seed leaf stage so it doesn’t climb the tomato plants and strangle them.

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