Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Compost Hole Method, Part 3

Please see Compost Hole Method, Part 1. if you haven't already.

Step 11. Plant your seeds (or starts).

Step 11. Continued: cover the seeds with soil, but not too much. Many seeds need light to germinate.

Gently smooth the soil.

Step 12, optional: Plant sticks to mark the spot and to discourage cats and birds.

Step 13: Make plant labels. Many types of plastic containers lend them selves well to this task.

Label with the variety and the date.

Step 13. Water gently and make an effort to keep evenly moist, but not soggy.

And wait for your seeds to start growing.

Here are some tiny ruby red card seedlings, they will grow up to resemble the plants in Part 1.

To the right are baby giant red Japanese mustard seedlings. Mature plants are also pictured in Part 1.

If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them in comments, or better yet, add me as a friend on facebook. I have a number of gardening photo albums there that you may find interesting.

If you have a favorite way to process your kitchen scraps, please feel free to share!

All text and photos Copyrighted, 2011, Harvest McCampbell


kayepoh said...

Thank you for your detailed instructions. Easy to follow. Simple and practical.

Harvest said...

You are so welcome . . . I have tons more photos on my face book page--send me a friend request if you ever want to check them out . . .

WithoutTheG said...

Hi there! Do you plant seeds/seedlings immediately after filling the compost hole? I thought I read in another post of yours that we shouldn't plant until a year later because that's when the kitchen scraps and stuff will be fully decomposed...

Also, do you re-use that hole for new plantings? I assume all you need to do afterwards is to topdress with compost once every year, as you would do in a traditional garden bed.

(I am new to gardening...) Thanks! And love your posts!

Harvest said...

You are so welcome and thank you! Yes, if you bury the compostables under 4 - 6 inches of soil, you can plant in them immediately. Best not to use animal products of any any kind in these compost holes, however, especially if you are planting root crops.

If this is how you handle all your compostables, you will likely need to use some of the same spots next year. I find that compost holes started from fall through spring have fully turned into top soil by fall of the same year, and if needed the same spot can be used again. Holes started in the summer, are best left to the following spring or summer. Your results may vary, but just check the holes. Things may take differing amounts of time in different climates and in different soil types.

I do find, that when using this technique in the spring for planting heavy feeders, like squash and pumpkins, the soil in the hole subsides by mid summer, as the plants scavenge all moisture and nutrients from the compostables. This forms a convenient watering basin, and also a nice depression into which you can stuff grass clippings possibly mixed with some coffee grounds. The grass clippings will hold moisture and also release nutrients as they decay.

Now, the most important thing for gardeners to do, is to make observations. Not all techniques are equally useful for all gardeners, for all climates, and for all soil types.

On the year wait. If you are composting manure or any other animal product, except for hair, fir, or wool, hot composting is the best way to do, and after hot composting it is best to let the compost age a year. This is to reduce or eliminate possibly disease carrying pathogens. Not everyone does this, but it is what is recommended.

Hope this answers your questions! Please feel free to ask more . . . .

WithoutTheG said...

Thank you again! Yes your response is very helpful! I was a bit worried because here in Southern California, the backyard dirt is terrible and I couldn't imagine my seedlings getting enough nutrients when the humus hasn't been created yet. It sounds like they can still draw nutrients from the compostables as they decay. I guess I'll just do it and see what happens.. :)

That's interesting. I did read elsewhere online about "circle gardens" or "eco-circles", which form the basin shape you speak of. Only it gets formed right away from the excess topsoil after you mix layers of subsoil with compostables and topsoil. It becomes something like a raised circular bed.

Harvest said...

You are so welcome! Raised beds are excellent for high rainfall areas, as they provide drainage. They are also really good for cool summer areas, if you lay them out in the sun with long south facing sides, as the soil warms up quicker.

However, in hot dry areas, sunken gardens, or at least sunken planting holes are a better plan. They help keep the water right were you need it, the help shade the soil so you don't get so much evaporation, and they help shade the roots so they don't cook. When you bury the compostables, you can mound up the dirt, so you have a raised mound to start. This will help the soil warm up if you live in a cool spring area, and it will help provide drainage if you live in a wet spring area. As the plants and worms and soil microorganisms utilize the compostables, they soil will sink forming a basin which will hold water in hot dry summers.

If you don't have pests living in your soil, you can also simply move that soil to another area where you can use it. If it does have pests, it is best not to move it around, unless you are going to layer it in a hot and active compost pile . . . but that is a whole other subject!

In any event, excess soil can be used to form circles around plants to retain and focus water at the base of your plants, no matter what technique you use. This is very useful in dry low rainfall areas. On the other hand, it can be problematic during the rainy season in high rainfall areas . . . .

Gardening techniques, by experimentation, must always be adapted to the soil, climate, and site where you are gardening!

Katherine said...

This information is fascinating. I am a new gardener and am planning to try this hole composting. I have always wanted to compost. I'm in the San Diego area. I am having a problem with snails. I want to garden organically. Do you have any suggestion?
Thank you!

Harvest said...

Hi Katherine, Thanks for your comment! If you use the google provided search thingy up in the left hand corner of the page you will find lots of information on controlling snails. I am not sure if it is mentioned in any of those entries that granulated dried garlic is good. We found, at the community garden where I used to be the coordinator, that the slugs would not cross the garlic when we used it as a barrier around tender seedlings. Hope you have been having a productive gardening season. :)