SOIL. Extension Master Gardeners. Soil Preparation. Soil Preparation. From Red Clay to Brown Gold. of Buncombe County. Ready to Plant?

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1 Extension Master Gardeners of Buncombe County Presented By Linda McNab Master Gardener Volunteer North Carolina Cooperative Extension Buncombe County Center SOIL From Red Clay to Brown Gold Soil Preparation Ready to Plant? Soil Preparation What in the World is Tilth? The physical condition of soil, especially in relation to its suitability for planting. Factors that determine tilth: formation and stability of aggregated soil particles moisture content degree of aeration rate of water infiltration and drainage ph Fertility Tilth The tilth of a soil can change rapidly (depending on environmental factors such as changes in moisture) The object of tillage is to improve tilth but in the long run conventional (large scale) tillage often has the opposite effect soil breaks down and becomes compacted. 1

2 Don t guess: Soil test Vegetables need ph Healthy roots: healthy plants drought tolerance Lime 3 6 months to react Incorporate Any time of year Pelletized vs. pulverized Finer material reacts faster Lime Wood Ashes 1/3 to 1/2 strength of lime Phosphate Phosphate sources: Bone meal Rock phosphate (0-3-0) 0) Bat quano Phosphate Phosphate sources: Super phosphate Rock phosphate Bone meal

3 Organic Matter Improves tilth Holds water in sandy soil Improves drainage in clay Improves nutrient holding capacity Better microbial activity Earthworms Soil Preparation Organic Amendments: Pine bark soil conditioner Aged manure Compost Rotted leaves Pickup load of manure Manure and leaves in fall Building beds Backyard Composting From Trash to Treasure Why compost? No longer legal to deposit organic yard waste in public landfills NC Senate Bill 111, Jan. 1, 1993 Recycle kitchen scraps and garden waste Feed the landscape... not the landfill. 3

4 Why compost? Organic matter improves the soil Improves tilth Improves aeration Adds nutrients Increases microbial activity Uncomposted leaves can cause nitrogen deficiency Requirements For Composting Nitrogen and carbon sources Water Oxygen Microorganisms Nitrogen Sources Kitchen scraps Grass clippings Manure Nitrogen fertilizer Blood meal OK To Compost Fruits and vegetables Bread Tea bags Coffee grounds Egg shells Things NOT to compost C/N Ratio 20 to 30 / 1 Meat, bones Whole eggs Pine needles Charcoal Pet droppings Plants recently treated with weed killer High Carbon leaves straw sawdust shrub clippings High Nitrogen grass clippings manure fruits & vegetables green plants 4

5 Starting the pile Maintenance Alternate layers of carbon and nitrogen Water as needed Aerate To Turn or Not To Turn? Aerates to stimulate microbial activity Speeds decomposition Build more heat Remix for thorough decomposition Getting scientific Monitor temperature Turn after temperature spikes at F then drops How to Speed Up Composting Chop up large food items Mow over leaves Keep some sticks in the mix for aeration Turn frequently Each time you add a C item, add a handful of a N item, and vice versa Bins Allow air flow Optimal feet square 5

6 Composting Tips You do not need to add lime Add wood ashes sparingly Do not buy compost starter Add water during dry weather or to covered bins Other Composting Options Vermicomposting - worms Compost Spinners a new twist on composting Lazy person s s composting Add kitchen scraps to pre-dug garden trenches Make one big pile of rubbish Vermicomposting Red wigglers digest food scraps Use bin with shredded paper bedding, some crushed eggshells and a bit of soil Add food scraps as for other composting methods Keep covered and moist but not soggy Harvest worm castings in 3-43 months Compost Tumblers Cost $200-$500 $500 Work faster Easier to turn Good for small amounts of compost 6

7 Other Composting Options Troubleshooting Make one big pile of rubbish Add kitchen scraps to pre-dug garden trenches Bad odor Compost damp and warm in the middle but nowhere else Pile is damp and sweet smelling but still will not heat up Not enough air. Turn pile Pile too small. Collect more material and make a bigger pile Not enough nitrogen. Mix in N sources such as fresh manure, bloodmeal or grass clippings Need More Information? Visit the EMG compost demo site at the Farmer s s Market Take home a sample of our black gold Check out Backyard Composting and A Guide to Managing Organic Yard Wastes: NCCE publications 7

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