Vail Daily column: Apply compost to garden now for water savings later
Ryan Summerlin January 20, 2013
Turning the corner into a new year makes the gardening season feel closer at hand.
If you’ve got a hankering to get outdoors and “do something,” January is an ideal time to apply compost, regardless of weather. That means toss it on top of the snow!
Even if you are not able to till it into the soil, the early application gives compost adequate time to break down. Compost on its own is low in nutrient value. It’s not valuable for what it is, so much as what it does – and the doing takes time.
Early composting allows a “mellowing process” that will result in a homogeneous soil mixture ripe with microbial activity. That’s why compost that mellows a few months has better results than when it’s applied right before planting. This process helps soil hold onto both nutrients and water. With another dry season predicted, holding on to every drop of water this growing season will be critical.
What kind of compost?
• Compost by nature is all organic, but some compost “mixes” will have sand and other inorganic material as fillers.
• To promote the most organic activity possible, look for compost with little or no fillers.
• Also, shop for compost that is well-aged and low in salt.
How much do I need?
• A good rule of thumb is 1 cubic yard of compost per 100 square feet of garden area. Use less if your soil has been well amended in the past.
• Bulk purchases are the most cost effective, so you might get the best deal picking up bulk compost. For reference, a pick-up truck holds about 11⁄2 to 2 cubic yards. So if you need this amount – or could share with a neighbor – buying in bulk could save some cash. To buy in bulk and have it delivered to your home usually requires a minimum order of 5 or more cubic yards.
• This weekend looks to be a warmer one, so it might be fun to pitch some compost over the garden and daydream about early-summer tomatoes.
Compost is about more than growing veggies. It’s a key ingredient when establishing a healthy, low-water lawn and for all the other plants in your landscape. If you are renovating or installing a new landscape, be sure to follow the compost requirements of your water district or municipality.
Becky Garber is member of the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, of which Neils Lunceford, a landscaping company, is a member. You may contact them at 970- 468-0340.