Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter Watering and Compost

In spite of the moisture from snow and ice from a month ago, the garden is absolutely bone dry. Sunday we set sprinklers and almost instantly the winter grasses resumed their verdant green and perked up while the grateful garden sent forth small shoots of the Jonquil and crocus.

Now is a perfect time to apply compost to the garden. Compost was first described as useful for the garden in 1587 so its properties have a time tested tradition. Compost is simply decomposed organic matter which improves the soil and gives it a lighter consistency. Since Oklahoma soil is difficult, the addition of compost will greatly improve the quality.

The merits of compost may be noted on the forest floor which is covered by undisturbed leaves. These leaves break down over time creating the rich soil that nourishes the fledging saplings as they grow to become forest giants in an ever-repeating cycle. If one takes inspiration from this natural cycle, the value of this process may be utilized in the garden. Since the average gardener does not have the quiet decades of the forest to break industrious individuals may make a compost bin and create their own rich matter.

In the 1930’s to ’40’s when America was encouraged grow vegetables for the war effort, most urban homes had a compost bin. My father had one and was fairly constant with his enthusiastic interest in it. It was located in the farthest corner of the yard and consisted of three wooden sides approximately four feet high and it was deep enough to move about in. Leaves were the basis of his compost with grass clippings, old newspapers, coffee grounds, and other organic matter added, all of which were in 12-18 inch layers. Bone meal and ammonium nitrate were sprinkled between the layers to aid in decomposition and give it a boost. The mixture was tossed about while sprinkling with water occasionally to dampen it and encourage it to ‘cook’. By Spring the process was complete, producing dark matter that had a deep and rich aroma. For those who do not have their own compost readily available, it is reasonably priced at most nurseries and may be purchased by the truck load. Apply some this year and work it into the soil…the garden will thank you.

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