Our garden is growing, not enough compost


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Hi All, We are in New York City and have a variety of gardens (a greenhouse, raised beds on concrete, and a roof planter box garden). With the recent expansion we are running out of compost. We have relied on our worm composting for the last 5 years or so, and are glad to be strictly organic about it, but need more. I see a few options. Get more material for the compost (which is not easy here), buy compost, or get some sort of fertilizer.
I see ads for organic fertilizers, which could be a good addition, but still am not sure if it would actually be organic.

We are relatively new to gardening and would welcome any advise!

Thanks!
 
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Be careful of buying composted soils in the big box stores and "organic fertilizer" from the same. Most of it is junk. Wish I could help you further.
 
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@MoonShadows is correct. Stay away from the Big Box Stores. Go to a real nursery. There they will have all kinds of organic fertilizers and composts. I don't know which brands are available where you live but if purchased from a nursery and it says OMRI or Organic on the packaging it will be good stuff. Compost is great stuff but it alone is not enough. You will need more NPK and trace elements/minerals than it can provide. Commercial organic fertilizers will provide these. You can effectively do the same thing by adding different amendments to your compost to make it as effective as organic fertilizers but it will cost a LOT more money to do so. Do you do compost tea? It is a very effective way to economically boost your composts effectiveness.
 
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There is a product line called Huma Grow that I have been useing as a source for Thyme Oil and micronutrients that I put out in the heat of our summer when fertilizing is a bad idea. They use humic materials they take from their own mine. It helps me stretch my compost and gives me a some nice precise choices instead a big combo.
 
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Thanks for the great advise! Yes i will stay away from the big box stores. Chuck, We tried compost tea early on. maybe its time to get the air pump out again. What recipe do you use? Would you mind sharing it? Will this suffice for the NPK and trace elements?
If not the Huma Grow looks helpful, thanks Dirtmechanic! is it organic? Looks like I would have to start testing the soil.
 
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NPK is best provided by a fertilizer. Although there are trace elements and minerals in fertilizers, they are best provided by supplements such as GreenSand or Liquid Seaweed or Kelp. Green Sand is added to the soil while the seaweed or kelp is added in a liquid form. There are many other organic additives for trace elements and minerals as well, but I use these two. My receipe for compost is usually this for a 5 gallon bucket of water: One big double handful of a manure based compost, 2 oz liquid seaweed, 2 oz liquid humate, a handful of worm castings, 1 oz fish emulsion and 2 oz of molasses. IMO this receipe provides all of the trace elements and minerals needed and it also provides a tremendous growth medium for soil micro organisms. I don't know what you mean when you say that fertilizing is bad in the heat of the summer. This may be true for synthetic fertilizers but not for organic fertilizers. Organics can be used ALL of the time if desired.
 
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Thanks for the recipe Chuck! It looks like I can buy most of it online.... The manure I am not sure of though. We do have tons of worm castings though, you think this can make up for it?
 
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Chuck’s advice above is solid. I would add some bags of manure, a little peat moss, and a fluffener/dampener like perlite. Mix in dry and organic ingredients like azomite, rock phosphate, blood or cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, greensand, gypsum or lime, etc... Most of this stuff is cheap except perlite/vermiculite and greensand.

Also, try to increase your compost output with vertical towers or convert an old freezer. As you get more worms spread them into your gardening area and they’ll eat the rocks and manure, making worm castings/juice right next to the plants rooting systems.
 
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I've been cultivating relationships with people and businesses to add to compost here. I don't make special trips for any of my inputs. I look close by, and on the routes of normal travel I'm already doing. Sometimes if I get an early heads up, or I know schedules, I can plan my routes/pickups around that info.

First, each Fall I gather hundreds of large paper bagged leaves. That forms the backbone of my "browns".

Every week I pick up an average of about 1500 eggshells (roughly 8 cases of 15 dozen) from a local bakery. I dry, crush, and powder them here onsite.

I get lots of spent cracked grain from a local brewer. NOTE: If you live near people, the spent grains are so rich they start to hot compost in a day and will smell off very quickly. COVER them with something to mediate the smell.

My coffee source ran dry. I'm looking for another. I used to get an average of 30-40 gallons every week (two locations). That ran dry. Not even the local stores from a certain nationally known coffee chain known for saving spent grounds for people will save the grounds near here. We get a little from Ms UrbanWild's office...maybe a gallon container or less depending on the week. I'll take what I can get as I don't even drink coffee. :)

I get spent tea fixings (tea, hibiscus, mint, etc) and SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria & Yeast) from a small local kombucha manufacturer. SCOBY is like worm crack. Seriously, they mass up around it like me on cookies! I pass on the high oil hops. After a couple of years worth of experimenting, it isn't worth the trouble. Worms don't like it and I have limited space. If I had acreage, I'd dedicate one section to the long-term breakdown of hops and just walk away. It will be years and not much helps it along. NYC has a ton of kombucha makers.

I add alfalfa to beds...meal, pellets, or blocks depending on what is on sale.

I'd love to be able to harvest my own seaweed but I'm landlocked.

I'd love to be able to purchase biochar powdered and maybe just small chunks but can't get it here.

I also can't find crushed basalt (dust) which I'd like to have as well.

Given herbicides in straw passing through mammals and even making it through the compost stage and killing garden plants, I have yet to find a local source of safe manure. The search is still on.

Anyway, talk to enough people...and get known as the local composting weirdo... and sometimes you find new sources and new materials. 99 times out of 100 I don't get answers to emails I send looking for materials. Additionally, even phone calls don't pan out often. However, all types of contacts work...and you just need a few. I contacted a local smoothie shop thinking I could get the leftover fruit and veg screenings. It turns out their smoothies were all about powders and supplements and they processed zero fresh fruits and vegetables. Who knew?

On the fertilizer side, have you heard about EcoScraps?

 
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I compost everything I can find, for fertilizer I use bone meal, occasionally blood fish and bone, it mostly depends on price. I find it is worth working out how much you are paying, the ten kilo 'Saver' drum of bone meal actually worked out a dearer way of buying it than 750gr packets in the shop across the way.
 
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I compost everything I can find, for fertilizer I use bone meal, occasionally blood fish and bone, it mostly depends on price. I find it is worth working out how much you are paying, the ten kilo 'Saver' drum of bone meal actually worked out a dearer way of buying it than 750gr packets in the shop across the way.
I think the main point here @Oliver Buckle is that in America they cannot source the same stuff as we can here !! It could just be that we take a lot for granted.
 
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