Below is a response to my blog entry about there never being enough nitrogen and compost, sent to me by Ann of Redwood City, CA.
Me: There is never enough compost generated by my 2 person family compared to the amount I need year round to make my veggie garden thrive.
Ann: After grinding shrubs and tree branches in our small chipper/shredder, using kitchen scraps sans meat/dairy, using continual clippings and spent plants/flowers, our household of two has enough compost year round. I believe the chipper/shredder is a true garden helper.
Me: Unless there have been peas or beans in the plot, or loads of grass clippings in the compost, there is not enough nitrogen in the soil to give good yields of veggies.
Ann: Our lawn is gone and compost crops (fava, vetch, etc.) proved too much work when springtime arrived. They were too lush to run through the chipper/shredder and hand chopping took forever. By grinding green leaves with their tree/shrub branches, more nitrogen goes into the compost pile. Beware, your compost pile will be steaming hot? If more nitrogen is needed in your planting area, try alfalfa meal.
Me: Other gardeners in the area who use fertilizer are getting better yields than my garden, especially corn – the great nitrogen/water eater. My corn was pathetic this year.
Ann: Packaged fertilizers contain salts, and fresh manure has salt byproducts from animals. Just not good for the soil. "Fertilizers are forms of salts and therefore contribute to the total soluble salt content of the growing medium. Depending on the inherent salt content of the irrigation water used, fertility levels must be adjusted to avoid salt accumulations." Yes, fertilizers seem to be a great boost to your plants, but they don't feed the soil and eventually your soil will suffer, and so will plant production in the future.
Me: Thanks for pointing that out Ann - I would, BTW, never use fertilizers! But I did not mention that.
Me: I do know that plants thrive on food, water and correct amounts of sunlight. I have been getting the water and sunlight angle correct but have failed somewhat on the food. My plants need more nitrogen – which brings us back to the title of this post, which is Poop. They need more poop. As I am not going to be keeping chickens anytime soon, this means that I will have to buy bags of poop – chicken or steer – drag it home and spread it thickly on the garden areas in need. I’m not sure whether this falls under the category of organic or not – as I will not know completely the origin of said poop – or what the animals were fed. But it has to be done and I do declare this the Year of the Poop.
Ann: Chickens were an appealing thought in terms of eggs and fertilizer, but the more research I did and homes I visited, I changed my mind. I don't have the time to take care of more pets, it's costly to feed and house them, and my backyard is way too small to be a humane chicken keeper.
Each fall I gather about 8-10 bags of dry leaves from our deciduous tree in the front yard, and evergreen tree in the backyard. I used to go on neighborhood gathering sprees before our trees matured. In the fall I mulch the vegetable plots and all other bare growing areas using about four bags of leaves. In the spring the leaves are removed and placed in the compost pile. The last four bags of dry leaves are distributed to mulch areas to protect them from the summer sun. Paths, strawberry beds, and hardy plants are mulched with chipped wood to nourish and protect the soil.
I'm no garden expert by any means, just learning as I plod along in the backyard.
Me: And there you have it! A good way to bridge the nitrogen gap that works for Ann.
Thanks for contributing Ann!