Pouring blended waste directly on growing vegetables


TheGardenLady received this question from Oliver at Lloyd’s Landscaping:

Is it safe to pour blended food waste (vegetable leftovers, bones) directly on growing vegetables?

Gardening friends have bought used blenders at garage sales just to blend their kitchen waste to use in their compost bins. It speeds up some of the process of composting. But they never, never chop up bones of animals. And you should never use bones on your vegetable beds. Bones, meat or fat can attract unwanted pests like rats or insects.

To answer your question about safely putting blended vegetable food waste directly on your vegetables. It is safe. But why do it? It might look unsightly if enough of the mushy vegetables are on the ground. And if you live in a city or town, neighbors might complain. And the odors given off as the vegetables decompose might entice some unwanted animals to your garden.

Why not start a compost pile or bin so that the food waste is out of sight until it has decomposed into beautiful friable soil that will look good in your vegetable garden. There will be no chance of odor to attract animals or insects to a compost pile or bin if the composting is done correctly.

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International Compost Awareness Week

The finished compost bin by London Permaculture

I just learned that the first full week in May is International Compost Awareness Week or ICAW.  Since I know that all the readers of TheGardenLady blog are composting all their leaves and garbage (except for bones, meat, grease or carnivore feces, like dog and cat poop) I believe you are aware of composting every week of the year. But just in case some new reader does not know about composting, please start becoming aware of composting THIS week and continue doing it for the rest of your gardening lives.  (See here and here and here)

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Mulch and Compost – Use Horse Manure

The Magic Of Horses by Big Grey Mare

Another thing to do to your garden to prevent water loss in the time of drought, is to be sure that all your plants have mulch around their roots. Mulch keeps weeds down and helps retain water. There are many different types of mulch that you can use.

Must be gardeners near by by pollyalida

l use aged horse manure as mulch. I am lucky that I know someone who raises horses, ages their manure at least 6 months and then delivers it to my house. The woman said that her horses, who are retired, earn their keep this way so that she “never has to put them out to pasture” so to speak. The adage to never use fresh horse manure on your plants or you can burn them is said with a caveat. I have heard that a thin layer will not burn. But I have never tried it because I would think that even if it didn’t burn, the fresh manure would stink.

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Another View on Using Compost for Potting Soil

On Monday’s post, TheGardenLady answered a question about using compost for potting soil, in which she suggested that this was fine to do.  Recently, she received a response to her answer from Carolyn of the famous Carolyn Shade Gardens in Bryn Mawr, a garden which TheGardenLady has written about in the past (see here).  Here’s Carolyn’s response and some photos of her beautiful flowers.

I would not recommend using straight compost as potting soil in a container. It will become too hard, impede root growth, and not drain well. I use my own compost in my containers, but I mix it approximately one part composted cow manure, one part compost, three parts Pro-mix. The compost improves the quality and fertility of the soil mix. However, container plants need a lot more fertilizer because water is running through them all the time. I add the cow manure for long-term fertility and also fertilize once every two weeks with a weak mixture of organic liquid fertilizer. The Pro-mix keeps the soil light and draining well and allows good root growth. I have attached some pictures of my containers.

Thanks Carolyn for your view on this question.  TheGardenLady is always open to different viewpoints, so if you disagree with TheGardenLady feel free to express your thoughts.

Using Compost as Potting Soil

Compost by Fleurette Jardin

TheGardenLady received this question from Peggy.

I want to use compost as potting soil. I live on a 3rd floor so am limited to plants on a balcony, such as jasmine, monarda, some lobelia and other annuals to color the desk area and maybe a tomato plant or two. Any thoughts on using only compost? Will it hurt these types of plants?

The simple answer to the question, “can one pot plants directly into compost?”, is YES one can plant directly into compost.

Most people add their homemade compost to other soil because usually one does not have enough homemade compost unless you have a large property to add leaves to the household garbage- the combination forming compost.

Thus TheGardenLady wonders if the writer of this letter is planning on buying compost or making her own from her kitchen scraps. It seems that if one were buying bags of something to pot plants, it would be wise to purchase prepared potting soil in bags. Scientists have formulated their products for optimum plant growth and many of these potting soils come with added fertilizer. Everything is in one bag except for the plant and the water so that if you have limited space, buy something that has been made easy for you.

However if you have made your own compost from your household garbage, you must understand what the final product will look like before you use it. The garbage has to be completely decomposed. The finished product of compost is a black loamy soil that has no residue of any of the garbage that it was made from. There is no odor. If you see any bits of garbage or if your compost has any smell, your compost is not ready. When compost is not fully decomposed, plants planted in it may turn yellow and appear stressed.

If you are planning to make your own compost or have made your own compost, do you have enough homemade compost to plant the numerous plants you ask about? If you do have enough homemade compost, you can use it in pots and plant directly in it. But you must understand that you do not use compost until it is completely decomposed. An easy test to see if the compost is ready, is to put your compost in a couple of pots and plant some radish in these pots. If 3/4s or more of the radish seeds sprout and grow into radishes, then your compost is ready to use.  See here.

Tomatoes should have no trouble growing in your compost. In TheGardenLady’s compost bin, tomatoes and potatoes always seem to self seed and grow.

Jasmine should have no trouble growing in compost; but are you sure you want a plant that can grow into a 15 ft. shrub?  See here.

If you are using compost that is ready to be used, it cannot hurt any plants. It is the way nature makes soil. But you must be sure that the material you are using is completely decomposed.

Carolyn Walker’s Shade Garden is selling compost

Carolyn Walker’s Shade Garden is selling compost.  If you do not make your own compost and want some, you should contact the owner’s son immediately. But you have to pick up the bags.

Final Call for Compost:

Carolyn Walker’s sons, Matt and Alex, have a limited supply of beautifully sifted, fully decomposed compost available. Carolyn Walker never prepares a bed or plants a plant without adding some “black gold” (she says ” top soil and peat moss are a waste of money-they just don’t compare”). Her plants thrive without fertilizers and with minimal watering on their compost diet.

If you would like to place an order and can pick up during this weekend June 27th and June 28th, email Matt at mattwd21@yahoo.com. When placing an order, please include your name, phone number, and the number of bags you want. Matt will confirm your order by email.

If you cannot pick up this weekend, want at least four bags, and wish to be placed on a waiting list, please let Matt know.

North Star Orchards included the following comments in their most recent newsletter:

“Don’t forget your vitamins! Well, in this case, organic matter (i.e. compost).

Our highly unscientific experiment this spring showed dramatic results. Daffodils grown on the ‘untreated’ poor overworked soil
our farm came with (photo on the left)….and daffodils grown just a few feet away in soil ‘treated’ to a heavy dose of well-made compost (photo on the right).

And that’s the same 12-inch ruler standing next to each bunch.

Yep…the compost thing really does make a difference.”



Leaves as Fertilizer

Leaf compost by avisclaire
Leaf compost by avisclaire

TheGardenLady received this question from Marvin.

I like your article on using leaves as fertilizer. What specific nutrients are added and how much? I use them in my garden and have sugar maple leaves.

By recycling leaves you are doing what nature does. But leaves by themselves take a long time to break down. Especially maple leaves which can become compacted and suffocate plants if left whole on your plants. So if you just want to use leaves, make them into mulch. Rake the leaves into a pile. Then you can use your lawnmower as a mulcher and mow over the leaves until they are particle sized. Or you can buy a mulcher to do this. This is easiest in the fall when the leaves are brown and dry. Spread the leaves as you would mulch. There are some nutrients in the leaves when used this way and as the leaf mulch works down into the soil it helps make the soil more friable ( crumbly).

Or you can make compost with the leaves. Save the leaves in an out of the way place or build or buy composting bins to hold the leaves. You don’t have to add nutrients, there are some nutrients in the leaves. But to make your compost quicker, you will have to do a little more than just save the leaves. You will want to add grass clippings and household garbage to the leaves.

Microbial activity is affected by the carbon-to-nitrogen (C/N) ratio of the organic waste. Because microbes need nitrogen for their own metabolism and growth, a shortage of nitrogen will slow down the composting process considerably. Material high in carbon relative to nitrogen, such as straw or sawdust, will decompose very slowly unless nitrogen fertilizer is added. Tree leaves are higher in nitrogen than straw or sawdust, but decomposition of leaves still benefits from an addition of nitrogen fertilizer. Grass clippings are generally high in nitrogen and enhance decomposition when mixed properly with leaves. Manure, cottonseed meal, or blood meal can be used as organic sources of nitrogen. Otherwise use a high nitrogen- containing fertilizer. You need an initial C/N ratio of about 30 parts carbon to 1 part of nitrogen. C/N ratios below 25:1 may give off ammonia odors and above 35:1 will take longer to compost. Other nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium are necessary, but are usually present in adequate amounts for decomposition.

Follow the directions here.

You will want to add water to the C/N mix and will want to turn the mix. Some of the purchased bins have a device to turn the barrel. But save your money and use a pitch fork with a little muscle. By getting air in the mix you are heating the mix so that your compost will decompose quicker. Good composting with be hot and you might even see steam even coming out.

By making compost with the mixture of leaves, grass and garbage, you will be making a rich soil to give back to the earth that which was depleted. Your plants will be so thankful.