Search on this site

Landscape Industry Forum

Landscape Gardening Jobs

« Permanent garden art exhibition using embedded video | Main | Why is the Wembley pitch so bad? »

Comments

Bit puzzling this post, Phil. I agree that the article in the Telegraph is pretty lightweight and makes some bad recommendations - such as using garden compost for raising plants from seed; it's much more sensible to sow into a bought-in peat-free compost that's essentially free of potential problems, then pot on into a home-made compost mix once plants are established. More below.

But what you say about soil and soil improvement suggests you need to brush up on your soil science. Of course soil will increase in volume after prolonged application of garden compost and other types of organic matter (including the growing of green manure crops). And in raised beds, where the soil isn't trodden on all the time (that's the point of the beds) the soil level will indeed 'rise', through the action of soil life, primarily earthworms. Organic matter breaks down into humus in the soil, which adds to its bulk, darkens it and generally creates a much more stable soil ecosystem (it's very much what organic gardening is all about).

There is far more to soil than "particles of age old rock"; it is a dynamic mixture of ingredients, some living, some dead, some visible, most not so. Compost does not simply turn into "nutrients and trace elements" which plants take up (although of course that does happen) but it is processed by soil life into humus.

In general, the more compost you add, the 'better' the soil becomes at growing healthy plants which show increased resilience to pest and disease attack (also very much what organic gardening is all about).

To say "the bulk disappears and the soil is hungry once more" is simply wrong, unless you are applying minimal amounts of organic matter to say a very open and sandy soil (in which case more and regular applications are needed).

I think you are being unfair to the writer of the Telegraph piece. She is certainly not suggesting that kitchen and garden waste will magically turn into "age old rock", so I don't know why you think she is, or why you feel it's right to suggest that this piece is "pure fiction". But I do agree that more visual ways of showing how home composting works are sorely needed.

We shouldn't underestimate the potential of garden compost to transform soil; you can see and read about the results I've had in my own garden:

http://www.landscapejuice.com/2009/12/ahead-of-the-carbon-curve-garden-organically.html

You laud Nev Sweeney's post on making seed compost, but it is riddled with problems, not least that he recommends using vermiculite and perlite as part of the mix. Both of these are materials of mineral origin which are mined overseas, and consume energy during their transport, when they are heated up in furnaces, and then subsequently packed in plastic bags, and so on. He recommends sand, too, which needs extracting, processing, transporting...

Sweeney is suggesting that they are components of a more 'sustainable' compost because it is being home-made, but he misses the point on whether or not the raw ingredients are renewable/sustainable in the true sense.

Personally, I think the risk of disease (primarily damping off) is too great to sow seeds straight into a home-made compost. My approach is to use a bought-in compost for that stage, and an organic-certified multipurpose coir is giving me good results. Once plants are well established I'll be potting them on into a home-made mixture of, by volume, one third peat-free compost (bought), one third sieved leafmould and one third sieved molehill loam. Again, I am cautious about using garden compost because of potential problems, although I will use it to make some compost 'tea' for us as a foliar and root feed.

Tip: use some of the peat-free compost to fill the top 2.5cm (1in) of the container, to prevent any odd weed seeds from germinating.

Home-made composts are sustainable in the true sense of the word. I'm lucky that my raw materials all come from within a barrow-pushing session of my garden. Admittedly the coir and peat-free composts comes from further afield, but neither are driving the destruction of irreplaceable lowland peat bogs and compared with using peat compost, their carbon footprint is much reduced.

well said john, I wish i could write like you.

And great that you are spotting this things Philip, we all know that even on BBc sometimes the garden part are not made by gardeners.

I hate watching the news as it is even worth when each writer trying to get a title and can say what ever he/she wish- especially when it is news about other countries- or things that hard to get the right picture.

The net is great- as you can here what people think and know- and less people are getting paid for a title. ( I hope I am right)

Hi John

Thanks for your comment.

I do stand by my observations of Alex's article and I'm comfortable with my understanding of soil science and how organic matter conditions and improves soil.

I am astounded that Alex can create so much compost that causes her raised beds and borders to overflow to such an extent; she must be buying in bananas by the tree load and throwing them straight into the compost bin?

All the best

Phil

Hi Ofer

Thanks for your comment too...how's business this year?

Kind regards


Phil

The comments to this entry are closed.