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Gardening with Wanda

A common question asked of the Hall County Extension office, brought to you by Wanda Cannon

POSTED: November 14, 2008 5:00 a.m.

How can compost help my garden?

Fall is a great time to compost. Although it is not the most glamorous topic in the world of gardening, it is one of the most essential ones. Compost is decomposed organic matter that makes sandy soil hold water better and also makes our Georgia clay soil drain water faster. It also buffers soil pH levels.

When you add compost to your garden soil, it improves the health of the soil by providing food for the organisms in the soil that help release nutrients to your plants.

Although you can add organic matter in its raw form, such as chopped leaves, grass clippings, hay and pine needles, it works best if it is composted first into a dark, rich earthy-smelling material. Use it to mulch newly planted trees and shrubs or to top dress a lawn. Other uses are to build up vegetable or annual flower beds, as well as improving the soil around your perennial beds.

Although you can buy compost in bulk, why not make your own? By recycling organic yard waste, such as grass and dried leaves, you can save money. If you build the pile properly, the result is a feeding frenzy of soil bacteria that builds up heat and the end result is rich, dark compost.

You can build a compost in a variety of ways. The simplest and most common technique is to buy or build a 3- to 4-foot-wide container. The container will compost faster than big open piles outside and are more attractive visually in your yard. Whatever method you choose, the process is the same, mixing carbon- and nitrogen-rich organic materials.

Wanda Cannon is a Master Gardener trained through the Hall County program and also serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the Hall County Extension office. Phone: 770-535-8293


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