Monday, September 2, 2019

Increasing soil fertility by combining compost with water-soluble nitrogen

As a gardener, I often want to take the greatest advantage of the growing space and the amount of time I have full sun during the summer. In order to do this, I work to ensure that my soil is both healthy and fertile. Though there are many definitions of fertility, my definition is that the soil is imbued with the capacity to provide plant roots with the nutrients the plant needs at each stage of development in order to grow to its optimum potential.

My compost pile(s) earlier in the summer  with my green compost bucket nearby

A closeup of my compost pile later in the season

Sifted biologically active compost

Over the years, as I have worked with soil and my gardens, I have observed something about soil and fertility that my garden was kind enough to share with me.While in the past I have taken the approach to add compost at the beginning of the growing season and adding water-soluble fertilizer later, throughout the season, this practice only worked well near the beginning of the growing season, but as the season progresses I have found that the plants have not been able to handle the fertilizer. At first, I decided that this means that I need to add less nitrogen at a time, but I continued to have either foliage die-off or high periods of growth followed by signs of plant stress.

Planting my garden on July 20th

In my last planting, done on July 20th, I added both a layer of biologically active compost and organic water-soluble fertilizer. The results were both immediate and sustained. The amount of water-soluble fertilizer that I added was more than I usually add throughout the season. Since that time, I have not added additional amendments to my garden soil. As a result the plants have continued growing at a high rate and all the foliage has looked wonderful.

So – why has this happened? One possible factor is that with the garden doing so well, I am not walking on the boards in my garden as much and not compressing the soil. Another possibility is that the soil in my garden was at an optimal temperature when the plants were put in. Though these may be factors, another more likely reason for the improvement in fertile soil is that the biologically-active compost is acting as a biological sponge. When the water-soluble fertilizer is added to the mix, the compost began to digest the fertilizer, chemically holding it for a time, and slowly released this nitrogen-rich material to the plant as the roots came into contact with it.

My garden on August 28th, 39 days later with no additional amendments.

I highly encourage any gardener to try combining their own biologically active compost with organic water-soluble fertilizer when planting their summer garden. Hopefully you will have similar results.

Below is my little video, so you can see more of the results.

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