Today’s reader question is from Veronica in Virginia Beach, Virginia:
I am working on planning my vegetable garden and I’ve been thinking about what kind of compost to add to the garden. I have a small compost pile that I’ve made from kitchen scraps but I’ll need more for the garden. I’ve used horse manure in the past but ended up with a garden full of weeds as a result. I’m also wondering if I need to add compost at all since I added it last spring. Thanks for any suggestions.
Well Veronica, let’s address the issue of whether you need to add compost…the answer is positively yes. With rare exception, you can never add enough especially in a veggie garden. The plants in the garden are sucking so many nutrients out of the soil that they have to be replenished, preferably through compost instead of synthetic fertilizers. Compost will undoubtedly improve the structure of your soil, which in turn will allow the soil microbes and earthworms to do their jobs better. It also makes it wickedly easy to plant when the time comes!
As for the type of compost to apply, it is really up to you and what is locally available. Perhaps you can add your kitchen scrap compost as a topdressing to the plants, depending on how much you have available. I recommend finding a good source of horse manure for large applications. It is vitally important that the manure be well aged otherwise you will end up with weeds as you did in the past and there is also a chance that the manure will be too “hot” and could burn your plants. Aged manure that is blended with sawdust or wood shavings is ideal as it contains a better ratio of carbon to nitrogen.
If you are lucky enough to have a rabbit or neighbors with a few bunnies, try to scrounge all of the poo you can get. Rabbit manure is the only animal manure that can go straight from the animal to the garden with no ill side effects. I like to use it as a topdressing for plants or to add to the planting hole.
Adding compost to the garden every chance you get is your best defense against pest problems too. Pests have an innate ability to tell which plants are stressed and they hone right in on the ones that are lacking water or nutrition. By living in Virginia Beach, I assume that you have very sandy soil and compost will do wonders to add to the water retention capabilities of your soil. If in doubt about any problems in the garden, add compost! Let me know what types of compost you regularly add to your garden by leaving a comment below or sending me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy gardening!