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Compost depleted in nitrogen?

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Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  fustian on 3/19/2011, 2:00 pm

This is my first year gardening, and I am putting together my boxes. Buying compost by the bag was cost prohibitive, so I bought compost by the cubic yard and had it delivered to my house. Because of this, I only have one type of compost. Although the compost that I bought was supposed to be "blended".

I had the compost delivered last fall, and it's been sitting under a tarp all winter (if that makes a difference). I decided that I would test my soil before I planted. Since my understanding is that peat and vermiculite won't add any nutrients to the soil I thought that I could just test the compost in lieu of testing the completed Mel's Mix. So, I scooped a container of compost off of the now defrosting big pile and ran one of those at home kits.

I realize those kits aren't the most accurate things, but I thought this would give me an idea. According to the kit while I have ample P & K my compost is DEPLETED in Nitrogen. The test showed absolutely no discernible colour shift with the nitrogen test (I ran the test three times to make sure). I did not use distilled water for the test, but rather our tap water (well water) which I know is quite hard (would that make a difference?).

Is it even possible for compost to be nitrogen depleted? I thought that the whole point of compost was that it was nitrogen rich. Should I add blood meal to my Mel's Mix as I mix the soil?

I must admit that this has me feeling a bit defeated. I've never had much of a green thumb, but was very enthusiastic about this project (maybe a bit *too* enthusiastic - I have 19 broccoli plants growing under lights upstairs and have started germinating my three different varieties of tomato plant today). Now I feel like I am doomed to failure because my soil going to be woefully inadequate.

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  ModernDayBetty on 3/19/2011, 2:06 pm

I am starting this year too and have hit some bumps in the road. Chin up, you can still fix it I'm sure. Just remember how delicious those tomatoes are going to be in a few months!

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  model a man on 3/19/2011, 10:12 pm

krazikandiland wrote:I am starting this year too and have hit some bumps in the road. Chin up, you can still fix it I'm sure. Just remember how delicious those tomatoes are going to be in a few months!
My first time to and I am hitting some bumps also. I figure my first year will be a learning year

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  acara on 3/19/2011, 10:32 pm

Non-distilled water will make a difference. I'd suggest getting a little bottle of Aquafina, or some other type of distilled water & running the test one more time

Many municipalities utilize agressive water chemistry (basic pH) to minimize scale & buildup on the piping walls.

I killed a lot of aquarium and pond fish learning that little tidbit Wink

I can almost guarantee you will see a different reading with distilled water.

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  fustian on 3/20/2011, 10:28 am

Thanks for all the words of encouragement Very Happy

I'm going to buy a bottle of water today and rerun the tests. I'm on well water - not city water - so it won't have been "managed". However, my husband had a chemical analysis of the water done a few years back (for brewing beer) and our water does have a lot of naturally occurring salts and minerals, so maybe that is having an effect on the results. It'll take a day for the solution to settle so that I can retest, but I'll post if it changes the outcome.

If the tests do come out the same, I'll buy some bags of chicken manure and mix it in when I'm making my Mel's Mix. I can also treat with some fish emulsion this season just in case.

My three and a half year old came running in this morning to check if our tomato seeds had grown yet. I think her enthusiasm will keep me going no matter what happens!

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  Old Hippie on 3/20/2011, 12:07 pm

Welcome to SFG gardening and our forum. We are so happy you have joined us.

One of the reasons five types of compost are recommended is to give you a good blend with all the nutrients your garden needs. Nitrogen, and other useful things in your compost pile, can become by leaching if your compost sits uncovered for a long period of time. Winter rains and snow will do that to it. If, after your next test, you still find that your compost needs nitrogen, it is fairly easily fixed. Feather meal carries a N-P-K analysis of 13-0-0 while blood meal is 12-0-0. It makes an excellant addition to finished compost as a pre-plant fertilizer. It degrades more slowly than blood meal or grain meals so won't heat up the compost and there is less chance of you burning your seedlings with too much nitrogen. I have not been able to find feather meal in my area so use blood meal. When you mix the blood meal in your compost instead of fertilizing your plants with it cuts down on the chance of leaf "burn".

Fish meal is another good one, although has a bit more balance...10-6-2. It releases it's nutrients fairly quickly once temps get above 60F (16C) so works well in warm weather.
(This info is plagiarized from my compost bible......The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin.)

Take heart. This is not the end of your SFG. It is only the beginning. Columbus didn't cross the ocean without the odd setback or two. Gardening is an adventure. It is rarely the same, two years in a row. That is what makes it fun.

Gwynn

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/20/2011, 12:11 pm

Since we are on the topic of fertilizers, what is a good root crop fertilizer/booster, like carrots and beets. I read what they need, but did not write it down.

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  camprn on 3/20/2011, 12:19 pm

@FarmerValerie wrote:Since we are on the topic of fertilizers, what is a good root crop fertilizer/booster, like carrots and beets. I read what they need, but did not write it down.
Here is some information in this SFG Forum thread. What a Face

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/20/2011, 12:24 pm

Thank you!!!

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  Old Hippie on 3/20/2011, 12:34 pm

Again from my compost "bible"......it says Bone Meal is the best for any crop that stores food in the root.....which is why it is used for bulbs. I have always used it for tulips, etc. but never on onions (DUH... they are BULBS. What a dufus I am!) or carrots or beets. I am trying it this year on all of my root crops as they have been a disappointment the past couple of years.

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  quiltbea on 3/20/2011, 12:54 pm

Adding bloodmeal, alfalfa meal or soybean meal will add nitrogen to your compost.

Don't let the numbers get you down. You want to get started and just do it. You'll make mistakes. We all do. But the important thing is to get started.

Add some of the above to your compost and get your garden going.
Good luck.

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  Judge Kemp on 3/20/2011, 2:41 pm

Now in my second year, the biggest specific piece of advice I could give for the first-year SFGers is not to be afraid to fertilize. I found that my mix of compost was lacking (probably because I could only get 3-4 types and of those, 2 were probably pretty similar). I added blood and bonemeal this year, because I saw massive deficiencies in PNK in year one.

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  Kabaju42 on 3/20/2011, 9:34 pm

When you buy the bottled water buy the water that just say's "distilled water"; don't buy Dasani or similar waters for your tests. Dasani adds minerals back in the water for flavor and marketing reasons, and that may mess up the tests again.

Last year was my first year too and I just went to the landfill and bought composted green waste. I never had it tested, but the plants grew just fine in it. So I wouldn't worry too much about your compost. I'm sure you'll still have a great garden!

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  fustian on 3/22/2011, 12:50 pm

Well, my repeated N test came out the same as my first one - zero reaction to the nitrogen test. So, I bought some bloodmeal to add to my mel's mix as I make it. I figure it's going to take about one 1.5 kg box per 4x4 box. Not cheap for the 8 boxes I've built, but so it goes. (My boxes are 10" deep, but I had intended to fill the bottom 4" with straight compost and just the top 6" with MM).

The only problem is that last fall I built and filled two of the boxes before the snow came. One of them doesn't have anything in it yet - so I can work in bloodmeal pretty easily. However, the other I filled with fall garlic bulbs. I haven't seen any activity from the garlic yet - which isn't too surprising seeing as it was snowing here again yesterday. However, in my flower garden I can already see the tulips and daffodils coming through, so maybe I should be seeing something there. Should I treat with liquid fish fertilizer now in order to help the bulbs along?

Sorry for all of the questions. I've been doing a lot of research on my own as well, but sometimes it's hard to find the answers you're looking for. I'm off on maternity leave this year (you get a year paid in Canada) so I viewed this as my big chance to get my garden going since I'm home until January. As a result, I've really jumped into this whole hog. Hopefully we see at least some successes this year!

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  FarmerValerie on 3/22/2011, 12:59 pm

Don't ever be afraid to ask, the only stupid question is the one not asked. I don't have the answer you want, but wanted to reassure you to ask what ever you need to, we love to help.

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Re: Compost depleted in nitrogen?

Post  quiltbea on 3/22/2011, 1:12 pm

In spring you can encourage vigorous leaf growth in garlic by applying fish emulsion spray every 2 weeks.

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