Adding Fertilizers and Compost

Add fertilizers and other amendments one at a time. Avoid windy days, and hold the fertilizer close to the bed surface when spreading. Use the different colors to help you. The soil is dark, so sprinkle on a light-colored fertilizer (such as oyster shell flour) first, then a darker fertilizer (such as alfalfa meal), and so on. It is better to underapply the fertilizers because you can go back over the bed afterward to spread on any leftover, but it is difficult to pick up fertilizer if too much falls in one place. Aim for even distribution. Next, add compost and/or aged manure. After all are applied, sift in the fertilizers and other amendments by inserting a spading fork 2 to 4 inches deep at a slant, then lifting it upward with a slight jiggling motion.

Several things should be noted about the nutrients added to the upper 3 to 4 inches of soil. (1) The nutrients are added to the upper soil layer as they occur in nature. (2) The nutrients are relocated through the soil when larger soil organisms and when water flows downward. (3) Organic fertilizers break down more slowly than most chemical fertilizers. By utilizing natural nutrient cycles, plant-available minerals are released over an extended period of time.

(Left) Casting fertilizer onto a bed's surface; (right) sifting in fertilizers with a spading fork. (A "twist dig" is now being used to sift in fertilizers also. It is easier on the back and does not require bending over as far. This method requires three motions at once: [1] a slight up-and-down motion with the left hand, [2] a twist back and forth holding onto the D-handled spade with the right hand, and [3] a slight pushing in and out of the handle through the left hand with the right hand. Develop this skill by practicing.) Do not rake the bed to smooth it out after sifting in fertilizers, as this usually creates irregular concentrations of fertilizers that were previously spread evenly.

Adding Fertilizers

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Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

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