The Q&A Archives: How And When To Use Compost Or Organic Matter To Prepare Garden Soil

Question: When do you use compost or organic matter to prepare vegetable and flower beds - before or after the seeds are planted and if compost is not available, what organic household items do you recommend and how often should they be added to the garden?

*Is soiled Guinea Pig litter acceptable compost material?

Answer: There are several ways to use compost. It can be used in bulk and dug into the soil during the preparation process, it can be sprinkled on top of the soil around a planting as a top dressing, or it can be used before it is quite finished as a mulch. It is a good idea to add plenty of organic matter in the beginning when you first prepare your gerden area, and then to add more on a regular basis -- at least once a year.

Other sources of organic matter are things like rotted leaves or well aged stable manure and bedding -- or aged soiled guinea pig litter. ( You could certainly add that to your compost pile!) Using an organic mulch such as shredded bark or straw will also help add organic matter to the soil as it breaks down over time.

If you make compost at home, you can add animal manure (not from dogs and cats however), kitchen vegetable peelings, coffee grinds and tea bags, shredded newspapers, grass clippings (avoid those treated with herbicide), chopped leaves, pulled weeds, and so on. Do not use material from diseased or insect infested plants or weeds that have gone to seed as these may survive the home composting process.

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