Ask a Question forum: Which compost won't burn plants

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Lafayette, LA
Jun 1, 2017 6:12 PM CST
I have a medium yard, the homes are 60-80 years of age so the soil lacks lots of nutrients. I have many trees with beds surrounding them and more beds all over. My plants are growing, lots of perinnals but they lack food from the soil. There is also a lot of roots so I can't dig very deep or wide. I've been told by neighbors who have beautiful yards and they say to use compost but then I read warnings about compost burning. I want to place it around my existing plants, not work it into the soil. Peat humus compost won't burn but doesn't brag about nutrients. Help!! I'm totally confused. Thank you, by the way.
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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Jun 1, 2017 6:20 PM CST
Compost which has been properly aged, completely composted, cannot burn your plants. If you use compost that is too fresh, not yet broken down, has not completed the cycle, then yes, it can burn your plants and can compete with your plants for nutrients/nitrogen.

Do you make your own compost? or are you buying bagged compost?
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Rj
Just S of the twin cities of M (Zone 4b)
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Jun 1, 2017 6:30 PM CST
Hi Gwen Welcome!

I would ask your neighbors where they get their compost (do they make it, or is it purchased) the ones with the beautiful yards will be able to give you good info.

You said you don't want to dig it into the soil, but rather place it on top of the beds...are you talking about mulch maybe? With that many trees I would suspect that you have a lot of pine needles for mulch.

As far as hot compost, they are referring to compost that has not fully broke down, when the carbon and the nitrogen break down, the microbes, bacteria will produce heat during the breakdown phase. I can be as quick as 90 days to 2 years. Compost just happens. When completely broke down it smells and feels like crumbly soil.

There are lots of knowledgeable people on this site are more than happy to help, and Im sure several in your general area.
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Lafayette, LA
Jun 4, 2017 7:30 PM CST
I am purchasing humus compost manure. It's only 10% manure. My neighbor has 3 HUGH live oaks so I use that constant supply of leaves. Also in the fall I take the leaves from my 6 river birches and place those in my beds for winter protection. I have searched several websites and humus is totally broken down, right? I want compost that is mild, won't burn my plants yet gives my plants good nutients, nitrogen. Is the humus compost the right choice? Can or should I mix live oak leaves and compost? Or put compost around plants and live oak leaves on top of the compost? Please instruct me on the procedure that is the safest yet most nutrient rich. Is there such a thing? I also live on disability income so my money is pretty limited so unfortunately the choice also, as always, must be cost effective. The neighbor with the incredible yard is the one who told me he puts compost on top of soil, not worked into the bed. And then he puts pine straw over that, like 4 or 5 inches high. I also have questions about seeds from dried blooms off plants. I can ask on a separate post. Lantana is the most prevalent dried seed endeavor. Thank you!!! Thank You! Thank You! c
Name: Porkpal
Richmond, TX
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Jun 4, 2017 8:04 PM CST
I would spread the compost first then put leaves on top if you like. The leaves will serve as mulch, then compost in place to feed your soil.
Name: Daisy I
Reno, Nv (Zone 6b)
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Jun 4, 2017 8:59 PM CST
You have River Birch? Lovey dubby

I would mix the whole mess together (native soil, compost, leaves). I hate layers.
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