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Rules for Successful Container Gardening Using Compost
Compost is an ideal mix ingredient for container gardening, offering slow-release and moisture-retention properties along with nutrients. But while one compost may be relatively low in nutrient value, another might be a performance compost formulated to deliver a more powerful punch, and the ideal ratio of compost in the potting mix will depend on sensitivity of the plant and the specific compost product.
But every container gardener, even first-time adopters of compost as a growing mix ingredient, can have a successful growing experience by following these simple rules from The Compost People® at McGill, a manufacturer of performance compost products:
· Avoid seeding directly into compost. Nutrient levels and stability can vary widely between compost products. Many composts are sold as soil amendments and not fertilizers. This means nutrient information may not be allowed on the bag or information handout by law, and while some manufacturers provide nutrient content on request, others may not. As a result -- and as a general rule -- it is best to avoid placing seeds and sensitive seedlings in 100 percent compost.
· Use no more than one-third compost in a container mix. Compost is not soil. If using a particular brand of compost for the first time, stick to the one-third rule until you can gauge performance. Be especially wary of using a compost product that is wet or hot to the touch -- it may be unsuitable for seeding or seedlings, even in a mix.
· Mulch with compost. Once the plants are established, add a half-inch or more of stable compost (not hot or wet) to the top of the container. Compost used as mulch will keep roots cool, hold moisture and provide nutrients. Refresh the layer as needed throughout the growing season, but do not mound compost up around woody stems.
· Water only as needed. Compost in the potting mix means the container may hold more moisture than those filled with other media. Do not use a timer to water, especially when using containers without drain holes.
Once a container gardener puts the basics into practice, experimentation will define parameters for specific plants and compost products. Tomatoes, for example, have been known to do well in 100 percent compost, but it is still a good idea to test first. Even those experienced with using compost in container gardening need to be mindful of the differences between compost products and plant varieties.
Founded in 1991, McGill Environmental Systems (http://www.mcgillcompost.com/
McGill is a leader in indoor, industrial-scale composting, manufacturing about 400,000 cubic yards of compost products annually from facilities in North Carolina, Virginia and Ireland. Its advanced technology, based on the Rutgers aerated static pile process, has recycled over 4.2 million tons of biodegradable by-products and residuals for beneficial reuse as premium-grade soil amendments.
For more information about McGill organics recycling services and compost products, please visit www.mcgillcompost.com and www.mcgillsoilbuilder.com or email thecompostpeople@