Sources for good compost and staw for mulching

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Kamiry, Feb 17, 2012.

  1. Kamiry

    Kamiry Member

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    Hello,
    I live in Vancouver and I'm looking for a good source to buy compost to amend my clay soil. I have been cautioned against using the Vancouver landfill compost to grow food in, so I'm looking for other sources, preferably that deliver.

    Does anyone have any recommendations of sources they were happy with?
    The only thread I could find was taken over by distributers advertising...

    Also, I'd like to get some straw to mulch with... any advice where to look?

    Thanks!
    Kamiry
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2012
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Buy good soil and dump it on top, plant in that, instead of trying to modify heavy clay. If you are going to be growing warm season crops, do not mulch the part where those are going to be planted - mulching in spring keeps the soil cool. Mulch keeps the soil warm longer only when applied in summer, before the soil starts to cool.
     
  3. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    I've also never practiced much soil amending before planting. One major way to understand and illustrate it to yourself what should be done and have that permanently etched into your brain for future reference is to look at what and how things actually work and look like in nature. The only place I can think of where large volumes of organic matter are heavily deposited and actually mixed with soil are places like alluvial plains, river bottoms/valleys, meadows, etc. Those habitats are ideal for ruderals. Most all forest plant habitats (or chaparral, deserts, etc for that matter), are mostly mineral soil underground with the bulk of organic matter deposited on the surface. Of course there are a wide variety of creatures/critters which moved soil around and mix up the top layer of soil with organic matter, most of this is mainly in the top foot of soil.

    I've never planted using mixes in a planting hole. Not that it harms anything, but mostly that there is not a noticable difference if you do. What does make a difference is top dressing with compost on top and coarse mulch on top of that just as you have suggested. The only other thing I have done in the past is mix a bit of mycorrhizal spore mix in the hole. The fungi and other beneficial bacteria will help create a healthy biological grid network if one is missing or has been disrupted by bad preparation practices, which is most common with urban environments or small ranchettes where someone hired a heavy equipment operator to scar up the top foot of soil to clear land for that sterile squeaky clean look or fire break control. My goal was always to establish those nursery grown potting soil plants into whatever native soil they would forever be established in as quickly as possible.
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Vegetable plant varieties are often developed from wild plants that grow on recently disturbed sites that may have high amounts of fresh organic matter, such as forest litter present. So it is actually naturalistic to grow these in amended beds. And since most kinds of vegetable plants are replaced annually it is possible to re-amend the soil in their beds frequently - unlike long term plantings of trees, shrubs and other perennial plants, the same kinds that may often not be adapted to high amounts of organic matter being present. This does vary with the type, heath family plants for instance tend to be found on highly organic soils - even peat soils - in nature.

    Liberal amending of planting hole back-fill can in fact have a detrimental effect on plant establishment, by interfering with the free movement of water into and out of the amended planting hole.
     
  5. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    All plants have also sometimes extensive root systems. When the plant dies only the above-ground part of it is deposited on the surface of the soil, while large volumes of organic matter in the form of roots and other dying soil organisms remain in the soil. With time the organic material deposited on the surface decomposes and is also incorporated into the soil. So eventually all the organic matter, visible and not-visible to the eye, goes into the soil.
     
  6. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    Here are links with very good information on how to manage your clay soil:

    "A soil that drains well . . . does not crust, takes in water rapidly, facilitates aeration, and does not make clods is said to have good tilth. . . . Organic matter builds soil tilth in a couple of ways." http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/improving-clay-soils.aspx

    "With clay soils, the goal is to improve soil aggregation, increase porosity and permeability, and improve aeration and drainage. Fibrous amendments like peat, wood chips, tree bark or straw are most effective in this situation." http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07235.html.

    Sorry, I can't help you with the sources.
     
  7. Kamiry

    Kamiry Member

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    Thank you for your thoughts... and articles.

    I've done my research and I am still looking for sources to buy straw and compost (or topsoil or woodchips for that matter).

    Does anyone have a contact they have used and were satisfied with?

    Thanks!
     
  8. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    Thanks Sundrop. Of course I do understand that plants do send roots down deep into soil and this does add organic matter deep into soil and broken down matter when they die. I was merely refering to the top 1' of soil depth.

    Thanks again.
     
  9. anza

    anza Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Kamiry

    You might also consider using gypsum and some of the advantages and disadvantages of doing so. The site RonB often refers to from Linda Chalker-Scott has just a page which adresses these options pro and con.

    The Myth of Gypsum Magic
    Adding gypsum to your yard or garden will improve soil tilth and plant health


    There is a potato growing giant in Southern California named Agri-Empire and I always saw them spreading a thin layer of gysum in their fields periodically to prevent soil clodding. Plus this was always done in the high country of the San Jacinto Mtns where they farmed and the soil was a bit more acid, but I've never seen them do this below in areas like the deserts of Coachella Valley where they winter farm.

    *******

    On another note. If indeed you are planting vegetables as opposed to landscape, then by all means go with the organic mulch/compost addition to the CLAY soil. I liked Ron's idea of perhaps bringing in some top soil mixed with compost and planting in raised beds.

    Good Luck!


    --------
     
  10. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    Check Craiglist. Some one has free composted manure they are giving away. They will even deliver for a fee. They may have some old hay/straw bedding to give away as well...
     
  11. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    In my area they sell straw in farmers supply stores. I buy only organic straw supplied by one of our local csa (community supported agriculture) farm. Sometimes it is also possible to buy straw from our local farmers who bought it for themselves in Alberta or the US and are willing to sell the surpluses.
    As for wood chips it is often possible to get them from our local arborists.
    May be this will give you some idea where to look for it in Vancouver.
     
  12. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    Just one example: "H. J. DITTMER (Department of Botany, University of Iowa) calculated the root surface of a rye plant (Secale cereale) in 1937. He counted 13 800 000 roots (including all side roots and branchings) with a total surface of 235 km2. . . ." http://www.biologie.uni-hamburg.de/b-online/e05/05b.htm
     
  13. Kamiry

    Kamiry Member

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    That was an interesting article about gypsum, which I didn't know anything really about.
    I think I'll be getting some straw from a craigslist add, but having never bought straw before I wasn't sure if $10 for a 40 pound bale is a deal or a rip-off!
     
  14. Just Curious

    Just Curious Active Member

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    Meadows Feed-lot in Pitt Meadows has good steer manure which is composted and they will deliver.
    You can also pick-up.
     
  15. Sundrop

    Sundrop Well-Known Member

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    Here we pay that much only for organic straw.
     
  16. mygardenbag

    mygardenbag Member

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    Hi Kamiry,
    I noticed your post regarding sources of good compost/soil amender and that you hadn't received any local suggestions for a delivery service. If you're still looking check out our company http://www.mygardenbag.com/soil-amender/
    I generally read this board more than I post as its a valuable source of information and my intent isn't to clutter it up with distributor advertising but check out our site if you have a chance.
    Cheers,
    Gordon
     

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