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Amending My Garden Beds


March 19, 2024

I have been amending my garden beds in my near West Side soil for years, and this year have been thinking about composting in place with leaves topped with a layer of manure about four inches below the surface. I have some perennial plants in those beds and put seeds in as well.Would this be anaerobic composting?  If so, is this bad for the soil and the root structure of any plants or vegetables that I might plant over those?I have a composter but it attracts coachroaches while composting. I have previously composted kitchen waste in place covered with a light layer of soil, which also attracts roaches.Thanks.


Answer by JZ: Great that you are getting organic matter/ material to and into your garden soil.

You start out by describing sheet mulch composting which is an aerobic method on top of the soil. Then you say that the manure and leaves are four inches deep in the soil, not on the soil surface, which confuses me.

In a well amended desert garden soil, over time the particles will become aggregated so it will be “fluffy” (tilth) with air/oygen/water spaces in it. As mentioned sheet/mulch composting on top of the soil is a valid aerobic method about which you might do further research.

Another option for deep soil amending would be a bucket in a hole.

If you are using manure it would be useful for you to know what the animal was fed and if that feed has any residual persistent herbicide in it.  The only way to know for sure is to find out if the farmer who grew the animal feed was using a persistent herbicide, which may last up to 2-3 years in the environment (in manure and in compost from that manure). See Persistent Herbicides.

Insects, including roaches are part of the compost food web. They are beneficial for the breakdown of the feedstock which you have added to the setup. See Critters in the Compost.

If you prefer an insect free (initial stage) setup then check out the 2 stage Bokashi method.

If you have a well managed raised bed setup you might consider adding about 2 cups of bed run red wiggler worms: Worm Sources.

Hope that this is helpful.  Get back if you have questions.   Compost on!

Answer by JH: JZ has covered the topic well. I would add that if the manure is horse manure it might contain a vermicide which would not be beneficial to you.

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