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January Gardening Tips, Part 2, Humus.

Jan 11, 2020
Today we will be discussing Humus along with a lot of whys, to the things we have discussed in the past when I mentioned some of the whats. I hope that makes sense. To begin with we need to define what this Humus is that we are talking about. I know most people associates Humus with Hummus, the stuff you buy at the store that is usually made from beans, all mushed up and swirled around with some other ingredients. I don't really like the bean Hummus, even though I love beans and have a hard time understanding those who don't. They are a powerhouse of nutrition. Now the Carrot Hummus, love it. But the Humus we are talking about is different, it is a product that we use on our soil. Strictly speaking, Humus is a mature Compost.  Mature in the sense that it is Compost that has run it's the full cycle and is no longer in a state of decay, IE; it is fully decayed and ready for use. The reason why we want to talk about it is that when a material is in a state of decay, it requires a great deal of Nitrogen. Remember, we talked extensively about Nitrogen in our last discussion. Also, when the decay of material is finished, the resultant Humus has a bio-availability of nutrients in the 90% range. Whereas fresh manure say, is down in the single-digit range of bio-available nutrient range. Also, the "compost" material is no longer drawing Nitrogen away from the plant's needs. It seems like 9 times out of 10 that the decaying process will take the lion's share of the Nitrogen without regard to the needs of the plants until the decay process is finished. Usually, this period does not coincide with the time when the plant is needing Nitrogen the most.
When you started your compost pile, you likely would have placed a number of various materials in it, usually, most of this will be materials that will compost or think in terms of the digestion of food by yourself. Composting is very much like digestion. Somethings digest quickly and easily, whereas other material just sets there and, and, UGG, it just takes it merry time and you say, why did I eat that? So what do we do? We drop the acid level to help the process, usually, we use something like drinking a Coke. Ever wonder why they usually serve Dill Pickles with a Hamburger? Yeah, they drop the acid level or encourages the acid level to drop, so the digestion will be better and quicker. So what do we do for our compost pile so that it will digest, err a, well, compost better and quicker? We use Nitrogen.  When we are looking at the digestion of food for the plant or in another way, composting the material so the plant can extract the nutrients, we are simply feeding the plant. As long as you consider the whole deal as being much like digesting your own food, you will get a much clearer picture of this whole deal and it will make sense.
When it comes to humans/animals, we have a difficult time extracting the nutrients from anything unless it has been through a plant first. The reason for this is because, in order for us to be able to extract the nutrient, the nutrient has to be attached to a Carbon molecule. In addition, the plant also arranges the nutrient's ratios in the right ratios and orders. When a plant does this, it makes the bio-availability of the nutrients up in the before mentioned 90% range. If the nutrient has not gone through a plant, then the bio-availability is down in that single-digit range.  This is a general rule. There are always some exceptions to the stand-alone nutrients, although these numbers of nutrients are low compared to the overall number of total nutrients, none the less, we have these perspectives to work with. This is why the Plant Derived Minerals is such a popular form of minerals to supplement with. As a general rule, those supplements made from plant material will work much better and more efficient than raw base minerals. Sometimes people will mess with the base nutrients in an effort to mimic nature to make the products more bio-available, many times it works out pretty good, but never as good as when they pass through a plant and attach to a Carbon molecule first. Now we have briefed you with a refresher of sorts so that we can now go back to the compost pile and look at the making of Humus.
At this point, I think it is best that we consider what digests best in the compost pile and see why we do some of the things that we do. Keep in mind that the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio is of vital importance in this digestion of products in the compost as it transitions the material into Humus.  I will categorize the materials into 4 groups. The best products to put in the compost pile for easy digestion is as follows; Blood-meal, Coffee grounds, before blossom Alfalfa Hay, Fish Emulsion, Grass Clippings, Kitchen Scraps, Legume Cover Crops, Fresh Manure ** (depending on a number of factors and animal source), Soy Bean Meal, Tree Trimmings, and Worm Castings.  The next group, which are good, but a little harder to digest/compost: Buck Wheat Cover Crop, Corn Stalks, Homemade-this, and that ***yard compost, and Shrub Trimmings. Next is Leaves, including bigger twigs, and tree trimmings. Lastly is Paper,  and Saw Dust and Wood Chips.
  ** Manures from Poultry is very high in Nitrogen and will break down quickly. Horse manure is much quicker than cow manure, as is Goat and Sheep manure. Rabbit manure is high in a wide range of nutrients, so it digests rather quickly, somewhere between poultry and horse manure.  *** New weeds, which are not showing signs of seeding, will break down quickly, whereas mature weeds will take much longer. Of course, if you have worms in the compost pile it will help the process considerably. You will have to monitor your garden for the need for other nutrients. Every single plot of soil will have different needs, much like each and every human or animal.
Once you have a good meal prepared, IE; a good solid Humus, for your garden, and when everything else is up to par, then you can feed your garden throughout the growing season. In doing this, you will scatter some of this Humus under and around the plants. The Humus and its nutrients will find their way down into the root system for nutrition, and the photosynthesis and that whole process will function more as it should and you will begin to see the fruits of the genetic potential of your plants as they reward you for your care and efforts.
Now as we move on in this discussion, I hope you can see a why, as to why I have suggested that you consider doing some of the things in previous discussions.  For example, many people prefer to use paper on the ground to cut down on weeds. While I respect their reasons for doing so, I see it differently.  I like to plant cover crops, with clovers being first on the list, between the garden plants. This serves the purpose of Nitrogen fixation into the soil. The nutrient, in this case, mostly Nitrogen, will migrate over to the plant's root zone. Plus I would make it wide enough to run the lawnmower down the row between the garden plants, this would also, put the green mulch being blown over under the growing plants, providing ground cover to help seal in and hold moisture. In very simplest terms, if the ground is bare, it will release Carbon and Nitrogen into the atmosphere, if the ground is covered as in this model, then you won't be losing these two valuable nutrients, well, in addition to other nutrients as well. Plus the green mulch will pretty much prevent the natural compaction that can take place as well as keep other compaction factors potentially at bay.  Lastly, it makes the eye candy factor very pleasing and you don't have to make that tedious and distasteful weeding deal as the majority of your garden activity.
When it comes to the Straw Bale Gardening idea that is really a great idea, you will find that you will need a high-quality Humus to add to the bales as they decompose down. They won't decompose down fast enough to provide the total nutrition that your plants will need, at least during the first year. The second-year will not be as nutritionally devoid as the first, because of the rotting bales, but still, you have to feed the plants. Also, keep in mind that if you have a high-quality Humus, you won't have to try to second and third and fourth guess as to what nutrients that you need to add or not add and at what times to do it and not do it. The Humus will pretty much take care of those issues for you. Yes, perhaps you will still need to supplement here and there, but you won't be wasting as much time and money in trying to determine what you exactly need.
So with that, let's end this discussion. There are other important items I wanted to discuss here, but maybe it will be better to not make this discussion as long and bring those up in the next discussion.  So until part 3, mull this around and see what you can use to better your gardening experience.
End of Discussion.

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