The #1 secret to keeping your trees and other large plantings healthy is…drumroll…compost. While most gardeners already think of compost as “black gold” for nourishing yard and garden, a new organic planting method we recently learned from a master gardener might even surprise the most ardent compost aficionados. What’s more, this simple and effective method uses food scraps to give your transplants a healthy new home. Here’s the trick.
Season Your Planting Hole
If you’re putting in trees or other large plants, dig your hole a few months before the plants will go in. Early autumn is a great time to do it in advance of spring plantings. Put a generous layer of shredded food scraps in the bottom of the planting hole and cover them with straw, leaves, or shredded newspaper. You are creating a mini compost pile for your tree, that will turn into nutrient-rich soil to give your transplant a healthy start. Shredding your food scraps will accelerate the composting process by 4-10x, so by the time you’re ready to plant, the bottom of your planting hole will be teeming with beneficial bacteria and fertile nutrients. You can shred your kitchen scraps by hand, which takes a little elbow grease, or create perfectly sized pieces with your kitchen Green Cycler.
The Benefits of Compost without the Pile
With this method, you can give your plants the benefits of compost without making a long-term commitment to managing a compost bin or pile. Sure, many avid gardeners who understand the value of compost may ask, “Why wouldn’t you want your own pile?” but there are lots of folks with limited space, time and interest in tending a pile. With this method, even a casual gardener can give their plants the benefits of compost, exactly where and when they are needed. And once again, the #1 secret to making this process work quickly is shredding kitchen scraps before they go in the ground.
1. The #1 secret to keeping trees and large plantings healthy is seasoning your planting hole with food scraps.
2. Dig your hole a few months ahead of time. Season it with shredded food scraps to create a “mini compost pile” for your plantings.
3. Let Nature do the work. In a few months, your planting hole will be full of beneficial microbes and nutrients that will give life and disease protection to your plant.
All Compost is Not Created Equal
Some might ask, “Why not just buy a bag of compost at my garden center?” The fact is, most of the commercial bagged compost on the market is just raw shredded material which hasn’t been digested by friendly microbes and converted into life-giving nutrients for your plants. And in some cases, the sealed bags have been sitting in the sun putrefying, and can actually be harmful to plants. (So, if you must use bagged compost, make sure it passes the “smell test.” If it has an unpleasant or acrid odor, don’t use it!)
A Common Mistake – Digging Your Hole Too Big
Most nurseries and garden centers will advise you to dig your planting hole about twice as wide as the root ball, but our master gardener says this is usually too big unless you have seriously compacted soil, and is in fact, a way to help the garden center sell you more backfill soil. Our master gardener’s advice is to dig the hole just a little bit bigger than the root ball, season the hole with shredded kitchen scraps, and then let nature do the work.