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The Virtual Gourd Garden

Layering and Composting Soil
great idea! Layering soil entails the laying down of various layers of richness and stability in which your seedlings can take root. Opinions vary on how many and exactly what kind of layers should/can be used, but for the most part, the gardeners agree on the following:

  • The soil must drain ready, but not too quickly.
  • The soil must hold water long enough for the roots to benefit.
  • The soil must hold the right balance of clay or clay-like material (water holding) and sand (water draining.)
  • The soil must have a good helping of compost for food and development of microbes.

Much can be said about understanding the gourd plant. They are fast growing, shallow rooted, long-vined, hungry plants that love warm soil, rich eats, and plenty of water (although somewhat drought-tolerant) and sunshine. But like any living thing, everything should be done in the right balance for them to thrive.
Let's look at the soil.

Composting

In order to provide the necessary elements as listed above, think about how the plant will use what you are giving it to use. The plant grows on nutrition and water from the soil, 'breathes' the air, uses the sun for processing the chemicals in the leaves and stems. The soil is the breakfast board. What do gourds like to 'eat'. (Starts with a "c". Two sylables. Sounds like . . . no, no. Just kidding.) Compost! There's a lot to be said about how our farmers and other resident Americans used to treat the soil. Nothing went to waste. So, it's highly recommended that you start a compost pile, if you haven't started one already. Nothing is better for a healthy gourd garden than good compost. Like to read? Here a couple books on that very subject:

"Let It Rot!" by Stu Campbell. One of the best books yet on the subject.
"Backyard Composting" from Harmonious Press.


compost binRelax. You don't NEED an expensive bin to compost. You can do it right on the ground. But if you choose to contain your compost pile, with some adaptations, you could use any of the following, just to suggest a few: trash cans, wooden pallet bins, wire bins, plastic bins, wood and wire 3-bin system, biostacks, earth machines, garden gourmets (shouldn't that be gourdmets?), City Gardeners, Tumblebugs, Kemps, etc. etc. etc. Check out Backyard Composting above for more ideas! Basically, layering and keeping the compost pile moist so that it generates enough heat are the main two factors that keep a compost pile cooking. Here's a quicky look at what layers you could use from the bottom up:

  • Start on the bottom with Dry leaves (Browns)
  • Kitchen scraps (Greens)
  • Yard clippings (Greens)
  • Livestock manure (Greens)
  • More Kitchen scraps (Greens)
  • Leaves (Browns)
  • Finally, on top, add Sawdust (Browns)

Did you notice that our compost pile that we built above is comprised of what can be called Greens and Browns? A compost pile comprised of 25 to 50% green materials, kept moist, will heat up your pile and cook (decompose) it faster.

Q&A -- On the average, how long does it take for a compost pile to rot before it's ready for the garden? Answer: 3 - 6+ months.

You can spice up you compost pile by adding
-- garden soil, which normally is high in microbes (our little buddies that make our job easier)
-- finished compost
-- bone meal
-- blood meal
-- fireplaces ashes
-- crushed rock dust (feeds our microbe friends)

Yikes! you say. I don't have crushed rock or even sawdust! Does that mean I can't make a compost pile? Not at all. There's a basic compost pile even for you. Put all your leaves, yard clippings, and grass in a heap or bin. Sprinkle with water and keep moist. If you poke and turn it occasionally and keep it moist, you soon will have some compost to feed your gourd babies.

Soon you'll be a Composting Connoisseur.


More about Layering Soils

Okay. You have rich compost, some manure (aged steer, chicken, pig, etc. -- never human or dog, please), sand, some top soil or potting soil or just good ol' plain dirt. Two weeks before planting time, you dig down a foot or two and start layering your goodies. We've had success with the following layers from the bottom up: manure, compost, sand/soil combo., mulch. Some folks work in some sulfur two weeks ahead of time, but with the compost you so thoughtfully provided, this shouldn't be necessary.


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I'll return to The Virtual Gourd Garden later. Right now I'd like to explore
Kasin Keep / Email Hunter/Skinner Productions