A good compost

 On our farm, compost is the main fertilizer used, because we believe that it is the amendment par excellence to build and maintain living soil. Due to its specific characteristics, compost cannot be substituted by manure or natural fertilizers (feather meal, bone powder, etc.) or even green manure.

 Compost is a mixture of carbonaceous organic detritus (straw, leaves, litter, etc.) and nitrogenous matter such as manure and crop residues. During the mixing, different organisms are set to work to reorganize this organic matter. When the composition of this mixture is varied and the decomposition process takes place under optimal conditions, the result is a stable and rich amendment comprising almost all the elements necessary for the crop's needs. Good compost provides both organic matters to the soil and fertilizer to the crops. It can activate everything alive in the ground. In other words, it is synonymous with living and healthy soil.



 The word "good" should be underlined, because not all composts are of equal quality, mainly because their manufacture is not so simple. Many home gardeners (and even some market gardeners that I have met ...) fertilize too often with compost leached of its nutrients, partially decomposed or, worse still, with an old pile of manure brought in by a neighbor eager to grow. 'get rid of it. If he is to grow crops successfully, a market gardener must understand what makes good compost and why burnt manure is not a substitute for it. The composting process allows:

 ~ to stabilize the nitrogen and produce an amendment that gradually and gently releases the nutrients throughout the production season, or even for a few years. You can think of compost as a warehouse where you store nitrogen, which you can't do with manure or other natural fertilizers. If? destroy potential pathogens, but especially the many weed seeds present in manure, especially in ruminant manure. Importing weeds into your garden is a mistake you can't make without paying the price of additional weeding over several seasons.

~ remove clods and create a homogeneous and light soil that can be shoveled easily and which spreads well over the surface of a cultivation bed.

 The production of good compost is an operation that requires know-how, a science that I must admit that I do not fully master. I, therefore, prefer to avoid giving professional recommendations in this regard.

 Part of the reason is that our compost needs are so great that we are unable to produce enough of it. Our farm does not have a tractor or loader to handle a compost pile, and turning over 30 tonnes of organic matter manually would be very counterproductive in an already busy production season. This is why we very quickly decided that buying commercial compost was the best solution to guarantee the supply of a market garden like ours.

 Another of our motivations is to ensure the quality of the product. A company specializing in composting has the tools and methods that allow it to intervene in the decomposition process at critical moments. Temperatures and humidity are continuously monitored and the pile is returned at the appropriate times. The mixtures are therefore well structured and homogenized. The end product is stable and comes with a guaranteed minimum NPK analysis. Some suppliers can also adjust their recipe to accommodate certain types of soil or add certain desired amendments. As I said earlier, the compost we use includes, for example, a mixture of algae, rich in potassium and trace elements.

Of course, buying a large volume of good compost is a big expense, especially because of the shipping costs. But in terms of quality and time saved, it is a more than profitable investment. On our farm, these costs constitute less than 3% of our turnover, a negligible amount given the importance of this input in the success of our crops.

At the time of delivery, we ask the delivery man to make two different piles at each end of the gardens. By having the compost heaps at proximity, we save a lot of time timing of application. We like to receive ours in the spring, just before the start of our first sowing in the ground, to take advantage of its heat of manufacture. When the compost is still hot, it contains bacterial life (fungi, microbes, worms, etc.) already very active and favorable to the biological activity of the spring soil, often still a little cold. All in all, I believe that it's a very practical way of doing things and I do not envisage any change of method.

Regarding the application of compost, there are has certain procedures to follow. In our gardens, I compost is sent to the different plots by wheelbarrow and stretched out on the planks using a rake. We then mix it to the first five centimeters of the ground (with a rotary harrow) to prevent nitrogen from volatilizing.