Saturday, March 14, 2009

Compost on the go...mushroom style

Mmm...mushroom compost. Lovely stuff, but if you collect it straight from the farm it will have a crusty top with white powdery stuff throughout the mix. It just needs a bit of tweaking to make it easier to spread and break down quickly.

If you're anything like me, getting around to preparing a garden bed can often be the death of young seedlings, waiting to be planted out. I try to be more organised but I'm still learning a lot. So with the morning free, we all jumped in the car and picked up some local spent, mushroom compost.

We spent $11 to get 11 bags, but also scored about $5 worth of free mushrooms that were left on top of the growing medium. We're planning to make beef stroganoff tomorrow night with our mushroom hoard! We're talking about compost though aren't we?

Here is my sunflower bed when it was still producing flowers. Once I de-headed them though, it was time to do something to replenish the soil. I just laid the sunflower stalks back onto the bed.

Then I went about the day, collecting prunings from marigolds, citrus, pumpkin vines, tomato and ornamental plants, and even some long grass which had been felled with the brush-cutter the day before. They were all layered on top of each other in the bed, with a few shovels of horse manure in between the layers. I gave them a good soak with water and then left until the next day.

So here is what I used for the icing on the compost cake! A wheelbarrow full of spent mushroom compost, a large blue plastic container for mixing, some wood shavings and of course, garden gloves for mixing. I think a tumbler would do this process much quicker, but I found hand mixing enabled me to break up a lot of crusty clods.

I just mixed in a little bit of wood shavings (10%) to the mushroom compost (90%) and broke everything up until it was friable. It was easier to add the compost little bits at a time.

Then it was just a matter of spreading it over the bed until all the organic matter was covered. No digging in at this stage. After I watered it in, I'll let it sit for about 2 weeks - with the occasional drink of water.

It should break down rather quickly. In about a months time, I figure it will be ready for planting in. Which is perfect for my schedule, considering I often forget to prepare beds in advance.

I even had enough to put around my 3 pigeon pea trees. Haven't they grown! I thought I'd lost them in the beginning, but they've turned out to be quite a hardy shrub. I'm glad I planted 3 out. While they did grow quite a lot since Spring, I can see me using regular prunings for my compost. The chooks will love the peas too. Three trees is a nice beginning, but I can see a need for more in future.

As mushroom compost is mostly made up of peat moss, I will have to check to see how it performs as a mulch. I suspect the surface may become hard and repel water. If so, I think some Lucerne mulch will probably be added on top. But I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. How awesome is mushroom compost. It's so great for the garden hey -and relatively cheap! Your place is looking awesome hey.

  2. Great stuff the mushie compost isn't it. I did a pH reading on ours and it is about pH 6, I was a bit worried as it can have a high alkalinity (Not good when the soil is already alkaline)

    I am very envious of your pigeon peas, ours couldn't compete with the chooks and the cats claw hedge. How do you serve it to your chooks?

  3. Thanks Andy. It's slowly coming together and with each season we notice new changes.

    I'm really interested to see how well the mushroom compost performs. I've noticed the stuff I left in the trailor has gotten harder though. Just the top layer where the mushrooms grew.

    It probably helps to use it up as soon as possible, once it gets home.

    Thanks for sharing the pH reading you got with your lot, littlefarm. I should really get myself a pH test kit to know what kind of soil I have.

    With the pigeon peas, I fed the young new growth to the chooks. They don't go nuts over the leaves, but they do get eaten. I'm still waiting for my seed pods, which is meant to be the best part!


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