Large delivery or stinky compost

Asked April 21, 2020, 11:00 AM EDT

Two yards of stinky compost was delivered to me today from the veterans compost organization. It seems too high in nitrogen rich content. It also has kind of a lot of visible wood chips. Can I plant in stuff like that? It’s black. It’s moisture content seems good. I had planned to cover weeds with cardboard to kill them and then cover the cardboard with compost and plant in the compost. I hope the cardboard breaks down and the weeds die and the plants I put in can eventually commandeer the the soil with the decomposed weeds. Does that make sense? Thanks so much.

Baltimore Maryland

1 Response

Hi- mature ("finished") compost has an earthy aroma, is fairly homogeneous (although it's not uncommon to see some small pieces of wood or bark), and is done "cooking" (when you seal a small amount in a clear plastic bag you should not see water droplets form on the inside of the bag).

You can ask Veterans for compost test results (results may be posted on their website.

Your plan sounds like it can work. The cardboard will smother the weeds and the roots of your garden plants will eventually be able to grow into the native soil once the cardboard has decomposed sufficiently.

Prior to planting, you could increase the volume of growing media available to your plants by adding the top 1-4 inches of soil from the perimeter of your garden. Remove turf and weeds and mix the topsoil with the compost.
https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/lawn-turfgrass-removal-methods
https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/raised-beds (see links at bottom of page)

You can plant leafy greens now. When it's time to plant large transplants, such as tomato, you may need to dig through the compost and cardboard to plant. Eventually, some of the compost will work its way down into the native soil, further improving the soil and increasing rooting capacity.
Jon