A D&B Garden Show listener sent in a question about what to do with old yard clippings.

Q:

I am building several large garden beds size 4 feet x 16 feet x 16 inches

I have 15 years worth of yard clippings, mostly grass, but leaves and garden clippings piled that I wanted to use for fill in the bottom of my boxes (first 6-8 inches) then I planned to use Mel’s Mix ( peat, vermiculite, and compost ) for the top 6 inches.

My question is will the old pile of clippings work? They were not turned over the years just left to decompose.

Would I be better using top soil loom beneath the mix? Trying to keep costs down.

A:

Thanks so much for the question. The stuff at the bottom of your 15-year-old pile is undoubtedly some really wonderful stuff. Take advantage of having your own compost! I would purchase some good old potting soil, mix it with about 1/4 – 1/3 of your own compost and use that in your garden beds. Whatever you’re putting into your beds, mix together rather than layering it. Layering creates different soil interface layers and that affects the way the water moves in the soil, causing potential trouble down the road.

Also, don’t use the clippings themselves. You want to use the material that has already composted. It will look and smell like nice soil without recognizable parts. :)

Thanks again for the question and good luck with your garden!

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