By Amelia Tucker
Now that you are putting your garden to rest for the winter, the question of what to do with the spent plants comes up.
Should you just add them to your compost pile and forget about them?
There is no one answer to this. Many gardeners have strong opinions on either side of this debate.
Those who compost them say that you should return the nutrients that the plant took up by returning the plant to the soil in the form of compost. They are also pretty adamant that compost is more important than any negatives those who don’t compost tomato plants may come up with.
Just what would a drawback to composting a tomato plant be?
Well, there are a number of them.
- Composting the plants can spread disease.
Tomato plants can harbor diseases that will wipe out entire crops the next season. Even if you are rotating crops you are going to mixing the composted material in throughout the garden-possibly spreading disease far and wide.
- Composting may not kill the seeds.
You could and probably will end up with rogue plants everywhere. Just imagine your cherry tomatoes from this year growing like weeds everywhere in next year’s garden? Not pretty.
- Your thick stems may not break down in time for next season. You could end up with dead, brown vines that are cumbersome and far less appealing to handle next Spring as you get ready for the new garden. The point of a compost pile is to deal with vegetative matter that will be transformed into rich compost in the Spring, not something that you will have to pick through to remove things that don’t belong.
A compost pile needs to be layered properly and kept moist in order to do its work. The internal temp should get to at least 135 degrees and higher (150 would be better) in order to kill seeds. It is not hard to do but needs some key ingredients and care.
Whatever you decide, be sure you do some checking on what makes a good compost pile and how to create one properly.
A good compost pile is priceless.
A bad compost pile is just pointless.