Composting

Discussion in 'Crops & Gardens' started by Ken Anderson, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    Winter weather and the lack of greens slow down the composting process but it still produces good compost. In the spring, since I won't have a lot of fallen leaves again until fall, I cut weeds along the tracks and in the overgrown yard of the closed taxi building next door, and things start moving along again. Meanwhile, each of those boxes is filled with compostable materials, some of them being greens in the form of table scraps and stuff that has gone bad in the crisper, and they usually compost before the cardboard that encloses them.
     
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  2. John Brunner

    John Brunner Very Well-Known Member
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    I've probably said this earlier in the thread, but am too lazy to go look...

    The composting stuff I read says that 1/3 to 1/2 the pile needs to be nitrogen: fresh green plant material, vegetable wastes, fruit peelings, manure from non-meat eater. Perhaps I'm being too strict with my adherence, but I can't gather up enough of this stuff to make a sizeable pile. That's the larger reason I abandoned the thing.

    Perhaps I'm worrying too much about strict compliance.
     
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  3. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    Yeah, I think that may be the case. Anything compostable will compost. If I piled cardboard up alongside my shed, eventually it will compost into something that could be used. Of course, it wouldn't be the best quality of compost, by itself, but it could be added to other stuff and used as bulk for the soil. Mine does include a fair amount of all the good stuff, except for the manure, although if I had chickens, that would add a great deal to my compost. I do, however, use a lot of worms in my compost, and the worm castings add a whole lot to the quality of the finished product, which might make up for some of the deficits.

    On the other hand, if what you're talking about is a patio composter, such as the type that you turn every now and then, hoping to eventually get some compost that can be used to enhance potting soil for a garden, having the right mixture would make things go a lot faster, resulting in better compost. For that type of composting, you'd want a quicker turn-around time.

    However, my compost is used mostly to build up the soil in my yard, which sits on a bed of coal ash. Although I use some of it in the planting spaces that I have added on the sides of my property, these aren't food gardens, and most of what I use my compost for is to grow grass, although, now that I have it down to a more workable form, there's no reason why I couldn't use it for gardening. My compost piles sit for a couple of years before I start harvesting the completed compost from the bottom. I expect my current one will work better than my last one, and my last one came out better than the one before, and that one was a whole lot better than my first one, which was unusable except for leaving it in place because roots from adjacent trees took the whole thing over before it finished composting.

    We're different people. I don't measure the amount of coffee grounds that I use when I make a pot of coffee, I rarely measure anything when I am cooking, and I simply add whatever I have available to my compost, but with a fair idea as to what works and what doesn't. Yet, my coffee, my food, and my compost come out just fine.
     
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  4. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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  5. Faye Fox

    Faye Fox Very Well-Known Member
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    My favorite way of composting was to have my garden twice as large as necessary and have trenches dug in half of it and grow vegetables in the other half. I would use the trenched half to put all kinds of easily compostable material and barely cover it with ashes from my wood stoves. This kept down any smell and also added needed nutrients. I would also add chicken and goat manure weekly and lightly cover it with soil. By the fall the compost side was full so I covered it with soil and then I tilled and dug trenches on the recently harvested side. In the spring I tilled the compose side and it became a fertile organic garden. When I moved to town, I did the same with raised beds but on a much smaller scale. Besides food scrapes, I ground up leaves and got bagged steer manure real cheap from a local feedlot. Now with so many organic local farmers, it is cheaper to buy from them than pay the city for its overpriced and highly treated water.
     
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  6. John Brunner

    John Brunner Very Well-Known Member
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    That's a great idea!


    I plowed and fenced in a huge garden merely because that's the footprint of what existed some time ago:

    garden.jpg
    I'll never use the whole thing at once.

    I never thought of starting a compost pile on one side and rotating use back & forth.
     
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  7. Faye Fox

    Faye Fox Very Well-Known Member
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    @John Brunner Nice looking plot! I tilled my compost side every week and it kept it mixed up.
     
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  8. John Brunner

    John Brunner Very Well-Known Member
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    Yeh, well it looked like that when I had just tilled it.

    The fence is not high enough...deer still intrude. Plants last about a week, then they're gone. So it's gone wild again...it's now a weed prison.

    This spring I'll put a short perimeter fence around the outside. Apparently, deer lack depth perception, so when they are stopped by the shorter fence, they don't realize they can still easily hop over the second [taller] fence. I just have to buy a lot of mulch to stop the grass from shorting out the electric fence (I put the bottom row low enough to zap intrusive rabbits and groundhogs.)
     
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  9. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    I tried that on a small scale, because it seemed like a pretty good idea, but found that the raccoons, skunks, or something would dig it all up, disrupting the adjacent plants while they were at it.
     
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  10. Faye Fox

    Faye Fox Very Well-Known Member
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    That is a good reason to make friends with owls and hawks for both day and night protection. Also, a light application of lime over any discarded food each time can discourage the varmints. Planting garlic among the other vegetables can be a deterrent to both insects and rodents.
     
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  11. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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  12. John Brunner

    John Brunner Very Well-Known Member
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    You're making me feel guilty for all the stuff I haul off to the drop-off center.
     
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  13. Susan Paynter

    Susan Paynter Active Member
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    My daughter has been composting for the last two years. We throw in all the kitchen scraps, egg shells, coffee grinds and my tea bags along with leaves. When she turns the compost it just smells like dirt. Though I was wondering if it's a good idea to put ash.?? She says it could kill the worms, since its highly basic with a high Ph. Would love some feedback on this. Tks
     
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  14. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Senior Staff
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    I started doing it for convenience. I hated making two trips to the transfer station every week, and it particularly didn't make any sense to be hauling compost from the town compost pile when I could be making fewer trips to the transfer station and produce my own compost here. Then, it became a thing to experiment with, and I do believe that I have come up with an easy way to have a large compost pile, in that I don't even have to turn it over.

    I have four or five books on vermicomposting and can't find any of them, which suggests that I put them all in one place somewhere. But since they are not next to some other books that I have on composting, it seems that I didn't put them in a sensible place. I wouldn't think that ashes would hurt as long as they don't make up a large percentage of the compostable material. It's all about balance. Too large of a percentage of pretty much anything could be a problem. My outside compost piles are so large that if the worms don't like something, they can simply go somewhere else in the pile. My large piles aren't particularly smelly either and, by the time it's finished, it's just dirt.
     
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  15. John Brunner

    John Brunner Very Well-Known Member
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    I'm gonna mess with your head.

    Here's an article on why you should never put coffee grounds on your compost pile, in spite of what everyone else out there says. One of the cited reasons is that the compounds it releases kills worms.

    Regarding ash: as Ken says, it's all about balance. Your daughter seems to understand PH. So the amount of ash to add is relative to the PH of the soil you are amending and to the PH of the compost pile. I gotta think the tea leaves are decreasing the PH (my mother used to put her tea leaves on the hydrangea bush, and there was enough acid to change the color of the blooms.)

    But I have no first-hand experience.

    ps: I'd love to see pics of your compost pile. It might motivate me.
     
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