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how to harvest compost

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how to harvest compost

Post  newstart on 1/29/2012, 8:22 am

This seems like such a silly question to post. But sometimes I need answers really

S L O W L Y lol!

Ok when you use your homemade compost, you take out the things that need more time and put back into the pile. Get that. The stuff thats left do you take directly and put in beds. Or does it need to be sifted before to take out any bugs or large pieces. Then mixed into mels mis or beds for planting....

I have been cold composting so have lots of little buggies in there. I do not want to put them in my mix and then they eat all my hard work... Any thoughts or tips is welcomed

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Re: how to harvest compost

Post  camprn on 1/29/2012, 8:56 am

Some folks do sift, but me being one who avoids any unnecessary expending of energy, I don't sift my compost (beyond throwing back the occasional mango pit or whatever into the compost pile) if there are a few chunks left in the compost when I add it to the garden, the worms (and time) usually take care of it. I know that Quiltbea uses a plastic storage basket, for sifting her compost. It looks the one below.
Most of the bugs that live in a compost pile eat dead and decaying organic matter and should not usually disturb your growing plants.



Photos of compost sifter set ups.

here is a photo of an archeology student using a suspended dirt sifter.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Re: how to harvest compost

Post  Lavender Debs on 1/29/2012, 9:50 am

Homegrown compost does take a bit more thought than a soil based row garden. Back in the day Ray just tilled whatever was in the pile (come spring) into my garden where it finished composting. My SFG is not as biologically active as my loam garden. It can do some self-composting but for the most part it needs finished compost. I regularly turn my piles. When I am turning the pile, if I need compost, when I come to the guts of the pile where the finished part is, I shovel it into my bucket to transport to the garden. Once my garden has been established (i.e. I am way past 1/3 peat + 1/3 compost + 1/3 vermiculite) this system of using the pile by the bucket load works for me.

However, when starting a new garden I sift with the 4-tine pitch fork that I turn the pile with. I want worms and worm food in my garden (way better garden food than the "worm castings" I have bought in the past). The garden fork sifts by me raking and bounce-tossing through the pile with the fork and putting back the elements (asparagus stems, unfinished straw, mats of lawn etc) that are not garden ready. It does have a coarse, unfinished look, but my biggest broccoli and best basil and salad grow from this compost. While mixing this beautiful, sweet smelling compost into the other elements of Mel's Mix, I use garden gloves to toss things like garlic ends and peach pits (as well as crushing chunks of peat).

The biggest problem I have run into with coarsely sifted compost is the occasional weed infestation. Last year It was chickweed (from the grass clippings). It was wrapped around my onions and leeks so thickly that at one point I had to let it go BUT chickweed is good worm food.

I practice rotation. My alums will inhabit a different box this year. Chickweed is easier to control around tomatoes and brussels sprouts (fewer stems to weave my fingers through).

All the best as you figure out what works best for you!

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Re: how to harvest compost

Post  llama momma on 1/29/2012, 9:53 am

I sift finished compost through hardware cloth. There is no "rule" either way. At first I did it because I liked the appearance of the fluffy results. After reading a book on composting, it gave other reasons to sift like:
-Appearance- screening takes out inevitable foreign matter like tape or sticky fruit labels. The results are it looks wonderful and the texture is soft and velvety. I even put some in my houseplants and they love it too.
-Seed security - garden seeds can get lost in cracks and crevices of coarse compost, won't happen in fine textured screened material.
-Screening out chunks of leaves and other undecomposed material can go back to the compost heap where it can continue to break down into the fluffy stuff.
-If you store finished compost, screening results in less bulky material than unscreened, taking up less storage space.
-I find it relaxing to sit in a chair and screen away for black gold.
Bugs are not a bad thing, they are all part of the process along with the bacteria and molds. The compost heap is a teeming universe of microbial battle action of bacteria, fungi, worms and bugs. "Finished" earthy smelling compost is not truly finished. It is really called stable compost at this point. Compost continues to change for up to 2 years after the most active phases of decomposition takes place. If we grow 3 crops in a year and keep adding compost at the end of each harvested square we are continuously adding more good stuff to the box. There is incredible microscopic life going on. Isn't that pretty cool. Plants are just one part of your "living" box. I know all of this is more than you need to know, to screen or not to screen, really it's your choice, and in the end you will have a great time growing your own food.




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Re: how to harvest compost

Post  jpatti on 1/29/2012, 2:10 pm

I am too lazy to sift.

I have two compost piles. I use one while throwing fresh stuff on the other one until the first one is used up, then switch. I figure worms will finish it up.

It's one of the reasons I prefer a TALL raised bed on the ground to tabletops even though I'm partially disabled, I need my worm partners.

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Re: how to harvest compost

Post  newstart on 1/30/2012, 10:39 am

Ok I think i will shift but not over board just enough to get out any big chunks that need more time thanks for all the information everyone

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Re: how to harvest compost

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 3/24/2012, 5:09 pm

I found this thread interesting and thought it deserved a bump.

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Re: how to harvest compost

Post  floyd1440 on 3/24/2012, 6:42 pm

I will be building my first compost bin and then start my pile within 2 weeks so I may need some starter info at that point.

What about produce that is being thrown out from grocery stores, and concerns?

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Re: how to harvest compost

Post  camprn on 3/24/2012, 6:57 pm

I throw all my kitchen scraps into the pile, (but not bones or fats). There are a lot of threads about compost in the Compost Discussion sub-forum. Very Happy

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40 years a gardener and going strong with SFG.
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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

Outlander is outstanding!


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Re: how to harvest compost

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