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Cheap (often overlooked) source of compost

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Cheap (often overlooked) source of compost

Post  Pisachi on 4/15/2012, 1:27 am

I was replying to a question about this earlier, and thought it might be worth sharing with the group. I'm new to this site, so forgive me if this has already been mentioned somewhere else...

MANY of the schools here in N.E. Texas have very strong FFA programs. The school where I teach is fairly small, but (as most small schools around here) has a very strong agriculture department. Because of this, the school has a barn where most of the kids keep their show animals (cattle, goats, pigs, etc). They clean out the pins in those barns pretty regularly, and that means they are shoveling a LOT of manure out behind the barn. The bedding for the cattle is usually pine shavings, and when mixed with the cattle manure, makes GREAT compost.

A couple months ago, I hooked up a flat bed trailer and got about 4 cubic yards of that "cattle compost" from the show-barn. They were more than happy to GIVE IT AWAY (that means "free") to me, just for the service of hauling it off for them.

I put it into the corner of my garden and added some more wood chips/shavings to it, and let it keep composting.

When I set up a new SFG box, I use my own "mix", (mostly because I can get it so cheap and have had great results with it). I "layer" my boxes like this: 1. I put a weed block down (In my opinion, THE most important part. If I don't use one, I'll be pulling grass out of my boxes every weekend) which is usually either cardboard from boxes I have saved from take-out pizza or shopping

2. Then I put down a layer of the cattle manure compost,

3. Then comes a layer soil or mix

4. Then I cover the top with a layer of the wood chips. The wood chips really help conserve water when the hot & dry weather comes.

The cattle manure compost has given me GREAT results. HUGE veggies and fruits. The watermelons and okra REALLY love it! I'm not really sold on the idea of using pig manure in the same fashion, though I wouldn't shy away from goat, horse, or cattle one bit. I probably should mention that I don't plant tubers or root crops in it until it has had time to compost for at least a year, just in case. I have no qualms using it for squash, tomatoes, corn, okra, or other heavy-feeding, above ground crops after only 3-6 months though.

Anyway, my point is this. LOTS of those schools would be more than happy to find a new, loving home for their excess manure. It makes an excellent garden amendment, especially if you can let it compost for a while before you use it. If you can't get it for free, I'm sure you could get it SUPER cheap...and in pretty good sized quantities too. Just call up to the school and ask to speak to the ag teacher. Ask him/her if they will have any compost next time they clean their barns out. Then ask if you could come and snag some. Its definitely worth the call.

-Pisachi
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Re: Cheap (often overlooked) source of compost

Post  givvmistamps on 4/15/2012, 2:23 am

First of all, I don't think I've said to you yet.

You're already making a valuable contribution, since it never occurred to me that a local chapter of FFA (or 4H, it occurs to me) would be a good, cheap source of manure for the garden. (Somehow, it always seems strange to me to have to pay for poo, even if it's composted!) I'm going to do a search to see if either of the high schools in our county have ag departments...or at least FFA or 4H chapters with kids who'd like to have someone haul some of their manure away for them...and whether they have a barn on campus. (I know the middle schools don't have anything like that; we'd hear the animals since we're behind one of them and can hear all their public announcements and class-change bells when we're outside.)

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Re: Cheap (often overlooked) source of compost

Post  Pisachi on 4/15/2012, 2:43 am

Thank you for your kindness. Strangely, I hadn't even thought about the 4H programs, and we even had one when I was a kid! My brother showed cattle through the 4H program...

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Re: Cheap (often overlooked) source of compost

Post  Goosegirl on 4/15/2012, 8:45 am

My goodness! Thanks for the reminders! I work 4 blocks from the Sale Barn and never even thought of asking there!

GG
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Re: Cheap (often overlooked) source of compost

Post  KDeus on 4/15/2012, 9:37 am

Great suggestion! My daughter's high school has an AG Science program and has some goats and sheep. I'll have to look into it!
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Re: Cheap (often overlooked) source of compost

Post  givvmistamps on 4/15/2012, 10:03 am

@Pisachi wrote:Thank you for your kindness. Strangely, I hadn't even thought about the 4H programs, and we even had one when I was a kid! My brother showed cattle through the 4H program...


It sounds like you didn't need to think that far. Wink I just remembered seeing the FFA and 4H having tables next to each other at the fair a few years ago when I took my boys to meet my husband after his stint representing the college at their table.

So I looked at our high school websites to see if they had either club active, or an ag program...but they're currently revamping the site so there's only one club listed right now (JROTC) and nothing about programs available that I could find...not even dual enrollment.
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Re: Cheap (often overlooked) source of compost

Post  tnoyce on 4/28/2012, 4:58 am

It's a brilliant tip, but I can't help thinking that perhaps you could teach these programs about the value of composting the manure they produce. It is a shame to teach people about animal husbandry without letting know how to handle the results. They could produce a safe, valuable agricultural supplement instead of a smelly pile.
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