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Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

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Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  plantoid on 7/12/2012, 6:42 pm

13 JULY 2012
Commercial and homemade composts.

A quick generalization of how I see it works out.
I've left off the scientific stuff it gets far too wordy and involved. The aim of this script is to help some of you understand what can be in commercial composts and the difference / advantages of using better homemade composts.
Plants need reasonable quantities of Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potash (N, P, K and given as percentages of the whole) to grow well along with a myriad of other nutrients and trace elements.

Nitrogen N
Helps grow the plant skeleton and give the leaves green colour and good leaf growth.
It increases the protein in edible plants Too much of it makes the plants put on excessive growth and they are high in plant saps, this excessive growth trades off against fruit and flower production.
Too little stunts the plants and they look yellow in leaf which spreads up wards till if uncorrected the plant dies. (There are also diseases that will cause this yellowing of leaves).

Phosphorous P
Promotes good root growth young plants need this to develop well things like root crops of carrots parsnips and potatoes will crop poorly if it is in short supply. Plants also need phosphorous to make seeds. It is deficient in a compost the plants tend to have a bluish green tint to the leaves which goes to a bronze green shade of colour. Plant growth will slow and the crop produced ....if any is a poor one.

Potash K
This helps development in fruit & flowers; it gives them bright colours and helps to improve the fruit with better keeping qualities. It helps give plants good disease resistances and is said to help offset any excess of nitrogen in the compost.
Too much potash in a plant lets the plant absorb too much water in its structure instead of making sugars; this will make it susceptible to a light frosting. Not enough potash lends the plant to yellow edged leaves which tend to go brown as though they have been scorched. If this continues the plant will usually collapse and die.


Like Mel says in his book All New Square Foot gardening 2006 edition most commercial composts are made from plentiful waste materials.
Close celled hard fibres normally take a long while to rot down unless they are fine cut up or ground down then soaked in something that promotes decay, and then kept in ideal damp conditions.
Hard woods and some of the stronger soft woods can take several years to break down & stop robbing the compost & thus in turn your garden of nitrogen.
Once it reaches the “ no more taking nitrogen to help it rot “ , it starts producing its own nitrogen as it decays further when it is in the ground or heap & becomes a worthwhile compost .


Green Wood products can be from:-

Standing timber clearances / logging operations. Saw mill generated stuff from green wood can be saw dust, wood chips of all sizes and levels of moisture
Bark and stuff laughingly referred to as “Forest floor products”.
Some of these materials may have already been processed in steam and or chemicals to remove oils and other products available in green wood.
It may rarely actually also contain grubbed out ground up rooted stumps from cut timber clearances.
The particle size of it all can range from 2 inch thick chunks right down to fine sawdust.
The bigger the particle the longer it would have needed to fully compost to be a worthwhile product for your beds.

As already said it takes quite a long time to turn wood of any sort to a worthwhile compost... we are talking of years rather than months or weeks .It uses the nitrogen in the heap to help it break down .
Adding animal dung, used organic beddings, urine, human sewage waste, water & other soft vegetable matter will start the process and not take quite so long.
But until the wood stops taking nitrogen out the compost it can be detrimental to have this in your beds or as part of your MM compost variety in any great quantity.

I doubt that most commercial companies are willing to fully disclose the actual materials used in their products because of the sort of unsavoury awareness of some of them.
Lots of commercial composts also have all sorts of added growth promoting nutrients that last about 6 weeks of growing crops.
That tells me that the basic compost is deficient in them and leads me to ask, “In what and why?” & “what will the effect or quality of the depleted compost be when the nutrients have been consumed?”




Seasoned woods products:-

These can contain soft or hard woods that may or may not have been processed by steam or chemicals to extract valuable by products. Some of the extracted products that were in the original unprocessed wood would have been nice to have in your bag of composted materials.

Sometimes demolition / site clearance gives up many cubic yards of almost useless timbers, but it can be and is often sold to be ground up or pulped with any ferrous metals recovered for such practices as making a wood based soil improver or for bio furnace burners . Often these are advertised or referred to as composted wood products or soil improvers .
This stuff is good for weed suppression when used as thick mulch , it will eventually decay over the years on the ground into a form of useful compost that with worms and gardening actions it will combine it into the soil . If any of it has had lead paint , arsenic based paints or any other such nasty preservatives , chemical or toxin on it , it will go on your gardens .

Virgin pulped wood tends to be expensive and used for higher priced products like chip board furniture ,insulation panels and animal bedding .

Again adding the extras like similar additives to the stuff used for the green wood it will eventually result in a compost of worthwhile use in your beds but do be aware of the toxin’s angle. Not all soil improvers will have a nasty content but I understand that not all such products sold worldwide have stringent testing to prove they are free of the nasties.


Green & dead wood chips over 1/4 across
When wood is cut & cleared from road sides etc it often gets put through a high powered coarse chipper to reduce the volume to make taking it away easier.

Bark / forest floor products, frequently from saw mills turning trees into planks and baulks of timber
Sometimes steam and / or chemical treated to extract turpentine etc.

Wood chip under 1/4 & coarse sawdust from green wood composts quicker than big chips especially if this is an item in a well thought out formula for a compost heap .

Wood from small scrub clearances.

Coarse or fine sawdust from seasoned wood, from saw mills turning seasoned wood into useable sizes. Can be very dry and will need a good wetting, best added to plenty of quicker decaying materials. May also contain fine chips and shavings and all sorts of rubbish from food wrappings to broken tools etc. if sourced from a big woodworking /joinery company that has lots of tradesmen in the building.



For myself I'd treat these high level wood products as all being very near to being UN composted material and would only use them if hard pushed as one element of the MM formula that asks for of five different composts. IE All wood based products even with nutrients or manures added will only count as only one form of compost; you need four more non wood based products.

Use wood based products for two or more elements of the compost requirement and your MM will like as not be deficient of useful nutrients or will actually start robbing your final MM of nitrogen for a year or more and very likely start producing all sorts of signs of plant ill health.


Civic or commercial sourced amenity waste (yard waste)


What is often called garden or yard waste... Will have all sorts in it , from neat wood, hedge cuttings , pet waste, grass cuttings and weed treated grass cuttings from feed & weed grass areas , glass , plastics , cigarette butts , glass , plastics , , stones , grit etc to name just a few as well as unused neat garden chemicals & weed seeds galore .... Unless hot composted .... This helps kill the weed seeds off, which takes time, effort and money to do it properly but the rest tend to stay in the compost.

Bitter experience has caught me out on this one on several occasions over 45 yrs of gardening. What was supposed to be premium seed compost and seedling compost has often turned out to be a grim dark gritty gunge that grew more weeds than my sown seeds. On other occasions it has totally killed cuttings and seedlings that were potted up for growing on.
I'll never use it ever again but you do have to give me points for stubbornly trialling it over many years.

Shredded cardboard & paper is sometimes used in commercial composts either as cut up or shredded & in the form of liquid slurry.
Sometimes card and paper also makes the recycle compost route if supplied in bulk from local authority amenity waste facilities when it is not good enough for recycling into new card board etc. There can be all sorts of chemicals, insecticides & fungicides on cardboard packing boxes as well as fire proofing materials, all of which can play havoc in your SFG beds







Contractor’s garden waste

Usually whatever materials the contractor can legally get rid of in the composting /recycling circuit. Then the usual sewage, urines, vegetable juices and commercial veg waste get added and churned up for a few days over several weeks.


In the so called civilised world most of the commercial composting practices now have guidelines as to the types and quantities of polluting chemicals that can be released into the atmosphere etc. during composting , So it's usually “ cooked “ under these guide lines with regular recorded testing.
It's then left to " mature " a few weeks before being sold as quick as possible so as to get a cash return on the investment .
For some reason it sticks in my head that the commercial composting practice does not get as hot as a decent garden heap made Mel’s style or as the Berkley 18 day hot composting method would . I think it is because of the greenhouse gases released. For commercially produced composts they have had to be reduced, so the temps are kept down so as not to produce too much gas. Though I’d have to go back over nine months of reading about composts to find the information again.


Raw factory veg waste often gets processed to animal feeds but occasionally some ends up in commercial composts. The greater range of fruits and veg the better the resultant composts the same will apply to your own compost heaps.

Close celled hard fibres normally take a long while to rot down unless they are fine cut up or ground down then soaked in something that promotes decay & then kept in ideal damp conditions.
Hard woods and some of the stronger soft woods can take several years to break down & stop robbing the composting heap of nitrogen.
Once it reaches this “ no more taking nitrogen to help it rot “ , it starts producing its own nitrogen as it decays further when it is in the ground .

Animal wastes ....... that come out the back end of the creature.

Usual names are manure ,fertilizer , dung , poop , doo-doo , crap , turds , droppings , sugar ,deleterious and good old fashioned " * hit ". This list is not exhaustive by a long chalk.


Horse droppings.....average of N 0.6, P 0.1, and K 0.5
From racing stud stables, where horses are stabled on rubber mats without bedding in the stalls. Often has little or no urine content, is good if you can get it yourself and use it as one of the elements for making your MM once you have composted it and let it weather to reduce the high nitrogen content.
Used neat un composted it can be too hot in nitrogen for the veg beds etc & burns the plants giving all sorts of weird symptoms of disease . All too often will have some sort or other weed seeds in it.
Hot composting using the, “Berkley 18 day hot composting method “and all that that entails, kills the vast majority of these weeds & seeds.
It takes the heat out the composted manures so you can use it almost straight away in your beds. .

Steer manure...average values N 0.6, P0.1, & K 0.7 Either collected direct out the stalls and similar to the above
Where steer manure is taken from permanently housed beef it will have a strong male hormone urine content. The nutrient values are different to dairy cow manure from similar circumstances.
Out in dry cattle yards the dung may be drier and have slightly lower urine content with its associated chemicals etc.

Dairy cows N 0.4, P 0.1, and K 0.4
In the enclosed cattle yards where the cattle are kept on straw beddings etc over winter or as housed stock from birth to slaughter and fed on processed feeds this will have a fairly urine content and the value of urine soaked rotting bedding the dung will also have quite different nutrient contents to grass fed animals .
Any medicines hormones, probiotics or enhancers that any animals have had may show traces or effects of it in their urine or dung.
Most other four legged herbivore animal waste will be reasonably similar to the above sorts.

.

The state at which they are all collected at alters the nutrient values especially if exposed to sun wind and rain for a few weeks before being collected. Nutrient values can change within the compost heap even though it has been well turned and aerated etc.
I suggest that when you discover the heap has finished composting you give it a final thorough mixing up to even things out

Perhaps this is another reason why producers of commercially made composts don’t go into fine detail about the levels of nutrients, as they would have to test every single bag of it.
I understand that in various countries around the world they do have to conform to set standards of that country but as you can see things do have to be very general.

Some people decide to go the chemical factory fertilizer route thinking it is the best way of getting things that plants need to grow but they fail to consider all the trace elements found in well made compost. Some 16 years ago I was at a seminar where we were informed that The New Zealand government’s horticultural & agricultural scientists were saying that over the last 40 years (1956 to 1996) the nutritional content of many fruits and veg had dropped greatly due to the use of artificial fertilizers rather than the more natural materials. Evidently they had many samples of fruit and veg kept in liquid nitrogen to back up their claim.


Bird manures ......commercial and domestic sources, with or without feathers, skin scales & beddings. Captive poultry and game bird droppings have a different nutrient value to other fowl as they tend to eat quite a different diet to the wild birds. This is a valuable discovery for we can build higher phosphate content compost by including them in the five way compost elements
Various birds’ manures have quite different nutrients. Chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks, ostriches, swans etc have very different diets so the chemistry of their droppings is also different. This is to our advantage for the range of nutrients is greater and the different droppings have differing speeds of composting. For instance average broiler manure inc beddings is around N2.3 ,P1.0 & K 1.7 captive turkey deleterious seems to run at around N 1.3 , P 0.3 , K 0.4
Birds fed fish based feed give high levels of nitrogen & potassium in their poop average N10, P13.0 & K 2.0
The white bits in the droppings contain their urine & are high in ammonia which breaks down into nitrogen. My home made composts contain high levels of several different bird mucks & their beddings.

Green vegetation.
Think of a rainbow, each colour being a range of plant species (though go easy on the evergreens)
Take a dab of each colour mix it up and you get an even blend of a dark colour , same for your garden plant waste get , a bit off each different plant , cut it up if needed ,mix it well and it is ready for composting.

Commercial composts containing a percentage of animal manures.

When composted , commercially available composts indicating the use of animal manures in them will have greatly varying content levels of dung some less than 5% a few up to 10 % .
However some compost that clearly state a content 20 % or so of the composted animal manure do seem to be the best of the bunch.
Check the bag labels carefully for contents and always check each new batch that you purchase it is quite normal for the ingredients to change from month to month and this is where we get big problems in commercially made composts.

Commercial versus homemade composts

Those commercially produced composts that have been part processed with wood products & / or without beddings usually have less nutrient values for the resultant compost than those that are more naturally sourced by the gardener at home. To overcome this in the commercial world liquid nutrients are made from the previously mentioned urine run off’s & juices from veg processing’s etc. etc. are added to the nearly finished bulk composts to bring levels up...sometimes known as enhanced composts . Occasionally there will even be chemical factory manufactured or mined chemicals added to bring up nutrient levels such as Sulphate of ammonia , Nitrate of soda , Ammonium phosphate ,sulphate of potash , magnesium ammonia phosphates , kainite & basic slag etc.


The urine content mentioned helps break down the cellulose fibres etc and whilst it may seem a distasteful subject to discuss it is a very valuable useful substance; it has all sorts of trace elements in it as well.
Lots of gardeners myself included pee in a bucket away from sight of the public then dilute it by about 20 to 1 with 20 parts of rain water and pour it over the compost heap being made .

In days of yore when cattle were over wintered on deep straw in small enclosed yards or when horses were stabled on deep straw for winter there was a sump hole outside the yard and floor drains took the rain and leeched liquids that passed through urine soaked beddings and dung to it..
This was used to fertilize crops in the farmer’s gardens, in orchards and in the glasshouse. It was also used several countries including the UK to make saltpetre to be used in the manufacture of gunpowder. Human urine was also used to the same purpose. Without it for gunpowder production I doubt the UK would have come off tops in the Napoleonic wars etc.


Human sewage waste. Neat or reprocessed
Sometimes called Humanure or reprocessed sewage sludge, it’s very high in all sorts of nutrients and chemicals that may or may not harm the veg in the beds. There is worry in some areas that it may contain pathogens etc that could be harmful to the human race. I'm not too clued up on this area but I do know that in China it is well composted and is run though intensive regular daily testing to check it out for problems before it is used on deep pure compost veg beds that provide fresh food for many of the inhabitants of their cities... Perhaps this is where the oriental smile originated...

Humanure as it is frequently called is also available in most so called civilized countries for making commercial fertilizers and adding to commercial composts as well as being available direct to farmers for putting on/in the fields .

As a kid all our toilet stuff went into the garden one way or another, either neat once a year when the earthen closet vault was emptied or as a weekly emptying onto the small holding's animal based manure heap once we moved to a chemical can toilet, as like most out in the country dwellers we didn't have running water.
This was cold (anaerobic) composted for a year and was then put in the gardens in late winter or early spring as required. The stuff out the vault was barrowed to a pre dug 4 foot wide by 3 foot deep trench where the beans and celery were to be grown.

The garden compost heap.
Now suppose you had decent sized heap of cut up compostable plants, several animal manures, neat ... direct from the animal or with straw, paper or hemp beddings (These decay quickly) mix the heap in roughly equal parts.... don’t get anally compacted about exactness.
Collecting all this can take place over several weeks till you get enough materials so long as you keep it dryish and aired. If your adding your own untreated lawn cuttings let them dry out for a day or so if at all possible or it will tend to make things go slimy . Don't used weed treated lawn cuttings as these will most likely still contain weed killers that will destroy your beds.

This heap would, once wet enough to support bacterial growth quickly start the initial decay in the pile that feeds all sorts of bacteria & beneficial fungi. If you leave it alone without any interference it will exhaust much of the oxygen in the heap and slow down its bacterial action thus taking months if not years to fully break down into compost.

Agitate it after four or so days and this will put more new oxygen in the heap, add a spray or two of water to keep the heap damp and the bacteria will go nuts and start to convert the decaying materials into something useful for your beds & it will produce heat of around 150 oF if you made your heaps formula well.
The heat will tail off after six days or so and you will now need to aerate the heap by taking it apart and rebuilding it , so you have the outside areas of the heap now on the inside of the heap. Repeat this several times at three or four day intervals ensuring the pile stays damp...water with a spray hose if necessary

Once the heap starts to cool to near ambient temperatures after several turnings over three weeks or so, there will not be any more quick compostable materials in it. Don’t start adding to the heap or you will never get finished compost.
The nutrients produced will not have leeched out the pile like a long term pile left uncovered open to the elements but will have stayed in the broken down fibres as they dry out.
It is a bit like desiccated coconut... the sugars & goodness stay in the dry material. The heat of the pile will have helped evaporate most of the UN needed moisture out the pile material in your composted heap.
The compost will now contain almost ideal nutrient levels and have some of the coarser material left in it that will not only slowly rot down further keeping nutrient release levels up for several months , it will also retain the open fibres to the extent that these will provide water retention and drainage if it gets too wet.
In the UK of old, for good compost made soley of animal and bird manures & consequent beddings it was reckoned that you would only need to deep manure a garden bed area once every seven years except for the bean bed area which you would add to each year as it moved around in the crop rotation cycle.

There is a heck of a lot more to composts and composted manures than first meets the eye ,it is the whole be all and end all of crop growing at home especially when using mel’s All New Square Foot gardening principles.
I’m not a professional scientist or horticulturalist but an electronic / mechanical engineer with a wide range of skills and interests sort of guy , one who has to think logically , rationally and enjoys eating home grown food from his own garden .
Do your own home work using the internet , use reliable sources for information & the forums on site along with Mel’s 2005 book edition ... not someone selling a poorly written book or a Wikipedia sort of place , beware of people who try and to bamboozle you with half baked ill thought out ideas.

Happy all new square foot gardening


Plantoid
13 July 2012





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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  RoOsTeR on 7/12/2012, 7:11 pm

Wow David! What an informative and great read A big thank you for taking the time to research and come up with a great Rookie Topic! I might have to sticky this in our Compost forum as well.
Thanks Plantoid!!!

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  Kelejan on 7/12/2012, 8:59 pm

@RoOsTeR wrote:Wow David! What an informative and great read A big thank you for taking the time to research and come up with a great Rookie Topic! I might have to sticky this in our Compost forum as well.
Thanks Plantoid!!!

Definately a Sticky is merited.
Could you change the topic title slightly by adding Compost?

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  Goosegirl on 7/13/2012, 8:50 am

Excellent read! Thanks David!

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  cpl100 on 7/13/2012, 10:01 am

Thanks for posting that information. I am trying to educate myself as new gardener. Was going get a bin and start composting next week but this has just daunted me. I thought I would just get a bin and start throwing stuff in it and it would 'work' eventually to compost. I guess nothing in gardening is as simple as it seems (or I would like) unfortunately.

I did learn that I should not put my own grass clippings in it (as planned) because we do put weed killers on the lawn. I also was going to go to the town composting area and get some of the compost. Now I am uncertain whether I should do that. (Was going to get some of it to put in the bottom of my bin and then just start adding produce scraps and egg shells.) We don't drink coffee but I was going to try to get some used grounds somewhere and add those. And then I was going to put in some leaves from fall raking (and save a bag to be added throughout the winter).

Now I just don't know!

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  RoOsTeR on 7/13/2012, 10:08 am

Be sure to search and review the great compost forum for all the information on composting you will need.

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  cpl100 on 7/13/2012, 10:11 am

I knew there must be a section on composting but haven't gotten to it yet.

This gardening is requiring lots of reading as well as lots of aching muscles and $20 bills flying out of my wallet.

For some crazy reason I thought people grew vegetables to save on groceries (as well as to eat food without pesticides). Those are my reasons anyway. I knew the first year set up would prevent any savings, though. I just didn't realize exactly how large a quantity of cash is required to garden!

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  plantoid on 7/13/2012, 3:00 pm

Cpl 100,
I have to ask these questions :-
Do you have Mel Bartholomew's , " All New Square Foot Gardening book 2005 edition ? and ... Have you really read it... several times or more ???

Have you found the , " Berkley 18 day hot composting method " and read all the links /listed sheets in it.
if NO to any of the above you could do far worse by not reading/exploring them .

In the Berkley method there are numeous lists of things that are easily found and compostable.



Just so you don't have heart attack thinking you have to bust your braces turning heaps of composting materials .
There are several was to skin a cat so to speak all resulting in a similar out come.
give me a few days & I'll cobble together something about it.

I have some photos of what I've been playing at and some piccies of the end results from each method.

I'm crying off doing it right away for I'm having a brain pain day at present and find siting at the PC a bit painful

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  LA Vertical SFG on 7/13/2012, 3:05 pm

I got a compost spinner last year when we started juicing. It wasn't cheap but it keeps the stuff well contained in our Urban little property.

Side benefit was that the few days it did rain, the water ran through and created compost tea in a tupperware I stuck underneath it! Eww but apparently it's like a gin and tonic for my garden. Wink





Here's what it looks like in there today...

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  givvmistamps on 7/13/2012, 3:39 pm

@cpl100 wrote:I knew there must be a section on composting but haven't gotten to it yet.

This gardening is requiring lots of reading as well as lots of aching muscles and $20 bills flying out of my wallet.

For some crazy reason I thought people grew vegetables to save on groceries (as well as to eat food without pesticides). Those are my reasons anyway. I knew the first year set up would prevent any savings, though. I just didn't realize exactly how large a quantity of cash is required to garden!

Please keep in mind that the expense of getting started is just that: getting started. Once your SFG boxes and composting bin(s) are built, the huge expenses are over. You take those expenses and spread them out over the years your SFG will last, higher-cost materials means a longer time before it must be replaced. Seeds are cheap, and you can save what you don't use this year to plant more over the next year or more. Learn in stages, read topics as you go along, go ahead and start composting now, and remember what Plantoid said about the color spectrum in your composting. The more colors you have, the healthier your finished compost will be. It may seem overwhelming, but get started, and it will get easier as you go along. Someday you'll come back and help somebody else who is overwhelmed!

I hope that makes sense! This is a process of building and learning. Do what you can, ask questions and post photos of problems you're having, and people here will give you their experience in helping to solve it. The first year is the hardest, both because of expenses and because of the learning curve. Every succeeding year will be easier than the last one!

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  givvmistamps on 7/13/2012, 3:41 pm

Thank you, David, for an awesome rundown on compost! It's the most important ingredient in MM and this information is definitely sticky-material!

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  cpl100 on 7/13/2012, 3:47 pm

Yes, I have read the book, cover to cover, once. I have also referred to it several times daily since reading it a couple weeks ago. I have read many of the composting threads and am unsure if the one you mentioned is one of them, but I will seek it out to be sure I do read it.

Edit: I have also taken out four books from the library and have read most of that material as well. It is not that I am asking questions without seeking out the answers myself first though it may seem that way.

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  camprn on 7/13/2012, 3:59 pm

@cpl100 wrote:Yes, I have read the book, cover to cover, once. I have also referred to it several times daily since reading it a couple weeks ago. I have read many of the composting threads and am unsure if the one you mentioned is one of them, but I will seek it out to be sure I do read it.

Edit: I have also taken out four books from the library and have read most of that material as well. It is not that I am asking questions without seeking out the answers myself first though it may seem that way.
It ain't easy being a noob, that's for sure. Hang in there and remember, as I have said before, gardening (and composting) is a process not an event. The same can be said about LEARNING how to garden. Hang in there CPL! Wink

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  plantoid on 7/13/2012, 4:11 pm

@givvmistamps wrote:Thank you, David, for an awesome rundown on compost! It's the most important ingredient in MM and this information is definitely sticky-material!


:fall: If it's sticky it's too wet ..you've made it wrong happy2 happy banana

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  No_Such_Reality on 7/13/2012, 4:22 pm

I've got one of those fancy compost tumblers. It does so-so. The Berkeley method is too much labor IMHO. Compost is simple, brown stuff - green, a little water if needed and time. How much time depends on how much brown and green stuff and how big and woody the brown stuff is and how solid your green stuff is.

I have three schefflera trees and a magnolia tree and several others on my property. Each Scheff leaf that falls, and I get 20 gals of Scheff leaf litter a week is a 20 inch long woody stem with 8 3x8" waxy thick leaves arrange in a big circle. They decay slow. So I can do slow method or I can spend a lot of time trying to feed those big cumbersome leaves into my little Eco-Shredder. I've done that a couple times. Really way too time consuming.

So I've adapted a different method. I inherited three 96 gal square trash containers when we bought our house that sit on the narrow unused mostly concreted side yard.

Well, they're my new holding bins. I've drilled a few holes on bottom and sides and I'm slowly filling them one by one. I'll lob about 3 inches of browns from the yard waste bin from the gardener in each week, then dump the green waste from the house in daily. Whatever veggies peels, melon rinds, coffee grounds, wasted potatoes, molding bread you name it, in it goes. If it gets flies or the little fruit flies, i'll lob a little brown waste in. (I've created a little side store in the third bin).

When I get about 3/4s full I figure I'll go to starbucks and pick up enough coffee grounds for a 3" layer and then scoop the top half out into the 2nd bin, layer in a brown layer, then the coffee, then a brown layer and top with the bottom half of the bin and let it bake.

Starting over in the first bin.

In the meantime, I've got one compost tumbler to carry me over and found a local source for berkeley style composted horse stable manure.

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  plantoid on 7/13/2012, 4:34 pm

Nice one NSR ..... the cat gets skinned every way.

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  No_Such_Reality on 7/13/2012, 4:45 pm

@cpl100 wrote:T I thought I would just get a bin and start throwing stuff in it and it would 'work' eventually to compost. I guess nothing in gardening is as simple as it seems (or I would like) unfortunately.

Ironically, what you thought is actually right.

if you just keep lobbing various green materials (plant trimmings, kitchen scraps (veggie/fruit) and brown materials (dried leaves, etc) and just give it time (as in most of the year), it will be compost.

Composting with time is pretty simple. It's the speed composting stuff that makes it complex.

Use this simple Browns/Green Compost chart and just keep to roughly equal amounts, you'll be good. If it gets dried out, give it a little water. If it's soaked, let it dry out a bit.

The faster and bigger you can pile it the better.

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  No_Such_Reality on 7/13/2012, 4:54 pm

@plantoid wrote:Nice one NSR ..... the cat gets skinned every way.

Thanks, I was driving myself nuts trying to get my compost tumbler to cook me some compost in a few weeks and running ragged sweating the details when mother nature smacked me upside the head. Per my request the gardener had dump the grass trimming and smaller leaves (aspen/elm) into one the trash cans for my later use, well, I forgot about them...

Mom nature did not, a half filled, unmixed, no rhyme or reason on the contents unstirred can was halfway baked to finish after just a few months.

lightbulb moment, as I'm running outside every other day to crank my compost tumbler, check the moisture, worrying about the size of my browns and how many stems as they get tangled in the tumbler.

Hmm, just fill the trash can with the yard waste in the layers and let it cook...

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  Kelejan on 7/13/2012, 5:00 pm

@plantoid wrote:
@givvmistamps wrote:Thank you, David, for an awesome rundown on compost! It's the most important ingredient in MM and this information is definitely sticky-material!


:fall: If it's sticky it's too wet ..you've made it wrong happy2 happy banana

rofl rofl rofl

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  cpl100 on 7/14/2012, 3:00 pm

Should I/Could I put seaweed in my compost bin? I might be able to pick some up at the beach tomorrow. I am getting my bin Monday and will start it with leaves on the bottom and then I guess I will do kitchen scraps. I thought I read somewhere that seaweed is good but I can't find the information now. On top of that I guess I will shred some newspaper. Then....well I am not sure, maybe more kitchen scraps?

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  RoOsTeR on 7/14/2012, 3:12 pm

Seaweed is fine to compost.
Here are some other ideas of what you can add to your compost:
http://www.plantea.com/compost-materials.htm

Here are more ideas from here on the forum:
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t12757-what-do-you-put-in-the-compost-that-other-may-not-of-thought-of?highlight=compost

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  camprn on 7/14/2012, 4:55 pm

Need to wash the seaweed with clear water before adding to the compost pile.

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  cpl100 on 7/14/2012, 4:58 pm

Thank you. Will a quick rinse in a large bucket of water do the trick or do I need to really, really give it a thorough soak?

Appreciate the tip.

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  Pepper on 7/14/2012, 5:17 pm

thankyou Plantoid thankyou
WOW what an informative topic!!!!! I to vote this being a sticky topic in the compost area.

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Re: Friday Rookie topic: Commercial and Homemade Composts

Post  walshevak on 7/14/2012, 8:20 pm

I've got the ingredients including a bit of horse and cow manure, just need some strong muscles to give it a turn. I tried, but just can't. In the meantime, it will just sit and eventually be compost. I'll bet the bottom already is, cause it's been there for a year.

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