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Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

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Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  boffer on 7/15/2013, 5:45 pm

I water my SFG boxes when not growing anything in order to keep the MM moist, because it's such a pain to re-hydrate when it dries out.

But I was wondering if the micro-organisms in the compost component of MM would die off if the MM was to dry out?


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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  RoOsTeR on 7/15/2013, 6:34 pm

Do you water your finished, stored compost as well?

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  southern gardener on 7/15/2013, 6:39 pm

@boffer wrote:I water my SFG boxes  when not growing anything   in order to keep the MM moist,  because it's such a pain to re-hydrate when it dries out.  

But I was wondering if  the micro-organisms in the compost component of MM would die off if the MM was to dry out?


I was wondering the same thing. i wonder if "they" go down below the weed fabric where it's moist so they can survive? I know in our compost pile, there are lots of "escape" areas where they can go if they want? IF they even "go" anywhere?? It's a good question, and am anxious to hear. I have heard not to let your compost get too hot because you kill off the "good" micro-organisms? Is that true too?

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  sanderson on 7/15/2013, 6:40 pm

My guess is some will naturally form spores and cysts to survive dry times. The lowest layer next to the earth may stay moist and cool enough because of the earth. Maybe when you add new compost and water it, things start growing in there, again?? Good question.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  boffer on 7/15/2013, 6:43 pm

@RoOsTeR wrote:Do you water your finished, stored compost as well?  

I do.  

Most of it is stored in 55 gal barrels with lids, so the moisture stays in.  This time of year I put the sprinkler  on my big compost pile to keep it damp.

But I have some 5 gallon buckets of good compost that are uncovered, and they dried out.

I know micro-organisms will die without oxygen, but I'm wondering if they go dormant and will re-activate with moisture, or if they die when dry.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  boffer on 7/15/2013, 6:47 pm

@southern gardener wrote:...I have heard not to let your compost get too hot because you kill off the "good" micro-organisms?  Is that true too?  

Everything I've read has said yes.  I believe in the neighborhood of 160°+, but don't quote me on the number.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  sanderson on 7/15/2013, 6:52 pm

Off topic, Does anyone know where I can buy a long probe thermometer? Any recommendations?

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  RoOsTeR on 7/15/2013, 7:12 pm

Huh, I guess I've never really thought about it. Interesting question for sure. 
I can't say that I water my compost once it's ready for use. Again, never really thought about it. I do however keep all my squares and beds watered for the same reasons as you boffer. Our climate is so arid, it's a real kick in the pants to get things moist again Rolling Eyes   

Sanderson, Have you ever checked out Are You a Hottie? I'm sure there are some options there for a thermo. I probably shouldn't say what I've used before, you being a retired health inspector and all Razz  But I'm sure others may have used their wife's kitchen thermometer and thrust it deep into the pile. On page 3 of that thread, I may have accidentally used the remote BBQ thermometer. Very Happy  (sorry for the derailment)

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  boffer on 7/15/2013, 7:13 pm

Here's some ideas
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t14171-thermometer?highlight=thermometer

I bought mine on impulse when I saw it on the shelf.  It's long, and it works.  That's all I know about it! Razz

Edit: just saw Rooster's post. I was going to suggest a remote BBQ thermometer too; they come in handy for a lot of oddball stuff.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  sanderson on 7/15/2013, 11:56 pm

Okay, I just bought a 20" probe from GardensAlive.  I was tired of using my 6" meat thermometer!  Do I have you beat, Rooster?

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  Turan on 7/16/2013, 12:40 am

I suspect that the micro organisms do die off.  I suspect this is part of the problem with the commercial bagged composts.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  Unmutual on 7/16/2013, 1:25 am

It depends on the organism. Many organisms form a symbiotic relationship with plant roots, so they aren't even bothered. There are a lot of microorganisms in soil(50,000 to over a million in a single gram of soil depending on who you ask).

Soil is still being studied, so even top scientific institutions don't know everything about soil biota yet(you can thank chemical fertilizers for the lack of soil science).

So...yes, some die, some go in to hibernation, and some don't care. Luckily for us, there are many microorganisms that perform the same function. The same thing happens when MM gets too much water(sever rain events/flooding). The soil recovers however, and all those tiny little bodies end up helping our plants grow.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  batmap on 7/16/2013, 4:04 am

afaik, compost bugs and micro-organisms all pretty much have short life cycles during the warm season in order to procreate and thus survive the unpredictable cold season. Their eggs/young/etc typically recover from any dry weather once wet and warm conditions return.

During the lack of water or warm weather, most of that stuff (i.e. adult bugs) will die. Others will burrow deep underground for insulation, food, and/or water, such as earthworms, june beetles, and ants.

If you have some soil or compost you want to keep "fresh", try adding enough water to prevent the compost from drying out. Sealing in containers or bags can also help retain freshness.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  boffer on 7/16/2013, 10:47 am

Unmutual and batmap, good points, thanks. My dried out compost will be a small percentage of the total volume when mixed with the damp compost, so I'm not going to worry about it.

I've always been skeptical about the value of compost tea on a compost rich growing medium like MM. As Turan mentioned, it might be helpful for sterilized bagged compost, but in an established healthy garden with homemade compost, I just don't see that it adds anything. Thoughts?

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New Question, Same thread

Post  docguy on 9/23/2013, 8:20 pm

Here it is September and I just bought some compost for my first SFG.  I haven't made the box yet but when I do it will be a 2' x 8' that will be located against a white vinyl wall on the south side off a building.  So here I sit with 80 lb of composted cow manure, 1 1/2 Cu ft. of "Garden Compost from WM and 40 lb of Mushroom Compost.  I will have some (don't know how much yet) worm castings and my own compost from a lot of chicken poop and grass clippings and sawdust.

My question is:  Do I mix together what I have and store it in plastic tubs til spring when I will mix it with the rest of the stuff to make up my MM, or do I pile the bags in the corner of a shed and hope to rehydrate it next spring?  I don't want to sterilize it by drying/freezing, but I also don't want to make it more difficult to mix in spring. 

Any suggestions?

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  camprn on 9/24/2013, 7:09 am

I would just store it in the bag it came in and all will be well.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  batmap on 9/24/2013, 7:21 am

docguy, I have not done this myself so I am guessing here. Convenience and ease of use would likely be my reasons to keep it out of the way, but near the planting box for when spring arrives. The corner pile in your shed seems like the best place.

Cold weather is not likely an issue, but I suppose you could cover the pile with a couple old blankets if you are worried. The more natural the source is, the more bugs cyclops  it will probably have active in it. I would leave bags purchased from the store out and try to protect the others.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  docguy on 9/24/2013, 5:31 pm

So, is it better (meaning easier AND effective) to mix when all ingredients are dry?

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  walshevak on 9/25/2013, 10:16 pm

@docguy wrote:So, is it better (meaning easier AND effective) to mix when all ingredients are dry?

Hugh (docguy)
Out of the bag dry YES which is usually damp. Some compost when super dry clumps and lumps. Vermiculite and peat moss should be dry, but given a light spray as you mix to keep the dust down. Then layer into the beds and water heavily between layers. It takes a lot of water to get the peat moss totally wet the first time, which is why we SFGs water our empty squares.

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OK, I think I've got this right.

Post  docguy on 9/26/2013, 8:37 pm

My compost is moist in the bag.  Peat Moss and Vermiculite is dry.  Mix all the composts together right out of the bag on the tarp.  Then add the peat and the vermiculite.  Now, should I wait until spring or should I do it now and let is "steep" until I'm ready to plant?

The reason I am asking so many (to many, I suppose, dumb) questions is; two years ago I tilled up 400 square feet and planted a garden.  It produced food but was a bear to take care of.  Last year I planted raised beds and only half of the stuff came up.  Then the weeds took over.  I was ready to call it quits until I stumbled across SFG on YouTube.  I bought the book and now I want to do it EXACTLY right.

Thank you all for your excellent advise.  I have a feeling this time is going to be the charmer.

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Re: Do micro-organisms die, when MM is dry?

Post  walshevak on 9/27/2013, 6:59 am

This is a tricky question.  Do I mix now and risk the nutrients washing out over the winter   Or  or I take heart that snow is the poor man's fertilizer and mix now so it will be buried under the snow.  Do I have more time now and can get more done than in the spring.  If I mix now and have the beds ready, then I just have to wait for the weather and MM is so friable it can be worked earlier than ground dirt.  I can spend my time growing seedlings.  Do I need to wait so that I can better budget and space out buying my gardening needs over the winter and mixing later.  Are MM components available in the stores now.  Do I have a storage area to protect the dry vermiculite until spring. One thing I would do is get the beds made and located and weeds under the beds suppressed.  And if I did decide to mix now, I would provide some protection from excess rain and blown in seeds.

I know, this is not a definitive answer, but there is no real right or wrong answer here.

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