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To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  plantoid on 11/29/2015, 9:08 am

Sometimes we have to think deeper / past some of the gardening lore /witch craft ideas

Logically thinking if Raspberry canes & their associated diseases were so damaging they would have killed off or infected  all  raspberry & other plants in the world .

 It is normally only when you start trying to use large amounts of diseased materials that you get a disease/ spore  built up that may cause a problem
 More often than not though it is the conditions that a plant is being grown in that gives forth the symptoms of a disease / health problem  that has developed because of the conditions  .

 I'd go as far to say that a few bits evenly sprinkled throughout a decent sized compost heap will be beneficial to a lot of bacteria found in the compost heap .


 Poisonous plants though are quite different & have to be researched out of some of the official government health /agricultural information banks rather than taking it as gospel from Fred & Freda down the road .

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  68carguy on 11/29/2015, 9:53 am

I just finished cleaning up my lawn, used the riding mower with a rear bagger and emptied the leaves in the middle of my SFG. I first made a circle with fencing to hold the leaves.
Some of the leave's I gathered were from a wild cherry tree. Now I find out from what I have read so far is that this tree can be toxic to animals and humans due to the cyanide the leaves, twigs, and seeds can contain. Have I just made a pile of poison and added it to my garden!!?? affraid

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Kelejan on 11/29/2015, 10:51 am

I have a old cherry tree and used the leaves in compost and I have never been aware of any problems, carguy.  I would imagine that providing the leaves are only some of them, there should not be a problem.

What would be the difference wild and tame cherry trees?

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Scorpio Rising on 11/29/2015, 11:00 am

I think you are OK, carguy, the only bad leaves I know of are black walnut;

http://www.the-compost-gardener.com/composting-leaves.html

And I have heard not to compost milkweed plant parts.

Right, Sanderson, niche market for sure!

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  jimmy cee on 11/29/2015, 3:05 pm

My compost pile receives loads and loads of huge rhubarb leaves every year...
everything still grows and I sometimes eat straight from my garden.
I hate cooked vegetables.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  sanderson on 11/29/2015, 3:45 pm

I have fed cherries to my free range worms and black fly larva. I have to screen out the pits, but no harm so far. Some time ago, there was a thread where we discussed poisonous plants in compost. If I remember correctly, the general consensus was that by the time the compost was ready, the poisons were neutralized.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  plantoid on 11/29/2015, 4:31 pm

+1 on the above

 If your concerned about toxicity etc of material you want to compost check out the lists  given in " The Berkley 18 day hot composting method ".
They have done a tremendous amount of interesting research & put lots of effort nto making good compost.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Marc Iverson on 11/29/2015, 5:25 pm

@AtlantaMarie wrote:
One good reason to mow the yard...  Scatter the little buggers to the wind & make them VERY unhappy!   Twisted Evil

Never seemed to work for us. We just kept getting more ants.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  plantoid on 11/29/2015, 6:15 pm

Ever tried making an ant syrup feeder and siting it at the farthest point away from your home/garden etc & using a simple weak sugar feed with some borax added to the syrup.

Use a large screw top jar with a single tiny pinhole in ithe lid , so it drips out syrup when inverted on two bricks .

 The borax kills the yeast inside the ants nest that  they need to feed the larvae on , as well as snuffing out the larvae that get fed with it   ......... apparently . ?

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  jimmy cee on 11/30/2015, 7:58 am

I've posted this before, even though it's not pertaining to ant's, you might be able to get the idea I am trying to put forth here.

We had problems with termites for 30 years.
First episode which was treated by a professional co, was to drill holes inside and outside of our home, and blow in what they called a barrier, didnt kill, just kept them away.
$2000.00 for that one.15 years later..their back again..
New treatment and it works.
$1600.00
A termite needs to shed to grow, if they do not shed they die a natural death.
Tubes are placed in the soil with bait sticks that termites enjoy eating, when termites are detected these bait sticks are removed and special sticks are added into these tubes.
They enjoy eating this stuff also.
When they go back to their buddies they inform them how delicious this meal is, they all go and eat.
When termites eat this material they continue on with their lives, however when it comes time to shed they die, because this material keeps them from shedding.
The colony that was here isn't any more.
If you use a termite killer, it only kills the termites affected and not the colony, you want to eliminate the colony.

I have used 20 % borax / sugar solution in my house to treat those tiny ants, it worked for me because apparently the ant colony was eliminated.

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5 weeks (and still adding)

Post  Zmoore on 11/30/2015, 8:44 am

Well, 5 weeks in.  Here she is all uncovered and in all her glory.  


I found a worm!  Just started scraping into the pile and found a worm again.  I certainly don't have hundreds og the buggers in the pile, but they are in there.


Material is looking a smelling ok.  Still a bit chunky, but at least mixed up pretty good from the couple of turns.


I thought this was neat looking.  I opened the pile last week and added a layer of sawdust.  I was digging back down in the pile and got this little "cross-section" view where you can see the layer I added last week because I haven't flipped since then.


I know, I should leave it alone and just let it "cook", but I don;t have enough material to start a whole new pile yet, so I just keep adding the little bit of stuff I do get.  In this case some pumpkins, potatoes, and bananas.  I laid it in the pile at the saw dust layer, that's why I was digging down into the pile in the first place.  Figured a little nitrogen material with the raw saw dust (carbon) would be good.  I did manage to get some more leaves this past weekend and piled them to the side until I get enough stuff to start a new pile. 


Cuddles, the foreman, watching over my work progress. 

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  sanderson on 11/30/2015, 12:50 pm

Worms? Check. Garden companion? Check. Looking good. Now, step away from that sweet pile, and start dumping stuff on that new pile of leaves. Very Happy


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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  jimmy cee on 12/1/2015, 8:02 am

zmoore
I sure love those pictures of you compost, sends chills through me...LOL...
I have been doing things quite unorthodox I suppose, however it's working for me and I'll keep it going.
At least once, sometimes twice a week I load up with those discards I get, maybe chopping them up is the secret.
After digging a hole in my steaming pile I add these to the hole in layers with the material I dug up..
When ever I open the pile, maybe 5 days apart, what I placed in there last was mostly gone...
Everything seem to be shrinking so fast, it looks as if I have a hole below....however I know that's because my microbes are eating everything up...
Now that my beds are sort of resting a bit, I direct my energy to composting..at least till the snow flys so bad I can't get out there.
One other item I recently started to do, adding about 2 feet of loose straw on top of my compost...when I add discards. I just remove it, then place it back when done...Almost like having a blanket on me when I am sleeping..

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  sanderson on 12/1/2015, 1:05 pm

Jimmy, You're right that veggies compost pretty quick. When I replied, I was thinking more along the line of not adding any more browns at this point. For me, browns seem to take longer to break down, and it is already Dec 1 if you can believe it.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Zmoore on 12/1/2015, 7:30 pm

AND to support Sanderson's replies in this thread and/or individual ... "P.M."?  She makes a valid point in regards to the stage of the process.  IF the stage of your compost is still "active" when you put it on your garden you run the risk of the compost itself still actively consuming carbon/nitrogen as part of its process of breakdown, which puts it in to competition with your plants that you add it to.  
It sounds like you (Jimmy) and I both lean towards a modified Rodale "migrating" compost pile.  The "by the book" migrating pile is your starting pile is added to one one end and you continue to add to one end sitting up a sort of "windrow", the back of the pile is the oldest and all new stuff is added to the "leading" edge and it continues on.  
I'm going out on a limb here, but I THINK you (Jimmy) and I have kind of looked at all the input and kind of adapted it to our own situation.  Generally speaking "heat" generated by a pile is an indication microbes doing there thing to break down a pile.  The "normal" process is to layer ALL these things in a certain ratio at one time, turn them at a certain schedule to ensure air availability for the microbes, and leave it alone until it's done.  The temperature of the pile will spike at a certain point, then decline, then you turn it and it rises again, then you turn it and it rises again, then you wait for it to finish process, maybe turning some more, but the temperature "spike" gets less each time.
The temperature thing is kind of key, it's related to what's going on in your pile AND there are some benefits to ensuring the pile temperature reaches a certain level for ALL parts of the pile in relations to killing certain bacteria/seeds/disease.  
I THINK Jimmy and I have come to the same conclusion through .. situation of available material and timing and just well, what if.... 
I don't have a compost thermometer (requested for Christmas though), I have no idea what the exact temperatures of my piles are, I can only judge by feel and smell.
I look at all the data and generally conclude that I want my pile to be warm for a good duration, during and after turnings.  I accomplish this by continually adding new material to the pile to encourage the "microbes" to do there thing, I keep an eye on "down the road" of when I need the material to be ready and stop adding accordingly.  At some point I HAVE to leave the pile alone to let the natural process finish, BUT I'm pushing the "envelope" as Sanderson has pointed out on the back end, IF the pile is still warm and in process of breaking down WHEN I add it to my garden it will become a competitor with my plants, mainly for nitrogen, rather than a companion.  If it's still actively seeking and consuming the same thing may plants want, then....  
The pile needs time to cool prior to use.  It needs to finish.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/1/2015, 9:32 pm

I have said this before, but your post, Zmoore, made it really make sense to me. I have the "classic" single Rodale pile. I need an 2nd, new, raw pile to start. Timing for me is either terrible or great, I don't know enough about it! It is cold. I have kitchen scraps, cardboard stuff, newspaper, but the garden contributions are over.

I am going to continue to add kitchen scraps over the winter. So, I should definitely start a 2nd migrating pile, right? I have not been able to use my own compost, even though I have some really great stuff going on out there!!!???? lots o

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/1/2015, 9:35 pm

Educate me on the migrating pile. Is it in the rodale "encyclopedia" of organic gardening?

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  sanderson on 12/1/2015, 9:52 pm

That was nice, Zmoore. I think one of the differences between slow composting and fast composting are the temps and the speed at which they are ready for resting. The other difference, and I am guilty of focusing on this one when reading other folks' compost stories, is that the Berkeley hot method is built all at once, turned several times thereafter and reaches rested & ready stage faster. I use the Berkeley method so I have to plan ahead regarding the availability of ingredients. With the slower method, there is more time to build and keep adding ingredients. There are pros and cons to both methods, and I bet that there are a lot of folks who like to experiment and tweak, especially when there is room for more than one pile on the property. You lucky folks.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  jimmy cee on 12/1/2015, 10:52 pm

Very good info here on composting..I've read Rodale's book and forgot most of what I read.
However, it seems I make much more compost than I need, I'll continue to do that.
In the picture below notice 2 full enclosures and one 1/2. Using the space I have in the corner
and out of sight.
The pile in the foreground is done, cold and waiting to be screened as there is lots of unfinished material.
I screen it, then store the finished material on a pile thats getting bigger and bigger. ( under the blue tarp )
I'll only do that screening when the pile that is working looks good to me and I need to start another working pile.
The pile in the middle is a working pile, when it starts cooling and looking good I leave it, or may just move it all to the next bin. When I do, thats when I see all those zillions of tiny worms.
When a bin is empty for me I ride to the stables and pick up about 150 gallons of horse manure, which I use when starting a fresh pile. Horse manure with straw in it, added to my other material gets these piles cooking like I can't believe.. I don't add all the manure, I layer it as I add to the pile..In 2 days it's up to 120 and rising...
That 1/2 pile in the back I use to store autumns leaves, I shred them just before adding.

To measure temps in a pile I started using a steel rod inserted deep into the pile, after working in a power plant for 35 years, I have sort of developed a feel for how warm things are. Most of the time my piles stay in the 120 to 140 deg range.  ((( I better say when their working )))


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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/1/2015, 11:30 pm

OK, I have no idea what I am doing. ....I sm throwing my garden and yard and kitchen stuff on a pile but I am never getting any finished compost. I did at the old house, because I think I had stages of compost piles.
I need a new immature pile. Hard to do with very few browns...







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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 12/2/2015, 12:53 am

@Scorpio Rising wrote:OK, I have no idea what I am doing.  ....I sm throwing my garden and yard and kitchen stuff on a pile but I am never getting any finished compost.  I did at the old house, because I think I had stages of compost piles.  
I need a new immature pile.  Hard to do with very few browns...






You can get a bale of straw to keep on hand for your browns pretty inexpensively.  Just break off a flake and mix it in with your greens.  I've done that with great success in the past.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  jimmy cee on 12/2/2015, 7:41 am

A.J.R.
Right on with the straw !   I always have a bale around to help mix in.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Scorpio Rising on 12/2/2015, 8:20 am

Yes! I will get a bale of straw! Thanks everyone!

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  CapeCoddess on 12/2/2015, 10:07 am

@Scorpio Rising wrote:OK, I have no idea what I am doing.  ....I sm throwing my garden and yard and kitchen stuff on a pile but I am never getting any finished compost.  I did at the old house, because I think I had stages of compost piles.  
I need a new immature pile.  Hard to do with very few browns...


No falling leaves in Ohio? Shocked Wish I could send ya some...I have so many that I have to really work to get enough greens.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Zmoore on 12/2/2015, 10:22 am

@Scorpio Rising wrote:Educate me on the migrating pile.  Is it in the rodale "encyclopedia" of organic gardening?

Yes it is.  I'll try to look up page for you and get back to you.  There's a section of the book that discusses all sorts of composting methods, hot, cold, windrow, pit, bin, etc.  and it's in there.  In my copy of the Roadale book it even had a graphic/photo of the "migrating" pile.
The basic idea is to start a standard pile, say 3x3x3.  Then as you get more material you pick one "face" of the pile to add material too, dig into the face a little, add new stuff, cover it back up and just keep adding, so the pile gets longer, which is part of the "migrating".  You can still turn the pile, so it kind of "migrates" left and right too as you turn/flip it.  

I don't have space for letting the pile get longer and longer, so I just keep adding and mixing.  It gets a little longer as it does increase in mass, but I kind of work it like a big ball of dough (sprinkle on some flour, roll it, knead it, sprinkle on some flour, repeat).  Generally I dig down into the pile (open it up), dump in new stuff, then cover it again or as I'm flipping the pile I flip half, dump on new stuff, then finish the flip. Downfall is I never have an "end" of the pile that is just.. done.  So, at some point I have to stop adding, start a new pile and let the original mellow.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

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