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Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

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Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  Sunsanvil on 6/6/2016, 1:21 pm

This may be totally stupid of me to ask, but what would happen if, at the end of a season, you just turn under the remains of the years plantings?  Not talking about piling it on, just like the leftover roots and stalks of veggies long since harvested.  Isn't that what traditional row gardeners used to do?  Would the material be sufficiently broke-down by the following spring?

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  CapeCoddess on 6/6/2016, 1:37 pm

I leave the roots in with some things, but not the stalks. There's no rhyme or reason as to what gets left in except maybe I don't want to disturb what's growing around something. Or it's peas or beans which I feel are good for the MM.

Last year I left roots and stumps of some brassicas hoping for spring growth and promptly forgot about them. Then, while adding compost this spring, I found them partially decayed and so pulled them out to make room for new plants. Sometimes you come across the remains and sometimes not.

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 6/6/2016, 1:47 pm

In my in-ground beds I do not till anything in, I just pile up the clean left overs from the garden (nothing diseased) a foot or more high.  I add fresh cow manure from our pasture and soiled hay and let it work over the winter.  I leave the roots in the ground as they will be eaten by both the natural earth worms and the red wiggler worms I have planted in there.

In the spring it's light, airy, well mixed awesome planting mix.  They are my best beds.

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  countrynaturals on 6/6/2016, 2:19 pm

I've heard that tomato plants shouldn't even be composted, just totally disposed of. I turn peas and beans under. Since I use dirt, and don't have a good composting system yet, I'm not sure what I'll do with the rest. thinking

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  sanderson on 6/6/2016, 6:45 pm

Sunsanvil,  My guess is it depends on one's climate, rain, freeze, sunny, dry.  Any disease on the plants?  Seeds that may produce unwanted volunteers?  Some stalks take forever to break down.  I guess that's why Mel said to add compost when replanting the beds.  That said, you can try it in a bed and see what you think come spring.  For planting areas outside the box, Audrey's method sounds good.  Mixture of browns and greens a la natural.

@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:In my in-ground beds I do not till anything in, I just pile up the clean left overs from the garden (nothing diseased) a foot or more high.  I add fresh cow manure from our pasture and soiled hay and let it work over the winter.  I leave the roots in the ground as they will be eaten by both the natural earth worms and the red wiggler worms I have planted in there.

In the spring it's light, airy, well mixed awesome planting mix.  They are my best beds.
What do you do with the SFG beds?  Top with new compost or wait until spring? I've been topping with home made compost and recovering with the straw. The red wigglers seem to go to town!

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 6/6/2016, 9:05 pm

NOTE: I AM IN ZONE 8A \ 8B AND HAVE WARM WINTERS.  HOT DRY SUMMERS.  WHAT WORKS IN MY ZONE AND CLIMATE MAY OR MAY NOT WORK FOR YOURS Very Happy

I do use tomatoes on top of the beds after the season, but only because I have had absolutely no diseases.  If I did I would throw them out. 

I constantly chop and drop on top of my sfg beds.  I have some perennials like lemon balm that grow utterly too fast and much more than I can use so I chop it and drop it all around the garden.  Same with my thyme, swiss chard and other greens that produce faster than we can eat. I add mulch routinely any time the beds are dropping or if they're drying out.  The very best I've had is the hay/manure Berkeley hot compost that I did this spring. 

My beds have NEVER been able to go two days without water in this kind of heat and they're going 2-3 days with it as a mulch. 

I do no till beds - in the garden and in the SFG.  My goal is to build fungal strength as well as bacterial and worm health.  I leave the roots in unless I am immediately replanting a square (the worms dispose of them and leave openings in the soil that allow air and water to circulate).  Because I have more space than needed, I let some of the squares rest for a season and then plant for the next season when appropriate.
" />
 HERE'S HOW I DO IT:

1.  I used fresh hay, soiled and spoiled hay, fresh manure, aged manure and what ever I could gather as well as kitchen left overs, coffee grounds, egg shells etc.

2.  I hot composted at very high temps (145-155) for a week and a half then when it started dropping temps to around 120 I pulled it and put it on the garden as mulch.  It was probably a 2 week process and was a little more than 1/2 composted.  It continues to compost on the beds directly into the soil because I have red wigglers in every single bed.  I don't use my worm towers any more just feed them on top.

3.  It absorbs and holds moisture really nicely.  I especially see it in my container flower pots on the front patio in harsh, direct sun.  It also really insulates below the mulch and the worms  love it.

4.  I have had almost no weeds even though the hay went in with full heads and fresh cow manure.  The high temps were enough.  Hay is super easy to pull if it grows anyway, don't be afraid of it.  I just pull and toss back on top.  This mulch pulls back super easily to plant in.

5.  It holds moisture so well that a wheelbarrow full of moist finished compost from a month ago is still moist 6 inches down from the top even though we've been 90-105* the past 3 weeks.


Last edited by audrey.jeanne.roberts on 6/6/2016, 9:27 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  Scorpio Rising on 6/6/2016, 9:22 pm

Other than coffee grounds, it would not do us any good here.

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 6/6/2016, 9:29 pm

@Scorpio Rising wrote:Other than coffee grounds, it would not do us any good here.
I was just adding a note to the top of my post when you posted.  What works in one climate may not work in another.  You're much colder and shorter season than we are Very Happy

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  countrynaturals on 6/6/2016, 9:41 pm

WOW, Audrey. I LOVE your system. I can't wait until I get my compost bins set up.  Cool

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  sanderson on 6/7/2016, 1:42 am

Audrey, First year I have topped with Berkeley compost. It's coarse and airy and seems to work (up to a point) as mulch. I'm still adding chopped straw on top of it and it is really helping this year.

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  jimmy cee on 6/8/2016, 5:08 am

@Sunsanvil wrote:This may be totally stupid of me to ask, but what would happen if, at the end of a season, you just turn under the remains of the years plantings?  Not talking about piling it on, just like the leftover roots and stalks of veggies long since harvested.  Isn't that what traditional row gardeners used to do?  Would the material be sufficiently broke-down by the following spring?

The way I think about this, my beds are made for growing.
My compost bins are made for composting..
I'll leave plant roots in place, however, not the plant.
Traditional row gardeners depend on fertilizers to grow crops, due to all their tilling. addition of chemical / fertilizers there is no or very little microbe activity.
The most destructive method in gardening is the tilling or disrupting the soil food web.
There is so much information that's easy to understand in this method of gardening that I am unable to even touch the surface here.
Before getting into SFG, I tossed in my rototiller and made that soil so nice and fluffy, it was such a pleasure working it...( FOR ABOUT 2 WEEKS) Then it became hard, cracked and just plain lousy.
I shoveled all that out and made the Mel's Mix formula, four years later I am able to ( if I wanted to) wiggle my hands down the the base of my beds.
Using no fertilizer of any kind I just add compost and try to care for those microbes below..
A lot of life exists down under our plants, just about all of them working for us above. I hope to try to understand it better each day.
If you have the time, enjoy reading, love gardening..these books are for you

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  sanderson on 6/8/2016, 2:41 pm

+1

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  CapeCoddess on 6/8/2016, 3:24 pm

I was cutting heads of lettuce today and thought of this thread. I can get about 3 repeat cuttings from one root system. After that I leave them in unless the stump is in the way of another planting. Lettuce is so benign, and the root system is gorgeous! I love you

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  plantoid on 6/8/2016, 5:40 pm

@Sunsanvil wrote:This may be totally stupid of me to ask, but what would happen if, at the end of a season, you just turn under the remains of the years plantings?  Not talking about piling it on, just like the leftover roots and stalks of veggies long since harvested.  Isn't that what traditional row gardeners used to do?  Would the material be sufficiently broke-down by the following spring?
 It's not a stupid question ,it's quite a good one in fact.

 Row gardeners here in England / Great Britain ( UK )  usually take out most of the main roots system to stop plant specific pests & bad bacteria feasting on it and over wintering in the soil this is very important with brassica which can develop club root disease . Potatoes & tomatoes can suffer from heavy infestations of blight spores in the soil even though it is normally associated with an air borne  spore and damp humid conditions.

 Taking out the big roots and leaving a few hair roots is not such a problem for they will decay very fast and there will be no food for over wintering insects or bacteria to eat .

 The compost heap generates heat so kills a lot of bugs and diseases if the heap is worked in the manner of the " 18 day hot composting method ".

 Some plants have white pin head ( Or bigger )  sized nodules of nitrogen on a lot of their root system ,  usually the legumes beans & peas of all types .
You can leave these in the ground and the nodules will provide nitrogen food  to a different species of plant .

So long as you don't keep planting the same crop in the same place as you'll soon get disease/pest build up .

 Onions  are in a class of their own , you can actually develop a permanent onion or garlic  bed , so long as you feed it with a decent compost every year they can do very well.

Again once disease happens  you're stuffed and you won't be able to grow them in the same bed place or even the same bed for six or more years unless you do a complete empty sterilize and refill with new virgin MM . You must not put infected bed soil in the composter as you'll like as not end up growing the infection . spread  it over lawn and let the air & UV in the sun sterilize it over several months

 In Mel's books , he shows how we practice crop rotation within the square foot beds , follow Mel rigidly on this one . He'd done it for 30 or more years and & I have done it for 50 plus .....crop rotation & taking out the big roots of most crops once they are finished works and works well .
 '


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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  has55 on 6/8/2016, 5:40 pm

@sanderson wrote:+1
+2

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Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  MrBooker on 6/26/2016, 11:14 am

I was going to ask the same question. I'm going to plant some fall crops so I figured I'd have time to do a "Berkeley Method" compost pile right in the middle of one of my 4x8 beds.
Any pro's/cons...?

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  sanderson on 6/26/2016, 6:33 pm

Jimmy states above, "beds are made for growing. . . compost bins are made for composting.." I agree.

I wouldn't do a hot Berkeley pile on an existing bed. It's one thing to cut chop and drop a few veggies on the bed during the season, or add some in the fall when a bed is going to sleep for the winter so the worms have some food. For a Berkeley pile, it gets screaming hot (when I drop some on my bare foot when turning What a Face ) and would disrupt what ever nice organisms are growing and multiplying in the bed. I would bite the bullet and make a separate compost bin. When it's cooled down, then add it to the existing beds and plant the winter crops.

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Re: Can you "compost" in your growing beds?

Post  yolos on 6/26/2016, 10:55 pm

When I first started serious veggie gardening, I had to recondition a 4' x 32' bed.  One thing I did was to put my compost bins in this bed and just kept moving them until I partially filled up the bed with compost.  I did not do the Berkley Method and my compost would never get above 120*F and only for a short time.  It took me a year to make enough compost doing this method to recondition this long bed.  But it really helped the bed.  That bed now has more worms than any of my other beds.  I eventually added some vermiculite and I now call it my Modified Mels Mix bed because I did not add peat.  Just soil, compost and vermiculite.  I also grow cover/green manure crops in that bed every time there is an empty spot instead of adding a lot of compost (don't have enough compost to keep that bed conditioned).

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