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Too much soil in compost pile!

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Too much soil in compost pile!

Post  sgeades on 7/8/2010, 1:26 am

So I let me husband do the job of composting. He some how thought that he was supposed to add 2 inch layer of browns, 2 inch layer of green material, and then 2 inches of soil. So we built up 3 by 3 by 3 bin and slowly filled it to the top with as many wonderful, different things as you can imagine, let it sit for almost a year and turn it occasionally--only to get a mix that is 1/3 clay (our yucky soil)! Aaaahhhhh!


And we have another bin that has been more recently built up and it's just like it.

The stuff has nicely composted over the last year (hardly anything recognizable) and I thought it was ready to use as a soil booster for my suffering plants. So I put the stuff around my plants and then checked it the next day...I see clumps of gray matter all over my beautiful dark colored mel's mix that I recognize as the dirt we have in abundance in our yard. I've been slowly scraping the stuff off.
On the bright side, we didn't use this stuff when we mixed your mel's mix

Does any body have any brilliant ideas what I can do with compost that has 1/3 clay-like soil mixed in? Actually, now that I think of it the organic materials broke down, so that leaves much more than 1/3 clay -like soil.

I'm sick thinking that we put so much into this only to get something that is not useful (at least for SFGing).

I told my Husband that I think it was supposed to be like 14 inches of compost and then topped off with 1 inch soil (to help things decompose)...and layered like that all the way up.

Is that how you all do it? Or do you not add soil at all to your outside compost piles?

Thanks for any tips.

sgeades

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Re: Too much soil in compost pile!

Post  silverbug on 7/8/2010, 7:07 am

Well, I'm no compost expert but I've never read anywhere to add soil to compost. Compost will make soil...When it's all finished, it should be relatively loose and rich and dark. All I've ever read was browns and greens. You can compost cotton fabric, paper, leaves, twine (natural fiber twines) etc....Any "soil" that makes it into my bin is purely from a root ball of something I may have ripped out and been too lazy to shake down.

I'd still use it, but I'd wait til season end and turn it into your Mel's mix really well. If it's just a big clay ball, then I dunno. Flower beds around your house and then start over without any earth from your property.

silverbug

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Too much soil in compost pile!

Post  Bec on 7/8/2010, 7:41 am

I'm no expert either but I'll quote to you from a book I've read Let It Rot! - The Gardener's Guide to Composting by Stu Campbell.

"Soil itself is teeming with microbial life. The best kind of soil to use as an activator is what you and I know as loam. Loam is a mixture of sand, silt, clay, and decaying organic matter. You can use it in layers about 2 inches thick - one layer of soil for every 6 inches or so of other matter."

I hope that helps.

Bec

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Re: Too much soil in compost pile!

Post  silverbug on 7/8/2010, 8:07 am

Huh, see? You didn't mess up then...sounds like you were following a technique. I don't think that all compost is created equal. Just like the families making it, we're all eating and composting different things in different conditions. I heard someone else say that her compost is very clay like in texture, clumpy and thick, but once it's all mixed in and aerated, I think it continues to change in the bed too...

silverbug

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Too much soil in compost pile!

Post  Bec on 7/8/2010, 8:28 am

Silverbug, I agree. I think every compost pile made (even by the same person) is going to be different, it just depends on what's available at the time. I think though that if it seems there's too much soil in the mixture or it's to clayey (if that's a word) that you should just wait to use it and add more browns and greens to it until you end up with that crumbly, earthy texture and smell. Again, I'm no expert so it might be fine the way it is.

Bec

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Re: Too much soil in compost pile!

Post  Garden_State on 7/8/2010, 8:41 am

Another idea is to start a new pile without the soil and mix in the clay compost to dillute it, or use it in the flower beds or as a top dressing for the lawn.

Garden_State

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Re: Too much soil in compost pile!

Post  Retired Member 1 on 7/8/2010, 9:15 am

I agree with Gardenstate -- start another pile and use your existing compost/clay mix in it. When I build a compost pile, I throw in two or three shovelfuls of soil every so often for the microbiotic affect, or just use a couple of shovelful of finished compost that I know is rich. You don't need very much -- a couple of shovelfuls every 12 - 15" of compost materials.

Another use for the compost/clay mix would be to spread it about 1" deep over your lawn if you have one. The grass will thank you for it.

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Too much soil in compost pile

Post  junequilt on 7/8/2010, 1:10 pm

I know you can put soil in compost, but adding soil increases the possibility of getting weeds in your beds. Besides which I would only add it if I had good soil to start off with -- NOT clay. I have a couple of bags of peat humus that turned out to be loaded with clay clumps. I used them in my first square foot bed because DH said we should (he kinda nagged about it, LOL), and that was the bed where everything sulked until I added organic fertilizer.

Is there any way you can screen out the clay, maybe with hardware cloth? It's extra work, but it might pay off.

One of the nice things about having a composting area with ground contact is that once you have composting microbes present, even after you clear away a pile, the microbes are still in the environment, ready to jump into your next pile and start chomping away.

junequilt

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Re: Too much soil in compost pile!

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