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End of the year reflections...on compost!

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End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  boffer on 12/31/2011, 5:31 pm

The following is part fact and part opinion.

When it comes to composting, I have trouble remembering what is green and what is brown, and what are the best ratios. Maybe Mel left that stuff out of his book because successful gardening the SFG way doesn't require that knowledge.

The evolution of my compost pile has occurred strictly by chance and circumstances. My first year of SFG, my compost was comprised of what was available in bags at the store. Second year and beyond, it was what could I find in bulk, free, of my own making, or was easy to get. There wasn't a strict list of anything that I 'had' to have. I just looked around my personal world to find what was there. In hindsight, what I ended up with, was Poops and Plants. That's something I can remember.

I have ended up with roughly half plant content and half poop content, roughly equal percentages of each ingredient. Plant content includes grass, leaves, and much of the stuff in mushroom compost. Poop content includes cow, chicken, and horse manures. I throw in my veggie scraps and coffee grounds of course, but their volumes are small so I consider them a bonus. And I know that the horse and chicken manures have straw and wood chips bedding in them, but since I don't know how much, they are a bonus too.

Some of us on the forum are old enough to remember when we could order a load of topsoil, and stuff would grow in it without any fertilizers or amendments. That topsoil was the real deal; it's the medium that farmers grew in for centuries. That topsoil came from the floor of forests and woodlands, where everything growing eventually fell to the ground and naturally composted over time. In the mid-twentieth century, real topsoil began to get scarce because as developments spread across the country, there was less and less native topsoil to be found. So gardeners began experimenting with amendments to make up for the loss of organic material in the new 'topsoils'. They first turned to what was near and free/cheap: manures. Manures worked good, but then people starting moving to the cities, farther and farther away from the farms that were getting bigger and bigger. The chemical fertilizer industry began to thrive, and gardeners everywhere were on their own as they experimented with the new fertilizers and additives. And to this day, row gardeners are seldom content and are always on the lookout for the Holy Grail of backyard gardening.

Back to my compost. Plants. Is it fair to say that the leaves, grass, straw, and wood chips in my compost represent the topsoil from the forest floor? And in logical progression, the Poops that I use were the first thing used to amend topsoil? In the big picture then, could it be that Mel has re-set the starting point for backyard gardeners by returning to a simpler time when the resources we needed to survive were practically outside our doors? The vermiculite and peat are great additives, but it's the composts that make the SFG method work. And compost is as old school as it gets; what's old is new again; it's a return to the basics. And when we begin to struggle in different areas of life, how often do we hear that in order to get back on steady ground again we simply need to return to the basics? I can never decide if SFG is ingeniously simple, or simply ingenious!


Nice to know...or not!



In my neck of the woods, natural topsoil, in volume, hasn't been available for decades. Our 'topsoil' is manufactured in the local gravel pits by mixing the right percentages of sand, clay, and silt together. It is called 3-way topsoil and is mainly good as filler for flower beds and lawn bases. At the retail supply outlet, a couple organic products (usually unknown) are added, and it's called 5-way topsoil. It's a better product for the top six inches of a flower bed or to start a row garden. Depending on the location and demand, some outlets add to the 5-way and start getting into custom blends with fancy names and higher prices. 3-way starts around $12 per yard. Simple custom blends are over $30 per yard.

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  BackyardBirdGardner on 12/31/2011, 6:40 pm

Great post, Boffer.

It is called 3-way topsoil and is mainly good as filler for flower beds and lawn bases. At the retail supply outlet, a couple organic products (usually unknown) are added, and it's called 5-way topsoil. It's a better product for the top six inches of a flower bed or to start a row garden.

Ironic that 5-way topsoil is better than 3-way, isn't it? Yet people still want to skimp on the compost in their SFGs.

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  plantoid on 1/1/2012, 8:06 am

Boffer or any one with access to the information ,

Can you find out from Mel or any other very long term SFg 'er what happened to the original charge of peat and vermiculite in their pure MM beds please ?

Re the peat .. Did / do they top it up occasionaly / every few years of so or do they let it decay away in the beds never to bother with it again ?

Re the vermiculite ...as it breaks down and migrates to the floor of the SFG beds do they top it up to allow the bed worms access some roughage to help grind the decaying veg / balanced compost matter down in their guts thus producing their finished worm casts with vermiculite finings in it for better nutrient absorbtion and dispersal ?

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  Guest on 1/1/2012, 11:05 am

compost is some of the most wonderful free stuff there is!

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  boog1 on 1/1/2012, 3:37 pm

didnt start it soon enough to help this year,Sad the pile that is. now there is one made up of 4 inchs of the old mix i made for my boxs then i alternated with 2 inchs of leaves/dirt/grass clippings/dirt/leaves/dirt/grass clippings/dirt. this year i'm planing on makin a compost tumbler to speed things up, i found a old plastic drum behind the future in-laws house was told it had vinager in it. another d-i-y-er project ta drive the "other half" crazy;)

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  camprn on 1/1/2012, 7:52 pm

I I love you my compost pile. Purdy ain't it? Wink

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  plantoid on 1/1/2012, 8:16 pm

That looks interesting Camp ..how do you get it turned & aireated ... " boy scouts on dollar a job days " Laughing

Seriously what are the white envelope looking things on the bottom left side of the picture corn husk stuff?

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  RoOsTeR on 1/1/2012, 8:19 pm

I my compost pile. Purdy ain't it?

Yes. Yes it is drool

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  camprn on 1/1/2012, 8:24 pm

@plantoid wrote:That looks interesting Camp ..how do you get it turned & aireated ... " boy scouts on dollar a job days " Laughing

Seriously what are the white envelope looking things on the bottom left side of the picture corn husk stuff?

All the brown stuff on top is roasted coffee beans, burnt at the roaster. The white things are a pile of coffee filters that I have shaken the grounds off of. If they are still sturdy in the spring I will just burn them. As for turning, I use a fork and a flat end shovel and one scoop at a time Very Happy Aeration? I stick stakes into the ground in the bin I am turning into, then when the pile is all turned, I pull out the stakes. Voila, instant chimneys Very Happy

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t1306-other-gardening-books

Outlander is outstanding!


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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  plantoid on 1/1/2012, 8:27 pm

You're Smarter than the average bear Camp. Yogi would be proud of you . Wink

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  plantoid on 1/4/2012, 5:35 pm

As a result of a few phone calls and local to me freecycler posts at the end of the year ,
I went out on a 23 mile round trip today with my small trailer and collected 3 cwt of bagged up neat wet horse muck that had been collected straight off the grazing fields , one large 25 kg feed sack crammed full with damp straw based chucken muck out of the hen shed yesterday and two 4 x 2 foot x 1 8 inch thick bales of too wet chopped barley straw.

I'm invited back late next week to collect around a total number of fifteen bags of just straw & chicken muck or straw & goose muck or straw or turkey muck .

Apparently they have great difficulty getting rid of it the local allotment gardeners only want the horse muck without the straw which pleases me no end

I had a look in the two Daleks that are in use , one earth based composting stuff and the other just vegatation without manures or earth . Things in them have settled down a fair bit this last week or so so I pushed a long pointed bar down through the contents a couple of times , roisted it around to make a few decent air holes till I can get a dry enough day to turn the contents .
I've had to chuck my chiminera wood out of the spare Dalek I had and start a straw & horse muck only one off

The vegetation bin has loads of brandlings in it chomping their way to giving me a fantastic worm based compost.
Though tomorrow ,due the amounts of new materials already on hand I'll have to make up a lidded plastic box wormery composter with a divider wall similar to the one Josh has in one of his vid clips as I'm stealing their hotel for making up more composted horse muck and some of that wet straw ... lasagne style .

It looks like I'll have to buy my four extra Daleks quicker than I had planned before I'm up to my neck in manures etc.

These are my three Daleks and that trailer is a 5 foot by 4 footer with 20 inch side boards


The first lasange layered straw and neat horse muck Dalek



The pure vegetation brandling chomping compost Dalek



The only earth based bin I hope to have for dressing the lawns sometimes .


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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  RoOsTeR on 1/4/2012, 8:05 pm

Sounds like you scored some serious poo today plantoid Very Happy rock on

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  boffer on 1/4/2012, 10:21 pm

I'm the OP, and since nobody has responded to my original post, let me put it another way. Most of the post was intended to support this paragraph,

In the big picture then, could it be that Mel has re-set the starting point for backyard gardeners by returning to a simpler time when the resources we needed to survive were practically outside our doors? The vermiculite and peat are great additives, but it's the composts that make the SFG method work. And compost is as old school as it gets; what's old is new again; it's a return to the basics. And when we begin to struggle in different areas of life, how often do we hear that in order to get back on steady ground again we simply need to return to the basics? I can never decide if SFG is ingeniously simple, or simply ingenious!

My intent was to provide another reason to help justify the sole use of compost as a nutrient source to help noobs and experienced gardeners alike let go of preconceived notions about fertilizers and additives.

Or, should this concept be round filed?

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  Ha-v-v on 1/4/2012, 10:54 pm

My intent was to provide another reason to help justify the sole use of compost as a nutrient source to help noobs and experienced gardeners alike let go of preconceived notions about fertilizers and additives.

Or, should this concept be round filed?

Boffer I cant agree more here. I am going into my 3rd year of SFG and this is the first year I am resolute about my compost. I have been so impressed with my garden, it shows me how much more I would be impressed if I worked a little to get that compost right.
I was so discouraged in the beginning about finding 5 different types there were short cuts made. In that I had to use additives, organic but I still don't want to work more. The point of ANSFG is to use less work for a better harvest. I can tell you after this spring I will be off and running into the less work mode Smile Working towards it now. And the work Im doing now towards it is so much more focused. I can see a light at the end of the tunnel Smile I have had a few light bulb moments Im excited about in this process.

I'm my way to a good 5 way

And no I don't think the subject should not be binned :-D round or square rofl

Ha-v-v

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  Chopper on 1/5/2012, 12:18 am

@boffer wrote:
My intent was to provide another reason to help justify the sole use of compost as a nutrient source to help noobs and experienced gardeners alike let go of preconceived notions about fertilizers and additives.

Or, should this concept be round filed?

It is an excellent point and worth stating. I love the peat/vermiculite/compost trifecta but at one point in 2010 I was completely out of money but happened to have a trash can of finished compost. So I put it into my last box and it was one of the most prolific boxes of them all, though less fluffy than the others. Compost rocks. And compost happens. As long as there is some variety (like not just all egg shells or celery trimmings) it is the best gift we can give our plants.

I get what you are saying about additives. I have been known to lean in that direction even though I have experienced that they are not needed.

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  Furbalsmom on 1/5/2012, 12:28 pm

Boffer, I think your post was right on the mark.

Compost is the most important part of Mel's Mix. It can and should be the sole source of nutrition for our gardens as long as we have multiple sources of ingredients. Remember, Mel said in some areas where vermiculite and peat are unavailable, he recommends compost only. Like Chopper, I prefer the lightness of the mix when those two components are added.

This past year, health wise, I was not even able to take my coffee grounds, egg shells, veggie trimmings and such down to my compost pile, and the end of season SFG bed clean up included questionable plants (was not sure if they were diseased or just neglected).

Like many newbies, I will have to buy my multiple sources of compost again this year. Embarassed

I do NOT want to have to add fertilizers and such to my nice Mel's Mix.

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  plantoid on 1/5/2012, 7:12 pm

Thanks Furbalsmum & Boffer , it looks like I diverted things a bit Embarassed .... and it looks like I did not take on board the suggestion in the ANSFG to use pure compost in the beds if the peat and vermiculite were impossible to obtain .

I'll be re reading the ANFG books again and many more times.

Earlier on this site I asked what happened to the peat and vermiculite , your lines about using it neat & when it is correctly produced kind of explain that that is how the beds end up after six or so years . I'm looking forward to that time arriving with great anticipation .

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  llama momma on 1/6/2012, 7:00 am

Camprn

I think that was The Largest Compost Heap I have ever seen on this forum. I love it!

Have you ever measured the size of it? It looks about 12 x 6 x 4-5 ft tall?

I think I see another contest!
"Guess Camprn's Heap Size" or compete with your own picture bounce

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  HillbillyBob on 1/6/2012, 9:41 am

lol! This is the best post on our forum Shocked Shocked Very Happy I was starting to thank some of Mel's words where just another marketing ideal Embarassed Mad .perlite and vermiculite are almost impossible to find, and when you do find them it's wayyyyyy to costly to ship.Last year about this time I started trying to relearn gardening due to three strokes,and a major TBI which turned into a brain anurezum Sad that left me with out much memory,still don't have much Rolling Eyes Rolling Eyes "not that I ever did but that'a another story." What a Face What a Face

when ever you see or hear of somebody rising way to much or gaint size veggys,there is alway a little secret to what they were doing!!! Just look at all the compost teas on the internet today Wink every how to book,article, or story, about gardening starts with adding COMPOST,so if your new your just about out of luck, unless you can buy so compost for the first year while your compost is working Rolling Eyes so Last year after rolling into a Lowes Store(yep I'm wheelchair bound as well) and what did I see Mel's Mix in a handy brown and white bag even had Mel's Picture on the front(btw the same Lowes told me they arn't carrying Mel's mix any longer couldn't even special order it now) so I'm back where I started is SFG just another marketing plan pale ??????I don't know are do I care :!: :!: :!: :!: that'fine with me I'd most likely buy into it any ways my boxes did fine with worm castings and rabbit poo and a little home made compost affraid now I'll get off my soap box study study this almost feels like I'm running for Office

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Re: End of the year reflections...on compost!

Post  llama momma on 1/6/2012, 4:28 pm

Hi HB

Each of us has our start up adventures and sometimes struggles too. You are doing just fine! Once you track down the initial ingredients of peat, vermiculite, compost, or go the faster route and buy Mel's Mix sold as Garden Time - well, the hard part is over. After the initial set up the key to longevity if you will, is starting your own high quality compost which is an ongoing process. The alternative is to keep buying compost, but it is not the best way to go because you may keep spending money on inferior products with questionable nutrient quality. The best reliable high quality compost is the free stuff you make yourself. You control the quality. This is what feeds your plants throughout the seasons year after year. Mel Bartholomew, who wrote the book, started the concept in 1975 and has refined the process. It is pretty simple if you follow the method. I am entering my second full year and I will not grow veggies any other way because this is the easiest, purest, organically way for me to eat my favorite vegetables. You are on the right track, don't give up.

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