Gardening Notes: Compost

Compost

Add compost to your soil as often as you can.  A 1/2″” layer added each year is typical.

Low-Grade Compost

Use a typical compost bin that creates a high-heat situation and converts the material quickly.  Most of nutrient value is lost.  A good set of plans for one type is located here.

Medium-Grade Compost

(from Gardening When It Counts)    Build one compost heap a year in early fall.  Accumulate all vegetative wastes and kitchen garbage into one big stack and let it dry out throughout the year.

  1. Keep average C/N below 25:1.
  2. Create a layer of ‘dry stuff’ about 8 inches thick and no wider than 7′.
  3. Cover with 1/2 of soil.  (the soil absorbs gases and converts them into nutrients, and also regulates the temperature of the pile)
  4. Cover with ‘strong stuff’ (dried poultry manure, fresh cow or horse manure (without bedding material), or  seedmeal.
  5. Water the layer throughly.
  6. Repeat and taper as you go up in height.  Try to plan the size of your heap so that the height is between 4′ and 5′ high.
  7. Cover the whole heap with another layer of soil.
  8. Within 5 weeks, turn the pile, placing the material that was on the outside on the inside.  Remoisten when you turn.
  9. After three turns, your compost is probably done.

(from John Jeavons – How to Grow More Vegetables…)  

  1. Loosen the soil 12″” deep w/ spading fork where the pile will be located.
  2. Lay down roughage (brush or woody material) 3″” thick for air circulation
  3. Put down 2″” of mature material -dry leaves, weeds, straw, dry grass clippings, hay, old garden waste.  Water it thoroughly.
  4. Put down 2″” of immature material and kitchen wastes – fresh weeds, clippings, trimmings, green cover crops.  Water
  5. Cover w/ 1/4 to 1/2″” of soil.  Moisten.
  6. Add additional layers until the pile is 3 to 4′ high.
  7. Cover the pile with 1/2 to 1″” of soil.
  8. Water the completed pile regularly until it is ready for use.
  9. Let the completed pile cure 3 to 6 months while you are building a new pile.

Compost Technique from my PDC

Dick Pierce taught me the following in his class:

  • he prefers a 1:1 ratio of green:brown material in the compost pile
  • says a 1:2 ratio of green:brown is more normal
  • does not like to put soil in the compost pile
  • builds on a pallet, to allow airflow under pile
  • alternates layers of green and brown
  • fluffs and mixes every 2 layers
  • adds cottonseed meal
  • lots of water, until wet sponge feel
  • covers with 1″” layer of grass clippings for ‘insulation blanket’, to keep sun off of pile, and keep moisture in.
  • turns compost 14 times – can be each day or each week
  • says slow compost is created more by fungus, and best suited for forest plants
  • says fast compost is created by microbes, and best suited for annuals
  • says the reason domesticated pet waste should not be used is because human pathogyns might be present

Automatic Compost

If you keep your walkways mulched with 4 to 6″” of wood mulch (native tree waste is perfect, and usually available for free from tree trimming companies) you will automatically build compost with zero effort.  Every 5 years or so, just rake up the remaining wood pieces, sift out your nice compost, and add more wood mulch to the walkways.

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