How To

How To
How to Compost - Choose a good bin system, this will save a lot of maintenance. You can build the piles, or purchase it.
Compost Basics - Composting is a way of reproducing the best environmental conditions for microbial life in the soil and organic materials. Compost process is made by billions of microbes and bacterias, that digest organic materials like food wastes. Worms and other insects will help this microbes eating the incredients in the pile and turn this organic materials slowly into compost.
The composting is an AEROBIC process that require Air, Water, and Food
AIR - is needed by composting microbes to do their work. A bad air flow can cause slow decomposition and smell like putrefying garbage.
WATER - The pile must be a sponge to fit all the water needs of the compost microbes. If there is a thin film of water in the pile, microbes can live easily and travel and reproduce in the pile. If there is not enought water, the pile is dry and the microbial activity will be slowed significantly. You can use dry materials, such as autumn leaves but you'll have to moisten first. In dry seasons, it is necessary to water your pile to maintain proper moisture.
Organic Materials - Vegetable and fruit wastes are great materials to compost. Microbes need food to grow !
Dry and dead Plant materials - such as wood, dry leaves, or sawdust (brown) . This dead materias are a source of energy for the compost microbes because they can process this long chemical chains like sugar molecules linked together.
Fresh plant materials - as green leaves and weeds, fruit and vegetable wastes, coffee grounds and tea bags, fresh horse manure. This greens materials have more nitrogen than the dry brown materials, and nitrogen is one of the main element required in amino acids and proteins, and it is a protein source for the millions of microbes.
When is Our compost finished? - Finished compost is dark in color and has an earthy smell (like the smell of soil). Usually, it's difficult to recognize any of the original ingredients, although bits of hard-to-decompose materials (such as straw) sometimes can be seen. There is no single point at which compost is finished -- it's a bit more subjective than that. For many outdoor garden applications, for instance, it can be fine to use compost that still has a few recognizable bits of leaves or straw -- it will finish rotting in the soil. If you plan to use compost in seed-starting mixes, though, you're best off having a well-finished compost, because seedling roots may be attacked by decomposer microbes if the roots contact unfinished compost.
How can We use Our finished compost? - Well-finished compost looks so fine that some people are tempted to eat the stuff sometimes. However, there are several more common ways that compost can be used, on gardens, lawns, landscapes, and houseplants:
COMPOST AS SOIL AMENDMENT: Many people put compost into their garden soil by digging it in prior to spring planting. The image shows a potato harvest by apprentices at the UCSC Farm and Garden in 1990. Due to the use of copious amounts of compost, the potato beds yielded about one pound of potatoes per square foot, or about 1000 pounds total from these four beds, each 80 feet long.
Others actually - do - their composting in the soil, by burying kitchen wastes and other materials in trenches in the garden. Compost can also be used as a 'top dressing' on the soil during the growing season -- in this case it is added in around the bases of plants, where irrigation and soil animals will slowly incorporate it into the soil. On lawns, many people sprinkle/broadcast sifted compost as a top dressing in the spring -- We have been doing this on a 'problem area' of a lawn for several years, in an attempt to improve the soil there for better grass growth. It is also fine to top-dress houseplants occasionally with small handfuls of finished compost.
COMPOST AS MULCH : Compost can be left on the surface as a mulch around landscape and garden plants. This is essentially the same as a 'top dressing' application, described above, but mulches are typically meant to cover all of the soil around the plants that get mulched. Mulches protect the soil from erosion. The also save water by shielding soil from the drying effect of the wind and sun. As they decompose, mulches add nutrients to the soil, and if composed of small-enough particles, worms may slowly eat the mulch and incorporate it into the soil.
COMPOST AS TEA: Compost tea is made by combining equal parts of compost and water and letting it sit for a while. The liquid can help to provide a 'quick boost' to ailing houseplants or young seedlings and transplants (I recommend diluting it quite a bit for use on seedlings). Stu Campbell, in Let it Rot, says that the same compost can be used to make several batches of tea (
When you're finished making compost tea, use the mucky dregs as a mulch in the garden or landscape.
How does compost benefit the soil? - Compost does several things to benefit the soil that synthetic fertilizers cannot do. First, it adds organic matter, which improves the way water interacts with the soil. In sandy soils, compost acts as a sponge to help retain water in the soil that would otherwise drain down below the reach of plant roots (in this way, it protects plants against drought). In clay soils, compost helps to add porosity (tiny holes and passageways) to the soil, making it drain more quickly so that it doesn't stay waterlogged and doesn't dry out into a bricklike substance. Compost also inoculates the soil with vast numbers of beneficial microbes (bacteria, fungi, etc.) and the habitat that the microbes need to live. These microbes are able to extract nutrients from the mineral part of the soil and eventually pass the nutrients on to plants.
What is the best peat to use. ? You will get answers that are different from everyone you ask. These are some of the top choices with pros and cons
Peat pellets - easy, convenient, some people think they are too fine for eggs storage, fairly expensive
Milled Spagnum Moss - relatively cheap, coarser, more fibrous than peat pellets
Filter peat - everyone seems to like this, except for the price Canadian or costa rican peat moss by the bale - cheapest, need to pick out sticks, etc. otherwise fine. To reuse the peat, some people, prefer to boil the peat first to extract most of the humic acids and sterilize it. Peat for collecting eggs and as a refuge for females should be coarser and more fibrous than the pellets. We prefer, a combination of the peat filter fibers as a refuge and some pellets particles on the bottom. Depth on the bottom depends on species and size of fish. It can range from 1/4 inch for Nothobranchius species to 2-3 inches for Gnatholebias, etc. Storage of eggs in peat generally is done in plastic bags and the initial compressed ball is opened up and partially dried (NOT TOO MUCH) before storage.
How to make bio fertilizer? - Just follow the procedure to make compost with organic materials.
Compost FAQ - General Questions and Answers about Compost
Why should We compost? - Organic materials are a valuable resource when composted or used as mulches in the garden, but are an expensive to handle waste, if thrown out. Compost improves soil and plant health, prevents erosion, and holds moisture and nutrients in the soil. Composting yard wastes at home is less expensive and more efficient than sending trimmings to the landfill or even to centralized composting facilities.
How long does it take to get finished compost? - If materials are carefully combined to balance nitrogen and carbon, chopped, moistened, and turned, compost can be ready as fast as two months. Yard trimmings composted without much preparation or attention to moisture and aeration may take six months to two years to decompose.
How do We know when the compost is "finished"? - Finished compost is dark-colored, sweet-smelling, and crumbly. Most of the original plant materials are no longer recognizable (some woody materials may still be present).
Will gypsum break up Our compacted, poorly drained, clay soil? - Gypsum is not the solution to your problem. Gypsum improves drainage and soil structure on alkaline or "sodic" soils in arid regions. In these soils, sodium accumulates in the topsoil and destroys the soil structure, forming a crust that is difficult for water to penetrate. When gypsum is added to these soils, it reacts with the troublemaking sodium, so that it can then be leached out with heavy irrigation. Sodic soils are not a problem in humid climates. Your soil problem is the result of small soil particles that fit together so tightly that it is difficult for water to penetrate. And when water gets in, it doesn't drain out. The solution is to add lots of organic matter that will break apart the small particles, and glue them together into larger aggregates with spaces in between that air, water, and roots can penetrate.
For best results, use a mix of compost and coarse, partially decomposed woody materials such as - Whitney Farms Planting Compost. - The coarse woody materials quickly bust apart the clay particles when mixed into the soil, and keep the soil loose for years as they slowly decompose. Once the clay is loosened, the fine-textured compost can go to work glueing the particles together into aggregates. The compost alone is not nearly as effective and can initially result in poorer drainage. By the way, adding compost is also part of a long-term solution to sodic soils. People in semi-arid regions who are not sure if their problem is clay or sodic soils should test the soil to see what is needed.
What plants can coffee grounds and/or ashes be used for? I've heard they are a big help! - Both coffee grounds and wood ashes are great additions to the garden or the compost pile. According to Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening coffee grounds contain up to 2% nitrogen, .0033% phosphoric acid, as well as potash, minerals, trace elements, carbohydrates, sugars, vitamins, and caffeine. They have something of and acidifying effect and are recommended for use around acid-loving plants such as blueberries, rhodies, azaleas, etc. In the compost piles, the worms congregate in the coffee grounds. Just add them along with all of Our other kitchen scraps. Also some coffee grounds being used in bands around roses to repel the ants that farm aphids and also slugs. We don't have any personal experience with this, but it's worth a try.
Wood ashes are a great source of potash in the garden. They are alkaline in reaction and should be used with that in mind. It is estimated that they contain from 1% to 10% potash and around 1% and 11/2% phosphorus. You can safely use them at up to 2 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. Keep them away from germinating seeds or new roots. We would also not use them around acid-loving plants. A cord of wood contains the equivalent liming value of around 25 lbs. of lime.
Be careful handling them, they are caustic and can cause injury, if mishandled. Another cautionary note, We avoid using any colored papers in the fireplace. No glossy inserts, etc. The concern is that they might contain heavy metals like cadmium in the inks.
You can add ashes to composts after the first heating of the pile. This can be especially helpful for composts high in manures. Compounds in the ashes can cause the loss of nitrogen from the piles.
Finally, do not use anything other than wood ashes. Coal ash should not be used in the garden and has little fertilizer value if any.
What about blending kitchen scraps and pouring them into your borders? - It is a well-accepted practice used by many folks to pre-process materials for composting. Much like using a shredder to prepare woody materials for composting, using your blender for your kitchen scraps is a great way to speed up the time it takes for those things to decay in the soil or your compost pile.
Composting is partly a function of surface area. The finer the particles, the faster and more efficiently the many microorganisms can get to it, break it down, and convert it into a form that plants can use again for nutrients.
You did not mention whether you bury the liquefied waste or whether you are just pouring on the surface. That would be Our only suggestion. If you are not already doing it, dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep around your favorite plants (be careful not to damage any roots) and pour your elixir into the hole. That will help to keep animal pests out of your garden who might be drawn by the very interesting smells of your blended compost.
Citrus is fine to grind up or to add to the compost pile.
Guidelines? Only that you should rotate around the yard, so that all your plants have a chance to share in the wealth — so to speak. Also it helps to prevent some of the slurry from building up someplace and putrefying.
When should We turn in the cover crop We sowed last fall? - A rule of thumb is to turn in cover crops when one-half of the plants are flowering. At that point the plants have produced the maximum amount of organic matter that you want from a cover crop, and the nitrogen - fixed by peas and clovers - is at its peak. After flowering, the growth starts to toughen up, which makes it harder to cut and turn into the soil.
However, rules of thumb are meant to be broken. In practice, you may want to turn under cover crops earlier to take advantage of some warm, dry weather that lets you get an early start in the garden. It is a lot easier to turn in grass cover crops early, before the roots and stems become too thick. If you wait too long and let a cover crop get tough, skim the foliage off the surface with a flat edged shovel and put it into a compost pile--and good luck digging through the roots!
Do We need a bin to make compost? - No. However, bins help make composting convenient and tidy, and exclude pests
Siting and sizing compost bins -
How large an area do We need to compost? - This depends on how large a yard you have, how intensively it is gardened, and how many people contribute scraps to food composting systems. Generally, one or two 3' x 3' bins are adequate for a city lot. A 2' x 4', 1' deep worm bin is good for 2 to 3 people's kitchen scraps.
Where is the best place to put a compost pile? - Compost piles or bins should be placed on flat ground, in an area that is convenient to the garden and easy to reach with a wheelbarrow. The best place for low-maintenance compost pile is on the shady side of a building or under the shade of a tree, where it is easy to keep moist in summer.
Finished compost is a kind of bio fertilizer. uses, quality and quantities
Do We need to add fertilizer to Our garden, if We use compost? - Yes. Compost releases nitrogen very slowly, it not a reliable substitute for fertilizers. Compost improves nutrient availability, stores fertilizers in the soil for gradual use by plants, neutralizes soil pH, and supports the soil life that recycles nutrients. But remember to use only organic fertilizers for better results over long term.
Can We compost all Our yard trimmings? Can We make too much compost? - It is difficult to make "too much" compost. Most gardeners import compost to their gardens in addition to their own home-made compost. However, not all yard trimmings are best managed by home composting. Diseased plant material, weed seeds, and weeds with spreading roots or runners (morning glory, quack grass, etc.) should not be put into a home compost pile. And most gardeners do not have the tools needed to compost woody or evergreen prunings.
How does compost effect the acidity (pH) of soils? - Finished composts are near neutral, and help to improve both acid and alkaline soils.
Is it okay to garden in pure compost? In compost mixed with fill soil? - It is best to mix compost with mineral soils (clay, sand, or loam) for gardening. Pure compost does not drain well, and may encourage excessive growth and pest or disease problems. Clean, sandy fill soil (not heavy clay) and compost mixed in roughly equal amounts should provide a good growing medium.
Manure - Is goat manure suitable for composting? If so, We often hear about using "dry" manure. What does this mean, and what is the process? - Goat manure is great for composting!! We have been fortunate (some might think unfortunate, but in Our eyes it is good fortune!) to have had some experience composting just about every common domestic animal manure and We can promise you that goat manure makes a fine compost.
As always, We are a big advocate of getting the bedding along with the manure. Often the urine-soaked straw or shavings and the manure combined will make a much better compost than the fecal matter by itself. The key is to make a good solid pile (check our composting instructions on the web...), be sure that there is plenty of moisture (the pile should be like a damp sponge), and dust in some fine (1/4" or less) layers of soil as you build it — this helps to trap nutrients and inoculate the pile with the organisms that will break it down. We have added diatomaceous earth to the pile as well to help control flies and it seems to have helped in the past. Turn it if you can, moving inside to out and vice versa. After you can't tell what it was to begin with, when it looks and smells like rich earth. It's ready!!
The Dry manure can be composted? Dry manure will not compost. You will have to add moisture. It is not something We are familiar with, though it may be more common in some parts of the country. We are guessing that this is a marketing angle. The only advantage We could possibly see is in handling. It would have to be re-wet to decompose or for the nutrients in the manure to be made available. Other than ease of handling and saving a bit in weight for transport, We see no advantage to "dry manure" — as We said above, if it is for composting, We like it wet with lots of urine-soaked bedding — it heats up faster and contains more nitrogen.
What's a good organic additive for a large garden? We were thinking about composting a truckload of sawdust and chicken manure. Or would horse manure be better? In a garden is about 1/5 acre. - You are on the right track as to the stuff to add to the garden. Nothing is better than compost. Composted manures or a compost made of manure and the debris collected from your garden would both be excellent additions to the soil. The recommendation is a soil test — check with a local nursery or your county Extension Office — if you will be gardening in the area for some time. This will give you an idea of where to focus your soil-building efforts and will help you identify any nutrients that might be in short supply. Often folks are surprised to learn, for example, that they did not need to use a complete fertilizer, just a nitrogen source or a phosphorus source.
Nutrients Recycling - By recycling the nutrients that you have added to the garden, composting the debris that comes out of the garden, and adding a composted manure you should be able to meet most of the nutritional needs for most crops. From time to time, you might need some extra something for one crop or another and it is pretty easy to add Bone Meal - or Greensand - or the whatever, as you prepare the soil for that particular crop.
How make a good compost? It is a little easier to compost the horse manure than the chicken/sawdust combo. Here are some thoughts:
If you can get horse manure with lots of good urine-soaked bedding.— Straw — it makes an excellent compost just by itself. If it is a little on the dry side, just add some water layered in the manure. Gind that a small amount of soil or old compost mixed in every few layers helps the process as well. Something small like just a dusting of a 1/4 inch or less every other layer. It serves to do a couple of things. - On the one hand it is a great way to inoculate the pile with the microorganisms which will facilitate the decay of the material. Plus, the soil layer acts almost like a filter helping to trap nutrients leaching down through the pile or rising up through the pile as a gas. It would also be helpful if you sprinkled in a little diatomaceous earth (DE), as you build the pile. This can help to control flies which sometimes come in with the manure. You can also add bands of DE, about a foot wide, around the edges of the pile as you build it.
Building the pile? You can just dump the manure on the ground, but it will compost better if it is stacked into a bit more-structured pile. By turning a couple of times (Watch the temperature, when it peaks after the initial rise and starts to go back down, that is a great time to turn the pile.), you ensure that most of the weed seeds in it are destroyed. Make sure that the outer layers become the inside of the pile (they may need a little extra water) so that they can be exposed to the extreme temperatures at the core of the pile. The easiest way to do that is to take off the outside of the pile all around, stack it up, then surround it with the material inside the pile.
Weed seeds? Not that big a deal. A well-made compost pile will reach temperatures as high as 150 °F, which is sufficient to kill weed seeds and other pathogens. Remember, "weeds are the manufacturers of fine soils," as Alan Chadwick (the founder of the respected 'school' of horticulture) used to say. They are present in your soil, having been deposited for hundreds of years by Mother Nature and are often excellent at trapping nutrients that other less-efficient plants cannot make use of. As long as you don't let them go to seed, add them to the compost with confidence.they are a great asset to the garden and to your soil.
Chicken/sawdust combination. If you can get the chicken already bedded with the sawdust that would be ideal. Chickens excrete urine and fecal material simultaneously so that the sawdust absorbs all that good liquid and really cooks when you pile it up. But if you are thinking of mixing the sawdust and the chicken yourself, that can be a little tricky. If the proportions aren't right, you could end up with a very slow pile that takes forever to breakdown (too much sawdust) or one that blows off all kinds of ammonia and annoys the neighbors (too much chicken). - If the chicken you have in mind is already mixed with a bedding material, then We would not see the need to mix in the sawdust. If the chicken is the straight stuff — Danger, Warning, Caution!! — fresh chicken is a gooey mess. It should be dried first and then it is a dusty mess. That is why most chicken farmers use a bedding material to make it easier to handle. Don't get me wrong, chicken manure will make a great compost and is an excellent fertilizer. If you are considering a "pure" source, or even if you have a bedded source, chicken is a great concentrated manure to add to compost piles with a good percentage of garden debris, particularly at those times of year when there are a lot of brown leaves and similar high-carbon material.
We raise hogs, cows and poultry. If We do not feed them organic feed is their manure not organic? We grew Our own field corn last year using organic fertilizers, however We ran out of corn by early February and had to buy feed. We would someday like to be 100% organic. - Usually most of the organizations that certify organic farmers don't make a lot of distinctions about the source of animal manure. These folks can give you guidelines on what inputs are acceptable. We would be very surprised if they split hairs about the source of the manure.
Organic Gardening - Is based on the use of Organic matter (compost, humus, etc.) is the very heart of organic gardening. That is the whole point of what we do — returning organic matter to the soil in order to foster the various processes in the soil that support the growth of plants. We hate to sound like an agchem guy, but it is important to consider the notion of "dose." - If the non-organic corn you fed your livestock was grown using synthetic fertilizers, they were long ago transformed into corn, and would certainly not be a factor in the manure your animals produced. Similarly, even if there were pesticides or herbicides used in the production of the crop, by the time they got to your animals — if there were residues in the feed grain — and passed through your animals digestive system, the concentrations would be so low that they would be insignificant. If you compost the manure, the process of composting would also break down any minute traces of many products.
Organic Farming - Organic/sustainable farming movement were to limit themselves only to using manure from organic sources, we would greatly limit the organic matter available to us. Look at the dairy industry — only a handful of dairies in the country are organic. There are thousands of organic farmers and millions of organic gardeners, many of whom like to use manure in there farms/gardens/compost piles. If farmers like you were required to only use manure from organic sources, there would be a shortage and the little organic manure out there would probably become unaffordable quickly.
Part of the goal of organic farming is reusing what many would see as a waste problem — manure — and returning it to the soil. Maybe someday we will live in a utopian world with only sustainable farms using organic methods to grow food. In the meantime, use your manure, feed your soil, and keep up your good work!
The point, in my opinion, is that you are making the effort to convert to a more sustainable farming method. You should be applauded for your efforts, encouraged in your transition, and not have the manure from your livestock disqualified on a technicality! Feed it to your soil, keep up your transition, and get a good night's sleep knowing that you have helped your farm to become a more sustainable place in the process! If you need more help or want to get in touch with other folks doing what you are doing get in touch with your local organic certifying group. They can connect you with a lot of farmers who have gone through or are in the process of going through what you are.
New Farm, Organic resources - New Farm is part of the Rodale Institute
SARE - The Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education
Afsic - Alternative Farming Systems Information Center
- Horse Manure -. For llama and horse manure, a good percentage to add to a compost pile, the more the better? - Use it. How We long for the days when We had a steady and reliable source of large quantities of manure! How much to add to the pile? You can successfully compost the manure by itself. Just build layered piles like you would in a normal compost situation and be sure to water the manure well as you layer it. Provided it has some bedding, such as straw or wood chips, it should heat up and compost beautifully.
Some people used to work in an all-organic market garden and our primary source of compost/fertility was well-rotted (read composted) horse manure — along with some goat, quail, and chicken manure from time to time. We would clean out a stable, haul it back to our composting site, and stack it into a nice pile. We turned the piles periodically, adding water if needed. It made a beautiful compost in about six months which we added to our beds. (We sometimes dusted in layers — thin — of diatomaceous earth. It seemed to help control the fly population.) Some people would also add layers of manure to our piles of garden debris — gleanings from vegetable harvests, trimmings, weeds, etc. Basically, every other layer, we would add a layer from 4" to 6" thick depending on how hot the manure was. The hotter, i.e. fresher, the manure the thinner the layer. Again, we added water as we went. Also worked great! As you can see, it is hard to give you a percentage — We guess the answer is up to 100%, depending on the other materials you have for composting. Some people think you were on the right track with "the more the better." Another way you can use the manure was as a mulch around established plants or to cover beds in the winter left bare after a late harvest. Generally, depending on your level of skill and expertise, We would suggest mulching with composted manure. If you are an experienced gardener, you could try mulching with fresher manure. Try it around things such as fruit trees. Keep it away from direct contact with the trunk. After the soil warms in the spring, pile it an inch or two thick in the area just beyond the trunk to outside the drip line. Every time you water you will wash some nutrients into the soil as well as keeping the soil cooler, which will help to encourage root growth, etc.
To use as a winter cover, a variation of the agricultural technique called sheet composting, just spread a couple of inches over your bare beds as you ready your garden for winter. The winter rains will wash many of the nutrients into the soil, and the manure will usually rot where it lies so that you can till it in come spring. Though in areas with colder winters, you may just want to rake it off the beds come spring and throw it into the compost. We were even able to start cover crops through the manure — if it was already slightly aged. We simply scattered fava beans across the top of the soil, and mulched with an inch or two of manure. It worked great! (This was in the milder climate of central California.) At Whitney Farms, we compost piles of manure and bedding by the tens of thousands of yards. It makes a wonderful compost!
Make Better Composting - Control insects, Odors, rodents,
What can be done about a smelly compost pile? - Smelly piles are caused by too much water, poor aeration, or the addition of meat or other animal products. The bacteria which live in such "anaerobic" piles produce a "rotten egg" smell. - Do not put food scraps or pet waste in yard trimmings compost piles. - Smelly piles should be turned to introduce air and encourage "aerobic" bacteria. Wet, compacted materials should be broken up with a pitchfork and mixed with coarse materials, such as dry straw or corn stalks, to let air in. - Mix grass clippings with coarse, woody materials.
Rats - Are rats attracted to compost? How can We get rid of them? - Rats are often attracted to food scraps in compost — especially meat and dairy products. - Food scraps should not be put into yard trimmings composting piles! - Food scraps, excluding meat, fish, and dairy products, should be composted in worm bins with tight fitting lids to exclude rodents, or buried under at least 8" of soil. - Meat, fish, and dairy products should be thrown out or run through an in-sink garbage disposal. Sometimes rats will nest in dry yard trimmings compost piles — even when there are no food wastes in the pile. They can be discouraged by turning and rebuilding the pile, with special attention paid to shredding and moistening dry materials. If rats really a problem, can we use cats around to catch them? - Rats may be around without your noticing them, even if you have cats around. They carry and transmit diseases to domestic pets and humans. Rats should be discouraged through proper handling of food scraps, even if you have cats around.
Slugs - Do compost piles attract slugs? - Compost piles can provide hiding places for slugs that graze in gardens at night and their eggs may be spread with finished compost. Place compost piles in areas away from vegetable gardens or create barriers (traps, metal flashing, etc.) around the pile to contain slugs.
Flies - How can We stop flies from becoming pests around the compost pile? - Do not put any food scraps into a yard trimmings compost pile. Compost piles made entirely from yard trimmings do not usually attract flies in large numbers.
Pathogens and toxins: pet wastes, coated paper, wood ash
Can yard trimmings treated with pesticides and herbicides be put in the compost? What happens to them in the compost pile? - Individual chemicals react in different ways and break down under unique conditions. Avoid use of persistent pesticides and weed killers; and keep treated materials out of compost piles, if possible.
Can grass clippings treated with "weed and feed" be composted or used as mulch? - Lawn clippings with herbicides on them may kill garden plants, if used as mulch or "young" compost. If herbicide use is suspected, materials should be thoroughly composted and allowed to cure for several months before use in the garden. Do not use compost made from sources of unknown origin on food crops.
Can fireplace and barbecue ashes be used in the compost? - Wood ashes are a good source of potassium, a major nutrient required for healthy plant growth. However, they are very alkaline and should be used in the garden or compost pile in small amounts. Do not use ashes from wood treated with paints or wood preservatives or ashes derived from burning lots of paper, they may contain heavy metals or chlorinated compounds.
Charcoal is a partially-burned form of wood. As long as no other chemicals have been added, barbecue ash should be safe to compost. Unfortunately, charcoal packaging does not list additives (such as binders used to hold briquettes together), so it is best to keep barbecue ash out of the compost or garden.
Pet Wastes - Can pet wastes be added to home compost? - Pet wastes (dog, cat, birds, and any carnivores) can carry diseases that infect people. They should be handled as little as possible, so don't compost them. They can be buried in an ornamental garden area or sometimes flushed down the toilet (check on the kitty litter package). Pet wastes should not be buried in a vegetable garden.
Dog Poop - . Is it okay to mix dog poop in with Our kitchen scraps and compost it. If so how much can be added? - - We would not recommend putting any waste from pets into the compost pile. The primary concerns is pathogens that might be harmful to humans that could be found in the waste. Unfortunately, our good pet friends can be hosts to organisms that could be harmful to human health. - Generally, if you want to recycle the waste in the garden, find a remote spot, under a favorite tree for example, dig a hole 8" to 12" deep, fill it for a time with your over-abundant pet piles, and cover with six inches of soil. DO NOT use it around food plants, etc. Wear gloves when handling — um, ah, you probably will find the right place.
E-Coli - Can We get e.coli or other diseases from using manure in the vegetable garden? - It is rare, but there have been some cases of e. coli, Salmonella and other diseases linked to eating raw vegetables from gardens where fresh, uncomposted manure was applied . Composting manure at over 140 °F for several days (like all of - Whitney Farms - manures) reliably destroys most disease organisms and parasites. Such temperatures are hard to achieve uniformly in home compost piles - the center of a pile may get hot enough, but the edges don't. Prolonged exposure to the environment (cool soil, sunlight, drying air, etc.) also kills most pathogens. To be safe, follow our guidelines
Fresh or home-composted manure should be applied and tilled into the soil only before planting, never to growing crops. Only use commercially-composted manure for topdressing growing crops.
Don't use wastes from pigs, pet dogs, cats, indoor birds, or gerbils in the garden or compost pile.
Thoroughly wash and/or peel all raw vegetables before eating. The risk is greatest for root crops like carrots, and leafy vegetables, such as lettuce, where the edible part touches the soil. Thorough cooking is more effective (do you prefer your lettuce boiled or grilled?)
People who are susceptible to foodborne illnesses (pregnant women, very young children, and those with impaired-immunity or chronic disease such as cancer) should avoid eating uncooked vegetables from manured gardens.
Wash your hands with soap and hot water after working in the garden.
Pests: weeds and diseased plants in compost
Can weeds be composted? How do you stop them from spreading in compost? - The leaves of most weeds may be composted. Do not compost weed seed heads, since many seeds will survive temperatures up to 140 °F . E ven a well-made "hot" home compost pile may not uniformly achieve this heat. Roots or runners of weeds that spread vegetatively, such as morning glory, quack grass, and buttercup — or invasive ornamentals such as ivy — should not be put into compost piles, even if they are shredded!
Can limbs from trees with tent caterpillars be composted? - Do not compost plant parts with tent caterpillars on them. The eggs will hatch the following spring, unless they are burned or destroyed in a very hot compost pile.
Can any diseased plant be composted safely? - No diseased plants should be added to a home composting system. Diseases may live through the composting process and spread through the garden as compost is used. Large-scale composting systems attain sufficient temperatures to kill diseases. Home composting systems do not reliably reach these temperatures.
Compost Essentials -
- Carbon to nitrogen ratios: composting/mulching with woody materials
How do you know if you have the proper carbon to nitrogen ratio for fast composting? - Mixing roughly equal volumes of fresh "greens" (fresh grass clippings, weed,s and flowers, etc.) and dried "browns" (straw, corn stalks, fall leaves, etc.) provides a good balance. Experimentation is the best way to get a good sense of carbon to nitrogen ratios in different materials. Composting books have tables listing ratios of common wastes.
Can sawdust and wood chips be used in compost? - Sawdust and wood chips may be added to compost piles in limited quantities. They are very rich in carbon, and may not break down completely for a long time, but will become "stable" and improve drainage and aeration in heavy clay soils without lowering fertility.
Will mulching with wood chips or sawdust rob nitrogen from plants? - Coarse woody materials, such as wood chips, will not compete with woody plants for nitrogen, if they remain on the soil surface. Smaller particles, such as sawdust, may deplete soil nitrogen, even when used as mulch, especially on annuals. If you use sawdust as mulch, add nitrogen fertilizer, when turning it under.
Moisture in compost: watering, covering - . How do you gauge the proper moisture content for composting? - Materials should feel like a wrung out sponge; moist to touch, but no more than a few drops of water should come out, when compost is squeezed in your hand.
Water - . Do We need to water Our compost pile? - Providing adequate moisture is essential for quick composting. Occasional watering during dry seasons, along with covering piles with black plastic or old rug scraps, will greatly speed up decomposition. If you are patient, you can leave watering to nature in the Northwest. Some very dry materials (straw, cardboard, sawdust, and others) may need prolonged soaking and mixing to moisten.
Piles - Should compost piles be covered? - A compost pile that has a good moisture content to start with will benefit from covering with plastic or carpet scraps to keep it moist in summer and prevent it from getting too soggy in winter.
Tumblers - Do compost "tumblers" work? Compost tumblers or "barrel-turning units" work well, if materials are chopped, moistened, and contain adequate nitrogen.
Shredder - Do We need to use a shredder to make good compost? - Shredders are not needed to make compost out of leaves, twigs, grass clippings, and fresh stems. Shredders are needed for composting or making mulch out of branches over 1/2" diameter, waxy evergreen leaves, and large volumes of shrub prunings. chopping and shredding
Woody process tools - What tools can be used to chip woody materials? - - Machete — Green or woody vegetable stalks, prunings up to 1/2" diameter. - Lawn mower — Leaves, stalks and twigs up to 1/4" diameter. - Electric chipper — Leaves, stalks and twigs up to 1" diameter. - 3-8 H.P. Gas Shredder — Small amounts of twigs and branches up to 2" diameter. - Commercial shredder (8+ H.P.) — Branches over 2" diameter.
Turning - Does compost need to be turned? - No. Turning speeds up the process, but is not necessary for piles of a few cubic yards.
Additives: lime, soil, "starters", fertilizer - Limestone. Should limestone be added to compost? - Limestone is not needed for compost. It may contribute to smelly loss of nitrogen through ammonia gases.
Compost Starters. Should compost "starters" or soil be added to compost piles? Starters and soil are not essential for composting. However, starters, such as Compost Maker Plus - , may speed up the process, help conserve nitrogen, and make the pile hotter, so weeds and diseases are destroyed more thoroughly.
Layering some soil into a hot compost pile can help to retain moisture and nitrogen, which might otherwise be lost as a gas during composting.
Fertilizer additive. Do you need to add fertilizer to the compost pile? - No. However nitrogen fertilizers may be added to speed decomposition of twigs, brown grass, evergreen leaves, or wood chips.
Special wastes - Special yard trimmings
Can evergreen leaves from laurel, holly and rhododendron be composted? Rose prunings? Pine needles? - Laurel leaves, rose prunings, pine needles, holly, rhododendron and other waxy leaves break down slower than many other trimmings, but they do not pose any problem in the compost or in the garden (except rose thorns, which may attack you). Shredding these materials will help them to break down quicker and be less visible in the finished compost.
Can sod be composted without continually resprouting? - Yes. Sod should be composted in piles covered with black plastic to exclude light and stop all growth. Make sure the sod is wet before stacking since no water can enter the covered pile. Other materials may be included in the pile, including vegetatively spreading weeds such as buttercup and quack grass, which will also die without light.
Kitchen scraps - Can you compost, if you just have kitchen scraps? - Vegetative kitchen scraps (without meat, fish, dairy products, or oily foods) can be composted in worm bins or buried at least 8" deep in the garden. - Composting food scraps
Meat and Animal products. Why can't dairy products, meat, or fish be composted? - Animal products attract flies, rodents, and other pests, which create nuisances and carry diseases. These protein-rich materials break down slowly and are more likely to create odor problems and other complications.
Worm Box Bugs Are bugs in Our worm box okay? How can We get rid of fruit flies? - Many bugs may be at work in the worm box helping the worms to decompose organic materials — sow bugs, spiders, centipedes, and slugs are all common. Most of them are not a problem. If fruit flies become a problem, make sure that food scraps are completely buried beneath bedding. Try covering bedding with plastic or sections on newspaper overlapped to create a barrier. Make sure you have a tight fitting lid on the box to exclude flies.
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