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Beginner Question...

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by LandOfOz on May 03, 2006 03:55 AM
Thanks to the help of many members, I have learned that I've got terrible "soil"--so bad that it doesn't have worms. It needs lots and lots of organic matter. I can probably get some manure from local farms, but it will be fresh. Do I need to age it or something or can I just toss it on the garden and side-dress my plants with it? I think it will probably need to be composted to kill off any seeds that weren't killed in...the digestive process. Someone also suggested grass clippings, but I am worried about that making my current grass-in-the-garden problem worse. I guess if I'm going to salvage my poor garden I'm going to need to start a compost pile... Does a compost pile have any sun requirements to keep it hot? I've done some looking on here, and found some great advice and ideas for composting! I'm really new to this and would appreciate any help you can share with me! Thanks in advance!!

Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by SpringFever on May 03, 2006 04:34 AM
Thanks Sarah I was Just going to post the same thing..
More along the lines of how to start a compost I will have grass clipping in a week or so,veggie peels,coffee grounds,I only have thick oak leaves and dry pine needles. both of which I heard it is hard to compost.Any suggestions on the brown dry stuff?

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Tonight I am having friends for dinner... Hanibal Lector My Album
by LandOfOz on May 03, 2006 07:20 AM
Can I use goat manure? A lady offered me her goat droppings and some "composting hay" and was wondering if goat poo was okay or not... Is manure manure or is there something special about certain kinds?

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by porter57 on May 03, 2006 07:42 AM
shred the leaves if and pine needles if you can.
that will greatly help the composting process.
i usually just run over em with the bag on the mower.
goat poo should be ok. just have to age it in the pile so it doesnt burn tender plants, and you could see weeds from undigested seeds if the pile doesnt get hot enough to kill em.
by SpringFever on May 03, 2006 08:00 AM
Porter thanks for the info is there any other that I should do? should I put down a plank or wood to keep it off the ground?

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Tonight I am having friends for dinner... Hanibal Lector My Album
by LandOfOz on May 03, 2006 09:35 AM
Thanks for the info, Porter!! And, Spring, as to the questioin about putting down planks or something, I think I read that some of the people here put their larger twigs/branches on the bottom to help keep the bottom areated. (But I could be wrong, it's not like I'm a seasoned pro!)

Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by Longy on May 03, 2006 11:49 AM
A compost pile will get hot if it is big enough. So you need to make a 3' cube of the stuff. There are many ways to construct a compost bin, using chicken wire and four posts is probably the easieast. I use enourmous cardboard boxes from the market, like watermelons come in.
see here

All the stuff you've mentioned above is fine for composting. Including the leaves and pine needles, hay etc. Anything which was living can be composted, we just don't use meat etc because it adds a few possible problems to the process.
The sticks on the bottom is good for aeration. Air is very important in the process. It is necessary for the bacteria to thrive. Once the air runs out the pile will cool down. That's why we turn the pile weekly. Or whenever.
Moisture is also important. The pile needs to be watered as you build it.
A cubic yard is quite a lot of material, and you're best to get it together and just build a pile from scratch. Continually adding more stuff will lengthen the time it takes to be completely composted. SO once you've built the pile, it may be best to put any stuff you get later into another, slow pile, for use later on to build your next one.

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The secret is the soil.
by SpringFever on May 03, 2006 12:24 PM
Awsome thanks for the info Longy that really is going to help a ton... [clappy]

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Tonight I am having friends for dinner... Hanibal Lector My Album
by LandOfOz on May 03, 2006 04:43 PM
Just thought I'd drop a line to other newbies that Starbucks gives away their coffee grounds (for free) if you ask for them. I loathe coffee, I will never ever allow a coffee machine in my house, so this means I can still feed any future worms coffee grounds. Here is the article I found about it: MSN Article on Free Starbucks Grounds
You guys have made a compostor out of me, and so help me, my husband!! I'm just gonna need to make me that box written up a couple posts... Thanks for those great instructions! You guys are so helpful [thumb] don't know where I'd be without you! (Actually, I do, and it's a very sandy worm-free place...)

~Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by PAR_Gardener on May 03, 2006 07:26 PM
Sarah,

Thanks for the Starbucks article. I'm like you. I don't drink coffee, but I'll take the coffee grounds. I've been considering it for years, but now I'm going to hit up my local Starbucks for their coffee grounds because of your post.

As a rule of thumb, manure from herbivores is fine to use in your garden. It needs to age or run through the compost process to avoid "burning" your garden plants.

Composting is a bit of an art form and obsession, once you start doing it. It can be broken down into two methods: hot and cold composting. There are pros and cons to both methods.

Hot composting Pros:
-Quicker. You can get usable compost in two weeks.
-Temps can reach >150 degrees F, hot enough to kill weed seeds and break down harmful chemicals.

Hot composting Cons:
-Labor intensive, in order to get compost quicker you need to turn it more frequently. You have to turn the pile daily to have a chance at getting compost in two weeks.
-If you don't get the Carbon to Nitrogen ratio close to 30:1, don't have enough critical mass, the right moisture level, and you don't turn it to provide aeration and mixing you won't get the heat required for hot composting. (It's not as hard as it sounds.)
-Too hot for worms at the upper levels.

Cold composting pros:
-Just throw stuff in the pile and let nature take its course.
-You don't need critical mass to start a pile.
-Great for raising worms.

Cold composting cons:
-Can take up to a year to get usable compost.
-Doesn't get hot enough to kill weed seeds.
-At some point you should stop adding material to let the compost "finish". Usually the stuff on the bottom is black gold, and the stuff on the top is what you'll use in your next compost pile.

The method that Longy described is hot composting. Personally, it's the composting method that I use most. Here is a link to the compost journal post from a while back. Compost Journal Post

I don't bother with the sticks at the bottom because I try to turn my piles daily. The pile gets aerated while you turn/mix everything up. I accomplish this with a cordless drill and a bulb auger. I've tried other methods and tools for turning a pile, and this is by far the easiest. You may be able to get your husband to turn your pile because it's justification for him to use his drill.

Welcome to the composting community. Good luck.

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Composting is more than good for your garden. It's a way of life.
by SpringFever on May 04, 2006 02:52 AM
PAR what a great bunch of info thanks that is very helpful!! [thumb]

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Tonight I am having friends for dinner... Hanibal Lector My Album
by Rebecca150 on May 04, 2006 07:03 AM
I really like the watermelon box idea.

Off I go to the local grocer for a watermelon box. I'm sure the produce people will think I'm nuts......

Not to mention my husband!

Will one of those bad puppies fit in a car?
by LandOfOz on May 04, 2006 05:25 PM
I think I'm probably going to go for the watermelon box idea too. I'm thinking that I could probably just shred the box when the compost is done and bury it with the finished compost (or add to a new pile). I was wondering--I read that a 3x3x3 pile is optimal for a quick compost, and I'm really in need of that. Is this box going to compost really slow because it is not very large? I'm also a little conserned about my little ones--my youngest loves to eat dirt, and I can only imagine what she'd think of a big box of compost! Thanks for all the suggestions and help, my plants and I are very grateful!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by Longy on May 04, 2006 05:52 PM
Is this box going to compost really slow because it is not very large?
++++++++++++++++++++
The box in the foto is a cubic metre, just a little bigger actually. There are a bunch of holes i cut into the sides with a battery drill and hole saw, to allow air into the pile.
Yes the box will compost away after a few uses. They generally last about 6 months before becoming useless.

my youngest loves to eat dirt
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Not sure what to say about that. If she can eat a cubic metre of compost though, she'll be doing well. Maybe just sprinkle a little on her cereal in the mornings.......

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The secret is the soil.
by LandOfOz on May 05, 2006 01:55 AM
Lol! She is a little small for her age... Thanks for the info, I'll be calling around for a box or two today and hopefully get them tonight! Then I just have to wait for my manure on Saturday, who knew I'd be this anxious to get goat poop!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by SpringFever on May 05, 2006 02:08 AM
Sarah ... Lots of the people here get excited about POOP.. [Big Grin] [Big Grin] [Big Grin]

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Tonight I am having friends for dinner... Hanibal Lector My Album
by Longy on May 05, 2006 06:31 AM
I thought of another method to improve your sandy soil.
See if you can get some clay from soemwhere. That sticky yellow stuff is great but any sticky clay. Add water in a bucket and stir the clay. Keep stirring and you'll end up with a horrible looking brew of mud. You want it watered right down, not thick. Once you've 'dissolved' the clay and have it down to a watery consistency, water it onto your sandy soil. The clay is full of minerals and nutrient and will add this to your soil, as well as giving it a better water holding capacity. Just make sure you don't add any solid lumps of clay to the bed, they will just stay that way. It should be a fully dissolved brew.

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The secret is the soil.
by LandOfOz on May 05, 2006 09:48 AM
That might make a good quick fix for the soil erosion and constant watering problem. My parents have pretty much solid clay, so I'll have to go dig some up. Thanks!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by LandOfOz on May 06, 2006 01:52 PM
Another question: I have noticed a lot of mushrooms growing around some tree stumps, I was wondering if I could add those to a compost pile? Are they nitrogen or carbon? I'd guess nitro just 'cause they are "fresh" but I really haven't a clue. Also, what are some good carbon sources? I have some elm leaves and some straw but have a looooot more manure than leaves/straw and I know it is important to keep the ratio correct. Also, I delegated a single gallon size zip lock bag for my kitchen scraps, and have already filled two of them! I never realized how much I was throwing away!

Sarah [grin]

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by PAR_Gardener on May 06, 2006 04:51 PM
Sarah,

I don't know about the mushrooms. I'd have to look it up, but I'm not near my reference material right now. They probably don't count toward either carbon or nitrogen. I'd classify them as micro nutrients. My guess is that it doesn't matter since you probably don't have pounds and pounds of mushrooms.

As far as carbon sources go, welcome to the eternal search for good carbon sources in the summer. That's one of the problems with hot composting, you need critical mass and the right C:N ratio. In the summer, you have more nitrogen sources than you have carbon sources. In the fall, you have more carbon (leaves, dried dead plant material) than you have nitrogen. It's easier to store carbon material. The nitrogen stuff can be stinky, and nitrogen itself is pretty volatile.

Dried grass clippings count as carbon, but it's really hard to dry enough of it for composting. If you pile it up, the inside hot composts very quickly, runs out of oxygen, and then goes into anaerobic decomposition, and then your husband will complain of the ammonia smell (nitrogen breaks down into NH4=ammonia)

I go so far as to gather leaves that other people put by the curb in the fall, shred them up, and store them for the next summer. You can buy bales of straw for a few bucks, run over it with your lawn mower, or try your local lumbar yard for sawdust. All those are good carbon sources.

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Composting is more than good for your garden. It's a way of life.
by LandOfOz on May 07, 2006 05:25 AM
Thank you! My mushrooms are going in, and I'll see if I can coerce the neighbors to give me their grass clippings so I can dry them and add them in too. This fall I'll have to remember to bag up all the leaves I can (we have a great many trees on our property).

Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by johnCT on May 09, 2006 01:11 AM
quote:
Originally posted by LandOfOz:
Thank you! My mushrooms are going in, and I'll see if I can coerce the neighbors to give me their grass clippings so I can dry them and add them in too. This fall I'll have to remember to bag up all the leaves I can (we have a great many trees on our property).

Sarah

Don't dry them. The moisture is good for the pile. Just mix them in well with the other materials. Every time I add clippings I use it as an excuse to mix the pile. Why people say to not put fresh clippings in their piles is just beyond me. One of the best greens you can add. A great source of nitrogen, potassium and moisture.

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by LandOfOz on May 17, 2006 06:24 AM
I have a lot of greens, but not much by way of carbon. I had heard that dry clippings are a good carbon source which is why I'd planned on drying them first... This is my first year composting and I hadn't saved any leaves from last fall.

Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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