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Thread: more compost

  1. #1
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    Default more compost

    You guys will get sick of me posting pics of compost, but here I go again I use a lot of it so I make a lot of it.

    The soil here needs lots of it, I have previously bemoaned having clay soil, I have since done a mason jar test which indicates I don't have as much clay as I thought, this is a fairly basic test that separates out the various sized soil particles, sand, silt, clay and organic matter. Based on this I have about 10% clay, 45% sand, 40% silt and a bit of other stuff, this makes it a medium loam, not too bad but still needs work, ideally a good soil has about 30% of each and upto 10% organic matter. This ratio gives the best attributes of each of the particle classes. The clay gives us lots of exchange sites but sand gives us none but does give us friability while clay is very difficult to work as a single component, anyone trying to grow in WA will know about how sand will not hang onto nutrients.

    Organic matter also has lots of exchange sites, the exchange site is where the plant root takes it's nutrients from so when we throw out fertilizer (nothing over a 10-10-10) it needs to attach onto these exchange sites (or be taken up by the soil life) if neither happens it is lost to leaching, gasification and runoff into our waterways/oceans.

    Any soil can be improved with additions of organic matter and this why I make lots of compost, it also facilitates a no dig method of gardening and allows soil life to increase.

    Main ingreds are tree trimmings, fresh green stuff and some dry grass clippings. I collected this from a neighbor.
    tree trimmings.jpggreen stuff.jpgdry grass clippings.jpg
    The first pic is some older (2 months) tree trimmings so it's looking a bit dry, second is some lab lab and a few oats, third is the dry grass clippings, it is important to fully saturate the dry ingreds before making the pile proper, if ingreds are too dry there will be too much actinobacteria, (a dry looking white powder) actinobacteria produce antibiotics which may have a negative impact on bacteria numbers, we want the bacteria, to fully saturate the dry stuff may take a few days of watering and turning. It's hard to see but there is a hose spraying onto the dry grass clippings.

    three ingredients.jpgcombined pile.jpg
    The first pic is the three ingreds ready to come together, the lab lab has been shredded by mowing, if you make a static pile (not turned) the ingreds don't have to be chopped up as much but I find it so much easier to turn the pile if they are chopped/shredded, last pic is the completed pile, there's probably 3m3 of compost in this pile.

    about 42.jpg
    I made this pile on the 25/7, next day it was upto about 42°C and reached a high of about 65°, I have turned it twice so far, last turning was the 18/8 it has taken 8 days to climb back up to 45, this is telling me the high temp bacteria have done their job, another turning will be most likely the last with not much temp rise. Overall the pile temp rise tended to be lower and slower, I suspect this is down to the tree trimmings being a bit older (not fresh green) and the collected dry grass clippings when cut may not have been very green and the fresh green stuff not being as fresh as it could have been.




    Pete

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    3 cubes is a decent pile! I started a few hot compost piles this year and have been really impressed with the outcomes. It is definitely more work turning and wetting and making sure the brown green mix is ok and particle size is small enough... but at least I got compost not just a permanent garden feature made of leaves and spiders.

    I do get the white stuff forming though so I obviously still need some practice. I'm also hard pressed to get enough 'green' .

    Matt

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    Hi Matt, Good to hear you have got some results, I have read that brassicas favor a compost that has actinomycetes bacteria, I generally don't bother too much with that lot, too much hassle with caterpillars and it not cold enough for long enough here so I'd prefer to not see too much of the white powder, to me it seems to proliferate more in a pile that is not as wet as it should be and that seems to be in the early stages of the piles life, this is when bacteria numbers are rapidly increasing, generating heat and losing water as steam.

    Elaine Ingham recommends about 10% fresh green stuff, this is party food to get the bacteria started and generating heat, things I do to get my 10% is leave my grass to grow long then mow it, grow a green crop of oats or such, trim the shrubbery, get a lawn mower bloke to deliver, a friendly neighbor's fresh cuttings, also don't neglect collecting someones old dry grass clippings if you can, I do, another way to tackle the lack of green is if you can collect green clippings and dry them, if cut then dried they will keep until you have enough/time to make the pile, also if cut green they retain their nutrient value, then to get the party started you might need to add some blood and bone, dynamic lifter or something with high bacteria like cow poo, chook, horse, lama, outer Mongolian lesser yak, ......... and same goes for green leaves




    Pete

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    Thanks for the tips, Pete. I'll try getting the moisture up next time. It's not really growing season here yet so there's not a lot asking to fed to the mulcher just yet but the neighbour's alpaccas have the manure component sorted )
    Cheers
    Matt

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    Donkey poo is a great fertiliser which can be used fresh on your vegie patch (no burning) or thrown onto your compost heap. Just my tuppence worth.
    Cheers

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    Many years ago, when I first started veges, I bought a book called The Magic of Mulch. (just looked for the book and apparently #1 son still has it ). Anyway, from memory, the recipe is 100m layer of organic matter, thin layer of poo (name your poison), 100mm OM, sprinkle layer of B&B, 100mm OM, sprinkle of Lime, rinse & repeat until no OM left. Turn inside out after a week, rinse and repeat, until cooked through (usually three turnings does it).

    My experience with the recipe has been excellent.

    Next door have about ¼acre of lawn that some dude runs a ride on around every few weeks so that might have to be my source of OM apart from food scraps and vege garden waste. Not keen on using too much grass though.

    I have about a cube of cold compost ready (which won't go very far in a 35 msq garden), which has been in the boxes for 3-4 years I suppose. Looks nice and black and friable.
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    Pete, you'll have read in my VG build thread that there is a lot of treated Pine in the construction (H4). I don't fancy Copper Chromium Arsenate leaching into the soil, so do you think that painting the sleepers is the go (plastic paint)?

    I'll be constructing some compost boxes on the end of it, and these too will be H4, so I was thinking that maybe I'll line the inside with some sacrificial untreated pine which may need to be changed every 3-4 years I guess. These boxes will be about a cube each, and I should have room for three (a hottie, a coldie and an empty to turn the others into).

    Any thoughts?
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    Quote Originally Posted by FenceFurniture View Post
    Many years ago, when I first started veges, I bought a book called The Magic of Mulch. (just looked for the book and apparently #1 son still has it ). Anyway, from memory, the recipe is 100m layer of organic matter, thin layer of poo (name your poison), 100mm OM, sprinkle layer of B&B, 100mm OM, sprinkle of Lime, rinse & repeat until no OM left. Turn inside out after a week, rinse and repeat, until cooked through (usually three turnings does it).

    My experience with the recipe has been excellent.

    Next door have about ¼acre of lawn that some dude runs a ride on around every few weeks so that might have to be my source of OM apart from food scraps and vege garden waste. Not keen on using too much grass though.

    I have about a cube of cold compost ready (which won't go very far in a 35 msq garden), which has been in the boxes for 3-4 years I suppose. Looks nice and black and friable.
    Sheet mulching, certainly a viable method, when I start a new area here I mow the grass down to the ground (scalping) chuck some green manure seeds about on top of the ground then cover with compost/mulch, let the green grow up then push over and cover with another layer of compost or mulch, allow time to break down and either repeat or grow a crop for consumption. Layers built up but done differently, essentially how ever we do it it's about building up OM levels in the soil and this is one of the keys to a good soil.

    My caution would be this...if the OM and poo is of known cleanliness that you are happy with go for it, however if there is any doubt about the cleanliness of the inputs.....the cleanliness could be many things, from any sort of unwanted seeds in bales of straw to antibiotics that might be fed to the horse,alpaca,cow,donkey to glyphosate use on a few weeds in the neighbors lawn, if I knew that the horse poo I was getting was from a paddock horse that wasn't on any sort of regular antibiotic I'd be more ok with using it in a sheet mulch but if the horse poo was from a stable housed race horse on a regular dose of whatever I'd hot compost it before using it in a sheet mulch......if the leaves where from the gutter that collect under the street trees, my guess would be there would be all sorts of car/truck exhaust products, brake dust, oil, cig butts.....I'll leave that for the street sweeper, if the leaves have come from the the tree trimmers cut straight from the tree ok even that might not be completely free from exhaust products etc but should be at least cleaner than the stuff that lays in the gutter.

    A thought on whatever animal poo....for a herbivore basically they eat grass/hay etc, depending on the type of animal determines how long they process it for (no. of stomachs) and how much nutrient they remove from the feed, what we get out the back end is a compressed package of what went in less what was taken out, the extra that we get is bacteria and I wonder if this is where the benefit we get as gardeners comes from?? A dose of biology for the soil?
    If we spread the same grass/hay on the ground do we really need to bother with poo? Do we get the same benefit? Perhaps we do with hot composting as there is an increase in bacteria in hot composting, most likely tho they won't be the same species. Diversity of soil life is another key to good soil.

    If you can collect the grass clippings from the neighbor I'd suggest go for it, as I have recently found out the clippings by themselves can have issues in a hot compost but mixed with a woody component the issues are not there that I have noticed so far, for a hot compost mix with roughly equal proportion woody stuff, variations in proportion would come from how green the grass is and the size and type of woody stuff, straw/wood shavings versus chips of branch from the tree trimmer. Used fresh in a sheet mulch I'd spread them fairly thin and add layers of brown something similar as you relate above, or basically replace the poo with the grass clippings, if used fresh tho watch for seeds tho otherwise hot compost. My default is hot compost, if in doubt I hot compost and if you doubt hot compost!!!!

    I'd go careful with any sort of lime, gypsum or dolomite additions, the soil chemistry can be made worse just as easily as improved if the addition is the wrong type of addition, not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with any of the above three, I have used 2 of them myself but without a soil test to determine which type of addition is required it is very possible to make things worse, exchangable calcium/magnesium can be exchanged for sodium (good) or lost to leaching (not so good) I won't be using any of them here for a while until I see what the additions of fungi does to my soil PH



    Pete

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    Quote Originally Posted by FenceFurniture View Post
    Pete, you'll have read in my VG build thread that there is a lot of treated Pine in the construction (H4). I don't fancy Copper Chromium Arsenate leaching into the soil, so do you think that painting the sleepers is the go (plastic paint)?

    I'll be constructing some compost boxes on the end of it, and these too will be H4, so I was thinking that maybe I'll line the inside with some sacrificial untreated pine which may need to be changed every 3-4 years I guess. These boxes will be about a cube each, and I should have room for three (a hottie, a coldie and an empty to turn the others into).

    Any thoughts?
    My thoughts would be, What then is leaching out of the plastic paint? I don't know. Maybe nothing. I guess a paint that was suitable for potable water could be an option but whether it stands up to the intended use?? Ask the paint supplier, although the bloke behind the counter may not know either and unless the scientist at the paint making place (if you get to find one) has done studies on that specific question he/she may not want to say either, they tell us that things do leach out of plastics, BPA for one.

    I am using black builders plastic (under concrete stuff) to line the inside of some of my boxes, only cos that's what I had on hand, I don't know if there's anything coming out of that? I bought some new garden hose a while back, that gives off a smell, Is that good bad or indifferent, Is something going into the water that I then smell?

    I would try not to use paint only because of the unkowns and what happens over time, some time down the track you notice the paint is coming off the btm boards, as thin as it might be it was there and now it's not, Where did it go, into your compost??? Will it have some undesireable effect? Is it like the microbeads that are in these face cleansing lotions and household cleaners that are ending up in the food chain. What about the plastic shopping bags, the ones that "biodegrade" do they really degrade or do they just break up into smaller and smaller bits that are then too small to see but are still the same parent material and not actually broken down into simple elements? What about the green scourer dish scrub thingos, where do the bits go that come off them?

    Bit of a rant there, I don't know, in the absence of a definite known, a solution might be to see if you can get some Iron bark/Crows ash or something similar and don't bother painting it, just let it age gracefully and it will probably last long enough to see us both out. Or use your untreated pine with some hardwood on the lower boards. Or Do you really need to build boxes at all? I just make my hot compost piles on the ground and that's all good. The heat from the composting process kills the grass/seeds (where I make them) and then by letting them sit/age on the ground there's a transfer of soil life to and from the soil/pile which then leaves a ready bed to plant something into when I use up the pile, I then make a new pile on another patch of ground that could be existing garden or another new bit of garden bed.

    Or you could be blissfully ignorant and you painted your boards and didn't give them a second thought, whatever you grow would probably have suffered far less from unwanted additions when compared to the oranges (for example) that were grown in wherever that were sprayed with whatever then cold stored then fumigated then shipped to us here and end up in our supermarket.....that ends up tasting/smelling like diesal and inedible, we have brought home some absolute shockers at times.

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    I've painted olive tree trunks and fruit tree trunks with a water based exterior paint to stop them being ringbarked by ravenous rabbits and wombats and it worked a treat, then after a some thought I began to wonder why. Slowly it dawned on me that I was administering poison (painting poison) onto my plants, so I started using tree guards instead, not the plastic rubbish but rabbit netting. Works a treat, and can be used again and again unlike the other rubbish and poisons

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    I recall a while back a story on Gardening Aus., they were talking to a citrus tree grower, the old fella painted the tree trunks with something white and I can't recall the purpose of it.
    Brett, What about painting your boards with raw linseed oil?


    Pete

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    In the interim, I started a thread on the subject, and NCArcher provided the solution from Uni of WA:
    Sealing H4 treated pine from leaching chemicals?

    In short there is little to no problem with Copper Chromium Arsenate leaching into the soil and then being taken up by the plants. Very little leaches from the boards to the soil, and is very localised. What plants are in the vicinity of the localised leaching take up very little of what is there.

    However, I do have some BLO and the smell would remind me of the cricket season in winter, so maybe.........I might do the inside of the top two sleepers with it (which would be 300mm of soil depth and 100mm of mulch depth).
    Regards, FenceFurniture

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    A quick read of wikipedia suggests that the raw linseed is the better option especially if it's cold pressed, any of the other have additives in it which well could be as bad as the CCA. The BLO could even be worse than the any leaching from the CCA, mind you I have no idea whether it would be or not, go the raw if you do tho.
    Having said that tho if there's no (or little) drama with leaching from the CCA there's probably no need to do anything.



    Pete

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    Just another thought....if you have any concern re the leaching don't plant any root crop up close to the CCA treated wood, reserve that for above ground fruiting plants or flowering plants, flowers attract the good bugs to the garden, lady beetles, praying mantis, lacewing, etc. flowers could be cosmos, marigolds. Green Harvest do a seed mix called good bug mix, these areas at home I call my "wild flower meadow" they can also include veges, carrots have a flower much like Queen Anne's Lace, probably the same familly, also the herbs basil, coriander and many more, they can all be left to go to seed, and then if you start colecting the seed you'll never run out, also isn't it better to have carrots popping up than unwanted weeds, you can also "hide" plants in amongst your wild meadow, something I am trying this year is hiding beans amongst the flowers.




    Pete

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    A poison is a poison, it wasn't that long ago that science heralded the introduction of 245t and 24d. The white coat brigade even dusted the powder on school children suffering head lice, it worked a treat. Probably no records on the life span of the kids.I like the idea of creating a haven for preventatives ie; wasps, birds companion plants, chooks for cleaning up patch, scratching and fertilising, green manures and mulch so on and so forth.

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