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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Composting For Sustainable Organic Gardening

Posted by admin on October 1, 2010

SUSTAINABLE SOIL building for organic gardening begins after the initial garden soil testing and the addition of fertilizers and conditioners. It is very important to maintain and improve the soil when trying to garden organically. Sustaining the soil means that you have a means of replenishing the garden soil with what you have at hand – compost, beneficial microbes, enzymes, and earthworms. Ideally, once your organic garden is established it could be sustained with garden compost alone – by removing garden soil and layering it in your compost. This method uses the microbes in your soil to inoculate your compost, which in turn will feed your soil. SHREDDED ALFALFA HAY is one of the secrets of great compost. It is worth it to rent a shredder for the weekend, and shred up a few bales of alfalfa hay. Worms thrive on it, and it provides the best mulch and soil additive for your garden soil.

BUILDING YOUR PILE

BUILD YOUR PILE about four feet in diameter, and four feet high, on a well-drained site. A ring of hog wire with a ring of chicken wire on the outside of it works well – providing air circulation, keeping the pile contained, is easily taken apart for turning or sifting, and, it is economical and very easy to maintain. We let our piles set for a year and then sift them in the spring when we are adding compost to our garden beds. No Turning! If you want to turn your pile, let it set 3-4 months, remove the wire and set it up next to your pile. Take the pile apart, mix it, and add it to the new pile, moistening it as you go. You may do this as often as you like. This will speed up your composting process.

FIRST LAYER on the bottom should be about three inches of roughage – corn stalks, brush, or other materials to provide air circulation.

SECOND LAYER is two to four inches of dry vegetation – carbon-rich “brown” materials, like fall leaves, straw, dead flowers shredded newspaper, shredded alfalfa hay or dry manure. Water well.

THIRD LAYER should be two to four inches of green vegetation – nitrogen-rich materials, like grass clippings, weeds, garden waste, vegetable peelings, tea leaves, coffee grounds, and crushed eggshells. Kitchen waste may be added but never use meat scraps, diseased plants, dog or cat manure, or poisonous plants, plant-based kitchen waste. Water until moistened. (Too much water will compact your pile and reduce available oxygen.)

FOURTH LAYER is garden soil, two inches thick. It is important to add garden soil because it contains a supply of microorganisms and nutrients, which will inoculate your compost pile. As microorganisms grow, they collect essential nutrients containing antibiotics, vitamins, and catalytic enzymes in their body tissues and release them slowly as they die and decompose.

REPEAT LAYERS of dry vegetation, green vegetation, and garden soil – moistening each layer – until the pile is three or four feet high. To insure enough green vegetation one can plant extra garden greens, or devote one of the garden beds to the growing of compost. Good composting greens are broccoli, cauliflower, kale, comfrey (grow it in an isolated spot, and do not disturb the roots, because it can be invasive), peas, beans, and all the rest of the garden weeds and greens.

COVER THE TOP of the pile with three to four inches of garden soil, making a ridge around the outside edge to prevent the water from running off. Use a broom handle or iron bar to make air holes from the top, deep into the pile every eight inches or so, for ventilation and water. Top off the pile with two inches of shredded alfalfa hay. Water regularly to keep moistened.

CURED COMPOST

CURED COMPOST has almost all the nutrients the crops contained, and so many beneficial microbes that it is one of the best things you can do for your garden. It also contains enough humus to replenish your soil’s supply. Your compost is ready when it is dark, rich looking, broken down, crumbles in your hand and smells like clean earth. Parts of the compost pile along the outside edges that have not completely broken down will be removed when your pile is sifted and can be placed at the bottom, and between the layers of the next compost pile.

SIFTING COMPOST

SIFTING COMPOST is easily done by placing a 4 x 4 foot square of ½ inch wire mesh over your wheelbarrow and bending the edges over the sides. Then a shovel full of compost may be placed on top of the wire mesh and rubbed. The siftings fall into the wheelbarrow and the lumps will remain on top. One side of the wire can be lifted from the wheelbarrow and these clumps will fall to the ground into a pile. When you are done, these can be shoveled into a new compost pile, and be layered accordingly.

COMPOST PROBLEMS

PROBLEMS can occur if conditions are unfavorable. Some of the problems are:

BAD ODORS indicate that there is not enough air in your pile make more air holes in your pile, or turn the pile, or start a new one.

CENTER OF PILE IS DRY means there is not enough water in your pile. Make more air holes, and fill them with water, and the water will disperse throughout the pile.

PILE IS DAMP BUT ONLY WARM IN THE MIDDLE indicates that your pile is too small. Increase the size of your pile to at least four feet high and four feet wide.

PILE IS DAMP AND SWEET SMELLING, BUT REMAINS COOL indicates a lack of nitrogen, not enough green matter or manure. Cover the pile with black plastic for a few days, but be careful not to cook all your microbes. The pile also may need more water.

SPEEDING UP COMPOSTING

TO SPEED UP THE COMPOSTING PROCESS and increase the decomposition rate you can add extra nitrogen, fishmeal or blood meal, to your layers. Using a metal rod to make holes in your pile will increase the amount of oxygen and stimulate aerobic activity. You can also shred your components fine, which causes faster decomposition. Compost innoculants can also be used to add nitrogen fixing, decomposing, and other soil bacteria, enzymes and hormones.

VERMI-COMPOSTING

VERMI-COMPOSTING is another organic gardening technique, which uses earthworms to make compost, which will be rich in organic matter and worm castings, and is one of the best soil builders available. Worms can eat their body weight daily in organic matter and convert it into dark, soil enriching castings full of live micro organisms, growth hormones, and nutrients, humic acids which condition the soil, and a neutral pH. Worm castings are free from disease pathogens, which are killed in the process. They prefer a temperature range of 60 to 70 degrees, but will tolerate 32 – 84 degrees. They require a moist, pesticide free environment with plenty of organic matter to eat. There are two types of Vermicomposting, indoor and outdoor.

OUTDOOR VERMI-COMPOSTING, ABOVE OR BELOW THE GROUND

ABOVE THE GROUND BIN: composting red worms are an excellent addition to a compost pile. The worms help to process the pile by eating the decayed matter and turn the waste into fine topsoil in approximately 2 to 3 months, depending on the quantity of worms introduced into the pile, the outside temperatures, and the time of year. A compost heap that is 4 x 4 x 4 should have a minimum of 3,000 to 10,000 worms introduced into the pile – about two pounds. Add them to your compost pile when it has broken down and is warm but not hot in the center. Dig down about a foot and add the worms. Keep the pile moistened, but not soggy wet. This pile will be your “breeding area”.

WHEN YOU WANT TO REMOVE some of the worms for next compost pile, begin feeding the worms at one spot near the edge, and when the worms move to this area after a few days, add some of the worms to your other compost pile. At this time you can also remove some of the soil and worm castings for your garden lowering your pile a foot or so. Keep feeding the worms in the breeding area by adding greens and shredded alfalfa hay to the top of the pile every few weeks. Be sure to add four or five inches of shredded alfalfa hay for winter protection, and keep the pile moistened, but not wet.

BELOW THE GROUND BIN: Dig a 2×8 foot trench two or three feet deep into the ground below frost level. Place a six-inch layer of peat moss and shredded newspaper or cardboard on the bottom, and water until evenly moistened, but not soggy wet.

FILL THE BIN ¾ full with a mixture of 2/3 corrugated cardboard and 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, shredded newspaper, shredded leaves, or shredded alfalfa hay, add a little crumbled aged or composted manure, and a cup or so of fine sand mixed with equal parts of wood ashes, and ground limestone. Mix well, moisten, and add two to three inches of a mix of finely chopped vegetal kitchen wastes, garden waste, and aged manure to one end of the pit.

ADD ONE POUND of red compost worms, which can be ordered through the mail. (When your worms first arrive they may be dehydrated, you can feed them a light dusting of corn meal before you cover them.)

LOOSELY COVER worms/waste with a 2-inch layer with shredded alfalfa hay. Water and feed two or three times a week – adding vegetable waste under the alfalfa layer to keep the process going. Each time you feed your worms place the waste mix next to the previous feeding area, working your way toward the opposite end of the pit. When you get to the end of the pit, feed back towards the beginning. As you continue these layers and reach the top, leave a four-inch space between the cover and the mixture for ventilation.

COVER THE TOP of the pit with a sheet of plywood to keep out the elements and critters, and weight down with rocks.

IN A FEW MONTHS and under the alfalfa layer you will have worm castings, which can be transferred to your garden beds. To harvest your worm castings wait until the worms are being fed are at one end of the pit. You can remove the castings from the opposite end of the pit. Replace the castings with the mix of 2/3 corrugated cardboard and 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, shredded newspaper, shredded leaves, a little crumbled aged or composted manure, and a cup or so of fine sand mixed with equal parts of wood ashes, and ground limestone. Cover with the 2-inch layer of damp shredded newspaper or cardboard mixed with straw.

INDOOR WORM BINS

COMPOST CAN BE MADE INDOORS by using wood, metal or plastic bins with lids. Special worm composting bins may be ordered through the mail, or you can easily make your own. Special worms are used in Vermicomposting: Eisenia foetida or Lumbricus rubellas, which can be ordered from worm farms, or some nurseries. Start with about a pound or worms, around 1000. They can multiply quickly, and the surplus can just be added to your summer garden, or given to friends.

BUILD OR BUY A BOX:

FOR TWO PEOPLE, a box 2′ x 2′ x 8″ deep, or so, wood, metal, or plastic, will suffice. For a larger family, make it 2′ x 3′ x 1′ deep. There should be some small ¼ ” holes in the bottom for drainage, and the box should be set on a tray with 1″ spacers between the tray and the box, for aeration and drainage. A garden shed would be a useful to hold all of your extra supplies and gardening tools.

LINE THE BOTTOM with shredded 1-inch strips of newspaper, inch wide strips of cardboard boxes, and peat moss. A mix of 2/3 corrugated cardboard and 1/3 sphagnum peat moss, or newspaper, is a good bedding mixture. You can also add shredded leaves and a little aged or composted manure, and a cup or so of fine sand, ashes, and limestone. Moisten the bedding, mix it well, and add the worms. Let it set for a few days before kitchen waste is added. Your worms will happily feed and make castings.

ADD KITCHEN WASTE every day or so, by burying it a few inches or so in the bedding mix in one end of the box. Kitchen waste can include: vegetable and fruit scraps, coffee grounds and the filters, tea bags, without the tags, any vegetable matter, bread scraps, dried and crushed eggshells, and small amounts of finely chopped meat scraps, garlic and onion.

COVER THE TOP of the compost bedding with a layer of damp newspapers, and a loosely fitting lid with holes for air. Every time you add waste, work your way to the other end of the box, so you will have about 8 or 9 different adding areas. When you get to the end of the box, start over at the other end. Worms will eat the bedding along with the scraps, and you may need to add more. Keep the bedding mix/scraps moistened, but not soggy wet. In a few months you will be ready to harvest your compost.

TO HARVEST COMPOST castings, follow the same procedures for gathering outdoor castings. Only add the castings to your garden beds, these special worms live indoors only.

“Worms seem to be the great promoters of vegetation, which would proceed but lamely without them, by boring, perforating, and loosening the soil, and rendering it pervious to rains and the fibers of plants, by drawing straws and stalks of leaves and twigs into it, and, most of all, by throwing up such infinite numbers of lumps of earth called worm-casts, which, being their excrement, is a fine manure for grain or grass.” The Rev. Gilbert White of Selborne, 1777

Resources for compost supplies

Home of the Organic Gardener Planet Natural Peaceful Valley Farm Supply Fertile Garden Harmony Farm Supply All Natures Safeway Extremely Green Gardening Company

Frank and Vicky Giannangelo
Copyright (c) 2008 Giannangelo Farms Southwest

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Organic Gardening With Compost – Using Compost For a Naturally Healthy Lawn and Garden

Posted by admin on September 23, 2010

‘Mature’ organic compost is a natural and simple choice for solving those problems. An application of ‘mature’ compost, along with periodic applications of compost tea, will improve the overall health & vigor of your landscape. It will also lower your overall maintenance & water requirements for the summer & thereafter. Compost is simply good for your family, lawn, & gardens.

Why use compost?

It’s simply the most natural choice available. Mature compost is safe for you and your family. It contains nothing unnatural or poisonous. Your garden & lawn will be safe for you, your children and your pets to use during and immediately after application. Compost improves your lawn & gardens’ drought tolerance and reduces watering requirements by improving the plant’s root systems and the soils’ ability to retain water. Mature compost can safely be applied around pools and applied directly into ponds, streams and rivers without risk to the environment. It also promotes & creates an environment in which birds & butterflies thrive. Your lawn & garden will have fewer weeds, insect pests or diseases. Compost allows the soil to gain strength naturally and the plants grown it will naturally thrive. Compost gives you healthier and more attractive soil, grass, trees & plants. You will need no synthetic chemical fertilizers or poisons. Co

Can using compost save me time, money & labor?

Yes! You will no longer need to bag the grass clippings or to remove thatch as compost aids in their rapid assimilation. The compost will also reduce the amount of water needed. Compost improves the heat and drought tolerance of your lawn & garden thus decreasing loss and replacement costs. Healthy plants simply require less maintenance. These facts alone save you much time, money and labor.

Does compost improve the heat and drought tolerance of my plants?

Yes! The organic materials in compost, in conjunction with the rhizobacteria and rhizofungi, naturally loosen and aerate the soil. This allows greater water & root penetration. The same combination works together to encapsulate and hold moisture in the soil by creating soil aggregates. Soil aggregates are a naturally occurring microcosmic system that rhizobacteria & rhizofungi produces in order to keep themselves from drying up and dying. The plant roots grow into these aggregates and are provided a natural reserve of nutrients and water that otherwise would have dissipated from the soil.

What is compost?

According to Webster’s dictionary “a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter and is used for fertilizing and conditioning land.” Properly composted material is heated by the decomposition process and does not have any weed seeds, nor, will it burn your plants as chemical fertilizers do.

Does compost smell bad?

No! not if it’s fully ‘matured’. We advise that you only use fully composted material. Fully composted, organic material smells like rich organic garden soil. If it smells like anything else, do not use it, as it is not mature and can cause harm to your lawn & garden. Not all composts are created equally and we suggest that you fully investigate the source of the supplier. Truly mature, “organic”, compost is totally safe & nontoxic to your family and the soil in which the plants grow.

What is Compost Tea?

A simple definition of compost tea is that it is a water extract of organic compost that is brewed in a similar way that your morning tea is made. It contains natural soluble nutrients and a great diversity of beneficial, bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes. It is a totally organic, living, synergistic microcosm that introduces renewed life to the soil and plants. From our many years of experience we’ve found that compost tea supercharges new compost applications.

How does compost/tea help to suppress disease causing bacteria and fungi?

The rhizobacteria (good bacteria) controls the growth of the “bad” bacteria by keeping the soil aerobic so that the ‘bad’ bacteria cannot live & prosper. Likewise the “good” fungi compete with the “bad” fungi and keep them under control as well. Healthy soil makes for healthy plants in the same way that healthy food makes for healthy people and animals.

What do beneficial bacteria do for plants?

Beneficial bacteria make essential soil mineral elements available to the plant by decomposing organic matter and improving the physical properties of the soil. Trees, flowers and lawns that have an abundance of rhizobacteria live longer, need little to no chemical treatment, as they suffer from very few disease problems.

How does compost/tea reduce thatch?

“Thatch” is simply a layer of dead un-decayed plant material. The rhizobacteria breaks down the thatch into organic humus that is then reintroduced naturally into the soil to feed the grass.

Why not use chemical fertilizers?

Synthetic chemicals sterilize the soil and make more and more applications of chemicals absolutely necessary. This is like putting your plants on continuous life support. They may stay barely alive, but they will never thrive. Your lawn & garden will suffer from continuous problems which will require more water, fungicides, herbicides, insecticides & ever greater amounts of fertilizer. It’s very important that you don’t use synthetic chemicals on your lawn or garden.

What about weeds?

Long term use of compost and compost tea while avoiding chemical fertilizers can prevent weeds naturally. According to Dr. Ingham of Soil Foodweb Inc.: “Weeds all require high levels of nitrates, so nitrogen fertilizer actually selects for weeds, If you drop your nitrates to less than 10 ppm, the weeds leave. When you have mycorrhizal fungi directly feeding plants, you can drop soil nitrate levels below that threshold level and thistle, johnson grass, and nightshade all disappear. If you have good calcium levels, you decrease the composites, because they can’t tolerate calcium. Next time you want to get rid of crabgrass, mix egg shells into the ground.” Reprinted from the Maine Organic Farmer and Gardener. Dr. Ingham Puts Soil Life to Work – Maine Organic Farmer ’99′

We also recommend periodic Corn Gluten meal applications. Corn gluten meal is a useful, natural, pre-emergent pesticide that works very well in controlling weeds and greatly compliments the usage of compost and compost tea.

What about insects?

Any naturally healthy environment has a great need of bio-diversity. Chemically treated gardens create an unnatural and imbalanced state. Using compost and compost tea instead of chemicals promotes natural bio-diversity and a subsequent growth of beneficial insect populations. The beneficial insects prey upon the harmful pests & naturally keep them from overwhelming the garden ecology. In urban settings, it’s often necessary to reintroduce beneficial insects into your lawn & garden from outside sources.

How long will it take to see results?

You can see results within two weeks after the first application of compost. Using a combination of compost & compost tea, we have seen results in as soon as four seven days during the growing season. Your lawn & garden will continue to improve each day thereafter as the soil becomes more alive. Even greater improvement will be noticed with additional compost and compost tea applications.

Conrad Cain is the President of Home & Garden Design, Inc.
Home & Garden Design supplies residential landscape design and installation and promotes naturally organic, lawn and garden reclamation in the Atlanta Georgia area. In conjunction with his life partner Danna Cain, ASLA landscape Architect, they have more than 50 years experience in the Green Industry. Their mutual creations have been featured in national & regional magazines, local garden tours and numerous feature articles. For additional Green Living information please visit: http://www.mygreennetwork.com and http://www.home-garden-design.com

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Why Home Composting is So Great!

Posted by admin on September 22, 2010

Have you heard of composting, but just aren’t sure what it means? Not sure why how compost can benefit you? If you haven’t started composting at home yet, now is the time! Home composting is more than just a growing trend among gardeners, it’s a great way to recycle your kitchen scraps and yard refuse into something you can use-compost!

So what is compost and why is it so beneficial? Compost is a fresh black material similar in appearance and texture to potting soil. It is produced naturally when organic material breaks down and decays (a process also known as composting). The resulting compost is rich in nutrients that plants love, making it one of the best types of fertilizer you can use. Compost, also known as black gold, can be tilled into the soil before trees, shrubs, or other plants are planted. It can also be applied to the soil around existing plants. Compost will help plants grow bigger, faster, and stronger than you ever thought possible.

Better yet, composting is a way to recycle! We all know that recycling is the right thing to do. The more items we can keep out of our landfills, the better. And after all, why throw away things that you can turn into valuable compost? Simple things like vegetable peelings, dead leaves from your trees, and plant clippings can all be turned into compost. It just makes sense to recycle these things into compost rather than throwing them away.

So how do you get started with home composting? Well, first you need to decide what type of composting you want to do. There are two basic types of composting, aerobic and anaerobic. Anaerobic composting refers to methods such as a compost pile. Compost piles are one of the easiest methods of composting. They require little effort and virtually no maintenance. Simply pick a spot in your yard (preferably far away from your house; keep reading and we’ll explain why) and begin a pile of the organic materials to be composted. Sounds easy, right? While anaerobic composting is easy, there are also some downsides. First is the length of time required. The microbes that break materials down in anaerobic composting are very inefficient. When you pile things up in a compost pile, it can take several years for them to fully break down and become finished compost. The second problem is the odor produced. Many people think of composting as a smelly process, and when it comes to anaerobic composting, they are correct. Anaerobic bacteria produce methane and sulfate gasses as a byproduct of the composting process, and these are gasses that we find very offensive and smelly.

Aerobic composting, on the other hand, is an entirely different process. Just like the name would suggest, aerobic composting requires oxygen, meaning that the organic materials being broken down must be aerated regularly. A compost pile can be mixed and turned regularly to encourage aerobic bacteria; however, this is often a difficult and labor-intense process. The easiest way to compost materials aerobically is to buy a compost tumbler. Compost tumbler bins are designed to be rotated, so that the aerobic microbes get the oxygen they need to create finished compost. In contrast to anaerobic bacteria, aerobic microbes are very efficient and quick. A compost tumbler, under the right temperature and moisture conditions, can usually produce finished compost within about 6 weeks. Even better yet, aerobic bacteria do not produce smelly gasses like anaerobic bacteria, meaning that aerobic composting is a virtually odorless process. Compost tumbler bins can be easily purchased through many online and mail order stores.

No matter what type of composting you decide on, home composting is still a great idea. Not only is composting good for the earth, it’s also great for your plants and garden. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of turning garbage and yard waste into something really valuable that you can use. Home composting isn’t just for master gardeners anymore, so what are you waiting for? Start composting today!

Visit Home Products ‘n’ More for more information on home composter units. We also offer free shipping on compost tumbler bins!

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Basics of Compost and Composting In Gardening

Posted by admin on September 21, 2010

Compost is a term derived from the French term ‘componere’. For those who are not much aware of the gardening basics, compost is a mix of decayed matter that is mostly used for the purpose of conditioning and fertilizing. Organic matter is forms the raw matter of the composting process. With time, it breaks down and forms what is known as humus composting.

The essential ingredients are: moisture, organic waste, bacteria and oxygen. Following the formation of the compost, the ground should be covered at about three to four inches height. Then the soil should be plowed well to make sure that it has been absorbed by the soil.

If you want to make garden compost at home, there are several ways out. Firstly, get hold of a bin and then accumulate all the vegetables and fruits that you have kept aside to dump in the bin. You may also put in the eggshells and vegetable and fruit peels. Upon your discretion, you may also put in weeds, grass, dead leaves, straw and such other materials. The process is even better if the above materials are shredded before putting them into the bin.

Always make sure that you use materials that pace up the process only with the help of sufficient air and water. If you diligently follow what has been mentioned above, then within a span of two to five months, you can have the compost mix ready.

What forms the best part about the compost is that they are very good for the health of the soil as they are believed to be very rich in nutrients. Composts can be used on a variety of soil. Gardeners prefer clay soil with compost as it helps them to maintain a luxurious garden where they can grow a variety of fruits and vegetables.

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