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A garden is only as good as the ground that it's planted in. Discussion forum for the many ways to improve the soil where we plant our gardens.

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Old February 22, 2006   #1
TomatoDon
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I propose this for a new category with M, because so many people refer to it, and it is such an integral part of gardening.

I've used compost, but none that I've made. I see these huge piles of it on the net, but where does all that bulk come from? Sure, I think it would be easy to toss out the left-over veggies from dinner into it, but where does the bulk of it come from?

I get cotton gin trash free from the gin, and my neighbors bag up hundreds of trash bags of leaves a year it seems. My fave would be the duff from the woods, and that stuff is light and surely filled with decaying leaves. But that would take an army to do.

Oh, well, it's time to sign off for a bit. I just heard the workman's truck drive up. I have a new neighbor, a Vietnamese lady, and she is adding a room to her house. Her name is Tu, and I like to watch what she does, day or night. Our local handyman has these lights he uses at night to do the work. He works all day and night and loves it. His wife works at an insurance agency by day, and mows grass in her off time. She rides all over town on that John Deere mower. She'll drive it to the cafe for lunch. I've seen it. Our mayor is a painter and grass mower, too. The previous mayor was the newspaper boy.

As I said in an earlier post, I live in Mayberry. PV and MissMudcat, you know what I mean. And all I say is true. When I tell you it is. And this is true. I think they are fixing to cut an air conditioner hole, so I better get on the porch and watch. Would hate to miss that.

Don

Now what about building a compost pile?
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Old February 22, 2006   #2
Miss_Mudcat
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Hi Don!

I've been making my own compost for about 4 years. The problem I find is that I just can't possibly make enough. When I had a small garden, I couldn't make enough; and now that I have a very large garden, I certainly can't make enough.

I have about 10 acres of hardwoods and a small army (of 4 children). They rake lots of leaves into the garden where it gets tilled in. I have a small flock of hens, which provides manure. Our large family eats TONS of fresh fruits and veggies, so we have lots of kitchen scraps. We purchase 50 bales of straw each year for banking our chicken coop, providing nesting material, and a backdrop for our shooting range. It gets spoiled out in the elements but provides plenty of carbon material. Yet it is still not enough. I have these GIANT piles of stuff composting, which I turn every 2 months, weather permiting... and OH does it smell SWEET! I just wish I could figure out a way to make more of the good stuff.

Lisa
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Old February 23, 2006   #3
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I simply put bedding straw from the chicken coop with some chicken poop with it, on the lawn. Then run over the lot with the mower. It mixes and shreds the straw, grass clippings and poop up together. Into the compost bin and after a few beers I add a bit of human compost accelerator.
I turn it every week or so until it is broken down and smells right.
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Old February 23, 2006   #4
TomatoDon
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I thought hay/wheatstraw would be a good base for the bulk of it. My brother is a cattle farmer and has all these rotten stacks of "round bales" (the big ones, taller than a truck, and bigger as well, for all you non-cattle farmers). When I was field trialing I had horses, and Pappy, the tomato man I mentioned earlier, would come and clean out the barn stalls for (what I know now) was the fine mix of decayed straw, feed, and manure.

I never got into the compost thing, maybe because I thought I had enough of it already in rotten hay, horse stuff, gin trash, and other. It's all free and plentiful here, and even though I've always been keenly interested in true composting, I've just never done it the way they say to do it. Therefore, I ask.

Don
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Zip Code E I E I O

PS. Just came in off the porch. It's nearly 11 pm and they are still working on the new room across the street. Now, he has his helper, in a black truck, and they leave it running with the lights on to see how to work. This is better than Hooterville. In more ways than one.
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Old February 23, 2006   #5
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The clock just tolled 12 times. The lights are still running next door. Still working on the addition. Best thing I've seen since markferon.

D
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Old February 23, 2006   #6
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LOL Don.. You can go and talk to Mark/Mat here if you like. Its his group at Yahoo. He is registered there as markferon and at least 6 of his GW aliases LOL

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/gianttomatogrowing
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Old February 23, 2006   #7
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Nice compost pile. Without the addition of organic matter in some form it is practically impossible to meet with any success in the garden. Compost can be made at home or purchased at garden stores or compost centers in most cities though you will never know the actual ingredients that went into making the compost. A very simple form of composting that works for most people is sheet composting. It is not difficult. In the fall you collect shredded leaves, cow or horse manure, grass clippings or whatever is available. Spread it over you garden in an up to 6 inch layer and then till it into the top 6 inches of your soil. By spring, when it is time to plant, it will be broken down into unrecognizable organic matter and ready to go with one more tilling. This is the basics. You can get into carbon/nitrogen ratios but most people get lost there. The basics will work.
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Old February 23, 2006   #8
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Very good looking compost pile. I never got that fancy. I still have a dump truck load of gin trash, but I do need to start a compost pile from grass cuttings and leaves from the neighbors here. A true compost bed is the one thing most good gardeners have that I never did. Time to get started.

Don
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Old February 23, 2006   #9
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Starbucks coffee has a program called Grounds to Gardens. They have big bags of coffee grounds that you can pick up for free. It is a good addition to your compost. Call ahead to see if they have them.-Rena
PS Does Mayberry have a Starbucks
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Old February 23, 2006   #10
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No, IMissColo: We don't have a Starbucks yet. Maybe next century. I have to drive to Memphis for that. But the local handyman is back at my new Vietnamese lady neighbor's house, working on her addition again tonight, again with headlights. They have the door in now, and are still working on the air conditioner hole.

In my early fishing days I had a worm bed, very much like a tomato bed, and I fed them coffee grounds. The worms loved it. Big, fat wigglers. What's good for worms has got to be good for tomatoes. Your post brought that back to mind. Thanks.

Let me go see what the handyman is now doing to the house next door. Sometimes I have to slap myself to really believe all this. I was in an highly cultured, affluent town (Oxford, MS...home to Ole Miss) before this and moved back home a few years ago. I learned, as they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. My 91 year old neighbor up the other end of the street looks the same as he did in the HS yearbook in 1971 when he was Superintendent. He was a wide receiver in college. Made a much better Superintendent, as I hear.

Don
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ZIP CODE: E I E I O
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Old February 23, 2006   #11
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Don:
I have been making my own compost for about 10-12 years. The BEST I've made by far is from using chopped up, green corn stalks from my garden right after I pull the corn.

Here is what I do at sometime during the early summer:

I build my pile in a 4' X 8' bin that's about 3 feet tall. It was made from landscape timbers stacked so that there is a timber-sized gap between each neighboring piece. Ends on the side pieces, then side pieces stacked on the end pieces, and so on all the way up. Each corner is held in place with a steel rod that fits through a hole I drilled at the end of each timber.

I put some old limbs on the very bottom so air can circulate a little beneath the pile. Then I alternate 6" of wheat straw (very good because its porous for air circulation) or dry leaves, 6" grass clippings (here's where my corn stalks came in), then spread on 2" or so of garden soil. Wet each layer as you put them on. Don't saturate it, but do get everything moist. The more things are shredded, the better, but it will be harder to wet. If you really want to jump start it, put about 1/2 a beer and 1/2 of a regular Coke in a hose end sprayer, dial it it up to a few oz per gallon, and use that to moisten your layers.

In about 2 days stick your hand in about 6" into the pile and see if you can hold it there. My bet is that you won't for long. :wink:

It's usable within months in my and your climate, but I usually don't use mine until the following spring. There are usually thousands of earth worms in mine. No fooling. It also helps if you can turn it to get the outside to the inside. I usually pick a rainy day in the fall to take everything out with a pitchfork and put it on a large tarp, then pile it back in with some more water if it needs it. After this I put green grass clippings right on top for maybe a foot or two. They quickly heat up and then dry out giving me a 'thatch' roof over the pile to keep it from getting waterlogged during the winter. It will only get better as it ages, but I usually use all of it every spring.

My 0.02...
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Old February 23, 2006   #12
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For those interested in the Moon cycles and composting ; what I call loosely biodynamic activity, I have outlined my method and the timing for composting on my new blog. Right now is good to get a heap started. http://cosmicgardening.blogspot.com/

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Old February 23, 2006   #13
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The last two posts were fascinating, and so greatly appreciated! Now, let me go back and digest them fully!

Thanks guys! Read and re-read. Learn and learn. Composting and biodynamics are just two fields I haven't explored fully yet.

Don
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