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Backyard Composting

Discussion in 'Organic Growing' started by jerry111165, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. @poppybgood

    Yes, it has been a good while. Pop in more often!

    BTW, that small, really broken down pile is exactly what you want for worm bedding. At least that's where I find the worms in my pile. Not so much where the leaves still look like leaves.

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  2. @jerry111165
    Besides being the king of comfrey, am I remembering correctly that you use leaf mold instead of peat? If so, do you lime it?
  3. Yes on the leaf mold instead of peat - leaf mold is just an incredible gardening tool. It holds several times its weight in water yet drains perfectly without the need for additional drainage amendments. You can take a big pot of pure leaf mold, pour lots and lots of water through it and
    It will stay fluffy and aerated. it’s a perfect haven for both fungus and bacteria and the worms love and thrive in it.

    It’s also free. Free. Win/win, right? At least for us in the deciduous forest regions, every fall you can collect as much as you want for the labor
    Of doing so. You need to do it every season, though, because in order for it to reach its desired consistency it usually takes 3 years to break down into the black fluffy material you’re looking for - but if you can get past those first several years and then continue to keep making new heaps each Fall then you’ve got a rotation that allows you to have new batches each year.

    We also use lots and lots of leaves in the big veggie garden too and I’m totally convinced that the leaves are 90% of the reason for our success. We just keep dumping huge piles of leaves on the vegetable garden each fall - at least a foot deep and hopefully a couple feet deep - it’s that easy. We get snow here every year which compacts the leaves down. In the Spring when we want to plant our vegetables we just pull the leaves back from the planting spot, plant the seed or seedling and push the leaves back around the spot. This does several things - first, it keeps us from having to water the garden because of the water holding capabilities of the leaves and because the thick layer keeps the soil from drying out. It can be a hundred degrees out for a week straight and if I pull the thick mat of leaves back anywhere in the garden the moisture is at a perfect level. If the leaves weren’t there I would have to water constantly but instead I almost never have to.

    The worms also love it - in a big way. It’s like having a 50’x50’ worm bin. When you pull the leaf mat back you’ll see incredible amounts of worms swarming to the breaking-down leaves. We all know how great the worms are - creating pathways throughout the soil for both moisture and nutrients to pass through and at the same time feeding the garden with their castings. Many times when you pull the leaves back you’ll see not only hundreds of worms but also a thick layer of castings - the absolutely gentlest and best fertilizer you could ever give your garden.

    Last but certainly not least!!!! - weed control! By having the thick mat of leaves over the garden you’ve effectively created a barrier that blocks light and now keeps weeds from growing. I am a very busy guy with my job and family, I’m sure like the rest of you, and the very last thing I want to do is to spend my free time pulling weeds. I won’t friggin do it. Now, it won’t stop them all but I bet it stops most - and the ones that do take hold are very easy to pull because the soil is so springy.

    Without tilling. But that’s another story. It took me years and years to add enough OM to my
    “Soil” (pure beach sand) before I was able to
    Stop tilling - but now we never till anymore. We don’t need to.

    I’m getting off topic with the vegetable garden.

    By the way - I only keep a half dozen Comfrey plants, but these six plants give me so much leaf material it’s ridiculous. I keep them right in the vegetable garden so that I can use it around plants as needed. Each of these plants will grow oh, around 3’ high but I bet they’re 4’ wide around the base. “Field Kelp”. They’re in full sun from dawn to dusk and it’s just crazy how fast and huge these plants grow. With you being able to harvest these plants - cutting them right down to ground level, 3 times a year you can imagine how much material you’re able to harvest each year. If I had more than these six it would be a waste.

    Lime? I’ve done it both ways - with lime and without and it doesn’t seem to make a difference one way or another. I’ve mixed up the type and quantity of soil amendments and that doesn’t seem to matter either. Here is the real deal - Take a big heap of leaf mold, mix in all your household scraps (compost) for a season, mix in a huge amount of Comfrey and you’ve got as good of a “potting soil” as could be made by anyone. I am partial to using chicken manure pellets but often that’s the only soil amendment I’ll buy. Sometimes I don’t even do that.

    To answer the question as to whether Lime is actually necessary? Imagine a great big heap of well matured leaf mold - now add a mess of household scraps over a season but also take that big heap of leaf mold and layer it with loads of Comfrey... several inches of leaf mold/compost, several inches of Comfrey, several more inches of leaf mold/compost, more Comfrey and on and on... the Comfrey has all but disappeared in just a few weeks and it’s ready for use.

    Do you think that this heap needs ANYTHING else to grow large, vigorous, very healthy plants?

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  4. That sounds amazing @jerry111165!! Simple and pure. Really need to up my leaf collecting game!!
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  5. Thanks Jerry. I have been making leaf mold for several years now. I had only been using it as bedding for worm bins, or for filling in big holes where I have planted comfrey and other new plants (thanks by the way, once I got the comfrey in big 20 gal holes full of leaf mold, there was a night and day difference). I am just now running leaf mold in place of peat. I am using aeration, mostly bark fines with a small amount of rice hulls. It is definitely a little different with watering etc, but man, I am having the best results with zero added amendments. I have never seen veg growth quite this prolific ever. I kind of figured lime would be optional, but I really wanted to chat with someone who has been using leaf mold for a while with great results. (That would be YOU). I have been in the practice of shredding all my leaves and adding some composted chicken manure. I have been able to get my leaf mold to finish in about a year, (which is awesome). All the rain and snow seem to really help speed it along.
    Thanks again for the tips. My goal is to be able to just keep using leaf mold and compost, and never having to buy peat again. There is just something about making it all yourself that gives me a huge amount of satisfaction. It's like the difference between catching the fish you eat and tying the fly, building the rod, and catching the fish you eat.
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  6. My leaf mold piles have broke down into that fluffy black stuff within a year, we get a lot of rain every week but im assuming because its mostly maple leaves and I keep the oak leaves out.
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  7. I live in a Rain Forest, the rain is huge in helping to break things down quickly. My leaf mold typically takes a year as well. (Half oh that year it is frozen into a block.) The fungus loves it damp!
    Just curious, did you shred your leaves first. That has been a real game changer for me, with respect to making leaf mold quickly.
    Cheers and keep on making Leaf Mold!
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  8. Even though the snow is still several feet deep here, I dug out my compost and leaf mold piles. I sprinkled the tops of the piles with bio char and covered them in clear plastic. You can never start helping the thaw process to early. Now that the sun is up, gotta use it to my advantage. I am also hoping to be able to scrape 10 or so gallons off the piles in a couple weeks, my stock bin for making vmc is empty. Gotta keep the ball bouncing!
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  9. I'm in So Cal, CA.
    My girlfriend had two composing bins when I met her.. However, they were in the shade all day, and they were cold (Ventura, CA).
    They had all sorts of unsprouted seeds, fly larvae, beetles, and what-not. They were soggy, cold, and compacted.
    I moved the bins into the sun, worked-in some oak leaf mold and some inert material like perlite, sand, or pumice....and they transformed into usable compost. There is a reason these bins are black... to attract heat from the sun.
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  10. I just picked up 2 scoops of compost from a local nursery, they said it is made with manure, leaves, and gin trash. Now what concerns me is the gin trash because I know they spray certain chemicals on the cotton. But from my research it is all biodegradable within a few weeks. The compost has reached proper temperatures and has been piled up for over a month after the composting process. It looks and smells great, the best compost I've seen in person besides my compost and vermicompost. Would yall be worried about using it? I'm gonna use it in my flower beds but I wanna wait for someone to chime in before I use it in my veggie garden. Thanks guys!
  11. This isn't a direct answer by any means, but I have seen cotton seed meal as a soil amendment, sold by DTE. Their web site may have some info about how its handled or info that may put you in the right direction. I have never lived in a cotton growing region so I know nothing first hand about cotton farming and pesticides.
    Sounds like potentially really good stuff though, nice find.
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  12. #1912 observeimpartially, Apr 13, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2018
    1.jpg 2.jpg 3.jpg Hello Jerry and all,
    As you can tell from my profile photo, I like to compost leaves too. Thank you Jerry!
    I am still new to composting, I read through a lot of this thread. I think I know the answer to my question but thought to run my current state process by you. I have the leaf piles but I just bought this used Jora and decided to try to accelerate the leaf composting.

    I put 1 year old compost and Chaffhaye Alfalfa into the Jora but it's not really heating up much. If my Comfrey, Nettles, Yarrow, Borage were already up I would put some in but they are not. I have alfalfa & chicken manure pellets in abundance. Would that be something I can add to heat it up? Thanks folks for the help.

  13. I know you asked Jerry but I think I can help. The alfalfa needs to get good and wet, then it will heat up. I mean really heat up! It looks like you have the browns covered perfectly. Just wet it real good and make sure you have plenty of air flow. The alfalfa is powerful stuff once its wet. Last fall I chopped mine up in the lawn mower before wetting it and putting it in the pile, it was amazing how hot it gets.
    I like your leaf unit. It cries out to me to become a worm bin!
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  14. Thanks Sinse - there are some well placed air holes on the side of the unit, and it tumbles with little effort. Isn't the goal of these units to heat them up to 140f or something to kill whatever? lol.. Serious question though. Not quite ready to turn it into a worm bin, I have a tower unit in my veg room that's keeping up.
    Cheers Since and Thank you
  15. Don't laugh but it looked very Bear resistant and secure. That's the part that caught my eye.
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  16. Jora made in Sweden, they’re meant to be able to compost in the middle of winter. The insulation is 4” thick. You can lock them up from pesky thief’s or bears. They cost new about $320 for 37 gallon not delivered. I looked for one used for about a month on Craig’s list. Finally just did a random google search and got a hit on FB market place (ugg) had to make an account, drive 1.5 hrs but for $125, can’t go wrong. It’s the number 1 composter, it holds its value. I would have paid up to $150-170 easy. If you find one grab it.
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  17. Hey fellas. I just had a couple quick questions for ya.

    Just starting a 5 gallon bucket worm bin, just curious at how many worms I should order for it and if its ok to throw any/all food scraps into it? Not sure if theres certain foods that is a no no for worms, might be a dumb question lol but you never know
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  18. You could probably start off with a 100 worms and the population will adjust based on the conditions you provide. Food and Temperature. I typically set-up a bedding of peat moss or shredded (clean paper), then add a thick layer of compost (Coast of Maine, Leaf mold or a combination), then feed them cannabis leaves, comfrey, melon rinds, broccoli, lettuce leaves and for an occasional treat oat meal or malted barley ground up. They like to have a little grit in their mix so i will add a little green sand, volcanic rock and even ground up egg shells.[​IMG]
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  19. #1919 observeimpartially, Apr 16, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2018
    If their numbers get to great they will compete with the worms for the food in bin, and also in mid summer they can overheat the bins.
  20. #1920 observeimpartially, Apr 17, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2018
    75BA71ED-32EF-4FA9-8521-1297A5C098ED.jpeg Here are three pots in different stages of cycling.

    Square container just finished flowering, cut the plant at its base root Ball is in tact, all the trimmings went on top, then layers of ewc, vmc, with worms. I add a little MBP as a sweatner. My worms don’t seem to eat the cannabis as vigorously like other foods the MBP moves it along. Once it composts, I’ll plant a cover of clover with a few fenugreek seeds.

    The next middle pot I let sit too long so it was completely dry, I soaked it and once the soil bounced back I seeded with buckwheat, this will provide mulch for top dressing and I’ll probably just plant in it since I need the container.

    The last largest container had been sitting idle for a few months, mulched with compost, ewc, vmc, added worms during the mulch layer. It took about 30 days for it to cycle back, it’s now ready for a transplant.

    This is how I work my smaller containers. I direct seed my 30 gallons and 22 gallon ones and never let those dry out. The bigger pots are my main growing containers.

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