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WOW ! Could I be hurting my soil?

I have been reading for over an hour now about composting. It almost scares me. I have been gardening for about 40 year, and composting(or what I thought to be composting) for about 30 of those. My vegetable garden was once a very heavy clay area. It is so much better now. I can actually weed and pull carrots instead of digging. I tell others it's all from composting and mulching. However all I have is two 8ft diameter circles of hog panel wire, that I alternate. One is the one I am using while the other one I am building. I throw most all yard waste, raw Kitchen waste(no meat),and some wood ash on it in no paticular order. I seldom remember to turn it, and have never watered it or covered it. It is in the shade predominately. I have never tested it, so could I be hurting my soil? I just took 30 more wheel barrows of black compost out . Looks and smells great. I have several perrenial borders, islands , herb gardens besides the vege gardens. They have all been treated the same way. My gardens look better than others in our small community.

Greener Thumb
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Joined: Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:00 pm
Location: Austin, TX

So... How could you be hurting your soil? Is grass dying? Is anything going bad? If everything is growing, and better than others, and nothing is dying, then I could see no reason why it's hurting your soil. In fact, it's probably helping it, as your adding more nutrients to the soil. I every once in a while take a bunch of good compost, and very llightly spread it over the yard and it loves it. It's great to do in fall when our grass is dead anyways, the next spring the grass grows up strong and withstands the heat better. My parents have done it for about 10 years, and if it weren't for suspected chemical dumping when their housing development was built(some spots next to the house won't grow anything and soil test show absolutely no nutrition in the dirt) they have a lush lawn every time, until severe droughts like this year, now it's just a little brown in some spots.

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Joined: Sat Aug 01, 2009 9:53 pm
Location: Southern California

There's a saying:
"Compost happens."
If you turn and water your compost weekly, you'll have nice compost in about a month. If you just leave it there in the shade without paying any attention to it, then you'll have compost in 6 months.

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Wow! 30 wheel barrows full of compost! Amazing. Clearly you are doing everything right and building beautiful rich organic soil. If you've read any of my posts on composting, you know I'm a believer in the KISS method (Keep It Simple) ... I pile yard waste, fall leaves, kitchen wastes in a wire bin. I turn it over 3 times a year when I want to get to the finished compost at the bottom, making the top stuff into the bottom of a new pile. Just did that over the weekend. Never turn it in between. I don't cover it. I do water it if conditions are dry, which means never this season.

Works great! When I turned it over this weekend the stuff at the bottom was actually steaming! That doesn't usually happen for me. But between the fact that last fall I brought home bags of other people's leaves so I had a better balance of green and brown and the fact that we've had so much rain so the pile stayed moist, it heated up more than usual. But even without that, my usual warmish but not hot pile breaks everything down just fine...

Don't get too concerned about the people that make it sound like rocket science. There's a ton of biochemistry going on in our digestive systems too, but we don't need to do much to make it all work! :)

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Greener Thumb
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Location: wnc - zones 6/7 line

i think the story is that while composting CAN be a pretty exacting thing, it doesn't need to be at all. you've got proof!

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Greener Thumb
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What you're doing is exactly what an old Nebraska farmer friend taught me to do. It worked for her on the farm, and it works for me. I do try to layer it, but if I have some organic material that doesn't match the next scheduled layer, as happens when I prune my tomatoes, I just chuck in on anyway, rather than set it to the side until I have some browns. I did find out one year that I had skimped on soil. At winter's end I had mostly decayed vegetation and not much of it :)
"Imagination is more important than knowledge." -- Albert Einstein

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Green Thumb
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Location: St. Louis, MO Metro area

The only way I could see it hurting your soil is if you put many diseased plants in your pile. But I've only read that it can be transferred though compost in theory. I've never actually heard someone say they put a sick tomato plant in one fall and used that compost and it made all their other tomato plants sick. So if your soil looks good and your plants are happy then how can you be doing anything wrong? It's what mother nature does.

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Location: Ventura County, CA, Sunset 23

It's what works for you

Composting or the bio-remediation of various organics, can be as elaborate and laborious as you like or as simple and as lazy as I like.

Key is what works for you. If you get the compost you need and digest the stuff on hand, what's not to like? Don't let the process change your life style. Change the process to suit your lifestyle.

If you've got worrisome ingredients to digest, like eucalyptus or nightshades, just follow the 10 percent rule and you shouldn't get into any trouble.

I have two kinds of bins. I've got smaller hot bins I tend to work and get stuff in a couple of months or so and I have larger slow and cold bins on two year cycles. The cold bins are just add, cover with leaves and grass clippings and water. The hot bins are ideally turned once a week. Cold bins require more space dedicated over a long period of time and hot bins require more work.

You could get even lazier than I do or turn hot bins every 4 to 5 days and monitor temperatures while measuring the exact optimal mix of ingredients and go out get the best ingredients.

Whatever works. It'll come. Don't stress it.

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