weterman
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What can I use for compost?

Can I leave dead plants in my garden, and will it work as compost? Could I throw rotting fruit in there too? How does composting work really?

tomc
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Re: What can I use for compost?

If it was alive you can pile it into a bin, it will rot and become compost. Trench composting involves digging a shallow trench and not adding meats or fats to the trench, because it attracts vermin like your neighbors dog...
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weterman
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Re: What can I use for compost?

tomc wrote:If it was alive you can pile it into a bin, it will rot and become compost. Trench composting involves digging a shallow trench and not adding meats or fats to the trench, because it attracts vermin like your neighbors dog...
could i just leave it in my garden, and will it turn to compost after snow sits on it?

and will dead dry plants work, and will dead green plants work?

Northernfox
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Re: What can I use for compost?

It would probably be best if you at least pulled the plants and piled them somewhere. or buried them. Burying them and laying paper products on top allows the worms to do their business and keeps your beds healthy!

Good luck!
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Re: What can I use for compost?

All good suggestions. I would like to add Chop and Drop mulching to the list. Don't pull the plants, but leave the roots in the ground to decompose. Place the top portion around other plants as mulch.

Eric

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Re: What can I use for compost?

"Compost" is a specific term that, at leaat in the U.S., describes the plant material that has been broken down by certain process, so I don't think vegetation that stand around through the winter to be weathered and basically dry rot can be called "compost" though they will eventually return to earth. (BTW bagged potting soil/mix is called "compost" in the U.K. and presumably other British English speaking countries.)

Sometimes, pest bugs overwinter in the stalk or in the ground under or near where the plant was grown. So if you are not composting in a pile, (chopping up and) using the plant material as mulch for a different plant that won't be bothered by the bug and planting the same plant elsewhere in the garden (crop rotation) is a better idea than to leave them standing. Also, close contact with the soil/ground promotes their breakdown because it provides access to all the ground detrivores/microbes and keeps the debris moist(er) which encourages and nourishes their activity.

That's why mechanically tilling in the plant debris and residue in place -- which chops up the material, especially stalks, disturbs the soil and exposes hibernating phases of pests, and incorporates the debris into the soil is successful. Tilling has its detriments and no-till methods have other advantages. ...I agree with Eric about benefits of leaving the roots undisturbed in the ground.:wink: -- It's something to think about.

It depends on the plant and likely pests so it's also a good idea to learn about garden pests their life cycle in your area.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: What can I use for compost?

"Leave dead plants in the garden" You mean standing? You mean pulled/chopped and lying where they were? You mean pulled/chopped and piled somewhere?

Dead plants will break down eventually in any of those scenarios, over different lengths of time. Only the last one approaches what I mean by composting.

Composting - the art of producing finished compost in a compost pile - is a process that requires air, a certain amount of water, "green" (soft, moist nitrogen rich ) organic materials, and "brown" (hard, dry, carbon rich) organic materials, all mixed together.

Browse around this Composting Forum, there's lots of good info here.

Your weeds and dead plants AND rotting fruit are all "greens." To make a true compost pile, it would need to have "browns" added -- fall leaves, shredded paper/cardboard, sawdust, etc.

If you made a pile with just plants and rotting fruit, you risk having a slimy, bug and vermin attracting mess.

And just leaving dead plants and garden debris in the garden, risks as Applestar noted, providing a great over-wintering home for a whole variety of garden pests.

The process works much better with greens and browns piled together and the finished product ( "compost") is much better - a complete substance, with all the nutrients required for plants, with a very nice texture, tht helps hold moisture in the soil.
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Re: What can I use for compost?

If you run the Wayback machine to the dawn of modern composting, English missionaries popularized the "Indore process" in the Indian sub-continent, of mostly piled cow manure.

In that day dried cow manure was a significant source of fuel for cooking. There was a fair amount of resistance, and only after that did yard waste make into the pile. Compost has ever been (for at least as long as I have known about it) a pile or trench filled with decaying (and occasionally chopped or shredded) yard and people food waste with some added manure.

If you want it to rot down into fertilizer faster than it'll grow back the next year, you've got to at least knock it down.

Um and maybe steal a few thousand bags of your neighbors autumnal leaves to toss on the pile.
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evtubbergh
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Re: What can I use for compost?

YES
vegetables
fruit
any part thereof like peels, leaves etc.
leaves
twigs
entire plants pulled from the garden
flowers (all the bunches my husband buys me)
sweepings
eggshells
food like flour, bread, pasta, rice
eggboxes
newspaper
manure
straw
microbial compost additives
earthworms (although they will find their way in)

NO
meat
bones
cheese and any milk products
any oil or fat
grass (although it does make good compost with extra long decomposition so we make a separate pile)

We throw everything in the bin and just leave it. Then one day we're cleaning up and we turn it out and voila, black goodness! If you use a bin then if you catch the stuff that drains off use it in the garden too. Make sure you have holes either way to allow drainage and to allow worms to get in.

You can trench with uncomposted material; dig a trench, place in material and cover up with soil. Use the trenches weeks to months later (depends on temperature) to plant.

Then finally you can leave the roots of brassicas and legumes in the ground and either compost the tops or dig back into the ground. They fix nitrogen in partnership with bacteria and are very good for your soil. Green manure crops like legumes also aerate the soil and provide pathways for water. This is especially good if you don't till. It's like natural tiling!

Google these:
green compost
brown compost
green manure

toxcrusadr
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Re: What can I use for compost?

If you have heavy clay soil, it's good to keep it covered with something. If you don't have clay, ignore this.

In the garden, once you pull everything up, winter rain and dry wind will pound on the soil. In spring, the hot sun will dry it out faster. I started making piles (or layers) of leaves, grass, fall cleanup debris, etc. on my garden beds. By late spring (May around here), areas that were mulched over during winter were moist and fluffy. Adjacent areas not mulched had been pounded by spring rains and the hot sun and were an inch lower, hard and dry.

It's a tradeoff with 'providing overwintering habitat for pests". All depends on your situation.
Tox

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