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rainbowgardener
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Re: Composting way less for more? Solution for everything?

Glad you discovered Dr. Ingham! She is a well known and somewhat controversial figure. She and her followers seem to have figured out how to game Google. When you do a Google search on Elaine Ingham, the results that come up, three pages deep (as far as I looked) are all from her, her Institute, her followers and fans, with no other viewpoints represented. The Wiki article about her is a nothing, lists the posts she has held and the books published, period.

I am an organic/ natural gardener and I believe very much of what Ingham has said. If you check our book discussion section, here viewforum.php?f=43 we did an extensive review of Jeff Lowenfels - Wayne Lewis book "Teaming with Microbes," which is all about the soil web of life. I do grow all of my plants with no synthetic fertilizers, only compost, compost tea AND mulch. I think Dr Ingham with her insistence that the soil feeds itself through the actions of microbial life doesn't pay enough attention to mulch. You should read Ruth Stout's no work gardening books (out of print but available on line) for a different perspective about growing everything heavily mulched. Both of them agree that tilling is very destructive. Mulch holds moisture in the soil, which Ingham agrees is very important to keep the microbes functioning. But also as it breaks down mulch adds more nutrients to the soil.

Where I part company with Ingham is the idea that once you have helped set up a functioning microbial web in the soil, you can quit adding nutrients. Sorry, but everything you grow takes nutrients out of the soil. Yes, the microbial life can continue to create some nutrients by breaking down mineral elements in the soil, but there is a limit to the quality and quantity that can be produced that way. Ultimately, it will need more inputs. Personally, I am constantly adding mulch and compost to my soil.

In nature, everything is a cycle, born/sprouted, grow, die, become compost. But in the natural cycle nothing is removed. The food that is grown in one location is eaten and pooped back out in the same location and the creatures that ate the food die and are composted in that location. We do not have a system like that. I try to make my backyard as much a closed loop as I can. But still that means that everything I grow is either eaten or returned to the soil (unfortunately, I don't have a composting toilet to help complete the loop!). That means all the organic wastes are either composted or mulched and returned to the soil. That is necessary to keep the cycle going. Without continually adding the compost and mulch back to the soil, you don't have a loop any more, you have an outflow that will eventually be exhausted.

She and her followers are true believers who think they have the one truth. I am always suspicious of that.
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PaulF
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Re: Composting way less for more? Solution for everything?

Composting is great...if done correctly. Not everyone is able to get compost piles up to the correct temperatures for a proper break-down. Composting is one component, an important one, to good soil management and successful gardening. Like rainbow just stated, more inputs are required for a balanced approach. Each soil is different and a soil test will let you know what is needed and whether compost only will be enough.

I do add sulphur for a pH adjustment, while other soils will need lime. Both are organic materials and necessary in certain cases. I also need nitrogen and that I apply as needed. There is no one way to grow a garden and I, too, am suspicious of those who say that.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Composting way less for more? Solution for everything?

Since I do add as you go composting, it doesn't heat up that much, gets warm, not hot. But time and earthworms (and pill bugs and black soldier fly larvae, etc) take care of the rest. No meat goes in my pile and as few weed seeds as I can manage, so it all works out.
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thanrose
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Re: Composting way less for more? Solution for everything?

I'm a laissez-faire gardener. My composting approach is whatever I'm feeling at the moment. As my parents aged at home, chop and drop was fine for their property My feeling was that the trees that grew up on that land were reaching deeper into the soil and bringing up nutrients for other plants to use. If the trees dropped leaves or limbs, I wanted to keep that. Hence a lackadaisical HugelKultur of heftier limbs and lighter debris on top. It's counterintuitive to me to consider yard waste a problem.

A lot of people down here use plastic underlayment and pebbles. Some seriously old homes may have entire yards treated that way. Most communities have forbidden that now. But folks still do some garden beds that way. For what purpose? To keep it looking nice you have to actually lift, sieve and wash those stones, then lay them back down. Twenty years from now, anyone digging there will be cursing you. So mulch is a necessity here if you want any sort of landscaping that isn't either sand dune or prairie.

SQWIB
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Re: Composting way less for more? Solution for everything?

I have read and researched a lot on this subject including Dr. Inghams work, that is what got me into the Soil Food web, Microbes, permaculture, hugelkultur and the list goes on. I researched this till my eyes bled over the last two years. I find a lot of her research inspiring.

Most of these Authors/Scientist have their opinion and most of the time it is backed up with research, the problem is the research can be misleading, for example.
I found an interesting study that was published back in 2010, (and without getting too deep into it), the argument was that, adding fertilizers to the soil did not harm microbes in the soil, the study (over 40 years) showed that while the fertz did not harm the soil microbes, actually the opposite but what it did do, was increase the short lived microbe activity to a point where the organic matter broke down much quicker thus reducing the soil's ability to store organic nitrogen.

This pretty much sums up the above statement.
“Fertilizer is good for the father and bad for the sons.”

Another topic that can have a zillion opinions is Native species plants versus invasives, when does an introduced plant become native? Where is the timeline 1860, 1903, 2019? Depends on who you talk to. I like to plant what I call "Common to my Area" plants.

Bio-char is another topic that research has skewed all over the place benefiting the author/researchers opinion.
I use it and I don't care if every scientist on the planet but one said it don't work, but thats me.

There are Firm believers in the Back to Eden method, some not so much.

Composting is another topic that has quite a few opinions, I compost everything, including meats, bones. cheeses, I don't worry about the "Perfect Compost" I don't measure the temperature, I don't worry about the balance of Browns to greens, everything gets dumped in as I get it, sometimes it fires up, other times it doesn't... I don't care, to me I am composting properly because it feeds my plants, stays out of the landfill and my need to purchase less and less bagged supplies reduces my carbon footprint, so to me there is no wrong way to compost, now efficiency is another subject but I garden to have fun not to survive.

What I have learned over the years is to educate yourself and do what works for you. I have been implementing more Bio-diversity, and concentrating on the Soil Food Web and permaculture practices... to the best of my ability anyhow, for several years. This year I have even become more aggressive in these practices.

What I find odd is your first and second post sounds like you are set that this is the best way to garden and you are even defending it without doing it yourself, I am actually implementing a lot of what Dr. Elaine Ingham has said and have been for a few years and won't argue with folks about one way being better than another, Hell, I could get on my high horse and tell everyone that the only way to garden is no till and hugelkulture!

Forgive me if I sound Krass, but the day I have to grab a microscope (I do own one) and study the microbes to grow a tomato is the day I stop gardening.

PS, Do you even own a microscope?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Composting way less for more? Solution for everything?

SQWIB: Interesting point about natives: Another topic that can have a zillion opinions is Native species plants versus invasives, when does an introduced plant become native? Where is the timeline 1860, 1903, 2019? Depends on who you talk to. I like to plant what I call "Common to my Area" plants.

Having spent a lot of time working on eradicating invasive exotics from various national parks as well as private lands, I have some thoughts about them. "Invasive exotics" is two parts. Invasives means things that tend to take over and drive out everything else. Invasives reduce the biodiversity of an area, not only of plant life but of insect, bird, and other animals. Japanese honeysuckle shrub is invasive because it is the first thing to leaf out in the spring and the last thing to lose its leaves in the fall, so it out-competes everything else. My Quaker meeting in Cincinnati had a little five acre woods patch. When I first came there, it was a very nice spot, with lots of native shrubs and wildflowers and biodiversity. Over the years, it became over-run with honeysuckle, english ivy, vinca to the exclusion of pretty much everything else. Or think about kudzu. When kudzu moves in, what had been a forest with tons of different plants and wildlife, becomes nothing but a kudzu patch:
Image

The shapes you see were trees and shrubs. Now they are all dead, smothered by the kudzu. Dead trees, dead forest, dead wildlife.

Exotics means it evolved somewhere else and was brought to where it is now by people. What is important about that is that where it originated from, there were lots of things that evolved with it, insects and diseases that preyed on and controlled it, and a large variety of herbivores that used it and benefitted from it. When moved, it is ripped out of that balanced ecosystem and moved to a place where it is useless and un-controlled. Nandina (heavenly bamboo) is an example. It was brought to England from Japan in early 1800's and thence to US. It is now invasive in North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida. It was placed on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s invasive list as a Category I species, the highest listing. It has been observed in the wild in Florida in Gadsden, Leon, Jackson, Alachua and Citrus counties, in conservation areas, woodlands and floodplains (wiki article on nandina). Where I am, nandina is all over the place and is still sold all over the place. :evil: It is very ornamental. However all parts of the plant are toxic, containing compounds that break down to cyanide. Many birds, including cedar waxwings, that eat the berries are poisoned by them. Whole flocks of cedar waxwings have been found dead that way.

Nandina and kudzu are both definitely "common in my area," but that doesn't make them benign.

So I think what is important about invasive exotics is not when or where they came from. It is its impact on the ecosystem where it now is. If it is useless, un-controlled, reduces bio-diversity, feeds nothing, poisons things, I want to get rid of it. If it has managed to become a part of its new ecosystem and play nice, then that's fine and I don't really care that someone brought it here in the 1700's.
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imafan26
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Re: Composting way less for more? Solution for everything?

Interesting discussion. I think while it might be possible to have a perfectly balanced system. It would take a lot of tweaking to replace the exact nutrients that are taken out back again. Natural ecosystems stay in balance more or less because everything from the trees, to the weeds and the animals and their wastes are recycled back into the system. In a closed system there can be perfect balance. The problem with humans are that they grow things which take nutrients out of the system when it is harvested and not all of it goes back in, or in some cases corn went out grass went in and when they break down the nutrient levels don't exactly balance. In open systems, you have to be more aware of the quality and quantity of what you add or take away from it. You can end up with too much phosphorus or nitrogen or calcium put in through compost. If enough compost goes in, it can change pH and the availability of other nutrients. If too much fresh manure goes in, it can run off during rain to cause problems down stream. However, if you can find that magic recipe to put in just what you take out, that would be perfection.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

toxcrusadr
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Re: Composting way less for more? Solution for everything?

1 ton of compost per acre doesn't sound like all that much until you consider that it takes 10 tons of organic matter to make a ton of compost, and then you're talking about a serious amount of material. Just an observation.
Tox

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