Wilcox03
Full Member
Posts: 11
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:49 pm
Location: Oregon

Compost and climate?

This is my first year trying out a garden. I've done container plants every year since I'm in an apt, but our complex has garden plots also. I'm trying that out this year. They rotatill (sp) it and section it off for us. I'm doing a veggie garden. I'm not entirely up on composting but have read its great for gardens, of course. I am looking into this now that the plots are ready for us to start. My "beginner question" is, does the type of "ingredients" in your compost depend on WHAT your planning on growing? Vegetables. And does it depend on what climate your dealing with? I live in Oregon. I hope these made sense!!!! Thanks!! :)

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

compost ingredients

Questions make sense, but I never heard of anyone trying to tailor make their compost for what they are going to grow. Read in this forum there's a bunch of stuff about compost ingredients including greens and browns. Basically you are going to compost whatever organic material you have available to you, making sure you have a good mixture of wet/green ingredients and brown/dry ingredients. And remember, if you are starting a compost pile now, it isn't for this season's garden. You could have compost ready in the fall. And the only difference climate makes is how fast the process goes. In a warm moist climate it will go faster. If your climate isn't moist (I don't know where in Oregon you are, and I know eastern Oregon on the "wrong" side of the mountains is quite arid), then you will need to water your compost pile whenever you water your plants.

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

Veggies like a mixed fungal to bacterial ratio, so equal parts greens and browns (nitrogen rich green leafy bits versus woody twiggy rooty carbon rich browns). Fish hydrolysate makes a great food and booster for this process...

HG
Scott Reil

cogardenproject
Newly Registered
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed May 20, 2009 10:56 pm
Location: Northern Colorado

Try a worm bin!

In answer to your question, I don't think you need to tailor your compost ingredients based on what you're planning on growing, except to say that if you are growing vegetables, your compost should not contain any animal manures (but you probably weren't going to do that anyway).

But if you live in an apartment, maybe you want to look into a worm bin? It's something you could keep inside (or possibly outside if the winters don't get too cold in OR), and it's really not as gross as it sounds. If you add the right ingredients, it doesn't really smell at all, and there is nothing better than worm castings (vermicompost) for your garden.
Go Play in the Dirt!
www.coloradogardenproject.com

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

Sorry cogarden, but I have to disagree...

Tailoring compost to specific crop is both smart and in some cases absolutely necessary. Ericaceous plant need a specific mix of organisms that need a specific mix of soils and biologies. Evergreen trees want nearly 100% fungal soils, while lawns want an early successional soil more bacterial than what we want for veggies or row crops. Indeed, in my mind, fungal to bacterial ratios are a more important indicator of success for certain plants than any other factor. So it is best to know what your compost is made of and what direction that will push your biologies and chemistry...

As for your dire pronouncement on animal manures, I would like to see evidence of where a properly composted ANIMAL waste product has been an issue. If you are using compost made to USCC standards, held to 137 degrees for three days running, pathogenic sanitation has been achieved. The compost I use comes from several different animal, landscape, and farm streams, and my soil is alive and healthy, and growing great plants BECAUSE, not in spite of that fact. UNtreated wastes are a no-no, but true compost, done right is NOT pathogenic, a distinction we should be very clear about.

Any ill effect from animal waste does not come from compost but from unmitigated sourcing. The spinach scare was run-off from a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO). The tomato debacle was a use of untreated waste in a manner unlawful here in the U.S., but not all our food comes from here any more... in that respect, Cogarden is right that we need be careful in how we do things and where we get our food. But good compost with an animal based source is just how nature gets things done. Do what I do and move your bird feeders around the yard and watch the lawn green up. Poop is nitrogen, and nitrogen is plants...

I have had the pleasure of working with Dr. Elaine Ingham and the regional lab of her company, [url=https://www.soilfoodweb.com/]Soil Food Web[/url]. While I am about to oversimplify a very complex process, plants in Nature grow on poop, to the exclusion of almost everything else. Dr. Ingham described the Soil Food Web to demonstrate the complexities of a food chain that populated and predated within the structure of sil and in so doing created the nutrition for all plants. While we have tried to circumvent this chain with chemicals, they do not address the long term health of soil and kill some of the very biology we need to maintain the natural nitrogen cycle. The very microbes and bacteria killed by ammonia salts are the food source at the bottom of a complex food chain, and eliminating the base of a food chain (sometimes called a mast food source in ecology) is the surest way to impact the entire food chain... we eschew bacteria and fungii at our own peril...

So long story short, it doesn't matter if you use compost at all if you are just treating the soil as just somewhere to put the roots, but your choice in compost is critical if you want to grow sustainably in an organic regimen. It's your best tool...

HG
Scott Reil

cogardenproject
Newly Registered
Posts: 3
Joined: Wed May 20, 2009 10:56 pm
Location: Northern Colorado

I actually have nothing against poop -- I was told (for our area at least) that animal manures are high in salts and since (I guess just our) soil is high in salt already, it's better to use animal manure for things like grass and just compost from leaves and food scraps, etc. for the vegetable garden. And the assumption that someone probably wouldn't use animal manure anyway just came from the fact that most people don't have ready access to it unless they live on a farm! (or I suppose some people buy it)

But I appreciate the rally cry for fecal matter and I'm sure it does too!
Go Play in the Dirt!
www.coloradogardenproject.com

User avatar
applestar
Mod
Posts: 27792
Joined: Thu May 01, 2008 11:21 pm
Location: Zone 6, NJ (3/M)4/E ~ 10/M

I read somewhere that a good way to keep the veg garden diseases and fruit orchard diseases apart is to compost waste material from them separately and use the fruit orchard compost in the veg garden and veg garden compost in the fruit orchard.

Personally, my gardens and "orchards" aren't big enough to generate enough materials for, nor to maintain, separate piles like that, but I thought I'd mention it for folks who can. :wink:

HG, I bet what you wrote is especially an "ah ha!" for Bonsai Forum folks.

Edited -- I think it might have been to do with BOTH diseases AND pests, though I admit there are some that are common to both areas.
Last edited by applestar on Sat May 23, 2009 1:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

more on composting

agree with cogarden.... I'm a keep it simple kind of gardener, with a quarter acre four miles from downtown. I compost basically what I produce (kitchen scraps, weeds, leaves etc) with some addition from "stealing" other people's yard waste bags full of leaves when they put them at the curb for pick up. I think there's a lot of people in my kind of situation. I also think many of us would have to be careful with manure if we had it, because our more casually managed compost piles may never heat up to 137. My pile, which I do in my simple style, just adding things as they come along and turning 3 times a year, gets warm, but not hot. It produces lovely finished compost, which I put on anything I plant. So as usual, the answer to most garden questions is it depends... it depends on where and how you are gardening and what your specific situation is and there are few general one size fits all answers. There's also a whole lot of levels at which you can garden from "newbie" to soil scientist, but once you get past where I started (killing a rose bush by putting it in shade :? ), pretty much all of them work to make a garden which will give a lot of pleasure...

But I certainly appreciate all the information and I am learning new ways to think about the whole composting process

2cents
Green Thumb
Posts: 616
Joined: Thu Jan 08, 2009 2:04 pm
Location: Ohio

If you read some of the giant veggie and pumpkin growers journals, you will see they get specific about what the roots of their plants are touching.

Most of them are using straight compost...very little dirt.

Seems what goes into the root(what the root is surrounded by) is as important as the amount of light and water. Oh yes some of them are very specific about what type and how much light and water.

Crazy stuff. 8)

The Helpful Gardener
Mod
Posts: 7493
Joined: Tue Feb 10, 2004 2:17 am
Location: Colchester, CT

And the current world champ was grown organically, on compost, fish and kelp (Joe Jutras uses my brand, Neptune's Harvest).

CGP, sorry if I get a little zealous, but a lot of folks are overly worried about "contamination" when the biologies present in good compost are essential to healthy living soil. You can get good compost without fecal inputs, but it is much harder, and not as biologically diverse, and certain elements are lacking. I remember my first time on the microscope after we got a new compost supplier (in addition to our primary; we are always building diversity) and seeing new fungal spores that turned out to be associated with bovine manure. We hadn't had cow poop so this was new stuff in our mix, and grass and ruminants have been a paring on the ecosystemic stage for eons; wildebeest and sveldt, buffalo and prairie, etc.) I look outside my windoe at the green spots in my lawn; three foot circles in six or seven spots in the lawn. It is where the bird feeders are and where they poop. The grass just freaks. Nature fertilizes with poo, and so can we as long as we allow Nature to compost it and return it to a safe and soluble form that plants and microbes can use without pathogenic tendency for people OR plants...

HG
Scott Reil

Return to “Composting Forum”