Yuck!!!

October 6, 2009 at 3:48 pm (Composting)

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This is what I found in my compost bin.  Really gross. I pulled a few out and left them in a box for the birds. The blue jays loved them! If anyone out there can identify what these grubs are, please let me know if they turn to really bad pests! The upside are the grubs accelerate decomposition of organic matter.

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Turning Compost

October 5, 2009 at 4:01 pm (Composting)

DSC00120Another catch up post. Word is we will have a cold winter. My tomato plants are already dying from the low midnight temperatures (low 40’s), but perhaps we can expect more water this year? Rain water really spurs plant growth, and my spinach, kale, and beet plants do find in high-30’s weather. As said before, the bottleneck in production has been lack of fertilizer. During summer composting really slows down as heap piles dry up under the hot sun. It’s important to keep you compost piled covered, moist, and hot. In order to facilitate more optimal conditions, I occasionally hose the compost down, mixing in wet table scraps. Bunny droppings are mostly dry and, though always welcome, do not help in this regard.

DSC00122To the right are some pictures of my compost bin earlier this summer when I disappointedly  found only the very bottom had converted to soil. Notice the stark sedimentation. My bin is divided in two, so I removed the partition (which slides in and out) , got a shovel, and turned the heap over, racking off the soil at the bottom and adding it to my new crop rows. Turning over your compost is important and accelerates decomposition since the organic matter at the top decays very slowly compared to when it sits at the bottom.

DSC00131However, I have a new development in my compost pile. My food scraps (which had some unintentional chicken skin/juice mixed in) attracted some strange flies. I know have a ton of grotesque larva in the bin, and it will be interesting to see what crawls out. I hope they are moth larva. This is when a chicken would come in handy. These grubs are rather large and would make a great meal for any birdie. Meanwhile, I can look at the ‘up’ side. The grubs are helping with the compost, eating organic matter, digesting, and eliminating. Eventually they will grow up and leave the bin. I will add a pix of the grubs at this same post later. I will also update readers what these gross critters metamorphed into.

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Chipper-Shredder

June 27, 2009 at 3:36 am (Composting)

DSC00080I bought this chipper-shredder from Troy-built. Shredders will turn branches, leaves, and twigs to mulch to cover top soil in your backyward and add to compost. My chipper will grind 3″ diameter branches and bleow. It’s gasoline powered. Gas engines last long and are durable, but with prices of energy going up and the possibility of living off-grid, I wish I had bought an electric chipper. They are not as powerful, the best brand doing 2.5″ diameter brancesh and below, but they can run off a diesel generator which is good for ethanol (bio) fuel. I am expecting economic collapse.

DSC00053Another wise purchase would have been a tiller to turn hard soil. Instead, an old-fashioned mattox works fine, but you have to really put your back into it. Some soils are as hard as concrete, and in summer you may find a mattox to be an impossible task.  However, hard clay earth can really benefit from mulch. Having healthy soil is key to farming and is just as critical as water. Without soft, healthy soil, you plants will get ‘pot bound’ and roots won’t fair well in concrete-like earth. I have found after I turning earth, a couple weeks worth of watering often turns the soil back to hard clay. Not good. The answer is to mix healthy amounts of chips and mulch into your fertilizer and soil. Chips and other fiber like straw will help you soil remain broken and allow it to breathe. So, having a good pile of ready chips is a good thing. Also, fruit trees need pruning to renew branches, so don’t let the vines go to waste– chip em.

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Trench Composting

June 14, 2009 at 1:29 am (Composting)

DSC00055 Here’s an interesting approach to  composting. I need walk-ways in my garden  in order to water my plants. Rather than  leave a strip of earth to do nothing but allow  me thoroughfare, I thought I’d turn my    walkway into a compost pile. This is how you do it.

DSC00056Dig a trench in the strips where you plan to walk. Fill her up with table scraps (no meat!), yard clippings, basically any vegie matter that is nice and wet. Then cover it up with either dirt or wood chips. I recently bought a chipper-shredder for 3″ branches and less. I pruned one of the trees and made about fifty square yards of chip material. As I’ve filled up my trench with table scraps (some of it being the very vegies I’ve grown in the garden, roots and leaves), I pour the chips on top.

DSC00060 After a couple days the pile decomposes and the surface  drops, allowing room to add another layer of scraps  depending on how deep you dig the trench. My  trenches are as wide as my foot and about ten inches or  one foot deep. What I also like about trench composting  is it loosens and aerates the soils. This permits you  plant’s roots to grow deeper and more free. If you soil is  hard and  clay-like (as mine), your plants can become kind of ‘pot-bound’. Healthy soil is loose.

DSC00067Keep adding layers of wet vegie waste, dirt/chips, repeat, until your compost trench pile is slightly higher than ground level. In about 6 months it will transform into rich earth/dirt and you can rotate your crop from an old row onto the trench/walkway. Be sure to mix old dirt in so the nitrogen is not too concentrated. If soil is too rich, it can burn the plant roots. Once that’s done, start a new trench/walkway on the old soil.  God Bless!

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Dark, rich, muddy, icky dirt

May 1, 2009 at 4:05 pm (Composting)

ahh... lovely compost dirt!

ahh... lovely compost dirt!

Yesterday was very rewarding. Now that my greens are hitting harvest time I am worried about soil depletion. This crop includes spinach, two kinds of onions, pumpkins, and tomatos. My next will be melons, beats, spinach, flowers, some squash, and corn. I expect in two or three weeks most of my garden will be harvested, and I will be ready to add new soil, introducing nitrogen rich fertilizer. This is very experimental and will see how it turns out.  I should be using a pH meter to know where I am at.

Anyhow, I have been preparing good-fertilizing soil since February. I built a compost bin with  two compartments. One side I kept empty so I have room to “turn over the compost” after a couple months. The bottom of the compost pile is where all the chemistry happens, and the hotter the bottom, the better. Stuff on top will only slowly ‘rot’. Turning your pile periodically upside down in necessary to speed up decomposition.

hay binI was keeping bunny food– hay– on my empty side. In order to turn the compost, yesterday I built a new bin just for bunny chow. I don’t keep my bunnies in cages all week long (too cruel), so let them free roam in gated pens. You have to watch bunnies. They get into trouble. As I was leveling out the space where I planned to build the hay bin, some earth crumbled and caved in when my mattock struck! It turned out my rascally rabbits had dug a dsc000132 secret underground rabbit den that I knew nothing  about. Thank goodness it was alongside the house. I  worry they may escape if they do the same near the  fence. I have to always keep an eye on these trouble-  making bunnies!!!

turning my compost over

turning my compost over

Anyway, I built the hay bin, transfered my bunny hay over to it, and then turned my compost pile. I was very pleased! My compost was very rich and even black underneath. Plus, I  had a lot of it! The compost was three-and-one half months of lawn clippings (from three homes) with bunny droppings (bunnies have to earn their keep!) and some old leaves and hay. I found the wet areas of the pile appeared better degraded than dry. I guess moisture also speeds up decomposition. I had a lot of ready-to-use fertilizer compost, most of it was already like pure dirt. Almost as good as worm droppings! Incidently, I am supplementing regular compost with a worm farm. Will share that soon too!

God Bless!

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