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My ramblings on compost.

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My ramblings on compost.

Post  SQWIB on 10/19/2018, 8:18 am

October 19th, 2018



My ramblings on compost.





[size=32]Composting[/size]
Kitchen waste. What is kitchen waste? If you ask me, kitchen waste is uneaten food bits that get tossed in the trash and make it's way to a landfill. I have very minimal kitchen waste, I do however have plenty of Kitchen scraps. What are Kitchen scraps? I consider kitchen scraps a recycled material not waste, because it is not waste, it is a renewable resource.


I religiously compost and have been composting in a compost bin for some years now, after some serious thought I decided I wanted something even easier than my current lazy composting regiment. I won't go into what I compost, but let's just say I compost a lot more items than the average person, however this article is about my method of composting not what I compost.


I decided in lieu of bin composting I would try "in situ" composting, so this past growing season I have been doing a lot of "composting in place" and so far it has worked out pretty well.



I wouldn't consider this "trench composting", because frankly I'm not digging a trench. I have heard it cleverly referred to as "Cathole Composting", "Dig and Drop Composting" and "Direct Composting".

I practice no till, and "in-situ" composting is the only time the soil is disturbed other than planting.


I simply dig in my kitchen scraps between the plants during the growing season, mark the area, then move onto the next area. I have even gently moved the mulch aside, tossed kitchen scraps directly on top of the soil and slid the mulch back.

When my Hugelkultur beds were really starting to settle, some pockets/voids opened up and I would tuck my scraps and trimmings into these voids.

Even when the beds are planted heavily with cover crops in the fall, I still can find a place for the kitchen scraps.



Now here is where it gets a bit fuzzy between composting and mulching.



Stuff like fresh yard trimmings and subpar veggies get tossed back on top of the bed during the growing season. In the winter if there's snow on the beds, I just toss kitchen scraps on top and cover with snow, sometimes I dont even cover the kitchen scraps. If the beds are frozen solid, I just toss the scraps on top of the bed. I will also do this with Bio-char, Rabbit manure, animal bedding and coffee grounds (also ashes, but I consider ashes a fertilizer).



I would consider this practice, mulching. So to be clear, if scraps are under the mulch layer and in direct contact (slightly soil covered) or under the soil, I consider it compost, if the scraps are above the soil line, I consider it a mulch. There, that was easy, wasn't it?


Here is a quick example of a few piles of Kitchen Scraps for compost topped with Coffee grounds and yard trimmings for a mulch.



I pushed aside some mulch, dug in three compost holes around my apple trees, covered with soil, slid the mulch back then topped with coffee grounds and some trimmed shrubs.
















Is it better than bin composting? It doesn't matter! What matters is, there is no wrong way to compost for the obvious reasons that you are using a renewable resource and keeping it out of a landfill.


Time will tell if this will be my final composting method.


Disclaimer. All the above under "Composting" is based on personal experience and no testing in labs have been done.
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Re: My ramblings on compost.

Post  OhioGardener on 10/19/2018, 11:53 am

   Sounds great, SQWIB!  I have also been composting longer than I can remember -  started somewhere back in the late 60's or early 70's, under the influence of Robert Rodale.  I have used many of the same methods as you describe. Unfortunately, at our present estate there are so many Raccoons and Squirrels that we dare not leave any vegetable scraps within digging range of the rascals. They will dig up stuff that they won't even eat. The only thing they won't dig up is coffee grounds.  I have been forced to move to using metal compost tumblers that the Raccoons can't get into - I currently have 3 of them in use because of how much we compost.  I had a Lifetime plastic (polyethylene) tumbler and the Raccoons chewed holes in it and pull the contents out on the ground. So, the replacement tumblers are metal.

But, I never have enough compost!

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Composting in place - depletes oxygen

Post  zenful6219 on 10/20/2018, 9:02 am

I've seen some YouTube videos that address composting in place and discusses the possibility that it can seriously deplete available oxygen in the soil, which can harm any nearby plants. In one video, the gardener suggested using a solution of hydrogen peroxide poured over the compost areas.
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Re: My ramblings on compost.

Post  OhioGardener on 10/20/2018, 9:22 am

@zenful6219 wrote:I've seen some YouTube videos that address composting in place and discusses the possibility that it can seriously deplete available oxygen in the soil, which can harm any nearby plants. In one video, the gardener suggested using a solution of hydrogen peroxide poured over the compost areas.

There is a lot of misinformation out there, most of it unverified.  When we lived in southern Illinois, I did trench composting for many years and never had any problem with plants on either side of the trench suffering from it - in fact, they loved all of the worm activity and worm castings that were created from them digesting the kitchen scraps.  As the worms burrow into and out of the trench composting area, they open a lot of tunnels that breathe oxygen into the area. In my experience, the only way trench composting would suffer from lack of oxygen would be if the soil over it were tightly compacted by driving a tractor or something over it. Otherwise, the soil will be loose and have plenty of oxygen.  

Adding Hydrogen Peroxide to the compost pile would cause far more problems than it would cure - the peroxide would kill the bacteria & fungi it comes in contact with, and that bacteria & fungi is needed to digest the kitchen scraps.  Beer, on the other hand, has yeast and nitrogen that would be beneficial - and I enjoy drinking one as I turn the pile. Very Happy
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Re: My ramblings on compost.

Post  zenful6219 on 10/20/2018, 9:32 am

I see your point. The videos that I've watched don't seem to address the presence or absence of worms. If worms are in abundance, I can't see that there'd be an oxygen depletion problem. Also, they were using a diluted amount of 3% hydrogen peroxide - one part to 10 parts water.
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Good approach but be careful....

Post  btll on 10/20/2018, 10:50 am

Hello Sqwib,

Nice post and potentially good approach for small amounts of waste materials as a nutritive additive to various parts of your garden...

But be sure to understand that "composting" typically involves building a pile large enough to ensure that fungal and microbial growth can retain enough heat to reach ~135-140 degrees F - and remain at that temperature for at least a couple weeks.  You should also routinely "turn" the pile with a fork to ensure aeration (otherwise, your microbe colony will shift toward methane and nitrous oxide producing organisms - and also, possibly, stinky sulfide reducing organisms - giving a rotten egg smell.)  Methane and nitrous oxide are horrible greenhouse gases - many times more potent than CO2.  

Moisture should be controlled - not too wet or too dry.  If it rains, cover the pile;  if it is dry, perhaps sprinkle on some water occasionally, with an occasional turning of the pile.

And generally best results achieved with a good mixture of materials - food wastes, grass clippings, manures, weeds and clippings from the garden, shredded leaves, etc...  (you can even add in paper-based materials like paper egg cartons and shredded paper or cardboard).  Also, I tend to burn a fireplace during the fall and spring - and accumulate my wood ash - and add in to compost mixtures for important macro-nutrients like calcium, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorous.  But never too much - as it raises the pH quite a bit and could stall the process.

And if you achieve the high heats for a couple-few weeks, most any weed's seed will be killed off.

Happy gardening!
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Re: My ramblings on compost.

Post  SQWIB on 10/21/2018, 6:36 pm

Bill, your post on how to compost is exactly why I dont compost in a bin anymore.
Not saying it's wrong but it's the same regurgitated info over and over.
Your post is almost word for word what everyone is preaching.
For the urban gardener, composting in place is sometimes a more practical approach, at least for me it is.
Will I ever go back to my bin? Maybe, but for now I'm sticking with "in situ" composting
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Re: My ramblings on compost.

Post  sanderson on 10/22/2018, 2:26 am

Here's my rambling on compost - for SFG.

For SFG, use compost. The Mel's Mix is designed for air pockets, nutrition, fluffiness, drainage, etc. all within a small space (half a cubic foot). Use something like worm tubes or buckets to separate raw ingredients from the Mel's Mix. The microbes will start to decompose the raw ingredients and the worms will eat the microbes and deposit their frass, feeding again the microbes, taking no nutrition from the growing plants during the process. The finished contents can then be spread throughout the bed, or left in place and the tube/bucket moved to a new site.

For resting SFG beds, they can be topped with raw ingredients for lasagna composting without foul as long as there is time to turn into rough compost before planting again. Just make sure to add a variety of ingredients just like making compost in bins/cages. The more ingredients, the better chance to replenish a range of nutrients.

For all other types of gardening, do whatever one wants.

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