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Importance of Compost Variety

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Post  bjluedeke on 4/9/2020, 2:06 am

Just getting started with SFG.

We'll have nine 4'x10' beds in all, so the setup cost, especially Mel's mix is somewhat staggering.  With the 6" beds, we need about 60 cubic feet of each component.

  • Peat moss is relatively cheap (approx. $100).
  • We ran across a good deal on cow manure compost on Craig's List (basically $25 for 40 cubic feet, so $38 for 60).
  • Of course vermiculite is the one that drives up the cost.  I can buy it for $27 for 4 cubic feet from a local pool installer (I need to see the size, but he says it's fairly course), but, even that that's about $400.

My concern is that we are relying on one type of compost, not the five that is recommended.  We did start a compost bin, but didn't take care of it well enough (or have enough) to utilize that right now.  So, I didn't want to invest in the vermiculite and still have an inferior mix because of the sole compost source.

My thought right now is to wait on the vermiculite and create beds with just the peat most and cow manure compost.  Then, next year when we have our own compost, do a partial soil swap to introduce our compost and the vermiculite.  This approach keeps from tossing out the expensive vermiculite when doing the soil swap.

Thoughts on this?  I guess my main concern is the lack in variety of compost.  I know you add a shovel-full of compost each planting to replace what's been lost, but I figure that's too slow of a rate to introduce the compost variety.

Thanks for your advice!

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Join date : 2020-04-09
Location : Augusta, KS

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Post  sanderson on 4/9/2020, 4:04 am

I'm always happy when someone is trying to start their SFG the right way.  bounce

You have done your calculations correctly.  Check.  I know the vermiculite is the most expensive ingredient, but at least it is a one time purchase.  Kudos to you for thinking outside the box and locating vermiculite at a pool company.   Importance of Compost Variety 3170584802  Check.  Remember that compressed peat moss will almost double when fluffed.

Now to the compost situation.  Trying to find a variety of composts can be challenging.  I found a bulk compost site for you to check out.  If it a viable option, that would be wonderful.  It would help reduce the amount of manure-based compost.  Left over compost should be stored in a dry manner for future use.  A high spot covered with plastic for the base and a tarp over the compost.  Or, in clean garbage cans.

My overall thought is to go ahead and make Mel's Mix even if all you have is the cow manure compost.  You will be creating the base volume and height in the beds with the correct ratio of the 3 ingredients.  The manure compost will slowly be broken down by the microbes, dropping the overall height in the bed.  You will need to mix in more compost to bring the level back up to where it started, and you can use non-manure composts to achieve this.

Others can chime in on the idea of making Mel's Mix with just the compost manure.  I say go for it.

Here is the site I found:

County Green waste compost.  https://www.bucoks.com/274/Landfill-Recycling

City compost program.  http://kansasrecycles.org/programs/city-augusta-0


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Post  countrynaturals on 4/9/2020, 8:29 am

Welcome BJ, from Northern California. Sounds like you and Sanderson have this all figured out. We love pictures, btw. Wink

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Post  OhioGardener on 4/9/2020, 8:52 am

In addition to the sites Sanderson provided, check out the Augusta Public works:


They indicate that, "When available, compost and mulch are available free of charge to Augusta residents".


Never plant without a bucket of compost at your side.

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Post  AtlantaMarie on 4/9/2020, 9:56 am

Hi bjluedeke. Welcome from Atlanta, GA!

You've been given some great advice from those in the know. So I won't add anything... :-)

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Post  bjluedeke on 4/10/2020, 8:25 am

Thanks for your responses.

I guess I had "forgotten" about local resources for free compost, despite the fact that I drive past it every time I drop off my recycling.  I think I wrote it off a while back though because I'm concerned that I don't know what people have put on their yards (chemical-wise) and (lesser concern) the amount of weed seed I'd be introducing.  So, I'll probably just move ahead with 100% cow manure compost and introduce variety at later times.  I may stop by anyways to see if they have wood chips that I can use for my aisles!

Thanks again!

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Post  Dan in Ct on 4/10/2020, 10:05 am

If you get compost from your town, you can do a DIY test with peas or beans to know if it has been or is contaminated. Here is a link to Mother Earth News.


My town has a phenomenal composting program and the huge windrows are set-up twice a year. In Dec. with the autumn leaves and in May with yard waste and leftover leaves. I get some in June and never had a problem and because I have seen the research on municipal composted leaves, I know their value. You can't beat free, not even with a stick. So I believe OhioGardener has once again given some great advice with a local source. Just need to run the DIY test and talk to someone at the facility.
Dan in Ct
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