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Soose in North Alabama

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Post  Frost? 4/8/2022, 2:36 pm

I have not used Black Kow Mushroom Compost, nor seen it.  I did find (after search), acquire, and use the Black Velvet Mushroom Compost.  It isn't as refined as worm castings, but it's pretty nice stuff; I didn't even sift it, which I typically do with other composts.  A few small, fine stems, no real "sticks".  The Nature's Care Really Good Compost on the other hand looked more like your bulk mushroom compost.  Doesn't look to me like you'd get much out of that at all.  Maybe buy a load of that and let it finish composting, and in the meantime pick up something a little more refined.  
Just my opinion.
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Post  goodtogrow 4/8/2022, 3:22 pm

Soose, after looking at your photos I personally don't think that is even what is considered "compost".  It looks a handful of ground covering.  Or what you'd have left in the back of your pickup after hauling around a bunch of logs.  Plus it looks like you'd have nothing left after sifting it.  I'm not a compost expert, but I know enough about it to understand that compost should be darker, denser, more soil-like, and certainly not contain that many twigs, bark, and sticks.  I would avoid it if I were you.
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Post  sanderson 4/8/2022, 3:39 pm

Soose, The mushroom compost does not look finished enough for Mel's Mix.  But,  thinking  it may make great mulch for the top of the MM if your area of FL needs mulching.  Sift for small material for inoculation of the MM. ??

Do you have a clean setup for a composting bin?  Three fixed sides, one flexible for building up and lowering the level, and pavers/bricks on the bottom?  You could store the extra for later composting with other materials.   thinking

No matter what compost you buy, sifting for junk/wood pieces may be the norm, now.

AND, most important, is to read the labels!!  Added peat moss?  Added nasty perlite? Adjust the amount of your fluffed peat moss up to 50% in some cases.  Compost with peat moss is often sold at fancy high prices with pretty labels, and as you know, peat moss is the cheapest ingredient.   Laughing

Note: Goodtogrow replied while I was typing. I have never visited a mushroom operation to see the various stages of their compost through the life time of the batch of compost. They grow several crops before discarding (for our use). The material looks more like first generation of hay/horse manure compost used for growing mushrooms.

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Post  Soose 4/8/2022, 6:46 pm

Thanks all for the feedback. 

Agreed the stuff is not finished.  Thanks for confirming.  But it's loaded with fungi...   (The photos are making this look a bit worse than it is.

I should have thought to post a photo yesterday or early,   and they were going to close for the weekend.  I'm getting nervous about finding ingredients.  So I went ahead down there and bought 1/2 cu yd.  It wasn't that expensive.  $45.

(They actually gave me more than I paid for. I haven't unloaded the truck but before they dumped the bucket in, I laid out twenty 5 gallon buckets, and they are all full with a good amount more to sweep up. I've had landscapers short cu yd's before so I'm not displeased.)

I'll sift some for the inoculation, and look at the Black Velvet since Frost had good luck with it.  (If there had been a store on the way to this place, I meant to buy and open a bag of either Black Kow or Black Velvet to see if it was better.  

After sifting out, I will just use the rest for brown stuff in the compost pile or hilling up potatoes or mulching the berries, etc..  (I'm not so concerned about having pure MM for the blackberries -- been told they'll grow in the red clay here as well as anything else.)

Sanderson, I don't have a nice big compost area yet at this house.  I have two plastic composters.  But I will have a compost area for next year!  And my own worm bin(s)!  I want a tumbling composter as well.  So much to do!
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Post  Soose 4/9/2022, 6:09 am

Transporting the bulk mushroom compost...  I'm going to put the photos over in my own thread.  "Soose from N. AL."
Didn't mean to take over this thread.  I tried to relable to "Mushroom Compost..." but I obviously didn't succeed in creating
a new thread.
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Soose in North Alabama - Page 3 Empty Mushroom Compost for my Mel's Mix - photo

Post  Soose 4/9/2022, 6:36 am

Transporting the bulk mushroom compost...  photos.

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We have a winched tarp from Harbor Freight, bought 3 decades ago, that helps with unloading bulk goods.
( This has been a pretty good workhorse thru the years. )

I knew we would not have a lot of time to unload before dark, plus it's cold and windy out. 
I need the truck...  Last minute for this load, I had the idea of pre-populating the truck bed with a bunch of buckets
I had sitting there.  Should make the transfer easier on this end.  That worked out pretty well.  I'll do that again.

I got home and emptied two buckets into a large sand bag; it's very full.  I need a funnel. 
(Saw someone make one out of a trashcan or bucket, cut out the bottom. Makes loading into a bag easier.) 

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I don't know if I'll screen it all before bagging. I don't want to leave it in buckets long.  Need them for other uses. 

We are having our last cold spell.   It's not pleasant out.  I'm up at 5am Saturday and it's 37F;  in a couple of hours
there's a dip expected to 35F before rising to a high of 58F later afternoon.  Maybe can work later.
Sunday morning will be 38F, but then a high of 75F.  Rain Tuesday; but decent temps in low 60's and highs
over 75F the next few days.
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Soose in North Alabama - Page 3 Empty Procuring compost. And garden hardscape.

Post  Soose 4/9/2022, 6:42 am

This weekend I am going to the next town to buy a home-gardener's worm castings and leaf/kit waste compost. 
(He will screen it!)  I may wait and tell the gardener I'll come Monday, give him time to screen more and in more pleasant weather.

He sent me a photo of some he'd just screened after our phone call:

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Not sure if that was the worm or garden compost he was screening, but I was under the impression that his worm
stuff was already screened and he just had to work on the garden compost. 

I also ought to rebuild our own 40 year old 1/4" hardware cloth screen frame.  I saw someone build one on a glider type frame. That would
be a good investment of time.  I have an old broken down cypress glider, if it's still out there to start with.  Or a drum or shaker. 

But I need to focus on finishing the garden beds.  I am more than half done with the water reservoirs.  Then just have to
line the beds - I have landscape fabric.  This was from last weekend:  An aerial view.  (On the roof working on an antenna.)

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Post  sanderson 4/9/2022, 2:01 pm

You are making great progress.

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Soose in North Alabama - Page 3 Empty Bulk Mushroom Compost (continued)

Post  Soose 4/9/2022, 3:50 pm

We bagged up the bulk mushroom compost.  13.5 bags at about 1.5 cuft per bag. 
Maybe only 1.4cu ft, we took some out to allow tying easily.
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Experimented with screening a bit of it first.  1/4" screen yielded about 50%.  It would be more if it were dry.

It's possible this stuff is not as bad as my original photo made it appear?  (It had dried out over the course of almost 2 days, and the uncomposted stuff was on top.)  Here are the 1/4" screenings from today. And it's loaded with fungi.  It's still a bit damp.  I know it's not totally composted; the buckets were warm inside when I got home with it.  But could it really be first stage mushroom production, as it's not hay at all?   If peat is ok for Mel's Mix, this is maybe a lot of peat?  Just trying to learn from it.

I'm still going to go check out the Black Velvet stuff since Frost though highly of it.  Labor/time is the more important consideration.  Screening takes time and energy.  (I need to rebuild or build a better screener!)

So tell me, would you put this in your Mel's Mix -- screened?  Or is it still not composted enough? 

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Post  Frost? 4/9/2022, 9:21 pm

Soose wrote:
This was from last weekend:  An aerial view.  (On the roof working on an antenna.)

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Great vantage point for you to direct from; just make sure you have a lawn chair, parasol, and cooler with you!
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Post  Soose 4/19/2022, 7:55 am

Over the weekend, we built a compost trommel. Investment in long term composting.

The trommel barrel is finished, a 4ft by 25" diameter wire cage (from mesh 2inch by 4inch fencing, just what we had on hand leftover). The cage runs on casters. We put a secondary screen inside. (1/4" hardware cloth is the only screen we built for now, and that was the time-consuming job, as we could only find 24 inch wide rolls, and had to cable tie three rolls into one bigger screen. )

Tried it out yesterday, as a three person operation. One to dump buckets, one to manage the input feed of our temporary input chute, one to turn the trommel. We just put up temporary shields to direct the flows -- for instance the rotating barrel sprays out fine compost along one side depending on the direction of rotation -- while we figure out where improvement is needed. Our input chute was a piece of heavy galvanized metal we had laying here, with a fold down the length, suspended on a concrete block which was perched on an old table. On the output/waste side, we let everything eventually fall directly into a trailer. Everything very temporary. So I didn't get any movies or photos of the shields or chutes we had set up. Too busy.

One thing I am happy about is that we managed to make the frame movable and adaptable. The wooden salvaged pallet pieces (with casters) are only clamped together for now.

This clamped frame fits -for now- onto a cage of one of the IBC totes, so we can sift directly into the tote. (All these different materials for my Mel's Mix, I need over 3 cu yds, and I'm running out of buckets and barrels and bags to keep them in. But while my beds are unfinished, I have these huge containers... and am planning to mix up my Mel's Mix directly in the last of them.)

In future I can move the trommel to a permanent setup, or keep it flexible to fit other collection bins or a tarp on the ground, other output/waste receptacles. I say waste but that stuff goes back into the compost pile.

Anyway, as I just posted, in the "please check out my Mel's Mix" thread, we sifted the half cu yd or more of bulk mushroom compost.
We had hand-screened a cu ft as a test and gotten 50 percent yield, so this was about what I expected. We could definitely run this mushroom compost through the trommel again. But we already got that yield and more in the tote.

I hope to also be able to use the trommel to mix up my Mel's Mix. Directly into a raised bed tote. Three buckets, rotate. Repeat. We'll see. I've seen ways of damming up the output end of the barrel. Another option is to use an internal solid barrel instead of the mesh screen, but I think it would be too heavy and would be too much trouble to load and empty. Still thinking.
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Post  Soose 4/19/2022, 8:03 am

That first photo is of the output side of the trommel.

Here's another of the input dude. I'd removed the shields and chutes. And pulled away the output trailer. It was all temporary anyway.

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Post  Soose 4/19/2022, 8:15 am

And a photo of the sifted stuff and the waste that didn't make it through the screen in one pass. If it'll take two photos from my phone.

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Post  Soose 4/19/2022, 8:16 am

Could definitely improve the yield by making the compost stay in the trommel cage longer. We added the input chute and that helped the problem of the compost bouncing unscreened back up the cage to fall at the foot in front.

We also added a shield on the opposite side from the person rotating the cage, to direct the spray of fines down into the tote below.

Got some overflow on the same side at the output end as well, a build-up in the corner. I've seen someone totally close off the output end of their trommel, and pick the smaller barrel up off the frame to empty the cage when done, but that would be way too much weight and trouble with a large cage like ours.

And we had various pieces of metal directing the flow of output into the trailer.

Any improvement will wait for the long term. For now, we got decent results considering the volume we were processing.
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Post  Frost? 4/19/2022, 2:34 pm

Pretty intense there Soose!  You may be a little "behind", but when you get rolling you should have quite the productive facility going!
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Post  Soose 4/19/2022, 3:32 pm

Definitely behind, Frost... We really need to but can't work every single day, not enough stamina aside from other projects and rain. Weve been taking all beds in sync pretty much up until now, but my goal is changing to get these beds up and planted one or two at a time from now on. I'll probably hill in all my bedding plants in the first and let them acclimate with some covers to the sun? (They're in the open on top of the soil of the earth boxes on the porch and have been without green house covers for awhile, so they should not have any cold shock but they haven't been getting as much direct sun as they will get in the new beds. I can cover with tulle. )

I keep forgetting, I need to build my grids, too.
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Post  Soose 4/22/2022, 7:13 am

Our first two "beds" are filled with 5 inches of my Mel's Mix.  I'll add one more to each bed today.
I'd like to get all beds to 6 inches and at least one to 12 inches for carrots, before adding more to any others of them.

The pallet supports were already leveled; overflow and fill plumbing was already done, and we'd already constructed the top of the water reservoir - a piece of 2"x4" welded fencing with edges folded down the sides, with the additional support of some large pvc cutoffs to support the weight of the sand and MM above, make sure that grid doesn't get crushed down.  Finishing off the "wicking bed" part under and lining each tote takes a few minutes. 

Adding a layer of sand is heavy work but will help make sure wicking is uniform over time. Sand has been proven to be the best wicking material.  I debated this sand layer -- could have left it out.  On the other end of the spectrum, some people even put sand all throughout the water reservoir below, which limits the amount of water stored.  We decided to go with the voice of experience and put in a small layer, under 3" deep.  Covered with a layer of filter cloth.

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Mel's Mix above.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the extra liner cloth sticking above the Mel's Mix. Might tuck it in behind itself, lower.
The sides of the totes will have to be protected from sun on the outside.  Many ways to do that - haven't decided.

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Post  sanderson 4/23/2022, 4:12 pm

You could use the same black fabric as a skirt around the toes. ?? Large binder clips.

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Post  Soose 4/23/2022, 5:39 pm

sanderson wrote:You could use the same black fabric as a skirt around the toes. ??  Large binder clips.

That's a good idea for short term. Would get us by. I have to check into how much light can pass and still avoid algae in the water reservoir.

The black fabric seems very tough compared to some we've used in landscaping in the past. (I think I picked it up at Sam's?) But it does pass pinpricks of light if you try to see. Maybe two layers?

And then, I wonder about UV damage long term to the bottle. Not sure of the lifespan, think it's decently long, but longer is better. I did see someone (Plant Abundance on YT) use a spray paint can of UV protectant, think it was Rust-Oleum brand, on the outside of 18 gallon totes, to help increase the lifespan of the tote for planting. If it works, smart! I'm trying that for my berry bins.

I know some people paint the plastic before dropping the cages back over, but we didn't stop to do that. Hmm. Actually, the half cages are still removable at this time. They lift on and off. Might consider removing them temporarily to spray paint. If the weight of the water and MM isn't too much...

Lots of other options.

Keeping heat off of the plants is the highest priority. Black would heat up. Could also drape black plastic but white would be much better. I've only seen black and clear rolls of plastic in construction.

White shower curtains? There's a thought. And dollar store... I bet they could even be sewn at the corners to fit. I didn't like the black plastic idea I saw first, because of the heat. And I read black plastic only lasts 2 yrs. Couldn't think of a white plastic at the time.
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Post  sanderson 4/23/2022, 9:22 pm

Soose wrote:
sanderson wrote:You could use the same black fabric as a skirt around the toes. ??  Large binder clips.

That's a good idea  for short term.  Would get us by.  I have to check into how much light can pass and still avoid algae in the water reservoir.  

The black fabric seems very tough compared to some we've used in landscaping in the past.  (I think I picked it up at Sam's?)  But it does pass pinpricks of light if you try to see.   Maybe two layers? . . .  

Keeping heat off of the plants is the highest priority.  Black would heat up.  Could also drape black plastic but white would be much better.  I've only seen black and clear rolls of plastic in construction.  
White plastic is transparent as far as sunlight, which allows the Mel's Mix and water to heat up.  Total blocking of light is best.  That may mean something black, dark grey, forest green, brown, etc.  You could try a patch of spray paint and see how well it blocks sunlight.

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Post  Soose 4/24/2022, 8:45 am

sanderson wrote:White plastic is transparent as far as sunlight,
Well, drat. You're right.  My previous shower curtain, heavy duty, was opaque, or I thought it was. But this is definitely not as thick and if I hold my hand against it, I can vaguely see the shape of fingers thru it. 

Spray paint is probably the short term solution to use.  Especially if I can lift the cages off without the bottles inside sagging too much now they're full.

Metal panels are an option.  Someone online has surplus PVC 4x8 and longer sheets, said they were UV protected.  It's a job to go get them.  Covering with pallet wood looks less obtrusive.  But all of it's a project that'll have to wait on the garden tending and a garden structure.  Draping a fabric around is quickest short term.

I have wandered in topic, sorry.

OH!  My better half transferred 275 gallons of water from the further flung storage tote up to the garden water tote yesterday.  I can proceed with rain water to wet down Mel's Mix!  Next rain tomorrow.
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Post  markqz 4/24/2022, 9:32 am

Soose wrote:Spray paint is probably the short term solution to use. Especially if I can lift the cages off without the bottles inside sagging too much now they're full.
If you spray, you will probably need to sand first to help the spray stick. Spray doesn't like to stick to plastic.

Other ideas.

Aluminum foil, applied with rubber cement or tacky spray, suggests the solar cook.

Large pieces of stiff cardboard from costco bins, shellac'd for water protection, inserted between the cage and the bottle.

Reflective foamboard from HD, the thin cheap kind, reflective side out, also between cage and bottle. May also extend season or help convert to cold-frame mode, speculatively thinking.
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Post  Soose 4/24/2022, 11:01 am

Thanks for all the ideas on covering these totes.   I think it's most important after we get the beds established and trellises in to get a screen/wire enclosure around the garden to protect from critters. If we can get wire.  If that has to wait, I'll make individual covers for each tote, sew them and hang onto posts at corners.

As this is my "journal" Sanderson set up for me, I guess I can wander... lol.

Sand:  Maybe someone will be searching for this topic and costs to build up a raised bed in future.

I just picked up 30 bags of washed/screened play sand from Lowe's, on sale for $3.33/bag. Loaded up behind the cab, I was glad to know our truck will handle it.  

(Yes, I decided to go ahead and put a shallow wicking bed layer in over the water reservoir.  It's a tried and true method and I'm trying to listen to the voice of experience there. )

The 1/2 cu yd bulk sand we got at the landscaper (my truck's limit as it was wet, bulk)  was white but too much trouble to wash, and I have not felt great about it even washed.  (Couldn't get it totally clean.)   They still owe me 1/2cu yd, but the labor and wasting water far outweighs the few dollars if I don't get it back.  

I also could not get a small load brought in here.  Big gravel/sand yards have minimums and I could not get anything less than $500, plus they won't go off the pavement.  (I can drive my truck to within a few feet of the garden when it's dry.)   The local lumber yards used to carry and bring in smaller lots to dump,  along with some building materials but they no longer are carrying it.  The big box stores - well, Lowe's a couple of weekends ago -- had the big "bags" but that's too much weight for my truck.  I never got around to checking the masonry /stone yards.  Should have.  It's been a journey to find sand that is clean.
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Join date : 2022-02-23
Location : North Alabama

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Soose in North Alabama - Page 3 Empty Re: Soose in North Alabama

Post  Soose 4/27/2022, 10:45 pm

First grids in today, as Sanderson suggested out of PVC screen mould. 
I got a price match at Home Depot, after Lowe's turned out to be out of stock. So $2.47 each 8ft -
which will make two of these sticks. I think I bought 23 of them?
Soose in North Alabama - Page 3 First_17

I riveted the intersections with 1/8" x 5/8" rivets.  The rivets aren't too tight.
So the grids sorta collapse -- could take them out and collapse to store.

Just finished 2 out of all the beds...  I had to stop to work on insurance.  Ugh.

I also stopped to count tomato plantlings, write down varieties, and try to find the sizes and types, etc..
Made me a list, sorted it... 

Soose in North Alabama - Page 3 Screen10

I need more planting space.  I have too many tomatoes!
At least I now know a lot of them are indeterminate.  I might use some of the 18gal tubs, meant for berries,
put some bush tomatoes in those  instead for now.  Keep them out of the SFG totes.

But this brings up the question: 

What do you do with your actual grid piece when you want to
use multiple squares for one plant and the grid is in the way?

My grids will collapse as a whole, but they're not partially removable.

Two more grids should go very quick tomorrow.  (That's all the beds I have prepped with MM.)
Then, either trellises on those -- but I think first I'll dig some of the plants you can see
in the background into some squares.  Even if temporary.  Is that a mistake?
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Soose in North Alabama - Page 3 Empty First plants in

Post  Soose 4/30/2022, 9:24 pm

Soose in North Alabama - Page 3 Img_2027

Four beds planted with back rows of various indeterminate tomatoes in the 3 and some pickling cukes in the fourth, then peppers, broccoli, cabbage and okra in front.

Not really Sq. Ft. style with diff veg in each square, nor staggered harvest. Just had to get some of the struggling plants I have into the ground.

I have 5 more of these style 3x4 beds. Still not totally ready.

Will also have better trellises on some. The trellises here are just temporary, jury rigged using old metal broomsticks I'd not thrown away. Cable tied. They're really as tall as I can manage without a stepstool or ladder or bench. But only 5ft above soil. I kept out the giant varieties of tomatoes for different trellises. Didn't plant squash yet either.

Must get some seeds into the "ground!"
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