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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Empty The big compost move

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 5/25/2023, 2:44 am

So I noticed during a recent heavy rain event that there was a small lake next to my compost winter storage bin Shocked 

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2010

I'd sat the pallets on bricks when I made it, which hopefully helped keep some of the water out of my compost, but it was clear that once the weather cleared I had quite a job on my hands.

Today was the day.  I laid a tarp in front of the bin, manually pulled all of the compost (halfway up the bin) out onto it, laid bricks over the bottom, and used my fish bin to get the material back into the bin.  What a job!

I was distressed to see how wet the material in the bottom half (my first tumbler batch) was: I'm not sure whether this was simply because that material wasn't protected by the tarp that you see in the above photo, or whether there has been leaching downwards from the second batch material, which I put there about a week ago.  In any case we definitely have some anaerobic decomposition going on in there...

I know I should have mixed in some dry leaves as I put the material back in there, but at the moment I have my hands full just doing the bare necessities, so I'm just going to cross my fingers and hope it's still useful come spring.
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Post  sanderson 5/25/2023, 1:57 pm

I'm so sorry this happened to your compost. The only good thing is that you found out now instead of when you came back in the spring. The rain has shown you that area is prone to standing water.

You are already correcting getting the compost above the high water level. May I make a suggestion about the top cover? I originally tried to cover my bin with a blue tarp against the rain. The tarp filled up with water like yours does. Water is heavy stuff and I got wet every time I tried to dump the water! I had to lay sections of fence boards across the top and then cover with the tarp to prevent pooling water. [Eventually I had husband made a plywood cover for it with hinges for opening, but that's another odessey.]


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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 5/25/2023, 7:47 pm

sanderson wrote:You are already correcting getting the compost above the high water level.  May I make a suggestion about the top cover?  I originally tried to cover my bin with a blue tarp against the rain.  The tarp filled up with water like yours does.   Water is heavy stuff and I got wet every time I tried to dump the water!  I had to lay sections of fence boards across the top and then cover with the tarp to prevent pooling water. [Eventually I had husband made a plywood cover for it with hinges for opening, but that's another odessey.] 

Thank you!!!!!  I was standing there looking at it yesterday (having hand-pumped it dry as the first step to the job) and thinking, What on earth can I do to prevent this happening again?  I was trying to think of a way to angle the surface towards the back, couldn't come up with anything so decided to just put up with pumping it.

I'm not the handiest of people.... Embarassed
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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Empty Steamin' compost!

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 5/25/2023, 7:50 pm

I put my third batch of compost into the tumbler two days ago.  It's too dry, so I'm gradually correcting with added water.  This morning when I opened the hatches to measure the temp it was steaming!  This on a cold (for us) morning.  Difference of 40°C between ambient and internal.  Seems the added bubblewrap insulation is having the desired effect bounce
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Post  sanderson 5/26/2023, 1:30 pm

KiwiSFGnewbie wrote:I'm not the handiest of people.... Embarassed
I think you are quite handy and innovative.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 5/26/2023, 6:51 pm

Finally managed to remember to take some photos of the insulated tumbler this morning, duh...

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2011

The handle assembly poses quite a challenge for insulation; currently I just pull the two pieces off each time I need to rotate the drum, but they're not very securely installed and the next storm front will surely pull them off.  Currently thinking of one big piece with a hole for the handle to poke through (since of course it won't always be in the position shown), which I'll orient to suit the handle; I'll still have to pull it off for rotations, but hopefully I can figure out a way of securing it that will stay on better than two little pieces of duct tape!!
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2012
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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Empty The garden this morning

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 5/27/2023, 6:27 pm

The garden is winding down as we progress into winter here.  Last winter I looked carefully at where to site it, even going as far as checking where the house's shadow sat on the lawn at midday around the 20th of June.....and now I find that, yes the garden gets sunlight in the middle of the day but by 3pm it's in shade!!! Mad   Oh well.  I want the garden out the back of the house, so I guess I'm going to have to accept that it's not going to grow as much stuff in winter as I'd hoped.

Anyhoo.  My beans have finally stopped producing, making their season nearly 4 months long, from what I've read this is really not bad for a determinate variety! Smile   From 3 and a half plants (one stopped producing much earlier than the others) I've taken nearly 100 beans, half a kilo (1.1 pounds) so I'm pretty happy.  To a bean they've been utterly delicious, crisp and sweet and juicy.

The two tomato plants continue to gradually ripen their fruit, although the leaves are now looking really quite sad so I might not get the final 5 off them.  Again, for a determinate variety they've had quite a season -- 2 months long, 23 fruit so far and just under a kilo in total.  The texture hasn't been all I could have hoped for, but they're free, and they're mine Smile

The carrots continue to grow, and those which were hit by a slugfest about 3 weeks ago have regrown to some extent although I suspect the shorter sunlight hours are affecting them a fair bit.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2013


The other day I tried to find out what the roots were like, and gently dug down around the stems of a couple of them.  Couldn't get to anything carrot-like, so I'm starting to wonder if they're like my beetroot over summer -- just the green part is growing and there's nothing for me!  My earliest sowing was on the 15th of March -- surely something ought to be visible under the surface by now???

I also have one surviving pea plant, which actually has a pod on it that's gradually filling out bounce   There's also one or two flowers on it.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2015

I need to pull everything out and get the cover crop sown later this month, so I expect I won't be eating a lot more from the garden, but whatever I get is a bonus Smile
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Post  sanderson 5/29/2023, 1:33 pm

Just my observations:

There carrots look like they are doing fine.  I plant mine before winter (September here/March there) and harvest 4+ months later.  You could leave them there for winter.

Regarding slugs, Sluggo PLUS is hard to find here in the States, even online!  Shocked I sprinkle it when I sow or set out tender starts.  https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t23938-sluggo-plus#307731

You can pick the tomatoes at the last minute and ripen on the counter.  If they are blushing it should work.

Peas are a cool weather crop.  You can sow bush peas (what you are calling "determinate") for the winter.

Kudos on the bush beans.  Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 3170584802

Regarding your prior post on the tumbler, you don't have to insulate it.  The heat is generated by the microbes.  My tumbler was located in year around shade and reached internal temps up to 150-160*F.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 5/30/2023, 2:10 am

sanderson wrote:Just my observations:

There carrots look like they are doing fine.  I plant mine before winter (September here/March there) and harvest 4+ months later.  You could leave them there for winter.

I guess there's no harm leaving them there till late October, although would they be worth eating by then?  Also, I worry about slugfests while I'm away.  The garden has to be 100% able to look after itself from mid July to the end of October.  The slugfest happened to the third square in my photo yesterday (counting going away from the camera) which were sown on the same day as the fourth square, so the plants were not little when they were hit.  I couldn't believe the difference from one day to the next!  I scatter Quash (our version of Sluggo) religiously before rains, and always around new sowings.

Well, I guess if I left them in place and they did get hit by slugs, I'm no worse off than if I pull them before I go away!

Regarding your prior post on the tumbler, you don't have to insulate it.  The heat is generated by the microbes.  My tumbler was located in year around shade and reached internal temps up to 150-160*F.

Then I definitely am doing something wrong.  I've never seen temps like that!  Below is my morning temps for the three batches I've made in the tumbler (the third one has been in there a week now):

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Lhs12
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Rhs12

I got really excited with the initial temps for this current batch, but now I'm down at fairly mediocre temps, despite the insulation.  I was convinced the difference between batches 1 and 2 was that the weather was cooler during batch 2 than batch 1, but now I have to wonder.

My greens are always put through the food processor, and my browns are either pine sawdust or shredded leaves.  Oh, and there's coffee grounds too, which I always hand-crumble before putting in.  I check and adjust the moisture every morning and afternoon when a batch is "young", until a hand squeeze produces just a drop or two coming out between my fingers.  Drum rotation only 5 turns per day unless the mix needs water in the afternoon too, then I give it another 5 turns just to help the water distribute better.

Could it be as simple as volume?  The tumbler's max is 245 litres = 64.7 gallons and of course that's split between the two compartments.  What size is yours?
Thank you as always for your pointers and tips, sanderson Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 3170584802
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Post  sanderson 5/30/2023, 5:19 pm

Mine was an 80-gallon single chamber. Just my thought - don't turn unless it gets over 160*F and you need to dry and cool it off a bit, or the temp has dropped like 10-20*F. But then again, your original compost looked really good.

Maybe OG will toss in his 2 cents.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 5/31/2023, 4:32 pm

OK, sure, I can try that.  I just feel like I'm not "doing" enough if I don't turn it! Embarassed   (I was brought up very much in the protestant work ethic)  This morning it was at same temps as last night (~107°F which I saw somewhere is about the bottom of the 'sanitising' range if kept there for long enough), so will cross fingers that it rises over the next few days Smile
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 6/7/2023, 5:05 pm

Bummer.  The temps stayed the same, and have dropped in recent days Sad   So, I've gone back to daily 5 rotations, since at least that's spreading out the material that still has bacteria in it.

I'm starting to wonder if my particular temperature profile is due to the tiny size of my material when I build a batch???  Or maybe the fact that it all goes in on a single day???  So, I get huge activity initially but then the bugs have done much of their work in a very short space of time??  Does that sound reasonable?

I needed to build batches quickly this autumn, but next summer/autumn I'll have much more time and can put them together more gradually, and the material can even be in bigger pieces if you folks think that's a better idea.  Sure, prepping with the food processor is easier and quicker than chopping by hand, but if I'm not doing 20 or 30 gallons worth on a single day my wrists and arms can probably cope!
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Post  sanderson 6/9/2023, 4:09 pm

Composting continues at a slower pace even at "body" temps through the action of mesophilic microbes.  Your compost did reach good thermophilic organisms temps.  When the temps get back to mesophilic temps there is still activity as long as there are moisture and oxygen.

Back in the day when I composted, I built the 3'x3'x3' cage within 24-36 hours. I never added new materials to the cage as that starts the count-down all over again.  It was a major operation collecting all of the material (except fall leaves that were stored).  The bedding straw had to be mowed.  A run to the college horse stables for manure.  Over the weeks of composting the volume dropped to around 1/2.

This is the kitchen scene of me chopping the produce culls after visiting the evening Farmer's Market. You can see the size of the produce after chopping.
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Compos84

Collecting Starbuck's coffee grounds and then dancing on them bags to break up the pucks.
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Coffee12

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Compos85

Staging all of the ingredients to start building.
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Compos86

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 6/10/2023, 11:37 pm

Evening Farmers Market, what a good idea!  Better variety than I get from my corner fruit-and-vege shop.

Where I'm coming from on using bigger piece sizes than I have been, is that it might slow the microbial activity a little and thus spread it out in time.  I'm wondering if perhaps, the total amount of activity is similar between my 'heaps' and other people's, but it happens over a much shorter time period since my piece sizes are so much smaller, having been through the food processor.  (My current batch dropped volume to half within a week)  For the decomposition the specific temps aren't a problem so long as the conditions are right, as you point out; it's gonna happen anyway.  But from the point of view of 'sanitisation' I'm thinking I want thermophilic type temps for longer than I'm getting, so maybe slowing down my 'heaps' might be a good thing?

Just a perhaps-stoobie idea Smile
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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 6/13/2023, 4:21 am

No more scenes like this:
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2016


sanderson wrote:May I make a suggestion about the top cover?  I originally tried to cover my bin with a blue tarp against the rain.  The tarp filled up with water like yours does.   Water is heavy stuff and I got wet every time I tried to dump the water!  I had to lay sections of fence boards across the top and then cover with the tarp to prevent pooling water. [Eventually I had husband made a plywood cover for it with hinges for opening, but that's another odessey.]
Feeling very pleased with myself tonight.  This afternoon I attached bubblewrap along the four sides of one of my left-over pallets (to protect the tarp covering) and put it on top of the bin.  On top of that I put one of the side panels from my old useless airless insulated compost bin, and the tarp lashed over the top again.  Voila!  I now have a solid 'roof' to the bin, and it even angles slightly front to back, so rain should simply run off!!!
Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 3170584802


(The downside is that the tarp no longer reaches to the bottom in front, but there's carpet all the way down, so it should be fine)
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Post  sanderson 6/14/2023, 11:33 pm

Excellent. Just give you a suggestion and you are off and running with your own creation. Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 3170584802

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 6/15/2023, 2:35 am

sanderson wrote:Excellent.  Just give you a suggestion and you are off and running with your own creation. Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 3170584802

(Well, actually I did try doing exactly what you suggested, with some free wood that I found the other day, but it wasn't enough, and anyway would have involved a lot of hand-sawing, mitred so as to be kind to the tarp, ugh....so I went lateral!)
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Post  sanderson 6/15/2023, 4:10 am

Lateral is good, also. Very Happy

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Empty Back home again

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 10/27/2023, 6:33 pm

I arrived back home from my winter sojourn this past Thursday.  I've been lurking in here from time to time and it seems you have all had a busy and good growing season, in the main.

My garden seems to have survived just fine without me (as I knew it would) and the Alyssium ground cover certainly has been busy while I was away!  (The stakes and coke cans are to hold up the tulle which is going back on as soon as the roundup spray around the perimeter has dried)

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2017

I'm liking how the wood has silvered this past year, although it does rather make the painted tops of the corner pieces (whose colour I so carefully chose so as to blend in with the wood) much more obvious!  Never mind.

I'm also very pleased to see that the compost heap looks pretty much identical to how I left it in late June Very Happy   I haven't yet looked inside; hopefully it didn't dry out too much (or get too much wetter, for that matter....)

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2018

The leaf cage which I filled to the top has compacted down nicely and right under the very top layer is a lovely wet dark mixture, not ready to use this summer of course, but moving right along Smile 

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2019

All in all I'm very pleased with how a completely neglected garden looks after nearly 4 months!
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Post  sanderson 10/28/2023, 1:36 am

Welcome back. happy hi

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 10/28/2023, 5:02 pm

Thank you, sanderson, good to be back Very Happy   How is your arm doing these days?
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Post  sanderson 10/29/2023, 4:17 am

So much better, thank you.  Low throbbing at times but the range of motion is 90+%.  I took good care of it during the early healing, and PT really helped.  Lucky, lucky.

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Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 10/29/2023, 3:33 pm

Well done you!  So many people go to physios but don't do the exercises, I remember you are not in that camp Smile   Very pleased for you that you got so much function back.
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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Empty Spring jobs

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/9/2023, 10:28 pm

About a week ago I screwed up my courage and opened the compost heap for the first time since late June.  Having no idea what to expect I was delighted to see a nice crumbly dark brown material with essentially nothing growing in it Very Happy  I took a load out using my fish bin and spread it on a tarp to dry (I read somewhere in autumn that this is a good idea, to get rid of some, at least, slugs and sow bugs) then sifted it and popped it into the garden.

At the time I thought that was all it would take this spring, since the level was up to the top of the weedmat liner, but then I realised the weedmat had slipped down over the months.  After a gentle pull upwards it's now at the top of the bed, so today I got another load of compost out and drying on the tarp.  Here it is nearly ready for sifting and adding to the bed.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2020

Having removed about half of the material from the compost bin I was then able to dig down to the very bottom and see what it's like down there.  This is the material which I had to rescue in May, from a rather large puddle.  At the time it was anaerobic so I definitely have been wondering what state it was in over the winter, being at the bottom of the bin and expecting leachate from higher-up material.

I was delighted to see that although it's pretty compressed (very hard to dig into with my hands), it doesn't smell!! bounce   I got down to the very bottom -- could feel the brick floor and had a good sniff.  So I guess I have the wormies and other creatures that have been working it for me over winter to thank!

I'm particularly interested in the quality of that material because it's earmarked for the strawberry bed which I had been hoping to set up this spring.  Sadly, the country's atrocious wet weather for the past nearly 12 months has meant that many commercial strawberry growers have had to completely replant their fields, meaning there just aren't the plants for retail this spring that we normally would have.  So my plan has had to go on the back burner for another year.

I took a sample of the compost at the bottom of the bin, plus one from the material I removed today, and another of the Mel's Mix which has been in the bed nearly a year now, and am going to sow peas in them (since I have more pea seeds than bean seeds) and see how they all fare over the next several weeks.  I don't actually have anything to do with the remaining compost this growing season, so it'll be good to get some idea of its current fertility.  (I expect it'll change over the next year -- but surely it won't be useless by then??)

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2023

Lettuces are germinating and growing nicely on the patio -- these are my "breeders" so will be around until early May.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2021

Strawberries a bit of a mixed bag -- some plants didn't cope too well with the winter but I have hope they will still recover.  It's hard leaving my babies in the care of a total non-gardener!  I never quite know what I'll find when I arrive back home in spring.

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2022

The ones in troughs are going into the garden bed in the next week or so; they would have gone into the new strawberry bed but of course that isn't happening this spring now.  From what I see in other threads they should do fine in Mel's Mix.  At the end of summer I'll probably pull them out -- they'll be two year olds by then, so getting towards the end of their peak productive years.
KiwiSFGnewbie
KiwiSFGnewbie

Posts : 260
Join date : 2022-09-25
Location : Auckland, New Zealand

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Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Empty Tomatoes (I think) are through :-)

Post  KiwiSFGnewbie 11/10/2023, 3:17 pm

Just when I was starting to give up hope on these seeds, it seems my tomatoes have decided life is worth living:

Kiwi's SFG Adventure - Page 5 Pxl_2024

I didn't bother labelling them, and I have other veges also germinating at the same time, so I'm not certain they're tomatoes, but I'm pretty sure.  Yay -- this is a three week advance on what I managed last year Very Happy
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KiwiSFGnewbie

Posts : 260
Join date : 2022-09-25
Location : Auckland, New Zealand

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