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a couple beginner compost questions Toplef10a couple beginner compost questions 1zd3ho10

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.

a couple beginner compost questions I22gcj10a couple beginner compost questions 14dhcg10

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a couple beginner compost questions

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Post  tkdtara84 Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:50 pm

This is my first year SFG, and I thought I would first do the boxes this year and put off composting until next. However, we are just getting our yard cleaned up from previous elderly owners who couldn't care for it, so it's really overgrown, and we have tons of clippings/trimmings. We cut down a cedar tree last fall that was making our house and roof mildew/rot. Anyhow, there are tons of cedar needles on the ground from where that tree was (at least several huge garbage bags worth), so that got me thinking about going ahead with composting this year so we don't have to figure out how to bag them up and get rid of them all.

First, would cedar needles be okay to compost? I read about someone composting mulberry tree trimmings and ending up with tons of mulberry seedlings because her compost didn't get hot enough to kill the seeds. I'd hate to have the same thing happen.

Second, our yard is heavily shaded. We're using up the few patches of sunlight for the boxes, so the most convenient spot for our pile/bin would be right up next to a wooded spot with very little sunlight. Would that work, or does a pile need sunlight to heat up and do its thing?

Thanks, and sorry for the dumb questions!
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Post  Lavender Debs Wed Mar 30, 2011 6:57 pm

Compost is all about internal combustion. Do not use just the cedar, add grass clippings, vegetarian poo (rabbit, goat, horse) is optional, kitchen scraps, fall leaves, more lawn clippings. I'm fairly sure Mel has a chapter on this in his book.
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Post  tkdtara84 Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:00 pm

Thanks. I will, of course, add other stuff, but my main reason for starting this year instead of waiting until next would be to use the cedar stuff. My husband is a little freaked by the startup costs of the MM, etc., and wants to wait on the compost to make sure the SFG thing "sticks," but if he didn't have to bag and haul the cedar needles, well that might be an offer he couldn't refuse. Wink
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Post  Lavender Debs Wed Mar 30, 2011 7:10 pm

Yikes, sorry about that, I feel his pain. My husband is more like middle momma's, He got everything for me partly because he has so many toys...errr hobbies. He likes to go shopping and I do not have a normal female shopping gene. I am the one who gets sticker shock.

Raw compost takes more than it gives. If the older couple had a pile somewhere use that (It might just look like a mound of grass but under that layer of grass is SFG gold. Save the bags of cedar for between the beds (mulch rather than compost)
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Post  camprn Wed Mar 30, 2011 9:06 pm

I have a stand of spruce and hemlock trees at my place. The fallen needles ARE compostable, but I don't add very many of them to my active compost pile, I just rake up the needle debris and pile in the back yard and let it sit all by itself to rot as it will. Today I was checking last years pile and it is nearly ready to use as compost.
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Post  tkdtara84 Thu Mar 31, 2011 1:25 pm

After doing more online reading, I found that the needles are, of course, compostable, but they are very acidic, so it's not good to add too many of them to the pile. However, we're planting a couple of blueberry bushes this year, and they need acidic soil, so I'm just going to use the needles as mulch for them. Problem solved!

Does anyone know if I can put my pile in the shade? Does it make the process go slower?
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Post  dmsandlin Thu Mar 31, 2011 2:39 pm

Think of what's on a forest floor - acres of compost from last (and previous) year's fallen leaves; it all happened in the shade. It may take a little longer, but shade won't hurt.
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Post  Goosegirl Thu Mar 31, 2011 5:08 pm

@dmsandlin wrote:Think of what's on a forest floor - acres of compost from last (and previous) year's fallen leaves; it all happened in the shade. It may take a little longer, but shade won't hurt.

I was thinking the same thing - think Redwood Forest - 300ft tall trees? Not much sun hits the ground - but compost happens anyway!

TC
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Post  camprn Thu Mar 31, 2011 7:12 pm

@tkdtara84 wrote:After doing more online reading, I found that the needles are, of course, compostable, but they are very acidic, so it's not good to add too many of them to the pile. However, we're planting a couple of blueberry bushes this year, and they need acidic soil, so I'm just going to use the needles as mulch for them. Problem solved!

Does anyone know if I can put my pile in the shade? Does it make the process go slower?
PERFECT for the blueberries! I would suggest just piling the needles in the most convenient spot and dont think about then again until next year. Very Happy
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Post  WardinWake Fri Apr 01, 2011 6:22 am

@tkdtara84 wrote:After doing more online reading, I found that the needles are, of course, compostable, but they are very acidic, so it's not good to add too many of them to the pile. However, we're planting a couple of blueberry bushes this year, and they need acidic soil, so I'm just going to use the needles as mulch for them. Problem solved!

Does anyone know if I can put my pile in the shade? Does it make the process go slower?

Tkdtara84:

Composting will happen no matter the location and the weather. Follow the instructions in the "ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING BOOK" beginning on page 92. Using the method as outlined I had steam coming from my compost pile when there was a foot of snow on the ground, but, none on the compost pile.

God Bless, Ward and Mary.
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Post  Miss Mousie Mon Apr 18, 2011 8:42 pm

I have a couple of huge ancient oak trees right behind my house and they drop tons of leaves. When I feel compelled to rake, I find the most beautiful black soil. Can I add this to my compost, the leaves and some of the soil? Are oak leaves acidic too?
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Post  tkdtara84 Mon Apr 18, 2011 9:31 pm

I just dug up around our pile of needles, and lo and behold-- compost! It was all done under the very top layer! So, now I have some good soil to add to the blueberry spot. The rest we just raked into a pile so it can do its business.
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Post  camprn Mon Apr 18, 2011 9:40 pm

From what I've read, the oak leaf is high in nitrogen and acidic while fresh and beginning it's decomposition, but the overall effect is an alkaline composted product.

Composting Oak Leaves from another forum.
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Post  boffer Mon Apr 18, 2011 9:44 pm

Oak leaves have made up ~20% of my compost for four years. No complaints here.

Fir needles are just slow.
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