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Mel's Mix. How strong is your backbone?

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Post  dalepres on 7/17/2020, 10:27 pm

@camprn wrote:No,you are not missing anything, but that is the plan; Mel's Mix is just the beginning. Very Happy
I had planned on skimping on the Mel's mix in my beds and even bought a truckload of garden mix from a dirt company in Tulsa but i'll use that in other ways and plan on making Mel's mix by-the-book.  This is all just too much work to take the risk of failure for not following the proven methods.

My new strategy is to never again rake leaves or mow the lawn on my nearly 3 acres - half wooded and half open with grass.  My new plan is to harvest the leaves and harvest the lawn.  When I threw the first bits of kitchen scraps into my newly completed compost bin, I harvested a dozen mower feet of lawn and a few square feet of forest-bed leaves, putting the grass clippings over the fruit scraps and the leaves over the grass clippings.  I should be able to make all the compost I could ever use.  I may not get it quickly enough for these first couple of beds in their first year but I should never have to buy compost again, even for a large garden.
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Post  sanderson on 7/23/2020, 2:37 am

Very Happy

It will be worth it to follow the recipe. As far as your compost bin, if you have trouble finding produce, try a farmers market or grocery store for their culls. A little bit of used coffee grounds (like 10% of the volume) can be used, like from Starbucks. Also, barn manure.

Did you make a framed bin? Like 3'x3'x3'? You can make usable compost quickly (30-60 days) using the hot compost method. It states 18 days, but I found it took at least 30 days for both the hot and the cool down part. If you make 2 bins, you can turn from one bin into the other during the cooking part. A screen that fits over the wheel barrow can be made with 2"x4" and 1/4" hardware cloth.

https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t18500-compost-berkeley-18-day-hot-method?highlight=berkeley

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Post  Dan in Ct on 7/23/2020, 5:22 pm

Hi sanderson, the 3'x3'x3' is minimal size and as the composting process ramps up the pile shrinks and you begin to lose the size of mass needed. At most composting facilities the piles are 5' high at least and the turning is dictated by time and temperature, how long at a certain temperature. If your compost piles stays at a temperature 160F or above for too long, we are not talking days but hours, the bacteria dies halting the process and the pile must cool and the process has to start all over again with a different set of bacteria. I am for composting and well made compost. I don't doubt how long it takes you to make compost, I am just questioning the quality. Here our town composts leaves, acres of them but it still takes 6 months even with windrows and the huge machine. I just don't believe the Berkeley Method makes the best compost and believe for most homeowners and backyard gardeners, the method borders on being a myth. I would rather see people start a pipeline of well made compost and if they continually compost they will have a supply, never enough but a supply. Rather than frustrate them with a method that for most is set up for failure. Here is a good source for information on the the microbiology and composting in general.

[url=https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/HomeCompost/Microbes/#:~:text=Thermophilic bacteria prefer a temperature,temperature exceeds 160oF.]https://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Organics/HomeCompost/Microbes/#:~:text=Thermophilic%20bacteria%20prefer%20a%20temperature,temperature%20exceeds%20160oF.[/url]

I know composting is a natural process but seldom if ever does any good come from rushing Mother Nature.


Last edited by Dan in Ct on 7/23/2020, 5:24 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : link looked messed up)
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Post  OhioGardener on 7/23/2020, 6:07 pm

The optimal temperature for compost to finish is 135ºF to 160ºF, with it maintained between 150ºF and 160ºF for several days.  I use Jora compost tumblers, and can easily get the compost up to 150ºF+, and keep it there for up to a week. The compost tumbler is able to complete compost in 30 days.

From the Washington State University Extension Office site:

"In aerobic composting proper temperature is important. Heat is released in the process. Since composting material has relatively good insulation properties, a composting mass large enough (3’ x 3’) will retain the heat of the exthermo-biological reaction and high temperatures will develop.


High temperatures are essential for destruction of pathogenic and undesirable weed seeds. Also, decomposition is more rapid in the thermophilic temperature range. The optimum temperature range is 135° -160° Fahrenheit. Since few thermophilic organisms actively carry on decomposition above 160° F, it is undesirable to have temperatures above this for extended periods.


Eggs of parasites, cysts and flies have survived in compost stacks for days when the temperature in the interior of the stack is around 135° F. Since a higher temperature can be readily maintained during a large part of the active composting period, all the material should be subjected to a temperature of at least 150° F for safety."


Full article at: http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/fundamentals/needs_temperature.htm

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Post  Dan in Ct on 7/24/2020, 9:21 am

One problem I have with hot composting is most people don't have enough ingredients in an approximate ratio C:N to build a pile with the needed mass. Nor will there be the attention to temperature, moisture or aeration to keep the microbiology within the parameters for them to thrive. Secondly hot composting is an unnatural process when at this point we are trying garden in harmony with natural. The purpose of compost is to return to the earth that which we took when we harvested our produce and to create an environment for soil life to thrive. With hot composting you start off by killing all the microbiology that you are trying to increase their populations and then hoping that they return after the process is over. You pay a price for rushing Mother Nature in the off gassing of some nutrients and the need for more water not to mention the energy to turn the pile. If it didn't cost so much, I would like to send off the compost made in tumblers to be compared with compost made that is grounded and see if there is a greater diversity of microbiology in the grounded compost. Plus there is no quality standards when it comes to compost. We know it is a good soil amendment and keep using it with good results. Here is a link to Curing Compost and addresses many of my concerns about hot composting. I am not saying hot composting doesn't work, I am just saying it needs to be well monitored with diligence that most home gardeners are not ready for. I am saying there is an easier way, it just takes longer and once past the initial wait, you will have an ongoing supply of compost. The link:

https://www.soilwealth.com.au/imagesDB/news/Nov2010_ShafferCompost.pdf

When is the best time to start making compost ? A year ago but today is the second best time.
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Post  OhioGardener on 7/24/2020, 5:25 pm

@Dan in Ct wrote:Nor will there be the attention to temperature, moisture or aeration to keep the microbiology within the parameters for them to thrive. Secondly hot composting is an unnatural process when at this point we are trying garden in harmony with natural. The purpose of compost is to return to the earth that which we took when we harvested our produce and to create an environment for soil life to thrive. With hot composting you start off by killing all the microbiology that you are trying to increase their populations and then hoping that they return after the process is over.

Two thoughts on the theory of this, neither based on any scientific journal, but based solely on my experience over the past 6 or 7 decades.

It is the microbial life that we want in our gardens that creates the heat in the compost pile or tumbler, so it would seem that they would still be available when the compost is applied to the garden soil. The only thing I know for certain about it is the results in my own gardens. My gardens have, over the many years, turned into mostly compost and the various humus created by the decomposing process, and the gardens are very, very productive. I periodically, like 3 days ago, take soil sample from the various beds and then look at them under the microscope. All of the samples showed a very high microbial life, so I am confident in the Soil Food Web that has been built up with the homemade compost.

I am not sure that hot composting is an "unnatural" process in returning to nature what was natures.  When the tree trimmer delivers a large truck of wood chips, which includes all levels of chipped wood from dead limbs to the live branches and leaves, I have it dumped in a single pile in my back-40 area.  That pile of chips will reach a very high temperature in the middle of that pile, and the pile will gradually shrink as it decomposes. On a cool morning, it is nice to watch the steam rising from the pile. After a year or two I take the top layer off that pile of chips, and have a lot of very rich compost to use for mulching the flower and vegetable gardens. That is all done by nature without any human intervention.  Nature seems to need heat to produce that rich composted material.

It is through this process that nature grows soil. But, as I said, this is based on my personal experience and not from any studies or scientific articles. And, your mileage may vary, depending on resources, climate, etc..

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Post  dalepres on 7/25/2020, 12:59 am

@sanderson wrote:Very Happy

It will be worth it to follow the recipe.  As far as your compost bin, if you have trouble finding produce, try a farmers market or grocery store for their culls.  A little bit of used coffee grounds (like 10% of the volume) can be used, like from Starbucks.  Also, barn manure.

Did you make a framed bin?  Like 3'x3'x3'?  You can make usable compost quickly (30-60 days) using the hot compost method.  It states 18 days, but I found it took at least 30 days for both the hot and the cool down part.  If you make 2 bins, you can turn from one bin into the other during the cooking part.  A screen that fits over the wheel barrow can be made with 2"x4" and 1/4" hardware cloth.

https://squarefoot.forumotion.com/t18500-compost-berkeley-18-day-hot-method?highlight=berkeley

I built one base on this video.  His is 12' total length; mine is only 9' since I couldn't get 8' cedar fence boards.  3' wide compartments seemed more manageable anyway.  

For the past couple weeks since I finished it, I've managed about 2 to 3 pounds of kitchen scraps every few days - we keep buying fruits and vegetables that I just haven't had time to use before they get bad.

The nearest town to us is 15 miles.  I go to town on Friday mornings for pickup order at Walmart and a trip to the mailbox and that's pretty much it so there's not much chance to get freebies from town but my daughter dropped off a few big  tubs of cattle manure from their ranch.  I dumped those into small piles to let them cool off and will add them to the compost bins in a few weeks.  They're 75 miles away so, even though they have all that I could ever want, we have to take it a few tubs at a time.  I might build some side boards for my tractor hauler and go get a big load in the fall.

Good idea on the screen; I'll make one over the next couple weeks and see how I'm doing with what I've got in the first bin.

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Post  OhioGardener on 7/25/2020, 10:11 am

That will keep you composting!  It is such a productive process of being able to turn the compost from one bin to the next as it matures.

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