Publications (Paul's Blog)

November 19, 2009


Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Dowlearn @ 6:39 pm

1. THE BIN Almost any method of containment can be used. Commercial compost bins are built with ventilation to allow air inside. Four “T” posts and a roll of chicken wire make an effective but inexpensive receptacle. Stand some wood pallets on end and wire them together. Use your imagination just keep air circulation in mind.
A. BROWN STUFF Brown stuff is any organic material that has died and is now ready to decompose. Fallen leaves, dead grass, wood chips, shredded paper, rotten hay, and rotten manure are good examples of brown stuff. Brown stuff is the main ingredient in compost.
B. GREEN STUFF Green stuff comes from living material. Fresh grass, pulled weeds, tree and shrub trimmings. vegetable matter, kitchen scraps, fresh manures are examples of green stuff. Green stuff contains the energy (sugar complex, nitrogen, enzymes) that is used by the fungi, bacteria, and other organisms to break down the brown stuff.
C. MICROBES Life happens. The decomposing bacteria and fungi will find your pile regardless. Commercial compost starters are available to kick-start your pile. The best of these concoctions will contain the microbes themselves. Most are simply bio-stimulants made up of sugar and vitamin complexes plus a nitrogen source to feed existing microbes. Some readily available stimulants would be molasses, left over fertilizers, or finished compost. Mix in a few shovels of fresh topsoil to supply the naturally existing microbes and the pile will begin to cook.
D. AIR All life needs air to breathe. Well aerated compost cooks down quickly, has little detectable odor, and will not breed flies or other insects. As the different ingredients are blended with oxygen the microbes reproduce rapidly, energy is released and heat is produced. The magic number is 150 degrees. At this temperature all human pathogens are destroyed and most weed seeds or root systems will die. If the pile is not turned enough to allow sufficient oxygen it will become anaerobic. Anaerobic decomposition smells bad, breeds insects and diseases and should be avoided. Oxygen can be introduced into the pile without having to physically turn it over by ramming a digging fork or any tool that can make holes to let air in.
E. WATER Water is also essential to all life forms. Compost piles tend to hold water well so rainfall should be sufficient. However it is a good idea to wet the pile down after all ingredients are mixed in. Also you may want to water it some during drought. Be aware that water compresses the pile and squeezes the air out. Too much water can cause the pile to go anaerobic.
In short, compost improves all soils and feeds all plants. Never lose sight of the fact that the ONLY thing that feeds plants in nature is decomposing organic matter therefore compost is the only thing necessary to grow any plant anywhere. As gardeners we have access to many types of fertilizers and soil amendments. All these things are about achieving maximum growth and/or fine tuning our soils. Without compost as the main ingredient none of these things work so well. Compost truly is the miracle ingredient and the basis of life as we know it.
In nature we find that as rainfall percolates through the layers of decomposing organic matter found in our topsoil that some of it dissolves into the water to form a “tea” if you will. The nutrients and minerals that are dissolved in this tea are what plants actually take up into their roots. We can brew compost tea to super feed our garden plants easily by simply placing a few shovels of compost into any container and adding water. The brew should be allowed to steep at least 24 to 48 hours before being used. The latest discovery regarding this technique involves using an aquarium pump to aerate compost tea before actually spraying it on the plant. This introduction of oxygen will wake up the microbes in the compost and get them reproducing rapidly. Brew your tea then begin aeration the day before you plan to use it. Aerated compost tea should be used immediately while the water is still highly charged. Once the air stone is removed the microbes will slowly begin to decrease. The ideal way to use this is in the early morning as the stomata (breathing pores) located on the undersides of leaves are open to receive their daily dose of carbon dioxide. Spray the entire plant and the ground around it. This type of foliar feeding gives results as good or better than anything short of natural rainfall and it is easy and inexpensive to do.

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