Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Making Gourmet Compost
Compost is only as good as the ingredients that go into it. If the green matter you are composting is lacking in nutrients the resulting compost will be lacking in nutrients. If the manure you use comes from animals that are regularly fed antibiotics the antibiotics will end up in the compost. I read yesterday that plants can take them up and they appear in the leaves. Yikes! If the compost is missing the microorganisms in the soil food web that make nutrients available to the plants the nutrients are bound up in the compost.
I do the following things to be sure my compost is doing what i expect it to do. First i make sure my garden is well fed so that the plants (including the weeds) have all the nutrients i and my compost need. Second, i add kelp meal and local granite sand to the compost to compensate for any missing nutrients. I get my manure from people i know who feed their animals a natural, nutritious, and healthy diet. I have my compost tested by Soil Food Web, Inc. to be sure all the organisms in the soil food web are present. I study my compost under a microscope to see if all the organisms are present. I then add some older compost to all my new piles to be sure the organisms will be in the new compost. You can get soil and organic matter from old undisturbed forests to add to your pile if you are not sure all the organisms are present. I monitor the internal temperature of the pile to determine when it needs turning and when it is ready to be used. A hot pile needs to reach 135º and remain there for 3 days in order to kill weed seeds and harmful bacteria. It needs to be turned 3-5 times with the temperature returning to 135º each time to insure all of the pile gets into the middle and heats up properly.
That's how you make gourmet compost!
Go here to see a graph of compost temperature over the 1st week and a half.