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.


chris c. said...

i occasionally check out this blog, never posted before but was wondering where you sourced your granite sand. keep up all the great stuff, and i was very dismayed to discover urban gardener was gone a few weeks ago. it's a shame.

duane marcus Facebook me! said...

it is available from most concrete companies (lafarge is on glenwood ave. between Boulevard and Moreland), Earth Products in Marietta, Buck Jones Nursery in Grayson, Atlanta Stone in the old pikes stone yard location on Lawrenceville Highway in Tucker

LizM said...

Wow Duane!

I haven't stressed too much about my compost pile..a microscope! Yikes... I will have to step it up a bit - though currently it's under 5 feet of snow!

Thank you so much for linking to the kickstarter page!

With gratitude!

duane marcus Facebook me! said...

Hi Liz,
When you look at it through the microscope a whole new world opens up! Now when i walk through the garden i can feel the hum of activity in the soil and visualize all the tiny helpers working away to make the plants grow for me. If you get the chance I highly recommend you take Elaine Ingham's soil food web in Corvallis. She is an amazing woman doing incredible work to advance the science of organic crop production. Yes we organic growing advocates do use science!