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PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 7:07 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 6:29 pm
Posts: 125
Location: Rowlett TX
Some things I am composting and some questions....

1. How much cardboard is bad? I get a lot of boxes for my home business and cut them up, soak them, mix'm with grass clippings and toss them into the pile... any reason not to???

2. the 'woody' parts of my Bermuda grass take forever to break down... I turn my pile every 2-3 days but things still take an awful long time, seems to get pretty hot, get that white fungus growing near the top layer... for those who get compost in 2-3 weeks, what the heck are ya doing differently? Am I turning it too often? Does it need a few days undisturbed to work??? Pile is about 5' wide, 4' high.

3. Got some hardwood mulch last week that was very fine and rotten (ie, I love it) and was thinking about adding 4-5 bags of it to my pile with some greensense and grass clippings for more mass and hopefully more heat in the middle - good or bad idea.


4. Finished fertilixing the lawn and had an extra bag of Milorganite so I mixed it into the pile - WOW, that seems to have things heating up... any reason not to?? (Frankly I don't care if the contents of the bag were originally the contents of my gut - is there any reason milorganite in the compost pile would be bad???)

5. I would like to spread the current pile in about 3 weeks to cover my flowerbeds, rosebeds etc and want to really turn up the heat and get it to finish faster so I am considering adding:

Corn gluten meal
Greensense 5-2-4
straight Ammonium Nitrate.

Proc/cons/thoughts????? What turns your warm cozy pile into vesuvius???


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 Post subject: Compost Questions
PostPosted: Wed Oct 08, 2003 8:37 pm 
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Posts: 829
Location: Dallas,TX
Here's my take on what you have done and are doing:

1. Different kinds of carboard have different ingredients; if they are mostly plain brown there will be glue in them but probably not much that's bad and can be eliminated during the composting process. Mixing them with grass clippings is good to balance the brown/green but why aren't you leaving them on your turf?

2. Yes, you are turning your pile too often. It's like an oven that keeps getting opened; the heat is released and so it has to build up steam again. Turn it no more often than once every 10 days to two weeks. You also need to keep it moist but not wet.

3.The mulch has more mass and will take longer to break down; that's why it is good to use as a topcover as it breaks down slowly and protects the soil at the same time. You will probably have too much brown material if you add as much as you estimated.

4.Milorganite is the most tested fertilizer in the USA & probably the world. Don't see much problem in adding that but I'd say it's overkill.

5.If you really want to speed up the process, soak the pile with a mix of molasses & water; about 8 oz to a gallon of water is plenty. Adding some type of manure would also be great as it will add microbes.

Corn gluten meal is high in protein/nitrogen so it will also speed the process but not really necessary. Adding Greensese fertilizer will enrich your compost but again, it's overkill. Blow off the ammonium nitrate. If you add too much of this material you'll throw off the balance of the pile and wreck it.

Putting unfinished compost on your flowerbeds can have a definite detrimental effect. Don't do this, especially to your roses. You'll cause yourself all kinds of unwanted problems.

I hope you find my input helpful. I'm sure my fellow forum watchers will put in their two cents and help also. :D


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 7:45 am 
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Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 6:29 pm
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Location: Rowlett TX
Thanks Kathe,

I am going to add some molasses as I have seen the suggestion several times on this board and have yet to try it.

Better to use the liquid diluted in water, or mix in a bag of dry horticultural molasses????

I think you are right about turning too often - will try letting it sit for a week before I turn it again... should I attempt to get some Oxygen in there some way though????

Any chance you know a good light duty compost shredder for things like penil thickness branches, leaves etc????

Thanks - good forum.

BTW - do your neighbors also think you are slightly insane when you ask for their clippings, leaves and eggshells? Very sad how they pull the children inside as I come down the street.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 7:47 am 
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Location: Rowlett TX
OH Dear, can I edit my previous post - I MEANT PENCIL THICKNESS!


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 Post subject: More composting info
PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 8:55 am 
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Location: Dallas,TX
Glad to be of help. I always use the liquid molasses as it's just easier...no need to mix it in so less back strain. Dry molasses is just liquid molasses sprayed over something like rice hulls, so you'd be adding more brown material that way too and it sounds like you have plenty. Don't forget to add green kitchen waste like lettuce leaves, broccoli stems, carrot peelings, potato peelings, etc. They make fine additions.

Oxygen gets in just fine turning less often; both aerobic and anaerobic microbes do the job and all the little critters move things around to allow enough oxygen in while the compost process proceeds. Since you've been turning so often, I'd soak the pile down with the molasses and wait two weeks to turn it again; you'll see it shrink in size by the simple process of breaking down and disturbing it too soon will only slow the process. Sugar speeds up the process remarkably. Just watch and see! :shock:

I always let the compost shrink down and then filter out the sticks & stuff and let them dry out for kindling for camping trips or my wood burning fireplace. Check around at a few equipment stores to compare prices on a small shredder. They carry a few at places like Lowe's, Tractor Supply, Ace Hardware & Home Depot. Leaves can be cut down by simply allowing the trees to shed them, setting the mower high and then bagging them as you mow them over. I usually mow them with my mulching blade mower and leave them on the turf. They crunch down pretty easily once they have dried out. Green leaves from limbs you've taken down, etc. will compost down just fine but they take a little longer. Add a little molasses and some manure every time you add to the pile to kick it into gear again.

As for collecting compost materials, my neighbors looked at me funny for a little while but once they understood my motives they started to ask me if I wanted their stuff or started composting themselves! By the way, don't overdo it on the eggshells. Too much of anything isn't good. I don't add too many to mine as we have a good amount of calcium in the soil here in my neck of the woods. Can't tell where you are by your profile but be aware of that. The terrible drought several years back here in north Texas had everyone in the neighborhood looking at my organically maintained yard, which suffered far less than their chemically maintained yards. The attitude was different from that point forward. I predict that after the hard winter we're looking at, there will be more neighbors knocking on my door and yours to ask about your methods and mine. :lol:


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 9:03 am 
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Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 6:29 pm
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Location: Rowlett TX
I'm here in North Texas too (Rowlett) and got a lot of "Dude, what is that SMELL!"??? when I went to using greensense, milorganite and corn gluten meal for my fertilizing... now I am getting "Dude, my wife is mad because I am spending so much time in the yard and it doesn't look like yours".
LOL.

Regarding the eggshells I figured say... 100 shells in 50 pounds of finished compost would help add minerals and such for my bulbs??? Seems to do pretty well.

I will try the molasses this weekend, probably the dry because I like turning the pile and breaking it up.... gets me away from the computer.

Thanks!

Chuck


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 10:37 am 
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Location: Dallas,TEXAS
I turn my piles once every seven days to give them sufficient time to heat-up. As you say, it's a great way to get away from the computer.

To get the pile hotter I have been adding dry molasses and coffee grounds to add more nitrogen.

Where I probably take it to the extreme is I take the compost I used to make compost tea and add it back to the pile. It's very dirty work, but it adds so much bacteria back into the pile, its great!

Per CaptainCompost's suggestion, I also add urine back into the pile. Its sterile and safe. It is usually pre-collected and add descreetly at night, out of consideration for my Dallas neighbors. More nitrogen for the pile.

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There is a pleasure in the thought that the particular tone of my mind at this moment may be new in the universe; that the emotions of this hour may be peculiar and unexampled in the whole eternity of moral being. - Ralph Waldo Emerson


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 09, 2003 6:26 pm 
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Location: Dallas,TX
Aargh! :wink: Okay, so make yourself happy and turn the blooming pile one more time this weekend to add the molasses...and then leave it alone for two weeks! Man, you are makin' some MAJOR compost here! I never thought of seeing how much comes out in pounds, but I guess I make a good amount. I spread it as soon as it's ready so I'd never really know.

The eggshells are fine, just probably overkill, like I said earlier. Since you're here in the same area as me, you probably have enough calcium in your soil normally but hey, ya never know for sure unless you test it!

Talkin' about smell...my neighbors gave me hoots and hollers when I started using Bioform dry...it has sulfur in it and ooh, it stinks when you first put it on! But it makes some beautiful turf! And I don't HAVE to spend so much time out there working so I CAN spend time enjoying everything! :lol:


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2003 9:51 pm 
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Joined: Wed Oct 08, 2003 6:29 pm
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Location: Rowlett TX
OK Kath, yer gonna want to smack me for turning the pile - twice - but I had good reason.

My neighbors gifted me about a 4' high by 4' wide pile of Bermuda clippings and thatch when they chopped the lawn down this weekend.... I had a similar sized pile of nearly done compost so I mixed it together for an hour or so and then tonight I flipped it and soaked each 3-4" layer with a molasses spray from the sprayer (Probably toooo much molasses as it was clogging the sprayer). So now I have about a 6' pile well mixed, half nearly done compost, half fresh thatch and grass, all soaked well with molasses.

Since you already know I am a pain in the rear impatient type who just has to mess with the thing i have a coupla questions....

OK, with all that fresh grass and molasses the pile is HOT HOT HOT, which makes me happy. I am not going to flip it for 10 days now as you suggested.

BUT (you were waiting for that) I was thinking that getting more oxygen in there every few days would speed/heat things up....

If I used either plain air or a little molasses water in the tank sprayer and stuck the wand into the pile here and there to blast a little compressed air in there would I be correct in assuming this would help and speed things up... preventing those 'dead spots' where nothing happens beyond a little anaerobic stink and slime????

Also, how much molasses would you mix with two gallons of water when molassifying the pile? I am guessing i cup per gallon was overkill :-)

ALSO....(what a nuisance I am) is there such a thing as too much molasses??? I would guess the pile got about 5 cups in 5 gallons of water sprayed over each mixed layer.... am i correct in assuming that too much will merely result in a little more heat/speed?

Now that there is a ton and a half or so of very hot compost i just hope the damned thing doesn't blow up.

THANKS!


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PostPosted: Mon Oct 13, 2003 10:29 pm 
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Location: Dallas,TX
Oh, you are an impatient, type A pain... :shock: but you're sincere so all is forgiven. :wink:

The thing is that you have to give this all time to work together at its own schedule. There should be plenty of oxygen in there so please, please leave it alone for 10 days and SEE FOR YOURSELF! The pile will shrink down so fast you will almost want to get out your video camera. WHat I'd suggest, actually, is that you take a picture with the digital camera every day and document how quickly this thing shrinks ALL BY ITSELF. The extra rain we're supposed to get with this next cold front will accelerate the process.

Since you are so concerned about not having enough oxygen in your compost, here's a happy compromise for you: Take some hog wire or some other type of strong wire and make a cylinder about 6 inches in diameter tall enough to reach the top of your pile and put it down in the middle of the pile the next time you turn it. That way you will have a constant source of oxygen down to the middle of the pile. Will that do it for you or is it just the joy of all that exercise that bring you happiness? Take a look at some of the prefabricated, plastic coated wire compost enclosures and look at the little chimney they have for them. You can make your own in this way.

Yes, you put plenty of molasses. The amount was overkill but hey, it's your nickle. It's all good when it comes out finished so what the heck. As long as you're happy...I usually put in about 1/4 cup to a gallon when I drench my pile. Everybody has their own opinion on this. My compost shrinks at a speed that I'm happy with so that's enough for me and I save money because I don't have to buy more molasses as often. By the way, don't forget you can use the dregs at the bottom of the jelly jar and honey bear as well as tha last of the maple syrup instead of molasses. They are all sugar so they're all usable. Organic gardeners are frugal by nature and this goes for all of that stuff too. You can squirt into your pile if you want to but, again, it's really more than it needs and you are probably disturbing the process by shooting in water and moving everything around when it needs to lie still to work.

Best advice: Distract yourself by planting something or working on the rest of the yard for a week and then go back and look.

Let me know how it goes. :lol:


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2003 12:10 am 
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Kathe pegged you as a Type A composting personality. You just have to trust that Mother Nature is in control, and you don't have to be. :D I never turn my pile made from live oak leaves and horse manure. At most I flatten the top or make an inverted cone to let water collect inside of it instead of rolling off outside.

If you go to Home Depot, you can find 4-inch, thin walled, PVC pipe with one inch holes in it - maybe it is 6-inch pipe. Next time you construct your pile (don't dig up your existing pile), lay down a couple of these pipes and build your pile on top. These will allow air into your pile.

There is a researcher in the Phillipines who is doing something like this and using a hair drier to blow air into her piles. She's claiming an 11 day turn around if you use a certain Trichoderma species of fungus to inoculate the pile.

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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2003 8:40 am 
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Posts: 125
Location: Rowlett TX
LOL....

Ok, it ain't the workout as much as it is that having my hands in the dirt is thinking time, lol.

I will trim the roses and plant some pansies and winterize the pool for 10 days lest KK decide to bop me over the head with a compost fork :-).

Thanks for the advice. Oh, and on another thread I was asking about light duty chipper/shredders with engines slightly less powerful than the bass boat sized ones on the bigguns....

Someone posted a link to a $150 2hp model.... no more cutting rose clippings into 1" strips since I have a birthday on the way. With the falling leaves season approaching I want this batch of compost FINISHED and spread in the gardens. After doing so last year the 'blanket' allowed several of my 'annuals' to survive the winter and go nuts this year. Kind of fun to have 3' wide, 2' tall begonias. Hoping that after 10 days I can turn it, yank out the bigger pieces, let it sit one last time and then use it... and start the Spring pile.

Y'all are fun.

Next project to keep me sane the next 9 days? Compost teas :-) I am particularly interested in some of the disease control properties i have read about... very very tired of black spot on my beloved roses and neem oil doesn't do all I would like it too. What is your experience with some of these added benefits? 2 years into organic program (compost everywhere, organic fertilizers, no pesticides or herbicides, nematodes added etc... it does seem that many incect/disease issues are GONE.


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 Post subject: Horticultural Cornmeal
PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2003 9:36 am 
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Location: Dallas,TX
It's great to have intelligent interaction with people of like interests!!! So nice to deal with people of a positive nature.

Since you asked about blackspot, I looked back over your description of materials you have used, and I didn't see horticultural cornmeal anywhere in there. I have been experimenting with this product for a few years and simply eliminated blackspot, blight and other conditions related to them. I realize these conditions are caused alternatively by fungus and bacteria but you can't argue with good results. My favorite is Alliance Milling's product but most of them will work well. When you plant your pansies, throw in a small handfull for each plant and mix it into the soil. They love it.

So here is another project: experiment with cornmeal. Apply the cornmeal to areas where you see these situations or potential for them and see what happens. Mix it with any other amendment and spread it on your entire property. It's great for the turf, trees and ornamentals, herbs, annuals...okay so every plant! See if any of your neighbors have blackspot or powdery mildew and ask them to let you treat the plants, then wait a week and see how they are improving. They always improve. In general, my rule of thumb is one cup of cornmeal for every foot the plant is high, no more than four cups for the largest bushes/trees bacause no more than that is needed. You can either spread it on the soil around their roots, work it in and water, or soak the cornmeal in water, about a gallon per cup (for about an hour, stirring once or twice) and then water the plant with that solution and you don't have to filter out the solid material. Don't get it wet until you are ready to use it because it will begin to mold right away but that's what we want it to do on the soil so not a problem there. You can mix it in with your compost tea solutions and enjoy the benefits that way big time.

This and your other projects should keep you happy and away from your compost pile. Thanks for the intelligent conversation! 8)


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2003 2:15 pm 
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Location: Rowlett TX
Thanks KK :-)

After seeing what corn gluten meal did to my crabgrass I am anxious to try out cornmeal for the roses. I have about 20 bushes that i got free 6 years ago from a Calloway's that was tossing them out because they had burned up in shipping.... yeah, real dead, some have 4" thick branches now and in a good week I can clip about 100 fabulous roses. Black spot quite simply pisses me off.


With the cornmeal.... does putting it around the roses alone do it or do I need to make a soak and spray it right on as a foliar spray???? I will likely do both but from what you wrote it sounds like the cornmeal in the soil somehow innoculates the plant systemically?????

Hmmmmm... that would be great.

Now tell me how to get the thrips off my rose blooms without the systemic pesticides and I'll actually have to go look for things to ***** about in the yard :-) I evidently have very weird thrips - they actually jump all over my fiance and bite her - thought she was making it up until I saw it. Have tried neem oil and the parafinnic oils (love those, love em love em... there is something poetic about the slow suffocation of @#$@% whiteflies).

Oh, one more for ya oh organic goddess of gardening wisdom....
Fireants. Nematodes have slowed them down dramatically but I heard recently that instant grits on the pile will be eaten, expand and send them to the 6th concentric circle of fireant hell where those psychotic little SOBs belong. Simple rule around here - he/she/it who bites my 8 year old daughter needs to die - preferably slowly and with great misery and she likes to run around barefoot like her poor-example setting dad.

Thanks for the info and the banter... i keep explaining to people that spending 12 hours in the dirt is actually very good ...cheaper than Prozac and Tagament too.

Oh... one for ya to try if possible - Macaw poop in the flower beds is good stuff... a 3 foot parrot is an excellent source of nitrogen. If you have any neighbors with large birds the combination of food waste and bird waste breaks down fast and seems to 'fungify' immediately. Just remember one thing - if yer scrapin monster bird poop from his favorite location MOVE THE BIRD FIRST. Mental picture - me bent over his poop pile scrapin for the compost bin while he sits above on his perch and is angry because i was away for a few days.... What is pontentially wrong with this picture?

Chuck

PS> quintuple shampooing breaks down bird poop quickly but doesn't keep the bird from laughing hysterically at you. So much for any illusion of intelligence attached to my keyboard.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 14, 2003 4:38 pm 
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Location: Austin
I don't have anything constructive to add to this conversation but had to put in a THANK YOU for the laugh :D I can picture the parrot scenario far too easily. It's nice to know I'm not the only one out there with animals too smart for my good, given the my cats and horses regularly get their laughs at my expense!

Judith


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