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Composting for All


Straight-forward tips for farmers and home gardeners.

Straight-forward tips for farmers and home gardeners.

Published in Technology , Self Improvement
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  • 1. Composting For All: Straight-forward tips for farmers and home gardeners Christine Ziegler Rodale Institute Agroecologist and Science Editor nothing ©2010 Rodale Institute
  • 2. Why compost? Composting helps you to: • Recycle yard, garden, and farm waste • Adds beneficial organisms to soil • Reduce agricultural nutrient losses • • • • Increase soil carbon content Improve soil water retention Reduce soil erosion Improve plant growth (even during drought) ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 3. Feed the soil, not the plant! When you use compost to build your soil organic matter content, you’re feeding soil microbes that increase nutrient cycling in your soil. You also improve your soil’s tilth, creating more stable soil clumps to resist erosion and form pores within the soil that hold both air and water for your plants’ roots. ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 4. What is soil? "The soil is not, as many suppose, a dead, inert substance. It is very much alive and dynamic. It teems with bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, molds, yeasts, protozoa, algae and other minute organisms." ~J.I. Rodale Pay Dirt: Farming and Gardening with Composts (1945) ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 5. Four key elements of soil 1. Soil is composed of three sizes of mineral particles: sand (large), silt (medium), and clay (small) 2. The other important group of soil particles is called organic matter 3. In addition to these particles, soil is comprised of a lot of empty spaces, called pores, and these pores are important for holding air or water 4. Soil is full of living organisms, both large and microscopic If a soil is missing any one of these key elements, then it’s just “dirt”! ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 6. The Soil Food Web First trophic level: Photosynthesizers Second trophic level: Decomposers, Mutualists, Pathogens, Parasites, Rootfeeders Third trophic level: Shredders, Predators, Grazers ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing Fourth and higher trophic levels: Hither level predators
  • 7. What the Soil Food Web does… • Organisms do the work in soil and compost – make nutrients plant-available – build soil structure – suppress diseases and pests • Organisms are fed and supported by plants through root exudates and dead plant material • Protozoa, nematodes, earthworms and microarthropods eat bacteria and fungi to release nutrients in plant-available forms ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 8. The benefits of a healthy soil food web • Improves soil structure so that roots can grow deeper • Increases soil water holding capacity, reducing need for irrigation • Reduces or eliminates disease organisms • Provides balanced, slow-release nutrients for plants • Mediates the relationships between plants, which is why plant relationships are different in different soils ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 9. The Soil Texture Triangle ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 10. It’s compost’s organic matter and microbes that make the difference! ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 11. Compost’s basic features Compost - “the controlled decomposition of organic residues into a humus-like end product.” 1. 6:5:1 mix of “brown” materials (Cbased) and “green” materials (sugarbased), and high nitrogen materials (manures or legumes) 2. 50% moisture 3. Temperatures 131 - 165°F (55 - 65°C) or more during active decomposition 4. Usually requires repeated mixing 5. Takes 8 weeks to 2 years (depending on the above factors) Made in windrows, piles or containers (large or small). ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 12. Composting at Rodale Institute … in our global organic demonstration garden ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 13. Composting at Rodale Institute … in small research piles to perfect the recipes and microbial balance… ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 14. Composting at Rodale Institute … and on the farm. ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 15. Compost stabilizes nitrogen in the soil, reducing nitrate leaching Cumulative Percent of N Leached from Four Treatments of the Compost Utilization Trial, 1994-2002 ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 16. Compost also supports comparable crop yields Average Corn and Wheat Yields from the Compost Utilization Trial 1994-2002 b b ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 17. Don’t use too much! Compost is not a mulch. It’s a soil amendment that adds microorganisms to improve nutrient cycling. Treatment Tons per Acre Fresh Poultry Manure Aged Poultry Manure 10.7 Std Poultry Compost 15.6 Amend Poultry Compost 10.7 Fresh Dairy Manure 17.9 Aged Dairy Manure 18.1 Std Dairy Compost 23.5 Amend Dairy Compost vario MAX 11.4 26.4 A little bit goes a long way! ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 18. Recommended soil-improving gardening practices • Keep your soil covered throughout the year, as much as possible, with crops, cover crops, and mulches retains moisture, prevents erosion, adds organic matter, reduces weeding • Grow a diversity of crops, and rotate them into different locations in your garden each year - prevents excessive loss of individual soil nutrients and build-up of plant-specific diseases and pests • Don’t dig too much! Some digging is good, but too much breaks down organic matter and soil structure • If you garden on a slope, plant your rows horizontally across the slope to help stop water run-off and erosion • Add compost to increase organic matter, microbial activity, and nutrient availability ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing
  • 19. Different kinds of homemade bins and wood slat bin Building instructions for these designs can be found in the CalRecycle web Fact Sheet: http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Pub lications/Organics/44295054.pdf wood and wire portable bin rotating barrel composter portable mesh bin ©2010 Rodale Institute nothing