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Soil Reclaimation Presentation Soil Reclaimation Presentation Presentation Transcript

  • Soil Reclaimation Compost Workshop November, 2008 Ron Mccorkle - Soilcultures
  • Inoculate your soils
    • Put about 1 inch of appropriate compost (fungal, bacterial, or balanced) around your plants
      • Fungal good for trees, shrubs, most perennials
      • Bacterial good for veggie and flower gardens and lawns
    • Compost can completely change soil in 6 months
    • Your soil will get these benefits:
      • Decompaction
      • Aeration
      • Better water retention and drainage
      • Increased retention and availability of nutrients
    • After a year, the soil life will be down as deep as 18 inches.
  • What is Compost
    • Compost is a whole universe of soil food web organisms.
      • per teaspoon:
        • 1 billion bacteria
        • 400-900 feet of fungal hyphae
        • 10,000 – 50,000 protozoa
        • 30-300 nematodes
        • Microanthropods
        • Sometimes worms
  • What is Compost
    • Compost can be used to inoculate beneficial microbes and life into soils around your yard and introduce, maintain, or alter the soil food web in a particular area.
    • The use of compost is a major soil food web tool.
    • Adding compost and its soil food web to the surface of the soil will inoculate the soil with the soil food web.
  • What is Compost
    • The organisms in the compost you apply will spread life as far as they can
      • Apply for everything growing in the soil
    • You can best satisfy a plant’s nutrient needs by adding compost with the right microbial domination.
  • What is Compost
    • There is more than one kind of compost.
      • What goes in affects what comes out
        • Make compost that is fungi dominated or bacteria dominated.
        • It depends on what you put into the compost bin to start.
        • Most vegetables, annuals, and grasses prefer their nitrogen in nitrate form and do best in bacterially dominated soils.
        • Most trees, shrubs, and perennials prefer their nitrogen in ammonium form and do best in fungally dominated soils.
      • I’ll explain more later
  • History of Compost
    • Farmers have been using compost to improve their soils at least since the time of the early Romans.
    • In the last century compost took a back seat to chemicals when it came to growing things.
      • Cars replaced horses and fewer homes featured chickens, cows, pigs, and other livestock.
      • Because of less manures, there was less compost, so agriculture required chemicals to feed the plants.
  • History of Compost
    • Compost has made a strong comeback
      • Compost recycles some of our household wastes.
      • Composting has become popular as a green thing to do.
  • How to Make Compost
    • At the heart of every composting system are the soil microorganisms, the members of the compost’s food web.
    • Their metabolic activity creates the heat and by-products that make the composting process work.
    • Besides the microbes, composting requires heat, water, air and plant materials with the right amounts of carbon and nitrogen. All are mixed in the proper ratio.
  • How to Make Compost
    • Plant materials you can add:
      • Grass clippings
      • Autumn leaves
      • Wood chips
      • Straw
      • Sawdust
      • Branches
      • Kitchen scraps (except meats and fats)
  • How to Make Compost
    • What not to add:
      • Human and pet feces
        • Compost might not get hot enough to kill E. coli
  • How to Make Compost
    • Bacteria and fungi seek carbon and nitrogen to fuel their metabolism and build structure and enzymes.
    • Moisture is necessary to prevent microbes from dying or going dormant.
    • Air is needed because the beneficial organisms are aerobic. (They breathe air).
    • Anaerobic organisms can decay a compost pile, but produce alcohols, which kill plants.
      • Anaerobic conditions will occur when not enough air is available. (discussed later)
  • How to Make Compost
    • Heat is required for composting
      • Does not come from the sun
      • Comes from the organisms metabolic activity
      • Creates the environment that increases populations of organisms and causes them to change in character at the appropriate time during the composting cycle.
  • How to Make Compost
    • Plant material, moisture, air and heat, mixed in the right proportions will end up as compost.
      • Rich
      • Crumbly
      • Dark
      • Coffee colored
      • sweet smelling humus
      • Compost is life. If it’s not alive, it’s not compost.
  • How to Make Compost
    • Though it could take as long as a year or more, it is possible to make good compost in as little as a few weeks.
      • The microbes do most of the work.
    • Different organisms work at different temperature levels, giving different stages compost must go through to be complete.
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • Mesophilic Stage
      • Meophilic organisms thrive in moderate temperatures, between 68 and 104F.
      • Produce spores that are resistant to chemicals and heat, enabling them to survive the next, hotter stage. (they wait out the next levels)
      • All the activity of the organisms, large and small, raise the temperature to the next level and new organisms get to work.
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • Thermophilic phase
      • Withstand temperatures of 104 to 150F and over.
      • Complex carbohydrates are fully broken down.
      • Some proteins are also decomposed.
      • More resistant structures are decayed.
      • Many more bacteria and fungi join in
        • Their heat causes the temp to continue to rise
          • These high temps also kill off pathogens.
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • First two stages take place very rapidly
      • Properly made, your pile should heat up to 135F in 24 to 72 hours
      • With the right mix, the center of a pile will heat up to 135F in a day and 150F in three.
      • If the pile is not heating up, then you need to turn it. (inside out to introduce oxygen)
        • If that doesn’t work, add fresh, green material
        • Newspaper, fruit pulps, or commercial inoculums can also be added.
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • Monitor your compost pile
      • Keep your pile between 140F and 150F for at least a few days to kell pathogenic microbes.
      • At 150F, weed seeds are also destroyed.
      • Don’t let it get over 160F because this will start to burn off necessary carbon.
        • To cool an overheated pile, turn it (works both to heat and cool)
        • If turning doesn’t cool it, add water or more brown materials. (bacteria are the heaters)
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • How do you check temperature?
      • Stick your hand into the pile to gauge the heat
      • Use a long, gutter nail or metal rebar pipe into the pile (transmits heat and will feel warm when things are going right.)
      • Thermometer is more precise
        • You can buy a soil thermometer (best choice for me)
        • You can use an oven thermometer (open pile, set in thermometer, take out and read quickly)
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • Maturation Stage
      • After proteins and carbohydrates are broken down, reduction of metabolic activity reduces temperature.
      • Mesophilic organisms start to work again. (they were protected by their special spores)
      • The decay of lignin (the most resistant plant component) is completed.
      • Other bacteria working give the earthy smell associated with good compost and soil.
      • Major fungi are still at work.
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • Maturation Stage (continued)
      • Physical decomposers continue to support the microbial team.
        • Nematodes, springtails, centipedes and others
        • Cause the populations of fungi and bacteria to increase.
        • Soil binding activities increase.
        • Worms also work the pile, coating particles with a mucus that binds them together into aggregates.
        • Ants, snails, slugs, mites, spiders, rove beetles, and sow bugs shred matter, making it easier for the microbes.
        • They all work together very well.
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • It’s interesting to see some of these insects, that we consider pests in other parts of the garden, doing work that is benefiting the world. Makes me wonder.
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • Maturation Stage (continued)
      • Keep the pile between 104 and 131F
      • Turn inside out
      • If it goes below 104F, add more green
      • If it stays above 131F, add more brown
        • Aerating will always work, but constant turning is labor intensive. (It will heat back up if the materials aren’t right)
        • Watering will cool the pile, but is a drastic step because it also reduces oxygen.
  • 3 Stages of Compost
    • Maturation Stage (continued)
      • Moisture level
        • Don’t let it dry out
          • Water as you turn the pile
        • Don’t let it be saturated (reduces air supply)
          • Cover it with cardboard to keep rain from soaking it.
        • Squeeze a handful, about 1 drop of water should come out.
      • If all goes well, “compost happens”.
      • After two or three turns, your pile should be compost.
      • It’s finished when you can’t recognize what’s in it.
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • The ratio of carbon to nitrogen has to be right in order to make compost.
      • Ideal C:N ratio is around 25:1
      • Too much carbon reduces nitrogen, slowing the process.
      • Too much nitrogen vents carbon or it runs off with watering.
      • At the ideal ratio, things go fast, and decay is complete.
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Divide composting materials into two categories, brown and green.
      • Brown materials support fungi and contain carbon.
        • Carbon provides energy for metabolism.
      • Green materials support bacteria and are good nitrogen sources.
        • The fresher the green item, the more nitrogen.
        • Nitrogen provides building blocks for proteins.
          • Produce enzymes necessary in the decay process.
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Brown sources (best to have variety)
      • Fallen leaves
      • Bark
      • Wood chips
      • Twigs
      • Branches
      • Straw
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Green sources (the fresher, the better)
      • Grass clippings
      • Fresh picked weeds
      • Kitchen scraps (keep aerobic, not in a closed container)
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Plants that are picked around the time the fruit is produced are green, after it goes to seed its brown is a general rule.
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Examples of C:N ratios found in materials
      • Sawdust 500:1
      • Straw 300:1
      • Paper 170:1
      • Fallen leaves 50:1
      • Grass clippings 20:1
      • Peas and legumes and fresh manure 10:1
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • You can be as creative as you want to get the 25:1 ratio, which is best for composting
    • Adjust it to be highly fungal
      • Add brown material to increase the amount of fungi.
    • Adjust it to be highly bacterial
      • Add green material
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Decide what you need compost for.
      • What are you growing
      • What are your soil problems
      • I will try to send out short articles on this in my newsletter from time to time.
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Compost Recipes
      • Fungal Recipe
        • 10% alfalfa meal
        • 50% grass clippings
        • 40% leaves or small wood chips
  • Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Compost Recipes
      • Bacterial Recipe
        • 25% alfalfa meal
        • 50% grass clippings
        • 25% fallen leaves or bark
  • Other Factors
    • Bacteria have pH of around 7.5
    • Fungi have pH around 6
    • The more brown material, the lower the pH, generally.
    • No inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, miticides or fungicides in compost. (they kill the organisms that you need).
  • Other Factors
    • Size of material is important
      • Too fine causes compression preventing air and the pile will be anaerobic.
        • Mix fine material with coarse material.
        • Try mixing grass clippings with leaves.
      • Too big causes too much air and the pile will heat up too much. Also, it wont decompose properly or fast enough.
  • Other Factors
    • Size of Pile
      • Minimum size to heat properly is 3 feet square or round. (3 feet wide, deep and tall).
        • Bigger is ok, but more work to turn.
        • 6 feet square is probably as big as you want without mechanical help to turn. (this will require a lot of work to turn).
  • Other Factors
    • You can just dump materials into a big heap.
    • You can contain materials (I prefer this to maintain the size I want).
      • Chicken wire or other wire fencing 4-5 ft high.
      • A pallet or screen on concrete blocks will allow air to circulate in the pile and be easier to maintain.
      • Tumblers can be effective, but it’s difficult to keep from getting too moist and they tend to break.
  • Easy Way To Make a Compost Pile (My Suggestion)
    • Keep green and brown material separate until ready to use.
      • I use leaves, garden waste, grass clippings and household waste
      • Try adding variety.
    • Keep household waste in a vented container inside, then insert into green pile outside.
    • Make 3ft square container with wire fencing around a pallet.
    • When you have enough material, put 6” brown and water, 6” green and water, 6” fresh manure and water. Repeat.
    • Cover with cardboard and put a heavy rock on top.
    • Water with about 50 gallons per week.
    • Turn inside out, once a month, more often if it gets too hot.
    • After about 3 months, it should be good.
      • If it smells “clean” and earthy.
      • If it smells bad (ammonia, vinegar, vomit, putrified) it’s anaerobic and should not be used. (aerate it and let it sit for a few days before giving it another nose test.)
      • Plant some seed. (it should grow)
  • Compost for the Lazy
    • 4” leaves (shredded is faster)
    • 4” alfalfa or grass clippings.
    • Water each layer.
    • Repeat until desired size.
    • Monitor heat and adjust as needed.
  • Vermicompost
    • Processing material through earthworms
    • Email me for information
  • Even easier
    • Cool composting
      • Pile up all your materials in a corner of your yard.
      • Leave it
      • Wait one year or more.