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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.