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Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
Soil Reclaimation Presentation
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Soil Reclaimation Presentation


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  • 1. Soil Reclaimation Compost Workshop November, 2008 Ron Mccorkle - Soilcultures
  • 2. 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.
  • 3. 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
  • 4. 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.
  • 5. 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.
  • 6. 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
  • 7. 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.
  • 8. 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.
  • 9. 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.
  • 10. How to Make Compost
    • Plant materials you can add:
      • Grass clippings
      • Autumn leaves
      • Wood chips
      • Straw
      • Sawdust
      • Branches
      • Kitchen scraps (except meats and fats)
  • 11. How to Make Compost
    • What not to add:
      • Human and pet feces
        • Compost might not get hot enough to kill E. coli
  • 12. 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)
  • 13. 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.
  • 14. 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.
  • 15. 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.
  • 16. 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.
  • 17. 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.
  • 18. 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.
  • 19. 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)
  • 20. 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)
  • 21. 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.
  • 22. 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.
  • 23. 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.
  • 24. 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.
  • 25. 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.
  • 26. 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.
  • 27. 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.
  • 28. Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Brown sources (best to have variety)
      • Fallen leaves
      • Bark
      • Wood chips
      • Twigs
      • Branches
      • Straw
  • 29. Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Green sources (the fresher, the better)
      • Grass clippings
      • Fresh picked weeds
      • Kitchen scraps (keep aerobic, not in a closed container)
  • 30. 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.
  • 31. 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
  • 32. 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
  • 33. 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.
  • 34. Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Compost Recipes
      • Fungal Recipe
        • 10% alfalfa meal
        • 50% grass clippings
        • 40% leaves or small wood chips
  • 35. Bacterial vs. Fungal dominance
    • Compost Recipes
      • Bacterial Recipe
        • 25% alfalfa meal
        • 50% grass clippings
        • 25% fallen leaves or bark
  • 36. 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).
  • 37. 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.
  • 38. 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).
  • 39. 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.
  • 40. 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)
  • 41. 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.
  • 42. Vermicompost
    • Processing material through earthworms
    • Email me for information
  • 43. Even easier
    • Cool composting
      • Pile up all your materials in a corner of your yard.
      • Leave it
      • Wait one year or more.