Compost:The Construction ofa Living Soil System Presented by: Amber Dawn Vice President Master Gardeners of Greater New Orleans
Why Compost?• Organic Recycling • Improves soil structure (waste reduction) – Adds aeration to clay soil and – Stop our landfills from filling moisture and nutrient with the perfect solution to retention in sandy soils garden soil problems• Improve the health of your • Creates balance soil – Microbes and other soil life break down organic matter – By inoculation of microbial (OM) into usable forms for activity plants – Provides full range of organic – Helps create a pH buffer macro/micro nutrients often system not always found in chemical fertilizers
What is going on?Quick and rough overview • Plants make their own food for growth, they are literally are chemical factories…photosynthesis uses elements mostly found in soil, sun and CO2 & manufacture complex chemicals
Decomposition• As plant parts return to the surface of the earth (garden pile), microorganisms (saprophytes – eat dead plant matter) consume these complex chemical compounds for their colonial growth• Mineralization: These organisms break these chemical bonds and leave elemental forms of macro/micro nutrients which are then available to the plant (by- product = heat)
Moral of the story• The waste products of these organisms act in nature to fertilize the flora life cycle.• A healthy soil life system with dense microbial activity will mineralize the soil and provide plants with the nutrients needed for growth.
Organic Matter• Expressed as a percentage• Measures the resistant state of O.M. in soilConsider this: An acre of soil measured to a depth of six inches weighs about 2,000,000 pounds, (2,000 tons) meaning that 1% organic matter in the soil would weigh about 20,000 pounds (20 tons). It takes about 10 pounds of organic material to decompose to 1 pound of organic matter, so it takes at least 200,000 pounds (100 tons) of organic material applied to the soil to add 1% stable organic matter under favorable conditions.
Worms and their castings • Red Wigglers or Manure Worms (Eisenia fetida) • FAST REPRODUCERS • Better in bin conditions than earthworms • Prolific eaters: 1/2lb of OM per day in a healthy bin
Benefits of Worm Compost• Indoor/small spaces option• More manageable/less labor than backyard bins• Compost is nutrient dense filled with a rich organic form of fertilizer from your own yard and kitchen • Nitrogen- 1.5 – 2.5 % • Calcium- 0.5 – 1.0 % • Phosphorus- 0.9 – 1.7 % • Magnessium- 0.2 – 0.3 % • Potash- 1.5 – 2.4 % • Sulphur- 0.4 - 0.5 %
Troubleshooting Vermicompost Bins SYMPTOM SOLUTION• Smell – Anaerobic bacterial takeover (rot), add paper or dried leaves, bury food• Moisture – Add Dry material, worms love newspaper, shredded paper and card- board – Add ventilation, plenty of air holes – Many other pests love fresh• Pest species produce…secure lid.• Worms escaping – Generally a sign of too much moisture, see above
Worm careWorms like: Worms DON’T like:• Darkness • Bright light• Air • Too much moisture• Lots of fresh organic matter • Too dry• Cool environment (less 75⁰) • Temperatures over (80⁰)• Bedding: – Peat moss – Moist newspaper – Soft dried leaves – Shredded paper
Feeding your worms Yum Yuck• Bedding – paper (not • Meats, dairy, protein shiny), dried leaves, grass clippings • Fried foods• Cereals (no milk) & grains • Citrus – limonene, toxic• Fruits & veggies (no seeds) • Large seeds (mango, avocado)• coffee, tea (moderate: acid) Stinky • Cabbage family, garlic, onions• Dead flowers/leaves Slow decomposers • potato skins, avocado skins• Clean eggshells
Make your own• Materials • Plastic bin with lid – Two methods: stacked bottom with AIR holes or a second composting bin and one working bin • Drill 1/8” bit and drill • Small amount of garden soil • Cardboard (bedding) – Shredded and moistened • Worms
Harvesting your compost• Spread a 2-3” pile• Sit for hour in light• Hand pick top layer• Hand pick out worms• Let the pile dry from the bottom of the pile• Screening – Hardware cloth attached to a wood frame.
Resources• LSU Ag Center – Publications – Static Pile Composting: • Pub # 2516 – Troubleshooting Your Compost Pile • Pub # 2517 – Backyard composting: Wastes to Resources • Pub # 2610-A – Worm Composting Bin • Pub # 2610-J
Further Material personal favoritesBooks:• DIRT: The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth – William Bryant Logan• In Defense of Food – An Eaters Manifesto – Michael Pollan• Teaming with Microbes – The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web – Jeff Lowernfels & Wayne LewisDocumentary:• Dirt! THE MOVIE – Gene Rosow: Director, ProducerYouTube: Setting Up a Composting Bin