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Senior Contributor

composting

Gardening question.  I know lots of us have "natural" compost from our farm livestock.  Somehow, most of ours gets put on the field before I can get it piled for compost.  Then there is the problem of turning a big pile.

I've really been eyeing those compost tumblers but they seem a little frivolus for a country gal.  But it looks so handy to have it close to my garden instead of having to wait my turn with the skid loader. 

So what do you gardeners do?

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6 Replies
Senior Contributor

Re: composting

We apply the natural fertilizer (manure mixed with decomposed straw) at the same time as the fields. Just a no brainer for us as it is near them.

We also don't think the compostumbers are for us either. I've heard of people using trash cans of compost and rolling on the ground, but I don't think many of us would like that job either. Kay's plan with the trampoline frame got me to thinking. Why not set up 2 or 3+ bins for the compost and allow MN to work? I got this idea from the old time Victory Garden. Fill up a single bin over weeks layering green and brown items. When it is full start filling the next one. When the compost is cooked, take some of it to a wheelbarrow covered with a sorting material (hailscreen works best). Shake the screen. What doesn't go through the screen, put in the second bin to continue composting.  It may take longer to get the black gold, but it reduces the work of cranking that handle

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Advisor

Re: composting

Lasagna gardening is basically layering organic materials like leaves, compost etc.  I cannot remember that this approach ever turns the compost.  Taht is where we are headed in the tramposter this year...starting with our spent trough compost potting mix, and then adding layers of leaves, more sheep poo/hay compost, and themn probably whatever straw or hay I want to top off the bed with, to keep down weeds. 

Like everything else, you can do things the hard way, or opt for any of several easier ones.  I am lazy as Hades when it comes to shoveling heavy stuff.  I will wait an extra season or year to have rotted organic matter that I don't have to turn, rather than kill myself turning it, to have it this year. 

Mike commented the other day that he's giving me four-year-old compost in the troughs, and it's still not as fine as screened compost.  I could not care less. 

We have probably five different ways to turn and improve countains of compost, up to and including a D-6 CAT track loader, and I do not care.  I may ask him to move some, and till it in with our 60-inch Woods tiller that runs off my Kubota's PTO.  May want to plant a sunflower and Indian corn bed, for example.   That will come long after I have done my troughs and tramposter beds, plus some other stuff I've always wanted to try. 

We have access to manure and stall bedding composted from 25 horse stalls, plus run-in sheds, but have opted for sheep hay/manure litter that Mike's been stockpiling for 4-5 years now.  If you study S--T, as I have done at some length, you will learn  that sheep poo is the most balanced for NPK as a rule.  It is not too "hot," as poultry and even hog manure can be.  

I have been cutting water sprouts off of crepe myrtles and maples, and cutting out dead wood from buddleia and other woody shrubs, for two days now.  Have almost finished around the hosue, and then will set out around the office and pool fence and poolhouse. Sort of like having two to three houses to work around. 

Then, I'll start raking up all the leaves, and loading them into the tramposter.  Have made a sort of ox yoke for my tarp, to haul things to the woods edge with, and have moved maybe four loader buckets of boulders to make new divisions in beds, besides. 

Saved out many feet of wisteria vine and runners, to weave into a natural basket, and held out some nice, straight crepe myrtle trunks to make small twig trellises for the garden or some pots.  All that takes is some drywall screws and re-bar wire, both of which I have in bulk.  I've made chair seats out of such sticks in years past, drilling them for the screws and cutting them to the right length with my pruners. 

I am so tired, I can hardly move.  If you drive in up front today, you cannot see any difference for maybe 10-12 hours of work on the yard.  If you approach from the farm towards the backyard, it is a world of difference. 

I hope to get around to all the cleanup this week...but, have promised to help a friend (with a death in the family) at their business for a few afternoons, mostly a couple of days, after class; so, may be a bit slower than I had originally planned. 

Oh, well, who's keeping score?  Just remember, mulch is not rocket science.  If you need a lot of it, the little drum turners will not make a dent in your demand. 

Go to the backside of the oldest  pile on the farm, and look for earthworms. They are what you really want to invite to the gareden...they will turn the compost and aerate the soil for you, as they consume the organic matter.  I am a worm fanatic.  I found many today, and that made me feel so successful...I could not find a one on the whole place when we came here.  Your garden will never be much without them. 

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Senior Contributor

Re: composting

I compost the easy way. I have a pile where I put my kitchen scraps (no meat or bones) and add manure. I will stir it sometimes and there have been springs when it didn't get put out on the garden that year. I use it for flower pots too.

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Senior Contributor

Re: composting

I would like to start composting too.  I did get some good stuff from my mom's that had been cooking in the cattle lot for several years!  Here at the college, they do alot of composting and compost dead animals.  Seems to work pretty well.  We used to used the wood chips from the Horse facility and the swine manure and mix that, but I guess our field nitrogen level is too high from all the wood chips, so the horse facility is paying to have the wood chips taken away after shows.  We still have the wood chips from the education side though that is used in the compost facility.  I can always get compost from here, I would just need to bring a truck and containers since I don't have a dump truck! 

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Senior Contributor

Re: composting

Forgot to mention my other problem with just piling.  Chickens.  I pile it; they have a ball digging through it 'til I don't even HAVE a pile!  The guineas don't help either.  I'm going to have to do some serious thinking about this!  (the stupid guineas are in my front yard right now chattering-these are not my animals!)

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Honored Advisor

Guineas...

...are worth their weight in gold here.  They eat ticks and small snakes, and are excellent driveway alarms. 

We got down to only two, and the ticks started getting the upper hand.  My best friend gave us a dozen or so young ones last year.  The only yardbirds that Mike will go out of his way to help raise.

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