Learn About Composting Day 2021 is on Saturday, May 29, 2021: Compost questions?
Saturday, May 29, 2021 is Learn About Composting Day 2021. Composting Learn How to Compost For the Best Soil on the Planet!
Compost is an eco-friendly, affordable and efficient option for fertilising your yard, plants and crops. Learn About Composting Day urges you to discover the globe of composting, and to recognize all of the different types of household waste that can contribute to your composting efforts.
You learned from your first pile that turning is not necessary however it does speed the process. Turning adds oxygen to the compost pile, which is good for the aerobic microorganisms. It allows you to see if more water is needed as a dry pile wont decompose. Then, the more we turn the compost, the more it becomes chopped and mixed Last, frequent turning can speed up the composting process.
Ideally one uses a thermometer with readings from 0 degrees to 200 degrees F and is long enough to read well into the pile.
If you have layered the carbon to nitrogen to the ideal 30:1 the pile will shortly begin to heat up. There will be a steady rise in temperature for a day or two. Normally the pile will continue to rise until it reaches 120 to 149 degrees F, at which point it may suddenly stop. Keep on monitoring the temperature. If it stays up, fine. If it drops, turn again. Once it no longer rises in temp after being turned it is complete. Note this is predicated on being able to balance the carbon or 'browns. to the nitrogen or 'greens'. Also the particle sizes being added matter. If possible all material should be run through a chipper to mix and reduce the size. This makes turning much easier, too.
Green ingredients (grass clippings, weeds, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, seeds, soft green prunings, seaweed, animal manure (sheep, poultry, horse, rabbit & cow))
Brown ingredients (dead leaves, straw, hay, wood shavings or chips, egg cartons, newspaper)
Size is best with 3x3x3 feet for the pile but not for you if you are short. I have four bins 3x3x2 because I can't reach to turn the higher ones.
Composting Meat & Dairy
Meat and dairy products are high in fat. They will cause an unpleasant odor if added to a passive pile or poorly-managed active compost pile. For a hot, well-turned compost pile, meat and dairy wastes are not a problem. However, it is better to run the wastes through a blender or food processor to reduce their size and speed their decomposition.
Fat, oil, & grease known as FOG can be added at 1% of the compost mass.
'An application rate, limited to a concentration of fat at 1% of the soil mass was reported as being the most desirable rate in that no negative effects were observed.'
Fat, oil, and grease have a high C/N ratio (90:1), if applied to compost may affect the availability of N, due to N immobilization during its decomposition. The same is true of any high carbon ingredient like wood chips. Particle size also affects the availability of carbon and nitrogen. Large wood chips, for example, provide a good bulking agent that helps to ensure aeration through the pile, but they provide less available carbon per mass than they would in the form of wood shavings or sawdust. To much carbon prevents the pile from heating.
What should never be added are;
Feces either from your pet or human - They carry diseases and parasites, as well as cause an unpleasant odor
Diseased garden plants - They can infect the compost pile and influence the finished product.
Invasive weeds - Spores and seeds of invasive weeds (buttercups, morning glory, quack grass) can survive the decomposition process and spread to your desired plants when you use the finished compost.
Wood ashes - It is highly alkaline (high pH) and also rich in potassium salts. Further, the fine particle size of ash also tends to plug the pores of clay soils leading to water penetration and drainage problems. Good for sandy, acidic soils (low pH).
Glossy, colored paper - The inks are toxic to the soil microorganisms.
Pesticide-treated plant material - These are harmful to the compost foodweb organisms, and pesticides may survive into the finished compost..
Eucalyptus leaves and bark - allelopathic effects impact nutrient cycling and prevents some seed germination
Treated lumber - Will not break down.
Poison Ivy - It is a potent source of urushiol even after a year and a half (to sensitive individuals).
Walnut shells - Juglone, a naturally occurring chemical released by all parts of black walnut trees, can have a toxic effect on many vegetables and landscape plants.
Slugs and snails generally feed on living plant material but will attack fresh garbage and plant debris and will therefore appear in the compost heap. (Better there where you can find and kill them than in the garden. I dump them in soapy water.)
During the early stages of the composting process, flies provide ideal airborne transportation for bacteria on their way to the pile. Flies spend their larval phase in compost as maggots, which do not survive thermophilic temperatures the bacteria and fungi digestion creates . Adult flies feed upon organic vegetation.
In small-scale backyard compost piles, soil invertebrates aid the decomposition process. Together with bacteria, fungi, and other microbes, these organisms make up a complex food web or energy pyramid with primary, secondary, and tertiary level consumers. The base of the pyramid, or energy source, is made up of organic matter including plant and animal residues.
The compost should have many kinds of worms, including earthworms, nematodes, red worms and potworms. They will invade the pile from the soil or through drain holes if you have an enclosed bin.
Besides worms you will see many other creatures like sow bugs or springtails. All the creatures that move in are there because they like dead stuff. Bugs, big and little, are what make the decomposition happen.
If flies become a problem cover food scrapes with a little soil from the garden.
If you see ants then the pile must be to dry. Everything should be moist but there should be nothing dripping. If you piled it to dry, its own heat dried it or the summer did then you must turn it rewetting the layers as you go.
If you get it to wet it will begin to decompose anaerobically and produce hydrogen sulfide, the rotten egg smell. The best thing is to turn it and get air in.
If the pile has an ammonia odor, you have too much green material (grass clippings, food scraps, green plant material) and not enough brown (dry leaves, woody prunings, pine needles, dried out plants). Add more brown material or soil.
Use compost as a mulch or top dressing. Work it into new beds and amend holes dug for new plants. Mix it with vermiculite and sand to make your own potting mix. Last, make compost tea.
The reason we need to add organics to soil is to create humus. Good soil is equal parts sand, silt, & clay. These give soil its texture and are about 95% of soil. Organics give it structure and should be 5-7%. How the soil aggregates or forms crumbs affects how air and water move through the soil. The organic portion of the soil determines this. Basically it is almost impossible to add to much compost to existing soil.
What does a typical day look like, working on a horse ranch?
We are retired and own a small horse ranch with a herd of 14.
Here is our normal day.
Start feeding at 7 a.m. Put on fly masks. All horses are out to pasture anyway.
If it has stormed, they are stalled. When they go back outside (most are hand led because they are in individual stalls and are separated in multiple pastures) it takes about an hour to get them all out after putting on bug spray in the summer.
Next, we drain water tanks every third day and scrub them out. I refill the tanks in every pasture and run.
That takes me about 2 hours.
Every couple of days I go through the herd and put on fresh fly spray. Takes about 2 hours. I also check feet.
We drop hay or set out a roll for the afternoon feeding and next morning. Half hour.
We jointly clean stalls if all horses have been up for severe weather. Takes about four hours to move the tractor, hook up the manure wagon, clean stalls, dump the manure in the compost pile and put the equipment away. That's two of us working together.
Evenings take about an hour to feed and pull off fly masks.
In a rescue, you will have more specific feeding needs to follow than our herd. We just have one senior horse on mash due to dental issues. The rest of ours all are on the same feeding program, just different amounts. We have four rescues in our herd and it took us months to build up their body weights. So in your rescue, you will see that.
In between, we groom, do feet, get some training done, etc.
Coming really soon, we will be moving hay. The two of us being seniors, we try not to kill ourselves with this. We usually only do about 100 bales a day into the loft. I pick cool mornings because he unstacks it from the trailer onto the elevator and I do all of the stacking in the loft. We can do 100 bales in about an hour flat together. This is rigorous work. My biceps don't fit into many blouses due to years of lifting. (But at least they don't sag!) If we do rolled hay, we use a tractor with fork to move them into the barn.
There also is unloading the feed and bedding. There is "doctoring" any horse that needs a wound treated. Then there are the days when you have one down with colic or with some unknown virus where you are taking temps and keeping charts and talking nonstop with the vet on your cellphone. You may be walking one for an hour straight to move a gas bubble. Or you may be setting up fans or bathing with alcohol wash to bring down a temp.
The best part of my day is just hanging with them and learning from them.
Here is my thought for you: You may be overwhelmed at first by the list of things to do and how to do them. That is easy after awhile. Instead of worrying about that, watch the horses in the herd. Watch how they interact. Watch how they move one another. Watch their behavior. Then learn to emulate that to handle them. Read the Dorrance and Hunt books. Personally, I never talk on my phone or listen to music or anything that can distract me when I am in the herd. I am adamant about this. I tell my husband not to talk to me when I am moving horses in a herd. I pay complete attention to where I am, where the nearest horse is, where the dominant horse is and I direct their movements. All of ours take hand signals to move off. But if a dominant horse pushes a lower horse and you are in front, you will get flattened. So I take leadership of any herd I am in. This is something you will learn if you watch them and follow some good horseman. Be an open book and absorb and absorb. It is a lifelong process.
What exactly are we supposed to do on Earth Day?
Earth Day is to learn more about protecting our planet and all life on it. It is a day to review what you are doing and see if there is any way you can be a better world citizen and protector of the earth. We need the earth for our survival. We should do what we can to keep our habitat healthy and thriving.
Things like planting trees to help cleanse the air, learning to compost your garbage, cleaning rivers and natural areas from human trash are common group earth day projects.
Every day should be earth day, it should be a way of life. Recycling, replanting, stopping pollution, providing habitat for wildlife and being aware of the things you can do in your own life to make this earth a better place and not do it any harm should always be a consideration.
Living in harmony with nature also nourishes your spirit, and can bring you peace, heal your mind and body. Earth Day is a day to share all this with others. Together we can make this Earth a healthy planet.