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Composting Sepp Holzer Style

 
Justin Jones
Posts: 54
Location: Lake Arrowhead, CA
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I've been reading through sepp holzer's Permaculture and in the gardening chapter he briefly talks about his own composting method using raised beds:

"Composting is a way of producing high-quality fertilizer from organic waste. It is by no means necessary for a high-yield garden to have a compost heap. Mulching throughout the year and the skillful use of polycultures mean that additional organic fertilizer is not necessary. However, anyone who wants to compost anyway, can easily create an unconventional and easy-to-maintain compost heap. To do this, two raised beds running parallel to each other should be positioned so closely to each other that you can only just walk between them. The beds should be built at as steep an angle as possible whilst still holding together (60 to 70 degrees). Organic waste is left between the two beds each day. Each time you do this, cover the waste with a spade's worth of earth, straw, leaves or similar material. Gradually, the organic material will come up to 60 percent of the height of the raised beds. The top layer should be covered with earth and planted or sown with vigorous growing vegetables (pumpkins, cucumbers, turnips etc.). Start at the furthest end of the bed and keep going until the gap is filled up. The best situation is when the dimensions of the compost heap ensure that the gap can be filled and will rot down within a year. The next year you can begin on the opposite side and throw the high-quality compost that was made the previous year on the beds to the left and right with a spade. As many earthworms will be living in there, you should be careful when digging. Afterwards, you can walk through the furrow that is left or climb over one of the raised beds to the side. Planks or large stones can be used to walk on. Using this method you can cultivate vegetables and compost and breed earthworms in a very small space.

"Any conceivable type of material can be used for composting: grass clippings, chipped material, leaves, hay, straw, algae or mud from a pond, kitchen waste, cardboard etc. - any organic material that decomposes is suitable. The smaller the material and the more active the soil life is, the faster the decomposition process. The plants growing on the raised beds should be chosen so that the compost still gets enough light, but is also protected from the sun. In partial shade the optimal conditions for the decomposition process develop and the compost quickly turns into the highest quality manure."

Thoughts? Has anyone tried this method? Would animal manure be a suitable input? What about humanure?
 
Clara Florence
Posts: 47
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Yes or rather a method very similar to it. Instead of creating a furrow into which to put our orgNic matter we just pile the organic matter into a raised bed about a foot high with sticks and twigs on the bottom, greens in he middle and browns (leaf litter) on top. We then throw pumpkin seeds and sweet potato vine onto the bed and let it take hold. Within 3 months the bed is composted and ready for other plants. The heat of the compost seems to germinate the pumpkim seeds in winter nd they grow. Ive also done the same thing in another bed with hollyhock seedlings and they are rampant and have almost completely covered the entire bed, its mid-winter here. Bulbs also do well in thse beds as it gives them good drinage and they don't need much soil to grow.
 
Justin Jones
Posts: 54
Location: Lake Arrowhead, CA
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Thank you Ms. Florence for the input. I like your solution for many reasons. Since I read that bit I have begun to ask why plants are excluded from conventional composting methods. We talk at length about how important the soil organisms are for the plants... is it possible that the same is true vice-versa?

I'm new at this so forgive me for asking a real basic question: can you use livestock manure in this kind of plant-aided composting process? If not, how can we best utilize it? What about chicken/turkey manure?
 
Clara Florence
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Sure you can add manure of any kind. Just be aware that if its fresh manure it will heat the bed up and youll need to wait 2-4weeks before adding seeds or plants, otherwise they'll burn. I wouldnt recommend human waste though as that requires composting away from flies which may spread pathogens. I add manure onto the green layer under the browns. Ground cover plants on these piles maintain humidity and warmth which assists in the composting process.
 
Guarren cito
Posts: 79
Location: Zone 4A
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My only concern with sepps plan is that you would have to take down the two hugelkultur to harvest much of the plants you sow. He rebuilds his hugelkulturs pretty regularly which is too labor intensive for me. They settle quite a bit and so he says he rebuilds them taller. (Taller is the way to go with hugels!!)

Your question about manure in compost. I believe organic farms have to wait 180 days before using manure in soil for edible plants. This allows enough time for the bad stuff to die. It's also important to know that the real danger is from the manure being blown up from the wind and on to the fruit you eat, not the manure in the roots.
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