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helping mulch decompose faster?  RSS feed

 
M Foti
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Location: western n.c.
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We have a fairly large farm here and have a deal worked out with the local tree service guys to drop their wood chips here when they complete jobs. We now have a HUGE mountain of mulch. I wouldn't dare guess how many cubic yards, but I can say if we pile it all up in one pile, it would be bigger than our barn! When I do something, I always do it big haha. anyhow, I have told them to keep on bringing the mulch, forever and ever, I don't care if it piles up and rots, that's just great compost. I'm curious if anyone has some ideas that are cost effective, we have more mulch than most people have ever seen at one time, to help this compost faster.

I was thinking when we start moving it again to add things in the mix to help it decay faster and turn into composted organic matter. I was thinking animal manure and dirt interlayered in there. Curious if anyone has some idea to help kickstart those enzymes and bacteria into overdrive so it will happen faster. Cheap is a primary factor though. We have access to heavy equipment and dump trucks, so there's no worries about the actual logistics of this project.

Some sort of a liquid I could mix up in 275 gallon water totes and spray onto the piles as they're being heaped up would really be ideal! I just don't really know where to start with this.

Thanks in advance!
 
John Elliott
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Mushrooms.

With that much material, you don't want to be bothered with the turning necessary to hot compost it. Inoculate it with fungi and let nature do the rest. Is there a nature park near you? This would be a good place to hunt for mushrooms, because the ground is undisturbed. After a good heavy rain, go out with your knapsack or shopping bag and pick up any mushrooms that you can find. Not just on the ground, but on stumps and branches.

When you get back, put your mushrooms in a big bucket of water and use an immersion blender to make mushroom puree. I doubt if you will be able to get it pureed enough to spray through a nozzle, but that doesn't matter, just bail it out onto your piles with a big plastic cup.

If there are any greens at all in the pile, that will be enough nitrogen for the fungi to thrive. If it is completely, 100% dried out and brown, then maybe you might want to add some urine to the pile. But then like 1 quart in 5 gallons of water will be sufficient.

The next thing is the height of the pile. Mushrooms do need air to breathe, so the pile can't be so tall that the material on the bottom is anoxic from all the weight on top of it. If it's piled up more that 5 or 6 feet high, spread it out.

Let me know if you have difficulty finding mushrooms and I'll give you some more tips. They are out there, you just have to know where to look.
 
M Foti
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Location: western n.c.
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fantastic idea, thank you! I know mycelium can get HUGE. The current piles are in a shady place, we live on the outskirts of a temperate rain forest so the rainfall is more than substantial to keep the piles wet year round.

There are greens in there, it is basically whole trees that have been removed from their clients yards so leaves, pine needles and all are ground up. I'm sure there is some black walnut in there, which is a bit of a drag, but I can't be too picky with the deal I have, the toxins from black walnut are supposed to dissipate in a couple of years anyhow, so no worries. I am not expecting this to happen overnight, but would rather see it happen in 2-5 years if I can facilitate it. I guess the other plus side is if I planted edible mushrooms, we would have a source for those as well..

I am so glad I asked that here, such a simple solution with several benefits! I've learned a bit about mushroom growing, all theory without any personal practice though. Mainly I wasn't thinking about this properly, I didn't see a large enough area to grow enough mushrooms to be worth it, looks like this may do it all.

thank you again, I think that is a perfect idea!

Is there anything I should be thinking about doing to facilitate the mushrooms? You mentioned urea, I had already thought about using the cleaned out horse/pig/cow slop from a few local semi-organic producers... Now you have me thinking about all sorts of things, morels? hmmm... Morels to grow well in our area, mainly in the woods in leaf litter.
 
M Foti
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To John Elliot... I have started a thread in the "fungi" forum as it now seems appropriate to do so. http://www.permies.com/t/29085/fungi/HUGE-pile-woodchips-grow-edible#227249
 
John Elliott
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M Foti wrote: I am not expecting this to happen overnight, but would rather see it happen in 2-5 years if I can facilitate it.


Try 2-5 months. I get the occasional load of tree trimmings (mostly oak, and pine, with some sweetgum and other stuff in it) and inoculate it well. If it's dry, I make sure to water the piles, just so they don't dry out too much. In two months, I can dig in a few inches and there is lots and lots of white mycelium, doing its magic.

As far as inoculating it with a crop of edible mushrooms, don't set your goals too high. Especially morels. They are one species that has resisted efforts at cultivation. For a while, they are going to have to remain pleasant surprises to come across while walking in the woods.
 
Ken Peavey
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Bacteria are not able to produce the enzymes which will break down lignin. Wood chips and leaves contain high levels of lignin, as well as a lesser amount of cellulose. A little composting will happen with the cellulose, but the fungi will have to do the bulk of the decomposition work.
 
M Foti
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John, I'm not setting any real goals at all other than composting the mulch haha. If I could get shitake, button caps, or something else edible out of it, that would be amazing. So, I should just do as you said in your first comment and hope for some luck? Any thoughts on what type would be my best chance? Button caps, portabella, shitake, mitake? I'm not utterly ignorant about mushrooms, but close to it

Thank you for setting me straight Ken Peavey, I wasn't aware that fungi did most of the work in this type of decomposition.
 
John Elliott
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M Foti wrote:John, I'm not setting any real goals at all other than composting the mulch haha. If I could get shitake, button caps, or something else edible out of it, that would be amazing. So, I should just do as you said in your first comment and hope for some luck? Any thoughts on what type would be my best chance? Button caps, portabella, shitake, mitake? I'm not utterly ignorant about mushrooms, but close to it


Maiitake: this is a parasite of oak trees and is usually found growing at their base. I've tried infecting some of my oaks that I don't want with them in the hopes that I will get some tasty mushrooms while they kill them off, but so far, no dice.

Shiitake: this is commonly grown on hardwood logs, so if you have any hickory stumps, go ahead and give it a try.

Portabello is the same species as your common store variety button mushroom, Agaricus bisporus. No difference except that the white cap button mushrooms are an "albino" mutant of the normally brown cap mushroom. They are cow-shit mushrooms, most commonly found in grassy fields where herbivores have grazed. Commercially they are raised in boxes of sterilized horse or cow manure. Normally they wouldn't grow in wood chips, being outcompeted by other fungi.

The oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, is a mushroom that will grow in wood chips and is edible. This is one that paul stamets is fond of using in his mycoremediation work. I haven't had much luck with it here in Georgia. I think it is more of a cool weather mushroom, as Stamets is in the Pacific Northwest, and whenever I have found them, it has been in cooler climates. If you are up in the mountains, you could give it a try, but I have a hunch the Piedmont would still be too warm for them.

What I do have a steady crop of is the wood ear mushroom. It grows best on oak branches that are dead, but haven't fallen off the tree yet. Occasionally, you can find branches that fall from oak trees after a storm that are covered in wood ear fungus. I will throw these in the pile of wood chips, but I don't expect to get flushes of wood ears out of the pile. It is a reminder that when mushroom hunting, you can't always be looking at your feet, you also have to look up, because the choice specimens of this one will be over your head.
 
allen lumley
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M Foti : There is an old saying there are old mushroom pickers, and there are bold mushroom pickers, There are NO Old Bold Mushroom pickers ! ( 'shrooms = 'shroomers/ies ! )

I will bet that if you made Two phone calls, to any farmers/Aggie school, and ask about a mushroom or Mycellium club you will be transfered to the guy who knows where the group
meets.

You can always try your local public radio station or a farmers market, groups of 'shroomers are good people, learn the safe 4 from the group and then learn one new one a year I

If this does not apply to you it is still worth repeating ! An old 'shroomer ! Big AL
 
M Foti
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John, our climate here in far western n.c. is nearly identical to the pacific northwest, we have slightly more extremes in temperature, slightly colder in winter and slightly warmer in summer but other than that, nearly identical. I have a cousin who lives in oregon, he'll call me pretty regularly to compare weather, so I get a nice comparison from here to there. You mentioned making sure it gets enough air so as to not be anaerobic. Would it be prudent when I am remaking the piles to place some of the corrugated drain pipe (the kind with all the little weep holes) strategically in the piles or is this overkill and should I just take up more square footage with my piling and not stack so high?

I'm certainly willing to give this a go, might as well try to put something edible on there rather than not... So, by your recommendation oyster mushrooms may be my best chance for this to produce something edible?

Allen, again, I thank you for the heads up, I might be dumb, but I'm not stupid haha. I learned enough about mushroom identification to know that I don't know anything about mushroom identification I'll try to find a local organization that may be into this, but I highly doubt I'm going to find one, we live in an area that is pretty evenly split between artists and full on rednecks, not much in the way of farmers other than cattle ranching. I'm sure there is a Western North Carolina group, but finding one within a reasonable driving distance of us would be a real shocker, that and I'm getting some equipment over here soon to move this stuff around (so I can get my circle drive for the barn back) and would prefer to do this all at one time.

I will be in a little bit of a hurry to do this, if it works, great, if not... meh... I'll just put some wild "whatever it is" mushroom in the piles and forget about eating them, I just think it would be super if I can utilize this for two things. I tend to be very lucky, so it's worth a shot
 
John Elliott
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Corrugated drain pipe is not overkill. Let your nose be the guide. Nasty, sulfurous, septic-tank smells are an indication that something has gone anoxic and needs to be aired out. If your corrugated pipe smells earthy like a mushroom farm, all is OK; if it smells sulfurous, you can always hook the shop-vac up to it and blow air backwards through it to correct the problem.

And see my suggestion on the other thread about enoki mushrooms.
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Checkout what the Vermont Compost Company does with chickens.... A fun read and a productive way to gain an additional yield! http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/know-your-egg-shed-part1.aspx#axzz2iVMCVcIf
 
M Foti
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Jennifer, that is a very innovative concept. I love things like that. Sadly our entire flock was decimated by marauding raccoons and until we can get a real Fort Knox coop/aviary built, more birds will not be on our list. The coop is on our list of "to do" projects though, as well as a VERY large chicken tractor for guineas to patrol our blueberry fields. Something to definitely keep in mind for the future!

I have thought about hitting up some of the local schools/restaurants for compost, I am friends with one of the local principals of the school so I'm sure I can get a foot in the door that way. Before we go all in like that though, I REALLY need a front end loader to manage all this biomass. Right now I borrow one every month or two to tidy up the piles that the tree guys drop off, but we're adding several 20x100 greenhouses to the operation and I'll need all the compost and dirt I can get to mix our own potting mix. That's why I keep the woodchips coming even though they are a bit of a burden right now, I don't want to miss out on the great relationship we have with this tree service, those guys bring us a dump truck load at least once a week, sometimes several a week. it's actually pretty ridiculous, but I know it'll pay off later and it actually might not be enough!
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Oh I'm sorry about your chickens - what a shame.

Sounds like you're on the right track with all that you're doing - please post some pics from time to time so we can keep up. And definitely keep those woodchips coming!

Best of luck to you,
Jen
 
M Foti
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we keep a somewhat up to date photo thing going on our facebook page, you don't have to join facebook to see it. I don't think there's anything about the mulch yet, but since we're actually going to do something with it, we'll be starting one
 
Erich Sysak
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Lactic Acid Bacteria will help speed up the process. It's easy to make.
 
David Hartley
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Next Spring; inoculate with the spawn of Stopharia rugoso-annulata, Coprinus comatus, and possibly a variety of Pleurotus ostreatus All edible!
 
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