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Sourcing Organic Material  RSS feed

 
Alex Veidel
Posts: 125
Location: Elgin, IL
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Question for David (but everybody feel free to chip in):

I feel like I never have access to a level of organic material that would match the level of my composting enthusiasm. Do you have any favored sources for bringing in some extra materials in bulk? Do you ever grow materials for composting?
 
lesley verbrugge
Posts: 44
Location: 48°N in Normandie, France. USDA 8-9 Koppen Cfb
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bee chicken food preservation forest garden hugelkultur solar
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We're currently setting up keyhole beds and are using every available bit of biomass we can take from other parts of the garden! very useful are Kiwis. they are like triffids once they get going and 'before' permaculture, they were a 'problem' (waste) now they are a major resource (bio mass) We have a six year old clump of Miscanthus sinensis Gracillimus (elephant grass) grown from seed and originally planted as an ornamental grass, it's now four feet diameter at the base and 6' tall, it's yielding an amazing amount of mulch. It needs cutting down yearly in late winter early spring but we're harvesting it now, green and then running the mower over it to chop it up as we don't have a chipper. Also, can recommend Nettles as a good source of bio mass. One final suggestion, We used to be gardeners (pre permie!) and one of our biggest challenges was getting rid of bio mass, especially in residential areas. have you thought about making contact with a gardener and volunteering to take their prunings? goes without saying make sure they are not using chemical treatments.
just my four penny worth, I'm sure others will have loads of better ideas!
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
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Since a lot of the traditional sources of scavenge-able material (hay, straw, manure) are now contaminated with long-term herbicides and other toxins, I definitely agree that growing high-biomass plants is a wise choice. I've planted trees I can coppice (various nitrogen fixers, Paulownia, mulberry, sweet gum) as well as fast-growing perennials such as Tithonia diversifolia.

That wouldn't work in your area; however, their cousin Jerusalem artichokes make a lot of biomass and compost readily. As a bonus, they're edible. Chapter 10 of my book is titled "Grow Your Own Compost." You've got the right idea.

And I agree on nettles. Very nutritious for you and the soil.
 
Hugh Holland
Posts: 17
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David or Others,

When our family visits Cedar Key, we always bring back a van load of seaweed. With only one composter and a side bin (I know, I know) I've always scattered the seaweed throughout the garden. We do not visit the ocean that often, but would you suggest placing seaweed in the composter upon return when we do? Is there anything that we should be aware of when collecting and or using natural seaweed?

Blessings...Hugh
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 387
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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forest garden greening the desert trees
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I'm interested to learn if seaweed is ok to compost? I can get loads off a nearby beach but have always avoided as I assume it is covered in too much salt.
 
Chris Barton
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I used to go to my local saw mill and collect saw dust for the compost toilet and other general composting but now I pop to the nearest decidious woods and load up a few bags of woodland litter. Twigs, leaves etc. All at different stages of decomposition. Its loads better then sterile saw dust and it's full of life. Myceliuem, insects, all sorts of diversity.
It's great for mulching as well.
 
Dale Hodgins
gardener
Posts: 6778
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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I get paid to haul away most of my soil amendments. My tree and hedge work bring in plenty of unsprayed material.   Spraying is rare around here.

 I sometimes gather the remains from well aged compost bins.

 The best way to lay your hands on mountains of organic material is to advertise,  and charge for it's removal.
.........
I am the only maintenance guy on this property,  so I know that the material from the 320 foot hedge is clean.
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David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
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Seaweed is great if you can get it. I rinse it first, then add it to the compost or right around plants as mulch.

Once thing I've also done to good effect: bring the seaweed home, rinse it, put it in a bucket, cover with water, then use a submersible blender to grind it up.

Let that sit in the sun for a few weeks and it will turn into a mineral-rich (albeit stinky) micronutrient foliar feed. Good stuff.

On a related note: I've now quit using purchased kelp meal, though it used to figure highly in my plans to get micronutrients to my garden beds. Since Fukushima and the massive amounts of radiation that got released into the Pacific, I decided I didn't really want the risk of radioactivity in my gardens. Kelp is a great accumulator of everything, unfortunately.
 
Alex Veidel
Posts: 125
Location: Elgin, IL
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David Goodman wrote:Since a lot of the traditional sources of scavenge-able material (hay, straw, manure) are now contaminated with long-term herbicides and other toxins, I definitely agree that growing high-biomass plants is a wise choice. I've planted trees I can coppice (various nitrogen fixers, Paulownia, mulberry, sweet gum) as well as fast-growing perennials such as Tithonia diversifolia.

That wouldn't work in your area; however, their cousin Jerusalem artichokes make a lot of biomass and compost readily. As a bonus, they're edible. Chapter 10 of my book is titled "Grow Your Own Compost." You've got the right idea.

And I agree on nettles. Very nutritious for you and the soil.


Jerusalem artichokes are a great idea. I've been thinking about growing some zone 5 bamboo varieties for mulching as well. Thanks!
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
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@Dale Hodgins

Great idea.

And that hedge... whoa. Epic biomass.
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 387
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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forest garden greening the desert trees
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David Goodman wrote:Seaweed is great if you can get it. I rinse it first...


The extra biomass would be valuable, but not as valuable as the fresh water i'd need to rinse it with.
Any ideas how to solve this trade off for coastal arid zones?
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
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Heh. I forget that not everyone lives in a place with monsoons. Bad author. Subtract 10 points!

With low rainfall I would just put it in piles instead of right around plants, then trust that the overall salinity retained at the end of composting won't be a problem. My bet is that it will turn out okay, though you may want to test before taking my word on it. I haven't tried, so I'm taking a shot in the dark. Plants can handle a bit of sodium chloride and even appreciate a touch.
 
Michael Bushman
Posts: 144
Location: Sacramento, CA
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Don't overlook restaurants!

There is a group of restaurants here in Sacramento called Green Restaurant Alliance that pools food scraps for a group of volunteers who collect the scraps on bicycles using trailers and then brings them to various places to be composted.

They gather a LOT of material.
 
Steve Farmer
Posts: 387
Location: South Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)
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forest garden greening the desert trees
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If rinsing seaweed in monsoon country works then it would work for us. We might only get one rain event a year but it could be a 2 or 3 day monsoon like event in a wet year and is usually forecast a few days ahead. A seaweed pile at the downstream part of the plot could just sit and wait for rain providing we understand that a day or two of rain is sufficient to rinse it and sufficient to carry the salt back to the sea rather than let it soak into the land just downstream. I don't understand how composting would get rid of salt. Would burning seaweed get rid of salt and still leave usable biomasss?
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
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"I don't understand how composting would get rid of salt."

It wouldn't get rid of it; however, having seaweed be only one part of the pile would act to dilute it.

As for burning, it seems that the combustion temperature of salt is too high - it would likely just concentrate the salinity in the final ashes:

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10163-013-0212-z

Note the burn temps - 500 to 800C!

I think your idea of putting it downstream for rain to fix makes a lot of sense.
 
Rose Pinder
Posts: 410
Location: Otago, New Zealand
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When I lived on the coast, myself and others locally routinely used seaweeds both on the garden and in composts. The salt wasn't a problem. If you are trying to wash salt off in one location, what is happening to the soil there in terms of salinity? Better to spread the load I think. Although, some seaweed is saltier than others, and quantity is going to be important to how well it fits into whatever system.

There are some sustainability issues with harvesting seaweed. We're taking nutrients out of that particular ecosystem. I think for many of us it's hard to see the impact, because we're not as connected to sea and tidal ecosystems as we are to land based ones.
 
bud smith
Posts: 31
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Where I am in Ontario, come fall there is an endless supply of leaves that people rake up and put at the curb. They would be more than happy to have someone take it away for them as they are only allowed a 3 bag limit for curbside collection.
There is also an organic drop off location that is run by the city. I've seen people go there and ask for the material from the people dropping it off.
We have a pesticide ban here so most lawn grasses are safe for composting. If in doubt you can source lawn cuttings from from people you know.
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
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books forest garden
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Bud makes a good point.

I've had neighbors dump leaves, straw, jack-o-lanterns and even logs in my yard. They're happy to get rid of it and I'm happy to have it.
 
Rebecca Norman
gardener
Posts: 1273
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
127
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Rose Pinder wrote:
There are some sustainability issues with harvesting seaweed. We're taking nutrients out of that particular ecosystem. I think for many of us it's hard to see the impact, because we're not as connected to sea and tidal ecosystems as we are to land based ones.


In many regions the problem is that humans are putting too much nutrients into the ocean! (Leaching of nitrogen from septics etc)
 
David Good
gardener
Posts: 522
Location: Equatorial tropics
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@Rebecca

That's an excellent point. Thank you.
 
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