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Getting more volume and coverage from my compost

 
ted agens
Posts: 16
Location: Elk County PA
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We have a mid sized garden--10 raised beds, most anywhere from 8'x4 up to 14'x4' at 6" deep

This year was the first year we were able to fill all of the beds with compost that we made

we made it from grass clippings (no chem used on grass ), shredded leaves, some hemlock and pine needles, veg and fruit leftovers with chopped banana peels and egg shells

all full with thousands of worms

the problem?

we JUST had enough

question, how can we get more coverage? more volume?

looking to add some "neutral" matter to do this

i have been told sand (the stuff with no chem added like for pavers) and i have been told perlite

what do any of you think would be best?

thanks!
 
Amit Enventres
Posts: 335
Location: Ohio, USA
21
fish food preservation forest garden
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Hi Ted!

I have a few raised beds and the same problem. I would re-use what you have in the beds and top-dress it, because that allows the soil to develop. Your earthworms and other buggies will make sure the stuff mixes. In my really tall raised bed, as filler I shoved strawbales in the bottom. It's NOT good for nutrients (initially, must decompose first) and so I had to compensate with fertilizer (blood meal), but when your raised bed is 3 ft high (to prevent/discourage bunny entrance), it worked! Also, I add brown paper grocery bags, recycled/bleach-free paper towels, empty toilet paper rolls, and the occasional paper napkin to my compost and try to compensate with nitrogen rich other stuff (which is usually our leftovers) to make sure we strike the right balance. Sometimes you can ask tree trimmers for wood chips. In my neighborhood, you can gather your neighbor's lawn bags or leaves. In some places the local waste treatment plant has compost....of course, you're not asking about that. They say no putting of dog poop or humanure in composts because of the threat of pathogens. I have a few wild areas that I hack at every few months and gather the debris for compost. It comes back. There are also a few perennials you can grow for the occasional food and biomass, that are good nutrient accumulators. I use horse radish because we like it occasionally, it's perennial, pulls nutrients from deep, and I have no qualms pulling off a few leaves here and there to get some extra biomass.

Good luck!
 
Nick Watkins
pollinator
Posts: 37
Location: Akron, Ohio
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I actually have the exact same problem. I have 96 sq ft. of 15" high raised beds on my small suburban plot and the soil volume lost year-to-year is about the same amount of soil I make from my own yard waste. This'll be a problem when I add another 24 - 40 sq ft of bed next year. Sand is great for drainage, though I've never had drainage problems with my compost-enriched soil. Perlite does the same at the cost of money and being non-renewable, so I only use it to fluff up my sterile seed-starting mix (considering substituting coir). Here are a few ideas off the top of my head:

  • Bury brush/sticks/whatever organic yard waste you can't process easily for compost like a micro-hugel
  • Grow cover crops throughout the year and chop/drop as needed. Throw these on the pile or compost in-place. I'm thinking of trying some hairy vetch and winter pea this fall
  • Mix desired volume of clean soil from elsewhere on your property into the compost. You'll increase biological diversity in the compost and kill latent weed seeds while you're at it
  • Find clean, external sources of compostable material-- Amit (howdy, fellow Ohioan!) mentioned lawn waste but let your imagination run wild: coffee grounds and food scraps from a local cafe or diner, spoiled straw or hay (especially alfalfa!) from local farmers, damaged produce from the farmer's market, stale bread from bakeries, wood scraps from the local firewood guy, sawdust from the local sawmill
  • seasonal compostables (there are a LOT of rotten pumpkins around after Oct 31st if your pile isn't frozen)
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    Tyler Ludens
    pollinator
    Posts: 9445
    Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
    163
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    Nick Watkins wrote: spoiled straw or hay (especially alfalfa!)


    Beware of this:  https://permies.com/t/57773/composting/Paul-watch-killer-compost
     
    Bryant RedHawk
    gardener
    Posts: 1992
    Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
    152
    chicken dog forest garden hugelkultur hunting toxin-ectomy
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    We compost everything that isn't plastic.

    To increase the quantity of compostables for your heaps, check with neighbors that don't compost, they may be happy to give you their leaves, grass cuttings, etc.
    You might also check with local stores, many of them will have boxes to get rid of as well as other paper goods.

    Don't forget to ask the tree trimmers if they need a free spot to dump their chipped up limbs, this can be a Woot! moment if they do.

    As has been mentioned using your compost as a top dressing saves on the quantity of compost you need.

     
    Susan Taylor Brown
    Posts: 142
    Location: Scotts Valley, California Zone 9B
    3
    bee dog trees
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    I top dress with anything and everything right now trying to bring my dead dirt back to life. Lots and lots of paper and if I have to, I throw some alfalfa meal on top to balance things. I just need mass and nutrients which I know the worms and other microherds can help with. I dig holes a couple feet deep all around the yard and just start piling stuff in.
     
    2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
    http://richsoil.com/pdc
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