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Composting Resources for a newbie?  RSS feed

 
Ryder Ross
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Hey All,

I'm trying to learn as much as I can about composting. I'm setting up a composting program to collect food scraps from friends & neighbors in order to produce compost for a future backyard farm.

I'm a fairly technical person and would love to know exactly what is happening with the microbes & bacteria in the compost. The "Teaming with Microbes" book was just delivered today so I'll be reading that but it seems there's only a chapter on composting. We'll be trying out composting with worms in our apartment but are more interested in hot composting in the backyard.

What books or online resources would you recommend?

Thanks,
Ryder
 
Mekka Pakanohida
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Location: Zone 9 - Coastal Oregon
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Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind,  By Gene Logsdon

&

chicken tractor: The Permaculture Guide to Happy Hens
 
                              
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Location: Colorado, Zone 5, Cold Semi-arid
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The Humanure Handbook, Joe Jenkins.

http://www.humanurehandbook.com/manual.html

Deals specifically with composting human waste, but Jenkins discusses general composting processes.  Good scientific data, as well.
 
            
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Location: California
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Eliot Coleman's "The New Organic Grower".
 
            
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Location: Northport, Wash.
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Go Here: http://journeytoforever.org/ and look in the Small Farms Library, I think they also have some other info on composting.  Great stuff, simple to follow, lots and lots of material.
Mostly, we compost just by piling our compostables up into a pile, when it gets about 4 feet tall, we start another one.  we don't turn it or anything, just leave it until it is done.
We pick up a lot of old straw and hay from sources that don't use any chemicals and use some of it for composting, and the rest for mulching.  We prefer mulching over composting, as it allows all the little beasties in the soil to do their thing without being disurbed.  The compost we do make we use for potting new plants that we grow in the greenhouse, or start in the fall.
 
Ryder Ross
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Wow. The Small Farms Library looks like it has lots of information!

I just purchased The New Organic Grower - thanks for that fiveandahalffarm!

I'm about halfway through Teaming with Microbes and man have I learned a ton already. I've learned about bacteria, fungi, protozoa, nematodes, arthropods, earthworms, gastropods, and how they all affect the soil. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone looking to learn what actually happens in the soil. As a side note, I've also taken a strong stand against roto-tilling and double-digging after reading this book.
 
            
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Location: Northport, Wash.
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It's good to see more people take the no till approach.  It sure does a lot of damage to the soil and all the little beasties that reside there. 
If you get a chance, read the Fertility Farming book online at the Journey To Forever site.  It is about a guy back in the 40's that took a worn out farm and turned it into a productive dairy, mostly by composting and rebuilding the soil.  So many people just don't realize the damage tilling does, and how much it sets the land back every time it happens.
Good luck.
 
            
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Location: California
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ryder wrote:
Wow. The Small Farms Library looks like it has lots of information!

I just purchased The New Organic Grower - thanks for that fiveandahalffarm!


Glad to help. I'd go on to recommend his "Four Season Harvest" and "Winter Harvest Handbook" as well.

KurtW wrote:
It's good to see more people take the no till approach.  It sure does a lot of damage to the soil and all the little beasties that reside there.  
If you get a chance, read the Fertility Farming book online at the Journey To Forever site.  It is about a guy back in the 40's that took a worn out farm and turned it into a productive dairy, mostly by composting and rebuilding the soil.  So many people just don't realize the damage tilling does, and how much it sets the land back every time it happens.
Good luck.


I tend to agree. I prefer a minimized tillage approach. No-till is not always feasible in a market veg operation where some bed preparation is often necessary to ensure good germination and spacing (depending on the variety of crop), but in those instances all that's required is to cultivate the top inch or two. Traditional ground breaking with disc and plow should be reserved for initial field preparation on ground that has lain fallow for a time or has never been farmed (and often in this case a chisel plow or subsoiler is more appropriate than the disc harrow/moldboard plow combo). An interesting aside: I read a recent piece of literature yesterday or the day before citing research that's shown even low-till "organic" farming to be more effective at building soil tilth than no-till "conventional" farming (that is to say, systems in which pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers are used). It didn't come as much of a surprise to me, but I'm sure any big agribusiness farmers or suits who run across it will be screaming and swearing it off as blasphemy.
 
Ryder Ross
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"Winter Harvest Handbook" is already in my library and reading queue. I'll check out Four Season Harvest.

By 'market veg operation' I'm going to assume you mean growing veggies to sell at a market. If that's so, can you go into a little more detail about your minimized tillage approach and why you think it's better than no-till? What do you do for bed preparation?

I'm not asking to try and debunk your approach but more to learn how real operations are currently doing things. Growing veggies for market could very well be in my future. (on a second thought, maybe you could post it as a new thread since it won't be super relevant to this thread's topic).
 
Steven Baxter
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Moisture, air, carbon to nitrogen ratio are your main elements. After that its all creativity and testing
 
                
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Kurt W wrote:Go Here: http://journeytoforever.org/ and look in the Small Farms Library, I think they also have some other info on composting.  Great stuff, simple to follow, lots and lots of material.
Mostly, we compost just by piling our compostables up into a pile, when it gets about 4 feet tall, we start another one.  we don't turn it or anything, just leave it until it is done.
We pick up a lot of old straw and hay from sources that don't use any chemicals and use some of it for composting, and the rest for mulching.  We prefer mulching over composting, as it allows all the little beasties in the soil to do their thing without being disurbed.  The compost we do make we use for potting new plants that we grow in the greenhouse, or start in the fall.



I made it into a PDF for you guys. All credit to J24eva.

http://dl.dropbox.com/u/105576419/Fertility%20Farming%20-%20Journey%20To%20Forever.Org.pdf
 
Matthew Fallon
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Location: long island, ny Z-7a
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i found Jon Jeavons' books (Grow-Biointensive!) on BioIntensive farming had a lot of technical information and very detailed notes on yields and how much land to dedicate for growing green-manure crops.
eliot coleman uses mostly alfalfa meal i think that he grows, he shows his test-plots of cover/green-manure crops and talks of them a lot in his old tv show, http://youtu.be/mSNu1OBKqh0

i use all my kitchen scraps in my large (36cubic feet) flow-thru worm bin (along with paper and cardboard,grass clippings,fine-woodchips,sawdust etc) because the worm castings are SO potent and the plants LOVE them.
only when it is full do i put this all in the compost heap.
i've been bringing stuff in to make large compost piles. i have a landscaper dump his grass clippings in fall (also dry leaves) ,the guy i get from uses organic fertilizers and that's only early in season anyhow. my tree guys dump 10 yards of chips when i call them, then teh horse manure i have to go pickup but its only 40 mins away and is all bagged up for easy clean loading. i have about 7 yards of grass out there now and man is it cooking! it's a big job to turn it all so i've started using a rototiller to flatten/spread it out, let it dry some it needed(like today!) then pile back up with a pitch fork.

about your saving kitchen scraps idea...something i thought of trying but have not done so yet was to start a small worm-composting project/business where i'd get friends/neighbors who already compost or will do so regularly ,build them a Very Good Looking outdoor bin to toss their kitchen waste in and i'd supply the worms to get it started (from 5-gallon bucket systems i'd have going) charge a small amount for time/materials and split the finished castings produced as well as harvest extra worms for sale to others(or to start more buckets). i could also simply sell fully working systems that work better than the little indoor worm factory types. i probably have pics of it in a thread i started or replied to, just check under my profile here oh you can see it in this video too http://youtu.be/VfijK7GKHpI
another option could be to make an even larger flow-thru vermicomposter (or buy industrial sized) and collect spoiled foods from local groceries,spent coffee grinds from the cafes, veggie pulp from the juice bars etc...that all gets very involved fast though, depends i guess on how much time/energy you can allocate towards making compost.
 
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