Archive for Sunday, November 7, 2010

Compost piles aren’t demanding

November 7, 2010


Adding a thermometer to your compost pile will help you know if the pile is hot enough to kill pests. A week at 100 degrees could have the same killing effect on some pests as an hour at 140 degrees.

Adding a thermometer to your compost pile will help you know if the pile is hot enough to kill pests. A week at 100 degrees could have the same killing effect on some pests as an hour at 140 degrees.

Pity the beginning gardener who dares to read about composting. (Please dare to read on, in this case, even if you are a beginner.)

What novice would not be intimidated by the too often very complicated instructions, as well as alleged needs for exotic or hard-to-find ingredients.

Some British gardening books, for example, might have you tossing in your pitchfork and gloves in despair trying to find — of all things! — soil for your compost pile. Many British “authorities” recommend laying down a 1 to 2 inch blanket after every foot or so of other compost ingredients. Where are you going to find all that soil?

In fact, soil is a nice, but surely not necessary, addition to a compost pile. Rather than those 1 to 2 inch layers, just add sprinklings of soil to your compost piles. Or none at all.

‘Clean’ leaves, stems, fruits

The directives most likely to persuade a beginner to abandon composting are those telling us not to compost diseased plants or plant parts. The same could be said for warnings against composting plants or plant parts harboring insect pests. You might similarly be instructed to keep weeds out of your compost piles. Is any of this possible or desirable?

Unless you regularly douse your property with a slew of insecticides and fungicides, you are unlikely to find much plant material that does not host some insect or disease pest. That’s if you looked closely enough.You might find a clean leaf here and there, but nothing in quantity, and surely nothing worth picking through. And if you follow warnings against using weeds, you miss out on the sweet revenge of reincarnating them, from agents that rob plants of nutrients and water into compost, which has the opposite effect.

It’s all good

So forget all the talk about keeping pest-ridden plants and weeds out of compost piles. Using a finished compost that has been fed such things should not cause any problems.

What spells death to insect, disease and weed pests in a compost pile is a combination of heat and time. Pile up compostable materials in a big batch, with attention to the mix of ingredients, air and moisture, and intense heat soon follows.

Get a long-probed compost thermometer (you can find them at,, or, among other places) and watch the dial spin as high as 160 degrees, which is hot enough to kill virtually all pests.

A casually made pile, built gradually over a few weeks — especially at this time of year with weather turning cooler — will generate little heat. But let any pile of living or once living material sit long enough and it will eventually turn dark brown and crumbly. Along the way, pests will have expired or been gobbled up by other microorganisms. A week at 100 degrees could have the same killing effect on some pests as an hour at 140 degrees.

Garden gold

You cannot do much better for your garden than to lavish it with compost. And you need plenty of raw materials to make plenty of compost.

Don’t waste any compostable materials — including weeds and pest ridden plants — by bagging them up as garbage or burning them.


Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago


  • Be sure the mix of ingredients you put in your tumbler contains wastes high in nitrogen and carbon for a good balance.

  • Do not attempt to make compost using any products that have been treated with chemical fertilizers or pest control products.

  • If you have bulky items to compost, such as corn cobs, melon rinds, and shrub clippings, be sure to run them through a shredder before putting them your tumbler.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago

Menu of Things to Compost

* Fresh Grass Clippings
* Shredded Leaves
* Kitchen Trimmings and Peels from Vegetables and Fruits
* Sawdust
* Garden Throwouts such as dead flowers and plants
* Weeds 
* Manure (From horses, cows, chickens, rabbits, pigs or sheep. Do not attempt to compost any wastes from dogs or cats.)
* B/W sections of newspapers
* Rotted fruits and vegetables
* Pine Needles
* Coffee Grounds
* Tea Leaves

Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago


*Cottins Hardware (785) 843-2981

Wood Pallet Composting System: *

Vinland Valley Nursery (785) 594-2966 **Would be willing to help on this.

libra101 7 years, 2 months ago

We don't actually use our compost as fertilizer, at least not yet. We use it to dispose of our organic waste so we aren't throwing it in the garbage or mucking up our garbage disposal. We live in the country so don't feel the need to rake leaves or gather grass clippings, they are good for the lawn! This is a good way to start for beginners and then you can expand your compost technology as you need or want to.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago

Our Food Meanwhile at the grocery store we confront our food. Engineered fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic and styrofoam, cultivated not for taste, but for ease of transport, appearance and uniformity, then sprayed with chemicals to inhibit diseases and pests that thrive in an unbalanced ecosystem. Organic farming accounts for less than 1% of the United States agriculture output. The produce in the average American dinner is trucked 1,500 miles to get to the plate. We don't know where our fruits and vegetables came from or who grew it. Perhaps we have even forgotten that plants were responsible for this mass-produced product we are consuming.

This detachment from the source of our food breeds a careless attitude towards our role as custodians of the land that feeds us. Perhaps we would reconsider what we put down the drain, on the ground and in the air if there was more direct evidence that we will ultimately ingest it.

The Edible Estates Initiative Edible Estates proposes the replacement of the American lawn with a highly productive domestic edible landscape. Food grown in our front yards will connect us to the seasons, the organic cycles of the earth and our neighbors. The banal lifeless space of uniform grass in front of the house will be replaced with the chaotic abundance of bio-diversity. In becoming gardeners we will reconsider our connection to the land, what we take from it and what we put in it. Each yard will be a unique expression of its location and of the inhabitant and their desires. Valuable land will be put to work.

The Edible Estates project will be implemented in 9 cities in the United States over the next 3 years. An adventurous family in each town will offer their typical suburban front lawn as a working prototype for the region. They will dare to defy the sweeping continuity of their neighborhood's green lined streets. Working together with the family and additional helpers the front lawn will be removed and replaced with an edible landscape. This highly productive garden will be designed to respond to the unique characteristics of the site, the needs and desires of the owner, the community and its history and especially the local climate and geography.

With the modest gesture of reconsidering the use of our small individual private yards, Edible Estates takes on our relationship with our neighbors, the source of our food and our connection to the natural environment.

Flap Doodle 7 years, 2 months ago

You are forgetting that attribution thing again, merrill. Plagiarism makes the baby Al Gore cry.

riverdrifter 7 years, 2 months ago

Forget those compost tumblers. They're worthless. Just get a couple dozen concrete blocks and make a horseshoe shaped enclosure. Or better yet, the best composter is just a pile. Make a new pile every year. Stir it occasionally, heaping it up. Let it rot. If you live in the country, wild turkeys will love your compost pile and you may have to fence them out. After 3 years, you've got some great stuff.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago

Composting Leaves

Since leaves are fibrous and full of nutrients, these help make the soil’s composition and aeration better. Take note that leaves from plants and trees are usually the recipients of trace minerals that have been gathered from the soil. So composting leaves is really one good way of recycling. You can definitely turn these into valuable compost instead of throwing them away as garbage.

So before you go right ahead in to composting these, you should know that you can compost any type of leaf. You can start by shredding the leaves into smaller pieces (before adding them into an Urban Compost Tumbler for example), as this will help save some space inside the tumbler; and to also minimize the tendency of the leaves to mat. But don’t worry, you don’t have to do this by hand. You can always turn to mowing them over (use the lawn mower), or you can always buy those shredders/chippers from the market. Anyway, when composting your leaves, you should also add into your composter some nitrogen. Nitrogen actually helps your leaves to rot fast. Nitrogen can be in the form of days old manure, dried blood, and some bone meal (also add in some, yard clippings, eggshells, and coffee grounds). And as soon as you’ve combined these materials together, you may now add in some water. Make sure the content’s are left moist and not soaking wet (this will ruin your compost); and also turn your compost, via the compost tumbler, on a daily basis to aerate it. Compost tumblers by the way, helps speed up the process of composting compared to ordinary compost bins.

It would also help to take note the colors of your leaves, as this will also determine the right quantity that you should put into your rotating composter. Green leaves (usually from trees) for example, should only be added in a reasonable quantity. For Red or Yellow leaves, you may put just a few of these inside your eco composter. Brown leaves on the other hand, should not be added into your compost, as these will work better as leaf mold. Other than composting leaves, you can also turn these into some leaf mold. And if leaves don’t satisfy you enough. You can always resort to grass composting. recommends the Soil Saver Composter

soil_saver_composter Recognized for its award-winning and classic design, the Soil Saver Composter has been manufactured for over 25 years now. It features a capacity of 11 2/5 feet, and a weight of 30 pounds. It’s also composed of 75% post-consumer recycled polyethylene. And not only that, it also includes a ¼-inch structural foam molding and 2 slide up doors. So, purchase your own Soil Saver Composter with us today!

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Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago

Some tumblers can be a good method it compost is desired more quickly. Piles can take awhile so it would be good to have more than one going. Reusing pallets is a good recycling plan.

I also like the concrete block plan.

Different strokes for different folks. I've done the piles, pallets and tumblers. Cottins is offering a tumbler in which Linda Cottin uses at their home.

Richard Heckler 7 years, 2 months ago

City of Lawrence is a good source of information and they offer a composter for sale.

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