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Re: RE: Mulching, composting & manure

Hi, Adam,

I noticed the composting plan for your garden grant. Best of luck with what 
you are doing, and I commend you for your work on community gardens, and for 
including composting in your garden. I am a little curious about your 
composting system, however, and I urge you to contact any of the host of 
organizations working on small scale composting and vermiculture. There must 
be some working in or near NYC.

>Our new compost/storage area design (please see enclosed) would  allow us to
>create four secure compost bins, each with a locked gate. They will each be
>3'wide x 3'deep by 6' in height. This will allow us to create the most
>ideally suited 3'by 3' by 3' compost pile in each of our bins. 

What is the 6' height for? Locked gates? Do you plan to turn the compost 
regularly by forking it out of bin, then putting it back in? Are you using a 
'rat proof' wire mesh for the bins, or what material? Is your feedstock going 
to be mostly plant debris from the garden, or do you plan to co-compost 
manures (you mentioned horse)?

How long is your composting cycle there in NYC? With a 3x3x3 bin, you'll get 
about 9 ft^3 of finished compost per batch, or about enough to double dig a 
single 3 x 10 raised bed or topdress two beds. Any amount of compost is good, 
but will this provide enough nutrients for your gardeners?

>It will be approximately 20 feet tall in the rear, sloping
>down to 18 feet in the front.  The roof will be constructed of durable
>corrugated aluminum for long life. The approximate cost will be $8,000 of
>which we are currently seeking bids from contractors. 

The 20' tall roof confuses me-why such a big structure? What does a big tin 
roof have to do with rats? 8 grand is a hefty chunk of change.

Have you considered other options? 2 for instances: Finding a stable owner 
who will compost at their stable, possibly using worms and waste paper (and 
avoiding the powerful and persistent worming poisons many stables now use). 
That might make hauling less of a chore for you, and avoid smells, etc.

I think you certainly should have composting at the garden site, too-I work 
here in Charlotte to encourage exactly that sort of thing. But for much less 
than $8000, you could set up a simple garden waste composting or 
vermicomposting system with the same volume (27 * 4 = 108 ft^3) using 
commercial plastic composters (or a locally produced equivalent). 10 of them 
would give you more capacity, with greater rat protection and flexibility, 
for a max of $500. You might be able to get them for less (or free) by 
partnering with a public agency encourging waste reductions and composting, 
or from a company like Nordic ('Earth Machine') or Smith and Hawkin (their 
'BioStack' is a somewhat more expensive but well designed choice). A storage 
area for soil amendments makes sense, too, but I think I'd go with tarps 
rather than that vast expensive roof.

Just my opinion. I do urge you to seek out a couple of experienced composters 
for their opinions and suggestions. I'll forward your note to the home 
compost listserv.

Good luck and keep up the good work in NYC,

Don Boekelheide
Charlotte NC USA

We will also create a
>storage area above these bins which will allow us to have approximately 500
>square feet of soil amendments and supplies readily on hand for any gardener.

These will be imported, no? That's a 3 * 5 * 20 soil amendment area (you mean 
cubic feet, right?). 
>The combination compost/storage area will be built on a solid 10"reenforced
>concrete base using readily available fencing construction for durability
>and strength.
>Great luck to you with your composting efforts.
>Adam Honigman

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