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Re: Community garden nutrient inputs

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Community garden nutrient inputs
  • From: Adam36055@aol.com
  • Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2003 00:19:54 EST

Dave's positing on community garden composting is classic - great information 
for all of us.  I'd just like to add a little addendum.  Today,  in NYC 
temperatures in the teens, I walked 7 blocks from my home with a small 
covered bucket of coffee grounds, orange peels, some eggshells and some 
unsalvageable greens from my refrigerator's veggie bin.

As the wind blew in my face as I walked south on 9th avenue, I realized that 
I could have very easily dropped this load down the garbage chute  a few 
steps away from my apartment. But,  I was so conditoned to compost, the idea 
of ditching my compostables down this chute is pretty alien to me these days. 
 A culture change.

Now, as I opened our garden gate I saw two other folks, in 17 degree 
fahrenheit temperatures, with their composting bags  already in the garden.  

We tipped our hats, stomped out feet and made our deposits into our steaming 
compost piles.

My addition to the discussion is the suggestion that composting become 
everyone's business and the culture of cooperation be expanded to other 

Best wishes,
Adam Honigman

<< ubj:  Re: [cg] Community garden nutrient inputs
 Date:  1/25/03 10:31:49 PM Eastern Standard Time
 From:  smead@amplepower.com (David Smead)
 Sender:    community_garden-admin@mallorn.com
 To:    tamsin@sparecreative.com (Tamsin Salehian)
 CC:    community_garden@mallorn.com ('community_garden@mallorn.com')
 As Steve pointed out with composting, climate makes a big difference.
 There needs to be a distinction between worm based composting versus `hot'
 composting that is micrcobial based.  The former takes many weeks to
 happen, such as buring waste in a trench.  Hot composting needs frequent
 turning, and reaching an internal temperature of say 50-60 C and breaks
 down in a week or two.
 Climate and original soil condition will also be a dominate concern when
 building the soil.  If you have a source for manure, that is always a
 great additive, but keep in mind the antibiotics that may be present, and
 the threat of e coli if the manure is green.  If you can find an organic
 dairy that composts the manure for a year before selling it - buy their
 produce, and their manure!  I have a source for that near Seattle, but it
 pays to get a lot at once since it is cheaper that way and makes the drive
 more worthwhile.
 I've also used composted manure from a local zoo, but again, antibiotics
 is a concern.  I've used it to kick start a couple of plots where it was
 buried quite deep below the topsoil..
 Since I garden all year long, I try to feed the soil the same way, which
 means shoving food between the growing plants frequently.  Everything
 grown which isn't eaten goes back into the garden, and that can be a
 significant source of fibrous material; asparagus stalks, tomato plants,
 overgrown kale and broccoli plants, exterior leaves on cabbages, etc.
 Some of the other soil food that I use include; spent grain and hops from
 a local micro-brewery; grape stems, seeds and skins from making wine;
 apple remains from making cider, coffee grounds from an espresso stand,
 crab, clam and oyster shells, seaweed, leaf mold, leaves, straw, grass
 clippings, and of course the material from my worm cage.
 In new soil, you should measure PH and correct with some natural limestone
 if necessary.  I've also added ground rock, high in phosphate to new
 soils.  Once the soil is rich in organic matter, and fed regularly, the
 need for adding any direct fertilizers to it goes away.  As Jon Rowley
 says, "feed the soil, not the plant".
 What you don't want to see in a garden is bare dirt.  It should have
 plants growing out of layers of composting `soil food'.  Eventually you'll
 be able to stiffen your fingers flat, and wiggle your hand and arm down
 through the soil to your armpit - without tilling.  In such a soil, and
 with the naked eye, you'll find copious quantity of the white blind
 springtails and of course worms.  Under a 30 power microscope you'll see
 an incredible assortment of working microbes - a soil teaming with life.
 Unfortunately, too many people have the `pill' attitude - what magic pill
 can we take for what ails us?  What magic ingredient can we add to the
 soil to grow this or that crop better?  The answers to those questions
 rely on the wisdom of the pill or fertilizer designers, and very likely
 they have something to sell us.  As an ignorant consumers, should we trust
 their advice?
 The wisdom of the ages is encoded in the processes that still survive.
 It's human nature to want to decode, and use snippets of our understanding
 to enhance some desirable aspect.  It's no wonder that years later we
 discover malicious side effects to our actions.  Perhaps sometimes it pays
 to resist attempts to decode all that happens because we can't understand
 it all at once.
 David Smead

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