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
My addition to the discussion is the suggestion that composting become
everyone's business and the culture of cooperation be expanded to other
<< ubj: Re: [cg] Community garden nutrient inputs
Date: 1/25/03 10:31:49 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (David Smead)
To: email@example.com (Tamsin Salehian)
CC: firstname.lastname@example.org ('email@example.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
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
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.
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