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Re: Composting idea

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Composting idea
  • From: Steve Diver steved@ncat.org
  • Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2006 10:05:52 -0600

Garbage truck, bad.... yuck!

Dump truck, good..... clean!

Leaves only, good.

Mixed yardwaste (leaves, grass, trimmings)... good.

Trashy yardwaste with stupid humans mixing
waste oil, trash, needles..... bad.

Those are the main things to keep in mind,
up front.

If you are talking leaves only, that pile will sit
there for a "long time" if you dump it and that's
it. It will make a nice leaf corral and serve
as a source of leaf mulch and leaf mould,
for several years.

But to make compost, you'll need to amend
the leaves with nitrogen and lots of water and
mix it and turn it.

To achieve that, you'll probably want to
build regular size composting bins and make
compost piles that can be managed with hand
tools, for adding moisture and turning, etc.

So you can indeed start with that huge
leaf corral, and then take volumes of
leaves for different uses as needed, including
manageable compost bins.

Don Boekelheide who is on this list developed
some really practical and helpful guidelines for
using alfalfa pellets as a nitrogen source with
leafy compost. We use those guidelines from
NC and promote the method here in AR.

Alfalfa pellets are commonly sold as rabbit
pellets at feed stores. It serves as an organic
nitrogen source, about 7% N.
The original formula called for a 50-lb
bag per 3'x3'x3' bin, or therebouts. It
works out to a proper C:N ratio. Later
guidelines suggest that a smaller amount of
alfalfa pellets will also do the job.

I can dig up an old resource posting on
this topic if you need it. It has been my
favorite way to handle leafy compost bins.

Frankly, urban gardeners driving sporty
cars and family cars around don't have
the capacity to haul "manures" from a
local dairy farm. And God-forbid don't
get hoodwinked into using "free" horse
manure for community gardens. It is
*notorious* for bringing in loads of
weed seeds, including spiny pigweed for
some reason. By comparison, alfalfa
pellets in 50-lb bags are easy to haul
in a trunk of a car.

Fyi, in my experience you need to pay
attention to adding moisture to the pile
when you turn it.... because leafy compost
binds tend to suck out the moisture and
dry down, causing the whole microbial
driven composting process to halt.

Fyi, if you want to explore composting processes,
bulletins, guidelines, documentation, and web resources
on "large-scale" composting using a tractor for
turning and managing different kinds of piles and
windrows, see:

Farm-Scale Composting Resource List
http://attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/farmcompost.html

Good luck,

Steve Diver
Northwest Arkansas


We are starting a community garden in Rockville, Maryland and are kicking
around ideas about composting. One idea is to put in a chain link fence bin
big enough to dump a garbage truck load of leaves into. Our city pays $36
dollars a ton to get rid of yard waste. If a garbage truck carries 20 cubic
yards and a cubic yard weighs 500 pounds, one truck load would cost $180 to
get rid of. We could save them that amount and get free compostable leaves
and grass clippings. 20 cubic yards should fit in a bin 10 by 15 by 5 feet
high, big enough to back the truck into and dump the yard waste.

This is all based on internet research rather than experience. Has anyone
tried something like this? Any words of wisdom to share?

Carl Henn

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