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Foraging for compost...will this mix work?
Posted by: angie1 ()
Date: November 30, 2007 04:24PM

Hello all you gardeners.

I haven't got money to go out and collect and buy composting materials, so I am trying to use what I can haul up from around the neighborhood. So far this is what I've found - TONS of watercress from the nearby creek. Have an organic lawn care business dumping leaf and grass mixture in my back yard. Occasional horse and bird manure from the animal hoarders next door. I threw it all together in various beds to try and level it out some... hoping it will compost down and I can start gardening in 1-2 years without having to move the piles around much except to turn them. This is my theory - will it work? If not, what should I add? When will it be ready to garden in, if the majority of the garden areas are raised 2 feet and I turn it 3 times before this next spring? In Spokane, WA zone 5-6 - can get below -10 but rarely.

Thank you!

-Angie

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Re: Foraging for compost...will this mix work?
Posted by: aquadecoco ()
Date: November 30, 2007 09:14PM

Hi Angie, how cool that you're composting.

This is the best site I know for composting - the principles are the same no matter what you compost. Jenkins, who has been composting for decades and whose books have won awards, is one of my heros. The people on his forum (it's not a lively forum, so I only check in every week or so) are some of the most interesting, intelligent, diverse people and I think you would really enjoy exposure to this little subculture of composters.

Joe makes his compost book available for free online, the paper book is free to non-profit orgs. including libraries, and you can also order the paper book from his website.

Cheers, Jill

www.jenkinspublishing.com

jenkinspublishing.com

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Re: Foraging for compost...will this mix work?
Posted by: macfly ()
Date: December 24, 2007 03:26AM

Hey Angie,

You don't have to wait 1-2 years to plant stuff! There is a concept in the world of Permaculture called "sheet mulching" that allows you to compost and plant crops in the same space. Basically, you first mow down weeds and grasses in the area you're working with and leave them there. Then you add build layers of organic material and add a weed barrier on top of it. The weed barrier (I used cardboard) will rot over time but keep light and weeds out. On top of the weed barrier build a bed of finished compost in which to plant your seeds or transplants. By cutting small slits into the cardboard underneath your seeds or young transplants, the roots will find their way down through the organic material below to the ground. Check out the book "Gaia's Garden" by Toby Hemenway or Lasagna Gardening (I don't recall the author at the moment) to learn about sheet mulching. Or just google the phrase "sheet mulching".

I documented the whole process of creating my little garden in order to write a tutorial about it...I still haven't gotten around to writing the tutorial but you can check out the photos below. I haven't written notes for all the photos but they should be arranged chronologically so you get an idea of the process:

[www.flickr.com]

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Re: Foraging for compost...will this mix work?
Posted by: angie1 ()
Date: January 20, 2008 10:08PM

Thank you for the advice. I'm glad to hear I don't have to wait so long to plant! I love the idea of sheet mulching and will look more into it. Where our septic drainfield is, is really obvious because there are some HUGE bunches of knapweed and GIGANTIC weeds with TRUNKS instead of stems (like 3/4 inch wide!) So macfly, you're saying if I hack those down and just leave them there it will actually kill the weed SEEDS too? Knapweed is really invasive around here and about the only thing I've heard of to do with it is burn it. The seeds survive almost anything.

I've also got a spot down by the creek with obnoxious grass growing in between piles of rock on the rock birm bordering the creek. I wonder if I can just sheet mulch on top of that too? Oooh - hurry up snow, and melt! I want to try this. I will definitely look into both suggested sites and books. Thank you macfly and Jill!

BTW - macfly your photo gallery is great! I feel like I can really do this!


Me (30), Joseph (24 mo.) Jeremiah (4 mo.)

We are enjoying spring and being outside!!!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/20/2008 10:23PM by angie1.

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Re: Foraging for compost...will this mix work?
Posted by: macfly ()
Date: January 26, 2008 05:58AM

Knapweed, that's a thistle, right? That stuff is really vigorous and it's gonna grow right back if you slash it down, even if you throw mulch on top of it. So, maybe we can flip your knapweed "problem" upside-down. Knapweed thrives in continually disturbed soils that never evolve past the first couple stages of succession. If the area is left undisturbed, the knapweed may eventually give way to native plants of your region...or it may not. Could take 2 years, could take 75 years, only Nature and time will tell.

Is there another spot you can garden in on your land, that is free of knapweed? Depending on what grasses you have down by the rocks, you could possibly build up a sheet-mulch bed there...I didn't have much trouble smothering out the grasses that had grown in my gardening spot before I started building the bed up.

Also, I do know that Bees love knapweed, so maybe you could plant a patch of melons somewhere sunny and expect them to be pollinated quite easily.

By the way, I finished a first draft of my slideshow tutorial, it needs some work but there are comments on each photo now.

Thanks for taking a look at it, and yeah you definitely CAN do this!

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Re: Foraging for compost...will this mix work?
Posted by: angie1 ()
Date: February 01, 2008 04:29PM

Wow Macfly, thanks for the good advice.

"Is there another spot you can garden in on your land, that is free of knapweed?"

LOL. No. The land is mostly sand (or shall we say fill-sand) and rocks, except in the area by the creek which is REALLY NICE. So it's definitely disturbed and probably will take a lot of time to become nice fluffy loamy gardening material.

For example, this last fall when I was planting trees, I had to dig TWO holes per tree - one to actually put the tree in, and one to be able to obtain enough back fill for the hole. Each hole, I ended up with a huge pile of rocks (which I'm using for rock walls), and then I fill up the unused hole with compost. I figure if I dig holes almost everywhere, about 2-3 feet deep, I can eliminate enough of the large rocks, and there will be compost almost everywhere. It will be a lot of work, but I am determined!! I've got about 1/16th of it done - it's a start!

That's a good idea with the melons. I should document this project like you are doing!!

Thanks again!

Angie


Me (30), Joseph (24 mo.) Jeremiah (4 mo.)

We are enjoying spring and being outside!!!

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