Building the Pile

One recipe for grow biointensive compost is, by weight: V3 dry vegetation (which becomes rehydrated to full weight as you water the compost pile), V3green vegetation (including kitchen wastes), and V3 soil3—though we have found with our heavy clay soil that less soil produces better results. These material amounts by volume are approximately equal parts of green and dry materials to V4 part of soil. It is not necessary to

3. See Ehrenfried E. Pfeiffer, The Compost Manufacturer's Manual (Philadelphia: The Pfeiffer Foundation, 1956), especially pp. 23-48.

rehydrate the dry material until it is added to the compost pile. Each layer should be watered well as it is created. This V3 to V3 to V3 recipe will give you a carbon-nitrogen ratio in your built compost pile of about 30 to 1, and will produce compost with a significant amount of higher quality, short-term humified carbon. The result will be a hotter (thermophilic: 113° to 149°F) pile with faster-releasing cured compost that generally releases nutrients over a 3-month to 2-year period. A lot of the carbon in this type of compost pile is lost, however, and the resulting cured compost only contains about V3 to V2 the cured compost that a cooler (mesophilic: 50° to 113°F) 60-to-1 compost pile will produce. A 60-to-1 pile is built with approximately 2 parts dry vegetation to V2 part green vegetation (including kitchen wastes) and Vi part soil. The result of this pile will be a slower-releasing cured compost that generally releases nutrients over a 3-month to 5,000-year period— especially if the sources of dry matter contain a large amount of lignin, such as corn and sorghum stalks. This can be a way to build up your soil fertility on a long-term basis, but the more readily available nutrients in the cured compost from a 30-to-1 pile will be important for the good growth of most vegetables. We make separate compost piles of small tree branches, since they can take 2 years to decompose.

The ground underneath the pile should be loosened to a depth of 12 inches to provide good drainage. Next, lay down roughage (brush, corn stalks, or other materials) 3 inches thick, if available, for air circulation. The materials should optimally be added to the pile in 1- to 2-inch layers with the dry vegetation on the bottom, the green vegetation and kitchen wastes second, and the soil third (in a Vi- to V2-inch layer). You can, however, build a pile spontaneously, adding materials daily or so, as they become available. This kind of pile will usually take a little longer to cure, but can be built more easily. Always be sure to cover kitchen waste and fresh manures with soil to avoid flies and odors!

Green vegetation is 95% more effective than dry vegetation as a "starter" because its higher nitrogen content helps start and maintain the fermentation process. Dry vegetation is high in carbon content. It is difficult for the microbes in the compost pile to digest carbon without sufficient amounts of nitrogen. Unless you have a large household, it may be necessary to save your kitchen scraps in a tight-lidded unbreakable container for several days to get enough material for the kitchen waste layer. You may want to hold your breath when you dump them because the stronger-smelling anaerobic form of the decomposition process has been taking place in the closed container. The smell will disappear within a few hours after reintroducing air. All kitchen scraps may be added except meats and sizable amounts of oily salad scraps. Be sure to include bones, tea leaves, coffee grounds, eggshells, and citrus rinds.

Note

We are finding that cold compost piles, which are built with more carbon and can take up to one year to fully cure, may produce much more cured carbon (humus) and compost per unit of carbon added to the pile after the built point. This could be essential to maintaining sustainable soil fertility, since sufficient humus is the essential factor in making this fertility possible. You may wish to experiment with this!

KEY ORGANIC MATTER FUNCTIONS

There are more than 6 billion microbial life-forms in only 1 level teaspoon of cured compost—more than the number of people on Earth!

  1. organic matter feeds plants through nutrient exchange and through nutrient release upon its decomposition.
  2. It is a continual slow-release source of nutrients for plants.
  3. Organic acids in humus help dissolve minerals in the soil, making the mineral nutrients available to plants. organic acids also increase the permeability of plant root membranes and therefore promote the plant roots' uptake of water and nutrients.
  4. Organic matter is the energy source for the soil's microbial life-forms, which are an integral part of soil health. In 1 gram of humus-rich soil there are several billion bacteria, 1 million fungi, 10 to 20 million actinomycetes, and 800,000 algae.
  5. The microbes that feed on organic matter in the soil temporarily bind the soil particles together. The fungi, with their thread-like mycelia, are especially important. They literally sew the soil together. The microbes secrete compounds into the soil as they live, metabolize, and ultimately decompose. Their secretions are a bacterial glue (polysaccharides) that holds soil particles, thus improving the soil's structure. Structure is vital to soil productivity because it ensures good aeration, good drainage, good water retention, and erosion resistance.
  6. Organic matter is the key to soil structure, keeping it safe from severe erosion and keeping it in an open, porous condition for good water and air penetration.
Adding Air Soil Growing
Soil is added to a compost pile after green vegetation and a kitchen waste layer.

Add the soil layer immediately after the kitchen waste. it contains microorganisms that speed decomposition, keeps the smell down to a minor level, and prevents flies from laying eggs in the garbage. The smell will be difficult to eliminate entirely when waste from members of the cabbage family is added. in a few days, however, even this soil-minimized odor will disappear. Also, the soil in the compost pile becomes "like compost." It holds compost juices, microbes, and minerals that would otherwise leach out of the pile. it is one way to get "more" compost.

Organic Gardeners Composting

Organic Gardeners Composting

Have you always wanted to grow your own vegetables but didn't know what to do? Here are the best tips on how to become a true and envied organic gardner.

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