Compost ingredient combinations

by George Harding
(Wellington New Zealand)

I have just completed an Organic Horticulture course at a polytech and am trying five different brews of compost using combinations of "freebie" materials such as: leaves/horse manure & stable straw/seaweed/wood ash/grass clippings/pine straw. Has anyone had success with any of these combinations?

Comments for Compost ingredient combinations

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Oct 25, 2010
Different ingredients for compost
by: Megan

Lucky you having the room to experiment with five different composts. Lucky you living in Welly NZ too, like me!

Over the years the composts I've made have been with what's available at the time. Beautiful compost comes from goats' sheds residue and kitchen scraps. The straw from the goats' bedding provides the carbon. Stable manure would be similar, except watch for seeds if hay has been used or the horses have been fed grains in their stables.

Wood ash is not an option I've tried, but occasionally have had a bit and sprinkled it lightly over the garden. Seaweed is great… and of course does need to be brewed in a hot compost, otherwise it never seems to rot and the worms avoid it. Over the last few years grass clipping have been a staple for my composts, but I have found that they have to be added carefully. Too much and they seal off in a layer, and too little they dry out so that I have to often check there is enough moisture in the compost bin.

I'm sure readers, and definitely myself, are very interested in the outcomes and observations of your compost experiments. Keep us in the picture if you can.

Oct 25, 2010
Compost (What Else?)
by: George Harding

Hi Megan and thanks for the feedback. I only have a small garden so my compost heaps are anywhere there is a space I can't plant in. We have a woodburner in the lounge so the woodash is used in lieu of lime and I add it to all my compost. Regarding seaweed, I put the dry stuff from above the high water mark through my mulcher until it is very fine then mix it through my compost, and mulch around my totatoes, brassicas and curcubits as I find it seems to keep the bugs at bay. I also find then I cultivate the soil which has had seaweed added, the worms seem to congregate around the seaweed ?? If I can, I use kelp and the "lacy red stuff" in my bin to soak for liquid fertiliser which I root feed with inverted bottles or foliar feed.
Regards
George

Oct 27, 2010
My compost ingredients
by: Jorge

I have never used any manure in my compost pile, I don't have access to it. I go down to a big park and gather lots of leaves and bring them back in sacks in my van and mostly mix these with crumpled and ripped newspages, and these two main ingredients make rich compost in no time at all. My vegetables and few small flower beds thrive!!
We do sometimes 'relieve' ourselves in the watering can then fill it with water and pour that over the compost pile, so I am sure this helps splendidly.
It's good to share all this information. J

Oct 27, 2010
Seaweed in Compost
by: George Harding

Hi Megan. I keep a 2 litre milk container in my shade house and collect my "Domestic Compost Accelerator" as my Organic Hort. tutor called it. I water it down 50/50 and feed my lemon trees and a camellia with chlorosis which has defied all other "book" cures. My diuretic medication for my heart condition ensures I have a plentiful supply for my lemons;(there are even benefits in having a chronic heart condition)but I also have a "Lemon Tree Mantra" of; "water, feed, water again, mulch which I repeat 3 months with horse/seaweed/stable straw. As I am only a hoop and a holler from Paremata Beach, if you would like some seaweed let me know how much, what type and where to deliver it.
Regards
George

Oct 28, 2010
Pine Needle Compost
by: George

Hi Megan and Jorge and thanks for your comments but I note that neither of you have mentioned using pine needles which from my experience are freely available except in the middle of the CBD and I wonder if there are any other organic gardeners whomay have used this resource. I also subscribe to the A.B.C. (Australian Broadcasting Corporation Gardening) site on the WWW and most of the coments I get are that pine needles are too acidic but having lived in Oz I know that their pine trees are a different species. I find that if I mix plenty of greens, manure and a good sprinkling of lime to counteract the acidity of the pine needles, the compost does rot down albiet a bit slower than most other combinations.
Regards
George

Nov 08, 2010
pine straw
by: manuredepot

I do a lot of composting at home and I have a easy access to pine straw. The pine trees' sap present on fresh pine needles contains terpenes from which turpentine is made. It is not great for the compost I use on the vegetable garden, though I scratch below the pine needles for the old broken down pine mulch to use on blueberries, camelias, azaleas, and gardenias (all acid loving plants). It tests out at about 2.9 on the pH scale and is just what we need here for our calcareous (quite basic) soil.

Nov 09, 2010
Compost
by: John Adams

Here in S.W.Scotland we add anything green to our compost heap but do not add seeding weeds or weeds that will grow from pieces of root i.e. "squitch" (couch) grass.Also added is shredded paper and cardboard.When we kept chickens we added their soiled straw and droppings,also H.C.A diluted to 50% strength to work as an accelerator.We do compost a few grass mowings but as we have 1 1/2 acres we can't compost them all.We have 4 compost bins,each of which is 4 feet square.We continuously top up 1 bin each year ,leaving the other 3 to "cook" so our compost has been working for about 2 to 3 years before use.Each bin produces some 60 cu.ft of very rich compost which realy promotes the growth of our vegetables,

Nov 09, 2010
Pine Needle Compost
by: George Harding

Hi "Manure Depot", good to hear of another composter's pine needle experience at last. I agree 100% about harvesting the black fully rotted pine straw from the forest floor and I also use it directly on my acid lovers. I use the "raw" pine needles on the pathways between my No Dig beds to keep the weeds at bay and every year I harvest the rotted down stuff from the pathways which get an occassional dose of liquid horse or seaweed and add it to my compost heaps. I also add some "new" pine needles to all my other compost heaps to keek the mixture porous as they take 2-3 years to break down. I have a new heap this year of 20 large sacks of pure horse manure as the Riding School has a massive surplus and I constantly read on other gardening web sites of using "well rotted manure" so I am going to try this out for next year's bedding out plant soil.

Nov 09, 2010
Compost in Scotland
by: George

Hi John and thanks for the post. I am jealous of the size of your patch as mine is only 18m X 32M and while the house in on the flat, the garden is on a 45degree South facing terraced slope but I don't have any drainage problems(LOL). We are at 41S latitude here so I wonder how you keep your compost warm enough to rot as keeping my compost beds warm is one of my problems. I have them all covered with rubber carpet underlay and this seems to do a fair job and the horse manure content helps a lot as it generated a lot of heat. I dont bother with sorting out the weeds but I am lucky as I dont have twitch but I do have "Creeping Buttercup" (Ranunculus Repens)which is rampant but has a very strong root system which drags up the deepdown nutrients so I "harvest" it to return the nutrients to my heaps and (luckily?) dont have any problem with it regenerating in my compost. I am lucky to have a Comfrey patch which is reported to bring up deepdown nutrients due a long tap root so I am lining my potatoe trench with it this year to see if the WWW "Guru's" are right.
"Permaculture 4 Eva"
George

Nov 09, 2010
Compost Bins
by: Ellen

I have three bins of compost made of bales of straw it is only one bale high. Should I add on and make it two bales high? Also should I keep it covered during the winter with tarps?

Nov 09, 2010
Pine Shavings
by: Renie

I don't use pinestraw but am using pine shavings. I rake all soiled shavings from the coop into my covered chicken yards... The chickens keep it scratched around and continue adding more poop. I remove all of it once I feel the yard has too much and pile it up around my blueberry bushes. I did use a bunch of it around my veggie garden boxes and along my fence to keep the grass down all summer.. Worked pretty darn good too. lol

Every fall... My neighbors give me a truck load of leaves. I take those and pile my garden boxes as high as I can with the them. The worms in my beds love love love this idea. You should see how big they are.. Dug one up by accident a few weeks ago.. WOW it was HUGE! big around as my little finger and at least 7 or 8 inches long.

Nov 09, 2010
Compost Experiments
by: Deniece

I love to grow compost. It has taken on it's own life, just as the garden has! I have used fine grass clippings and learned that they will seal off a layer and absorb more water than you can put in! I have used rotted pine straw from the forest floor and have also used baled pine staw. I used baled pine straw in thin layers between larger layers of food scraps. When my pile slows down in the winter I stir in alfalfa hay clippings and it has ALWAYS started by pile cooking again. Horses that are stalled will always have a "urine hole" in the middle of their stall, if you can put those "diggings" in the compost pile it will kick-start a cold pile. I use newspaper, cardboard, worm castings, food scraps, lucrene (alfalfa) hay, wheat straw, horse manure, some pine straw, coffee grounds, tea bags and chicken manure when I can get it. I have found the more I can use a wide range of products, the better my compost is! I try to have 6 inches of green and then 6 of brown, just as I learned to do from the do-dig garden insturctions on this site. It works beautifully!

Nov 09, 2010
Compost, The source of all things good
by: George

Hi Renie and Deniece, Oh boy, both of you are surely are a dedicated composters and I am insanely jealous of your mix of ingredients. I limit my content to "freebies" as part of my recycling/permaculture ethic and it is surprising how many "non gardeners" are happy to contribute their green and brown waste for my cause. I have been watching our local council gardeners for years and they always add sharp river sand to their top dressing of their gardens and I now add a sprinkle of this to my compost. Luckily the stream on golf club I belong to has regular floods and there are always piles of lovely clean sand where the stream has over flowed its banks. OK, there are weeds in it but again, I "harvest" them as they have already converted basic nutrients into plant food which I can reuse through my comopost.
Regards
George

Nov 09, 2010
Hay bale compost heaps
by: George

Hi Ellen. Love your idea of using hay bales for the frame of your compost heap but from my experience you need at least a cubic metre space for an optimum heap and as I recall, hay bales are about 60cm square so you would need three to get the preferred dimensions. As for a covering it, an emphatic yes as the moisture content needs to optimised to get good compost. If your heap gets too wet the biota will be too cold to do their job and your compost will become cold, possibly smelly and slow to rot. Another trick I learned the hard way to avoid anerobic compost as I am disabled and cannot turn my compost, I insert a long steel rod and rotate it multiple places in the heap to provide an air channel as the biota also need oxygen. I also pour a container of liquid chicken or seaweed manure into the hole to assist the rotting process. If when building your heap you can place a long rod in the middle and drop a length of "Drain Coil" over it, this will also provide an air channel and a port for additives.
Regards
George

Nov 13, 2010
Hay Bale Compost Bins
by: George

Hi Ellen and I owe you an apology for my idea for a hay bale compost bin. I got the dimensions of a hay bale wrong when I said you need 3 60cm bales. Dummy me, this would give you a bin 1.8m high. It is so long since I hamdled a hay bale I had misjudged the size and after measuring one at the local R.D.A. site my idea of 3 bales stands but this will give you someythimng nearer the optimum 1m.
Regards
George

Nov 13, 2010
Worm Castings and Egg Shells
by: Renie

From day one of building our first nodig gardens we purchase yards of the blackest.... richest... compost full of worms from a place in Woodstock,VT. Finally got smart and paid them to deliver it.. lol We decided to put a thick layer of worm castings on top of the leaves from last fall for this yrs garden. I had the best tomatoes I ever had and the largest broccoli heads ever!

I don't put straw on top of the beds anymore... It was suppose to be seedless... uh huh right. looked like a chia pet... So that is another reason I like using the leaves... but then I have to watch out for wild mushrooms poping up the boxes... no biggie.. have old large spoon.. just dip them out.

Did anyone else have problems with too much nitrogen and not enough calcium??? My summer squash look great one day and the next it had a rotten bottom.

Now I have another compost pile started 3 yrs ago from kitchen scraps.. lots of coffee grounds, onion ends, egg shells, potato peels, leaves, etc... Will adding this mixture to my boxes help raise the calcium levels? The eggs are from my own chickens and I didn't bake them or anything.

Nov 13, 2010
Egg Shells and Worms
by: George

Hi Renie. At last I have found a "composting soul mate" who has been down the same route to great gardening. One of my 5 compost "heaps" is a commercial composter into which goes all our kitchen scraps, vegetable scraps, egg shells, crayfish bodies(I think you may call them lobsters), mussel shells and recently the bodies of a couple of large rats which I trapped after finding my drying curcubit seeds had been eaten. I only empty this bin every 2 to 3 years as it takes that long to fill and the worms seem to lower the level almost over night. I am continually amazed that there is no sign of the crayfish and rat bodies and likewise the mussel shell are picked clean so they are trashed in my mulcher and used in my compost heaps in lieu of lime. This bin is saved for my rose bed as it is supreme for this role.
Regards
George

Nov 14, 2010
Egg Shells and Worms
by: Renie

Hey George,

Sometimes I find the eggshells not where I left them... lol I think the chipmunks are guilty of stealing them to munch on. Thanks for sharing your experience with using kitchen compost for rose bushes... I have plans next spring to construct a large white lattic work blind wall to cover that ugly old chimney and plant a very nice climbing rose bush on it. Just so happens... my kitchen compost is within 10 ft of the site.. lol

I don't have a commerical composter.. I had an old exercise pen for my dogs that I don't use anymore. It's has 8 heavy wire panels that are 2ft wide and 2 1\2 ft tall. Makes a nice area when jointed together. The wire sides allow for good air flow. It will be easy to unhook it to get to the rich bottom portion when I am ready to plant my climber. :)

Nov 14, 2010
Cost of Compost vs Food Cost
by: Deniece

I to like to get as much free stuff as possible for my compost pile, but if I do have to invest in things, (Lucrene Hay, etc) I have found the cost of that investment to be less than purchasing quality dirt or compost, even if you can find REALLY quality product. Most certainly the cost of the few things I do purchase are much less that the quality food that I manage to produce from my own compost pile. It works out to be a few dollars vs many hundreds of dollars of food produced. Thanks everyone for the tips and comments here and the learning experience is a blessing. I try to pass on what I learn to others. I live in Alabama (USA) so your comments and efforts are traveling a very long way!!

Nov 19, 2010
Compost
by: Anonymous

I have been burning leaves because I have so many of them. Can I use these in the compost? Would it be green or brown? I got you E-Mail about bales of straw it helped.

Nov 19, 2010
Manure
by: Renie

I have been told many years ago... that rabbit manure doesn't have anything in it to offer to your garden... with that being said.. How about goat manure? There is a goat farm in New Hampshire that offers free truck loads to anyone that will take it away. Should I call them?

Nov 20, 2010
Goat Manure
by: George

Hi Renie. If you Google "goatconnection/articles/publish/article_84shtml" you will find a comparison table and goat manure is rated as one of the best. If you search further there are many references to the various animal manure and their value.
Regards
George

Nov 20, 2010
Leaf Compost
by: George

Hi Anonymous. Lucky you, unless you have absolutely tons of leaves. I collect about 40 large sacks each year from the gardens om wife's elderly golfing buddies who used to pay someone to take them away. I now do a "Lasagne" type of compost with leaves and horse manure and seaweed and turn it monthly to get great compost in about four months. I treat them as a mixture of greens and browns depending how old they are but have yet to get a bad batch no matter what the mix ratio.
Regards
George
Regard

Nov 23, 2010
Manure chart
by: Renie

That chart is helpful.. did have to search the site to find it... which brings me to another question... You know it was be soo great to be able to share pictures of our garden etc with the list in our post.

Dec 12, 2010
Composting Holidays
by: George

This may seem a bit of a "Pun" but I have just returned from 2 weeks in Oz doing the gardens on daughter's 18 acre "Hobby Farm" which is an ex goat stud. Plenty of weeds, goat manure and stinging nettles to make a compost heap which should be be great for dressing the rose beds which need a bit of TLC. Question, does this type of "holiday" make me a WOOFFER ?. On RTNZ I found that the weather had been very warm and the lack of watering showed in some places but glad to see that the plants in the beds to which I had added the goodies from the R.D.A. dung heap had blossomed due to the water retention properties of the soil. The seaweed mulch seems to have also kept most of the bugs at bay so another triumph for organics.
Merry Organic Xmas to all
George

Dec 18, 2010
Compost ingredients
by: Megan

At the moment with the system I'm using on this website it's not possible to include photos except for the very first question/message. But, the boffins in the back rooms of Nerdsville will no doubt make this possible, hopefully soon.

In the meantime Renie and others, if you like you can send me an email with your photo(s) included, plus your message and which subject it should belong to, and I'll upload it all for you.

Send to: meg at no-dig-vegetablegarden.com (change at to @ and close spaces. Done this way to stop spam spiders harvesting emails)

You may also like to proudly display your garden talents here Gardening stories, pictures, tips and anecdotes etc. There's some great ideas on this forum thread, it would be fantastic to see some pics!

Sep 22, 2015
seaweed/horse manure mix
by: roberto

This year I added horse manure to my compost box, and I'm wondering if it is safe to add seaweed to the compost as well. Safe to do so or not? What kind of results yield from a mixture of both?
Thank you.

Apr 01, 2016
rabbit manure NEW
by: Anonymous

just like to tell folks on here about rabbit manure, 2,4 n 1.6 p .9 k may be the best veg garden fert ever , I HAVE SOME VERY CLOSE TO WOTLD RECORD TOMS FROM RABBIT POOP TU

Apr 01, 2016
Animal manures in compost NEW
by: ~ Megan

Good to know that those nice little chocolate eggs from bunnies are useful in the compost and garden. Thanks for that. M


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