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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Helpful Composting Information.

Many people have heard the recipe for compost; 1/3 fresh green waste, 1/3 dry brown waste and 1/3 food waste sprinkled with a handful of healthy soil, about one handful of soil for every shovel full of waste. Nearly everyone has heard that you need to water your compost from time to time as well, keeping it about as wet as a wrung out sponge. Most people also recommend turning the pile several times over about 90 days, to spread biological activity (diversity)throughout the pile and aerate it as well, which aids breakdown. Yes, yes, I know that most people don't like to turn the piles and I get it. however, that is the best way to make the compost work quickly and to yield the most uniform finished product possible. What I want to focus on in this post is the two other considerations that you need to take into account for higher level processing, making boutique compost and creating the best compost for your purposes. These involve the Carbon Nitrogen Ratio, which halps the compost to break down quickly, but also the Fungal:Bacterial Ratio which has more to do with how developed your soils are, or the type of plant life that you want to enrich your soil with using that compost. The right compost changes based on what sorts of plantas you are growing. In light of the fact that all composts are not created equal, this is to help suss out what is important for your specific applications and management goals. I urge some of the same considereations be made when maturing char nito biochar, but even for compost it is worth paying attention to these easily overlooked aspects of compost.
First, we will deal with producing compost, generally: transforming waste into black gold, this requires understanding carbon to nitrogen ratios. If you mix up a compost pile that has too much carbon, it slows the composting process. Too much nitrogen and you end up with a stinky pile. Wood chips 400:1 Cardboard (shredded) 350:1 Saw Dust 325:1 Newspaper (shredded) 175:1 Pine Needles 80:1 Straw and Corn Stalks 75:1 Leaves 60:1 Peanut Shells and Fruit Wastes 35:1 Then, we get into the range of what composts most easily, right between the magical range from about 25 to 30 to one ratio. (Carbon:Nitrogen)Things like: Weeds and Garden Waste 30:1 Wood Ashes, Vegetable Scraps and Hay 25:1 Beyond that we get into the stuff that needs more Carbon to compost well, like Clover 23:1 Coffee Grounds, Food Waste and Grass Clippings 20:1 Seaweed 19:1 Manures 15:1 Alfalfa 12:1 Human Feces and Urine 8:1 Before you get offended or upset, the U.S. of A. Federal rules for application of human urine to cropland is six months between application and harvest for human consumption and a full year between application and harvest for human fecal matter. It also allows the material to be composted for those same lengths of time prior to application and then no specified period between application and harvest is required. Gettign the ratio right makes th eentire process go faster and with less smell. It is worth figuring out exactly what you are putting in, so you can get the best results, the most and the greaest functionality from what you get, so keep these concentrations in mind when mixing up your specific compost bin or pile. Secondly, soils go through a life span as well, pay attention to where the soils you have are in their development, and where you want them to go. This part of the development of specific composts rests on wher ethey will be used. If you only have microbial crusts and lichen, that is the earliest phase of soil generation. Areas that ar elike that can't just fast forward to garden soil overnight, it will require several years or more of development. You can only push nature sofar, so fast. These proto soils cannot offer anything fungal hyphae might want and there are some microbes that exude anti-fungal substances, so even if you introduced them, they would die out. If you can only grow pioneer weeds, the probable fungal-bacterial ratio is around 0.1 to 0.3 to one. When Early-successional grasses come in, that increases to 0.3 to 0.6 to one. Mid-successional grasses indicate 0.7 to 0.85 to one and Late-sucessional grasses row crops and vegetables thrive on soils with 0.9 to 1.5 to one ratios. Shrubs, vines and native prairie typically range from 2-15 to one. Deciduous Forest typically weighs in at 5-50 to one. Conifer Old-Growth Forest ranges 50-100 to one with not only rich, but diverse communities of fungi and virtually no bacteria. So, what does that mean where the rubber hits the road? Your farm, acreage or own back yard? If you ar emaking compost for the deep dark recesses of a forest preserve, you would make sure to have fungal spores from diverse communities included in the mix. You might do the same for makign compost that was to be used in a mature deciduous forest. Even if you are managing for a vineard or parairie restoration, you would probably want to be sure to add substantial fungal representatives within your compost mix. When the compost is for vegetable beds or rows, you may get plenty of fungal spores from the air itself, another reason to turn the pile periodically and protect the compost from the sun with mulch immediately after it is applied.

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