HowYouCompost forum: Wait...don't move those clippings....

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AlohaHoya
Feb 20, 2010 4:23 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
We have been in the habit of pruning and mulching right where the plant is. All of the fertilizer that we give a plant goes into the vegetive matter, which we prune or cut back and haul away to a compost pile. DUMB. I have learned to leave all the clippings under/around/over the plant in question to be fertilized by its' own organic waste. Anyone else do this?
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Imagestormyla
Feb 24, 2010 7:47 PM CST
Name: Stormy
Valley Forge Pa
I Love MAM ~ So Happy Together
Carol. I've never done that. Guess I haven't progressed that far. LOL, took me years to stop ironing Smiling

I'm always trying to avoid anything that slugs and voles will be attracted to. Sounds like prime breeding spots for them. Maybe your area isn't conducive to either of those pests.
AlohaHoya
Feb 24, 2010 8:46 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
OK...I am talking more about trees and shrubs...When we have fruit drop we leave it there...it's not close to the house.

I don't do this in my vegetable garden!!! Rolling my eyes.
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Imagestormyla
Feb 24, 2010 11:04 PM CST
Name: Stormy
Valley Forge Pa
I Love MAM ~ So Happy Together
OK, I was thinking of what my flower beds would look like with thousands and thousands of tulip and daff leaves all rotting in it. Big Grin
AlohaHoya
Feb 24, 2010 11:07 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Well....those I would clean up!!! Good for the compost. I wonder.....is all plant detrius the same...would it matter if your compost mostly of vegetables help the ornamentals as well as the vegetables??? Seems to me that it better be really balanced!!!
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ImageRickCorey
Dec 12, 2012 7:51 PM CST
Name: Rick Corey
Pacific NorthWet Zone 8a
A friend of mine fomrulated the Dead Relative theory. When he trimmed plants or vegetables, he hauled them away, but laid uprooted weeds right back down.

His theory was that a dead plant would host bugs and diseases that attacked that one kind of plant. Hence dead weeds would dicourage more weeds, but dead vegetables would encourage vegetable diseases.

My theory is that the best place for fresh, rotting plant parts is in a compost heap, but if you don't have a problem with pests or diseases after doing this, you just don't need to worry about that.

On the other hand, if some crop IS prone to pests where you live, keep those rows clean of anything other than clean dry mulch. Especially remove diseased crop leaves, which some people won't even compost. (Maybe use the diseased crop leaves as mulch in a flower bed.)

And rotate that sickliness-prone crop. Or try different varieties of the same species. Or plant a few feet of row earlier and a few later, to see if that helps them.

And consider a row cover, if that doesn't trap pests inside and make them worse!

AlohaHoya
Dec 12, 2012 11:05 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Rick...row covers etc. are great for large fields...we have 12 acres of woods/garden. Actually, with so little topsoil,. 160" of rain per year and fertilizer the $$$ that it is, we cut all the fruit tree, coffee etc. and leave the cuttings there for the leaves to drop. Then we haul away the branches and let the leaves etc. replenish nutrients. Fertilizer doesn't go too far in this rain....so we fertilize about every 10" of rain....need the most organic matter possible to keep it there. It works well. We have lots of slug, snails etc...they are going to be there anyway and they don't go to piles of stuff and spend their life there....they wander around too......
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ImageRickCorey
Dec 13, 2012 1:35 PM CST
Name: Rick Corey
Pacific NorthWet Zone 8a
In the Pacific NorthWest, it rains and drizzlers often, but seldom heavily. I think you have lots more rain han I do! I agree that replenishing organic matter and compost provides continuous nutrients, and holds on to them better than most well-draining soil does.

An d I have lots of clay, which holds on to nutrients well. I suspect you have more volcanic pumice, ash and maybe sand, than clay.
AlohaHoya
Dec 13, 2012 2:45 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Our soil - if you can call it that - is 300 years of organic matter (from the trees that sprang up after the volcanic flow 300 years ago) and about 3" deep!!! On certain types of lava that's ok to plant, but mostly we have to get a backhoe to dig a hole with a hammer - or - we build a wall and fill the well with 'soil'. This soil is usually decomposed bagasse from the sugar mill days (worthless) mixed with cinders and organic matter. We are constantly making soil!!!
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ImageRickCorey
Dec 13, 2012 7:40 PM CST
Name: Rick Corey
Pacific NorthWet Zone 8a
>> We are constantly making soil!!!

Me too, but in a totaqlly different way.

I start with an airless, hard pudding of almost pure clay and rocks. I excavate that from under where a new b ed will go, and wheelbarrow the cvlay & rocks to a work area.

Then I screen out the rocks down to around 1/4". If some clay balls are extra-hard to break up, I push those aside for some other year.

Now I try to give the clay some mechanical structure. To do a good or reliavble job, it should probably be no more than 25-30% clay plus 70% olr more coarse stuff. But I have a lot of clay, and not an infinite budget.

I mix the screened clay with up to 50% amendments including crushed rock .(around 1/16 - 1/10 inch coarse grit), shredded bark and bagged "manure/compost". The "manure/compost" is $1.25 per cubic foot. It seems entirley organic, and "smells like some nitrogen". I screen the manure/c ompost down to 1/4", just so it mixes well.

I used to add a little mixed or "coarse" sand, but now I think that's a waste of money. I'd rather save up for another yard of crushed rock and shredded bark. Any grade of bark is usefull, but there has to be some fine and very fine bark fibers to "soak up" or bind some of the clay. There should also be some coarse, elongated bark shreds , to attempt to create voids and gaps (air channels).

Anything else I have on hand like peat, coir, or old potting soil gets added and mixed.

t this stage, I run out of amendments, which are my limiting factor. At this point, it needs to be at least FAIRLY well-draining due to mechanical structure, or it will revert to clay as soon as the bark decomposes (2-5 years). I figure the bagged manure/compost is 'eaten' within a year of microbes being introdced.

Then I "innoculate" the clay-bark-grit pile with the few wheelbarrows-full of compost I'm able to make from what I can gather: yard & crop waste including chopped / mowed branches, kitchen scraps and coffee grounds. I'm planning to add shredded newspaper. I also 'back-innoculate' this dead stuff with a wheelb arrow of soil gathered from any of my raised beds tghat are fairly healthy and not starving for organic matter. I figure that the soil life ("micro-herd") is found mostly in my c om post herap an d bhelathiest beds.

Once added to the raw clay/grit/bark, they will start eatin g the bagged manure and organocs remaining in my compost, and multiply.

Then I age the "innoculated stuff" and feed it more compost and unfinished compost untill I start to think of it as soil. Then I add it to an existing bed, or start a new raised bed with it.

My biggest problem is that each year I collect and make only enough compost for around 1/2 or 1/3 of my beds. That soil gets hungry, as judged by how fast it reverts to clay as the organic matter gets consumed.

Recently I talked a fruit stand owner in to letting me scrounge his garbage dumpster when I buy apples or peppers. The local sewage treatment engineer would let me have biosolids, if I had a truck.

One local Starbucks sometimes has coffee grounds. But, since I can make my own coffee for 1/5th their p[rice, it's like paying $3 and sometimes getting less than a cubic foot for it. Cheaper to buy and haul bagged manure.
AlohaHoya
Dec 14, 2012 10:33 AM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
WOW...that's a lot of work!!! I think clay is really hard to work into good soil. When I bought a (newly built) house in Seattle, the yard was clay (what they had dug up) and I spent a lot of time digging in sawdust gleaned from a lumber yard/Urea and anything I could get for FREE. Years later I had sort of decent soil. I did rent a rototiller to churn it all up....

Here I try to scavenge cardboard boxes (so much has to be shipped in so there are lots of boxes) and lay them on beds I am preparing...to keep the weeds down. The worms love the cardboard and eventually (with all our rain) it all breaks down. I also use EM quite a bit...to break down stuff and attract the worms.
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ImageRickCorey
Dec 14, 2012 1:24 PM CST
Name: Rick Corey
Pacific NorthWet Zone 8a
EM?

I agree that the best thing for clay is lots and lots of organic matter. Then more OM every year.

Buty I also like to add coarser things for mechanical structure, like bark fines, b ark shreds, bark chunks and gritty crushed rock in the size rnage between very coarfse sand and fine gravel (like 1/16" to 1/10th inch, or up to 1/8").

MAYBE coarse sand is helpfull maintaining friability, but I don't sand helps drainage much unless the mix is 75% sand and less than 15% clay.

To make clay work well, I think we have to create and maintain more than 70% coarse-or-organic stuff, but no more than 30% clay. I think that fungi turn organic matter into long threads that help soil structure. Also, fine roots help soil structure, and worms dig long air channels that help. SOMETHING helps glue the soil into clumps or peds after organic matter has been metabolized.

I seem to have some luck keeping 50% clay from reverting to airless pudding or concrete right away, by "fluffing it up" every year, then firming it while barely moist, then NEVER walking on it and trying to protect it from getting too wet.

Clay plus grit (without compost) is almost useless.

Clay plus compost (without coarse stuff) remains very heavy and poorly aerated unless you add 70% compost.

I think that clay plus not-enough compost drains and aerates MUCH better if you add 20-30% coarse stuff like grit and bark shreds.

Even 10-15% grit and bark helps clay plus not-enough compost quite a bit. I think the coarse stuff helps maintain some "loft" while microbes, roots and worms add their magic. Once clay slumps down and squeezes out the air spaces, nothing can live there, and the soil life can't do their job.

Clay is great for mineral retention if it is only 10-25% of the soil. Above 30-40% clay, soil tends to go anerobic or hypoxic. 50-60% clay is almost unusable since it crusts and compacts under its own weight when wet.

That's my theory, anyway.
AlohaHoya
Dec 14, 2012 4:27 PM CST
Name: Carol Noel
Hawaii (near Hilo)
It's all about choices.
Agreeed!!
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