Soil and Compost forum: composting and amending the soil.

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Name: liza
fresno, ca.93711 (Zone 9b)
want to learn in backyard vegetable
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newbiemomgardener
Jul 31, 2013 2:27 PM CST
Before i discovered APT(love this site) Lovey dubby , i have read a lot of things about making your own compost and that if i can wait longer before planting on the ground, i can use a year for planning and preparing my ground soil to be healthy by just dumping backyard found compost like leaves, and woodchips and barks and all that and just leave it there for one year, while the scraps from the kitchen, like egg shells(my husband said to wash it before putting it in the compost bin), and peelings from vegetables, and egg cardboards, newspapers etc, can go to the recycling bin. Then buy or find earth worms , put them in the same recycling bin, and let them do their thing.And this, can be used after 6 months. But i can't wait to plant that long.. Big Grin So, since earthworm obviously lives underneath the earth, is it possible that when we plant a garden, earthworm starts crawling to the garden area? What other cheap ways can we do to prepare our soil for healthy gardening? In the Phillipines,(where i came from), i remember people putting eggshells in the pots with their plants, even in orchids hanging, you will see eggshells stuck in there somewhere.. Also, my husband likes his coffee from a french press, so can i just keep on dumping the coffee grinds on the ground and it will help fertile the soil somehow or will it attract insects or desease to the soil even if nothing is planted yet, or better yet, if there is already existing plants, can't i just pour the grinds directly to the plant?
liza
Name: woofie
NE WA (Zone 5a)
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woofie
Jul 31, 2013 2:47 PM CST
Let's see if we can get @RickCorey over here. He does a lot with composting. (Besides, he's fun!)
Confidence is that feeling you have right before you do something really stupid.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
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kqcrna
Jul 31, 2013 5:43 PM CST
Worms will come on their own, you don't need to add them. Worms like all the organic matter, and once you mound the materials in your garden, the worms will find it.

For more information, try googling "lasagna gardening" or "sheet composting".

Pat Lanza wrote a book on the subject. According to her, no need to wait for it to finish, she plants directly into the mounds of organic material immediately.
http://ourgardengang.tripod.com/lasagna_gardening.htm

I often fling coffee grounds directly into my yard (too lazy to walk to my compost bins). It doesn't attract bugs. Coffee grounds are, I think, more of a soil conditioner than a fertilizer.

Karen
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Region: California Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Composter
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tarev
Jul 31, 2013 6:19 PM CST
Hi Liza! Agree with the earthworms, they will find their way easily..the only thing with composting directly on the ground, find a spot away from your house a bit..because, it will attract ants. Though the ants will also help in the composting chore. Big Grin And I totally agree with you about eggshells..I also grew up in the Phil and I do remember seeing orchid shells, almost still whole but emptied out, right at the tips of some orchids. Smiling I do composting too, but I use a double tumbling bin. I read somewhere coffee grounds are good for the garden, especially when battling the yucky snails/slugs.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 31, 2013 6:39 PM CST
You rang?

I've been on forums where passions ran high about composting: one guy claimed that the only Real Compost was compost made His Way (and he had some unusual notions).

Some people love big, hot heaps with careful C/N ratios and say they kill more weed seeds and soil diseases.
Most people only have small heaps that never get very hot or even noticeably warm, and they compost slower.
Some bury their compost makings in holes and cover them.
Some do sheet composting on top of the soil.
Some do sheet composting on top of the soil, and plant in it, and call that lasagna gardening.
Some of us can't make enough compost, and buy it by the bag (that includes me - I can't find or beg enough makings).

Every single composting method works well.

Big, hot, well-balanced heaps do compost faster and maybe do kill more weed seeds.

Small heaps get the job done somewhat slower, or maybe much slower. But you can use compost before it is completely "finished". It isn't as pretty, and releases its nutrients and water-holding humus slower. If you had a lot of paper, sawdust and wood shavings, they might still be sucking nitrogen out of the soil if you use it TOO early.

OK, that's as concise as I can be at one time! Now I have to run on and on and on. Sorry about that, but you can skim over it!

All the methods that don't need no stinking compost heaps have one thing in common: they don't lose ANY of the nutrients from their raw materials. Compost heaps that digest the organic matter for months do allow some "good stuff" to drip out the bottom.

If you spot compost, sheet compost, or "lasagna" (can that be a verb?) , all such "drippings" are provided immediately to plants or local soil microorganisms right where they will do the most good.

If you feed the soil organisms, they will feed the plants. As far as I know, the only way to have healthy, fertile soil is to keep the soil microbes happy. Not only are there known beneficial bacteria, fungi and tiny insects, but when they tried to figure out how many kinds of soil life there are that microbiologists have not yet identified andf studied to death, they found that only TEN PERCENT of all soil microbes can even be cultured in a lab. A full NINETY PERCENT of all soil life is so inter-dependent that we can't even get them to grow in petri dishes, let alone know "all about them".

Life is complicated! The wonderful thing is that gardeners are much better at tthis than microbiologhists: we know that if we provide compost or even the raw materials for making compost, to soil, t6he soil life adapts and thrives and encourages plants to thrive. The network of soil organisms know how to get along, and thrive on almost any conduitions that include enough water, enough auir, and any organic matter.

There's only two things I can say against spot-sheet-lasagna methods:

1) if you use TOO MUCH paper or sawdust or finely shaved wood,
AND turn it under the soil so that it sits in the root zone,

Then small decomposing wood particles will stimulate soil microbes to faster growth and extra consumption of nitrogen.
Microbes are better at scavenging nitrogen than plant roots, so they will startve the plants, at least a little, unless you can continuously add soluble nitrogen in exactly the right amount to slake the microbes but not overwhelm the roots. That is impractical with chemical fertilizers. if you have SO much comost that you can add a large amount of it to provide SO MUCH N that even the soil microbes are slaked, wel, why bother burying excess sawdust and paper? let it compost for a while first!

BTW, if you have lots of paper or sawdust but want to use it faster than heap-composting allows, TOP DRESS with it. That way it is not in the root zone and can't starve the roots. Soil microbes have little accesws to the above-soil layer, it becomes a fine mulch. You just have to keep fine mulch from turnin to mush or a solid layer that interferes with air and rain percolating into soil.

2) Those aren't the ways that I started composting, and I am stuck in my ways. I love my heap! I cultivate my heap for 6-9 months, and I cultivate my soil lovingly with as much compost as I can make or afford. Then, good luck to the plants, they can grow well if they want to, and I appreciate their good efforts, but I Really Love My Heap.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 31, 2013 6:52 PM CST
Coffee grounds do release some nitrogen. In a heap, they count as "greens". They make a nice mulch for keeping soil mosit as long as the layer is not so thick that it cakes solid. If it does, break it up and scratch it inot the soil to keep it loose and friable. I prefer coarse mulch, like bark chinks. (Pine bark is another of my fetishes. I love pine bark!)

The only "balancing" I do to my heap is to note that it is almost always too "brown" because most things I add at the beginning are high in carbon, low in nitrogen, like plants trimming that includes woody stems. brown leaves and paper are "browns". I try to chop up and then mow all branches I put into the heap, but when I have a lot of clippings, they go right in. The long sticks keep it very well aerated until I get around to pulling them out and chipping them with a mower. they also soften as they sit in the heap.

Then I add "greens" like coffee grounds and kitchen scraps as I produce them. "Garbage" people call it, but to me it is candy for my heap). I should stir it in more than I do. Mostly I just bury a few quarts at a time, and it has mostly turned into soil-looking stuff a week or two later.

So right where I have just added a big load of "garbage", if I don't mix it around with a pitchfork, that part of the heap becomes "too green", and may turn smelly and slimy for a few days. but it is buried, so i don't notice. Also, it is just one small spot in a well-aerated heap, so it doesn't get very smelly (anaerobic).

If you have a big heap with too many greens, too wet, and not enough coarse stuff like branches to keep it aerated, you MIGHT see it settle down upon itself so much that it gets anaerobic, smelly and slimy. It's just crying for attention, like a little turning to bring the inner layers out to the air. and less water. And it is saying that it is too rich, and could stand more paper or sawdust or straw or pine needles or brown leaves or any old "brown".


Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Jul 31, 2013 7:11 PM CST
Hmm, do I have any USEFUL ideas? That is harder.

Crush eggshells before adding them. In my heap, they break down very slowly and stay birght white. Then they stand out and do look like garbage. You don't need to wash them: egg white is a great "green" and your composting critters will lick it right up.

>> What other cheap ways can we do to prepare our soil for healthy gardening?

Can you get free manure from someone, or get into a fruit stand's dumpster? Buckets of coffee grounds from a coffee shop or 7-11?

Make sure that patch drains, or at least that it is not at the bottom of a low spot. Roots need to breath or they drown and the plants die. If the root zone fills with water, it has no air.

First, what kind of soil? If it is sandy, add things that will hold water. If it is sandy, you have fast drianage or too-fast drainage, and most of my experience will be4 irrelevant to you.

If clayey,. help it to drain by adding organic matter and coarse amendments. Do you have access to free sandy sub-soil? Clay is especially needy of compost.

Usually I think soil that has never been gardened in is probably too compacted. Dig it up to a depth of one or two shovel blades, depending on time and energy. Break up big clayey chunks. Add as much compost as possible. if you had an unlimited budget, add 'amendments" like grit, bark fines, coarse sand or whatever. Mix it with a shovel or a pitchfork, trying to mix everything and break up clods into small bits. Rake out roots and the larger rocks. Gravel and things smaller than 1/2" or so won't bother the roots.

The goal is to reduce it to fairly fine particles and "fluff it up" as much as possible - creating loft and air spaces within the soil. Happy soil will have something like 5-15% "open voids" that can be filled by air, or briefly filled by water that must then mostly drain OUT so that air can come back in.

Then, with enough compost and enough water to be slightly moist, you can tamp it just a LITTLE bit to firm the particles together into clods or peds with some air space left between the particles and clods. That's 'structure'.

NEVER WORK THE SOIL LIKE THAT WHILE IT IS WET! That breaks down any "structure" that it had and allows it to settle down and compact itself 100% into mud or "pudding" with NO air spaces. That won't grow anything, and it takes a LOT of work to correct. When ti dries out, it becomes like concrete.

I did that once: dug and forked too soon after a rain. That soil did not recover in the year or so that I continued to have access to that area. At least it was all weeds before I came, so I didn't destroy someone else's garden.

Work the soil while it is fairly dry, or no more than a little damp. Squeeze a handful as if you were making a snowball. If it "clumps" and forms a ball, BEWARE. It is too wet or too clayey. Let it get drier before you break it up finely.

If you try to make a snowball, and it falls apart in your hand without even needing to be poked, God smiled on your yard and gave you soil that was not too clayey.



Name: liza
fresno, ca.93711 (Zone 9b)
want to learn in backyard vegetable
Image
newbiemomgardener
Aug 1, 2013 8:13 PM CST
kqcrna said:Worms will come on their own, you don't need to add them. Worms like all the organic matter, and once you mound the materials in your garden, the worms will find it.

For more information, try googling "lasagna gardening" or "sheet composting".

Pat Lanza wrote a book on the subject. According to her, no need to wait for it to finish, she plants directly into the mounds of organic material immediately.
http://ourgardengang.tripod.com/lasagna_gardening.htm

I often fling coffee grounds directly into my yard (too lazy to walk to my compost bins). It doesn't attract bugs. Coffee grounds are, I think, more of a soil conditioner than a fertilizer.

Karen

Oh wow.. that is very, very good to know.. so i can just throw dead fallen leaves and stuff and coffee grounds where i intend to plant.. That's very convenient.. i love it!! Hurray!
liza
Name: liza
fresno, ca.93711 (Zone 9b)
want to learn in backyard vegetable
Image
newbiemomgardener
Aug 1, 2013 8:14 PM CST
:
woofie said:Let's see if we can get @RickCorey over here. He does a lot with composting. (Besides, he's fun!)


I agree
liza
Name: liza
fresno, ca.93711 (Zone 9b)
want to learn in backyard vegetable
Image
newbiemomgardener
Aug 1, 2013 8:16 PM CST
tarev said:Hi Liza! Agree with the earthworms, they will find their way easily..the only thing with composting directly on the ground, find a spot away from your house a bit..because, it will attract ants. Though the ants will also help in the composting chore. Big Grin And I totally agree with you about eggshells..I also grew up in the Phil and I do remember seeing orchid shells, almost still whole but emptied out, right at the tips of some orchids. Smiling I do composting too, but I use a double tumbling bin. I read somewhere coffee grounds are good for the garden, especially when battling the yucky snails/slugs.


Hi Tarev, this is really good to know.. make some parts easier for me to condition the soil.. nodding And yeah, we already have tiny, black small ants around, even without stuff on the ground yet.. but if they can help my garden, then travel on ants!! Smiling
liza
Name: liza
fresno, ca.93711 (Zone 9b)
want to learn in backyard vegetable
Image
newbiemomgardener
Aug 1, 2013 8:34 PM CST
RickCorey said:Hmm, do I have any USEFUL ideas? That is harder.

Crush eggshells before adding them. In my heap, they break down very slowly and stay birght white. Then they stand out and do look like garbage. You don't need to wash them: egg white is a great "green" and your composting critters will lick it right up.

>> What other cheap ways can we do to prepare our soil for healthy gardening?

Can you get free manure from someone, or get into a fruit stand's dumpster? Buckets of coffee grounds from a coffee shop or 7-11?

Make sure that patch drains, or at least that it is not at the bottom of a low spot. Roots need to breath or they drown and the plants die. If the root zone fills with water, it has no air.

First, what kind of soil? If it is sandy, add things that will hold water. If it is sandy, you have fast drianage or too-fast drainage, and most of my experience will be4 irrelevant to you.

If clayey,. help it to drain by adding organic matter and coarse amendments. Do you have access to free sandy sub-soil? Clay is especially needy of compost.

Usually I think soil that has never been gardened in is probably too compacted. Dig it up to a depth of one or two shovel blades, depending on time and energy. Break up big clayey chunks. Add as much compost as possible. if you had an unlimited budget, add 'amendments" like grit, bark fines, coarse sand or whatever. Mix it with a shovel or a pitchfork, trying to mix everything and break up clods into small bits. Rake out roots and the larger rocks. Gravel and things smaller than 1/2" or so won't bother the roots.

The goal is to reduce it to fairly fine particles and "fluff it up" as much as possible - creating loft and air spaces within the soil. Happy soil will have something like 5-15% "open voids" that can be filled by air, or briefly filled by water that must then mostly drain OUT so that air can come back in.

Then, with enough compost and enough water to be slightly moist, you can tamp it just a LITTLE bit to firm the particles together into clods or peds with some air space left between the particles and clods. That's 'structure'.

NEVER WORK THE SOIL LIKE THAT WHILE IT IS WET! That breaks down any "structure" that it had and allows it to settle down and compact itself 100% into mud or "pudding" with NO air spaces. That won't grow anything, and it takes a LOT of work to correct. When ti dries out, it becomes like concrete.

I did that once: dug and forked too soon after a rain. That soil did not recover in the year or so that I continued to have access to that area. At least it was all weeds before I came, so I didn't destroy someone else's garden.

Work the soil while it is fairly dry, or no more than a little damp. Squeeze a handful as if you were making a snowball. If it "clumps" and forms a ball, BEWARE. It is too wet or too clayey. Let it get drier before you break it up finely.

If you try to make a snowball, and it falls apart in your hand without even needing to be poked, God smiled on your yard and gave you soil that was not too clayey.




thanks as always Rickcorey.. yes i can collect goat manure..Will that be ok? and i think that now i just discovered another big mistake i made that is why my iceberg rose is dying and the gazenias too, caus ei probably destroyed the soil structure in this area. So, shoul i redo this area? dig all the flowers i planted then put a lot of garden soil compost and mix it up with the existing damaged soil then replant?
liza
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Aug 2, 2013 5:47 AM CST
My lasagna beds have never attracted an unusually large number of ants, but I never used a lot of food scraps. Shrug! Any food in a cold open pile might attract bugs or bigger critters. If you use enough fall leaves and other carbon to absorb the odor, it should control the possible smell and attracting rodents.

If you have no experience composting, learning a little about the basics would be helpful. A small hump also will not heat up, at least not much and not for long. Keep it moist throughout but not wet. Here's a good introduction
http://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu/compost-info/tutorial/what-is-c...

Karen

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 2, 2013 10:53 AM CST
newbiemomgardener said:
... i can collect goat manure..Will that be ok?
... why my iceberg rose is dying and the gazenias too, caus ei probably destroyed the soil structure in this area. So, shoul i redo this area? dig all the flowers i planted


Hi Liza

Goat manure ought to be just as good as cow, horse or sheep manure. Unreservedly great in a compost heap!

I think that many gardeners prefer to age animal manure for a while, or compost it thoroughly, before adding it to a vegetable garden, on the theory that are may be some diseases that affect both goats and humans. I personally don't worry about that (except for cat poop, which can transmit toxoplasmosis, but even then, neighborhood cats give me no choice. I'd mix fresh manure into the soil while breaking it into small chunks, but not leave it on the surface. I would not want it splashing onto lettuce, spinach or Bok Choy!

I seem to recall FDA regulations about how farmers should compost manure, and test it, and document it, blah blah blah.

What do others watching the thread think about using fresh manure, specifically goat droppings?

- must be thoroughly composted first?
- at least age it?
- only if you mix it with soil and cover with soil or mulch?
- top dress with fresh manure and just wash your leafy crops thoroughly?


Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 2, 2013 11:11 AM CST
>> probably destroyed the soil structure in this area. So, shoul i redo this area? dig all the flowers i planted

>> my iceberg rose is dying

But not dead yet?

Without seeing it, I would never encourage you to dig up and kill plants that aren't dead yet! Maybe just finding a way to give the damaged soil better drainage, like a slit trench downhill, will help it survive. Is there any slope where the bad soil is?

Or were you planning on preparing another bed first, and then digging up these plants and transplanting them to better soil?

Is the soil really hard and dense? Like it turned to mud and then dried out solid-like-concrete?

As a first hope, maybe just dig up between plants, trying to avoid roots. Soften that soil, and over years worms, fungi, roots and frost heave will break up the hard soil under the living plants.

- Break up the clods of hard soil with a rake or shovel or hoe.

- Maybe use a screen if you have one, like 1/4" hardware cloth or 1/8" hardware cloth, so that the clay pellets you put back in the ground are at least SMALL pellets.

- mix in as much compost into the loosened back-fill soil as you can. Also top-dress with it. It will dissolve and decompose and trickle down into the hard soil.

Worms and soil fungi need that as food, and they will start to break down the pellets into finer particles as they eat the compost and manure. The organic matter also helps the fine soil particles cling to each other, with space between them, forming loose peds instead of hard clay pellets.

Also add manure between plants - you aren't going to eat them, so there is no concern about hypothetical diseases.

Just know that very fresh manure like chicken poop may be "hot" or too concentrated to let roots touch it directly. It may "burn" the roots or encourage stems to rot. If goat poop is more like chicken than cow, don't let it touch roots or stems, even of flowers, until it has aged some weeks. (Or longer? Is goat poop "hot" or "cold"?)

When annual plants die, THEN dig that spot up and amend it with organic matter. If you budget can include a few bags of fine bark mulch, that helps loosen soil, and it lasts several years, unlike peat moss, that breaks down in less than a year.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Aug 2, 2013 2:38 PM CST
I don't use manure. I live in suburbia and manure isn't readily available so... not an issue.

I think most reliable sources recommend composting manure in a managed system (specific hot temperature for specific length of time), well aerated, etc. I definitely wouldn't recommend use of manure by a compost novice. Depending on the source, manures can contain not only bacteria and fungi and other organisms, but also worms, parasites, pesticides, antibiotics and all kinds of unknown substances.

As mentioned, fresh manure is too hot to plant in immediately.

Karen
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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Newyorkrita
Aug 2, 2013 2:44 PM CST
I live in suburbia also. I don't have a source of manure and wouldn't want the stench even if I did. I just use compost in my garden. Each spring add lots of compost to my veggie beds. Can't go wrong there. When I planted my flower beds I amended them all with compost before planting anything.
Name: Karen
Cincinnati, Oh (Zone 6a)
Forum moderator I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Cut Flowers Winter Sowing Charter ATP Member Seed Starter
Echinacea Plant and/or Seed Trader Region: Ohio Region: United States of America Butterflies Hummingbirder
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kqcrna
Aug 2, 2013 3:01 PM CST
I compost all the time, in two bins. But I don't use manure.

Karen
Name: tarev
San Joaquin County, CA (Zone 9b)
Always count your blessings in life
Region: California Houseplants Plays in the sandbox Orchids Plant Lover: Loves 'em all! Composter
Cactus and Succulents Dragonflies Hummingbirder Amaryllis Container Gardener Xeriscape
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tarev
Aug 2, 2013 3:08 PM CST
I compost too, also in the suburbs..had to be careful with my HOA ..

For easier handling I have them in dual tumblers..and similar with others..no manure.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Aug 2, 2013 4:25 PM CST
My manure comes out of a bag, and is called something like "manure-compost mix". But the smell tells me it ain't fresh - aged and/or partly composted by the time I buy it.

I knew one guy that dumped fresh horse plops all over his herb garden - admittedly, "it didn't kill this one guy I knew" is not exactly precise science.

Probably the majority of modern gardeners (and the FDA) agree with the more cautious approach,

Gardening handbooks from 50 + years ago and back to the Victorian era, and many websites today talk about "Hot beds" as opposed to "cold frames". They started with a well-drained pit, laid down a thick layer of fairly fresh manure with some straw, and then covered it with 4-6" of soil. Built a glass frame on top (or, today, maybe two layers of plastic film). They planted in the soil, and the manure gave off heat as it decomposed.

Admittedly, there was a layer of soil between the manure and the surface, but I would expect roots to burrow down 4-6" very quickly.

Admittedly, standards of hygiene were much lower in the Victorian era, and the 1940s were less paranoid about low-level risks than we are today.

Admittedly, the contemporary Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) demands that very strict procedures be followed for manure and dead animal parts (Google FSMA compost).

http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/food_safe_compost_use_discussed...

"The proposed produce safety rule as part of the Food safety Modernization Act proposes that all compost with animal derived materials (e.g., manure, mortalities, table scraps, etc.) must be either statically composted to at least 131 degrees Fahrenheit for three days then cured and insulated, or aerobically composted to at least 131 F for 15 days and turned at least five times, then cured and insulated. This is reasonably consistent with current food safety recommendations from the National GAPs Program of having a pile reach between 130 F and 160 F for five to 15 days.

The produce rule requires that properly composted material with animal derived materials be given a preharvest interval of 45 days after application when it is applied in a way that minimizes crop contact. If the compost with animal derived materials is not properly made, the rule states that it must be treated like raw manure. The preharvest application window for raw manure under the proposed produce rule is nine months prior to harvest."


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Today's site banner is by dirtdorphins and is called "Lilium 'Pink Perfection'"