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Old 24-05-2012, 05:43 PM
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Default How can you re-use compost if you don't have a compost heap?

Imagine you have a sunflower growing in a large pot of soil. When that sunflower dies, how could you reuse the soil?

I read that you can mix it half-and-half with soil from a compost heap, but I don't have one, and my Mum doesn't want one.

Could you mix fertiliser into it? Or what about crop rotation? (We learnt about it at school, but I can't remember how it works).

It seems counter-productive to keep buying more compost, when gardening is supposed to be economical.

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Old 24-05-2012, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by BlackThumb View Post
Imagine you have a sunflower growing in a large pot of soil. When that sunflower dies, how could you reuse the soil?

I read that you can mix it half-and-half with soil from a compost heap, but I don't have one, and my Mum doesn't want one.

Could you mix fertiliser into it? Or what about crop rotation? (We learnt about it at school, but I can't remember how it works).

It seems counter-productive to keep buying more compost, when gardening is supposed to be economical.
Getting the right mixture of brown (carbon) materials, to green (nitrogeneous) materials will make a huge difference. Adding too much brown material will result in a compost pile that takes a long time to break down. Adding too much green material will result in a compost pile that is slimy and smelly that doesn't break down well. In order for your compost pile to break down quickly and efficiently you should feed it just the right balance of brown and green materials.

The microorganisms in our compost bins need both carbon and nitrogen to thrive; carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein synthesis. For every one unit of nitrogen used by the bacteria they also consume about 30 units of carbon. So in order to keep the bacteria working efficiently we need to supply them with a mixture that is about 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Needless to say, most materials don't have a ratio of 30:1. However, if we know the approximate C:N ratio of the materials we use in our compost, we can combine them so that the total mix will be close to 30:1.
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Old 24-05-2012, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by allen73 View Post
Getting the right mixture of brown (carbon) materials, to green (nitrogeneous) materials will make a huge difference. Adding too much brown material will result in a compost pile that takes a long time to break down. Adding too much green material will result in a compost pile that is slimy and smelly that doesn't break down well. In order for your compost pile to break down quickly and efficiently you should feed it just the right balance of brown and green materials.

The microorganisms in our compost bins need both carbon and nitrogen to thrive; carbon for energy and nitrogen for protein synthesis. For every one unit of nitrogen used by the bacteria they also consume about 30 units of carbon. So in order to keep the bacteria working efficiently we need to supply them with a mixture that is about 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen. Needless to say, most materials don't have a ratio of 30:1. However, if we know the approximate C:N ratio of the materials we use in our compost, we can combine them so that the total mix will be close to 30:1.
Thank you for your reply. I would like to have a compost bin, but there isn't any more room for one. I was wondering if it were possible to reuse soil without mixing it with compost.
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Old 25-05-2012, 12:24 AM posted to rec.gardens
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Default How can you re-use compost if you don't have a compost heap?

On 5/24/12 9:43 AM, BlackThumb wrote:
Imagine you have a sunflower growing in a large pot of soil. When that
sunflower dies, how could you reuse the soil?

I read that you can mix it half-and-half with soil from a compost heap,
but I don't have one, and my Mum doesn't want one.

Could you mix fertiliser into it? Or what about crop rotation? (We
learnt about it at school, but I can't remember how it works).

It seems counter-productive to keep buying more compost, when gardening
is supposed to be economical.


When I discard a potted annual or repot a perennial, I use the old
potting mix to level uneven spots in my lawn and flower beds. I spread
the old mix not thicker than 1 inch, so it might take a while to raise a
low spot.


--
David E. Ross
Climate: California Mediterranean, see
http://www.rossde.com/garden/climate.html
Gardening diary at http://www.rossde.com/garden/diary
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Old 25-05-2012, 02:07 AM posted to rec.gardens
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Default How can you re-use compost if you don't have a compost heap?

BlackThumb writes:

Imagine you have a sunflower growing in a large pot of soil. When that
sunflower dies, how could you reuse the soil?

I read that you can mix it half-and-half with soil from a compost heap,
but I don't have one, and my Mum doesn't want one.

Could you mix fertiliser into it? Or what about crop rotation? (We
learnt about it at school, but I can't remember how it works).

It seems counter-productive to keep buying more compost, when gardening
is supposed to be economical.


Take the old plant out of the pot,
shake dirt off the roots into the pot,
add a little fertilizer,
put in the new plant.

Add potting mix as needed from the bag you keep in the
closet.

Since you're not composting, don't worry about adding compost,
that's for people with compost piles. Just use potting soil
you can buy anywhere.

--
Dan Espen


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Old 25-05-2012, 04:30 AM posted to rec.gardens
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Default How can you re-use compost if you don't have a compost heap?

On Thu, 24 May 2012 16:43:20 +0000, BlackThumb
wrote:

Imagine you have a sunflower growing in a large pot of soil. When that
sunflower dies, how could you reuse the soil?


Dump it out with other containers, add from 1/2 to an equal amount of
compost into it (you could use bagged manure from a homecentre), mix
it well, and re-use. The compost adds organic materials, and of
course, fresh nutrients for uptake into the plants.

I read that you can mix it half-and-half with soil from a compost heap,
but I don't have one, and my Mum doesn't want one.


Get yourself an inexpensive trashbin with lid, and alternate emptying
bags of compost and soil from old potted plant containers. Mix it up
a bit as you go, rather than trying to do it all in one shot. If you
have a source for cardboard sheets (an appliance box, or cardboard
sheeting from a garage door installer), you could instead lay a bunch
of that out and hand or _carefully_ with a shovel, mix it up on top of
that and then refill your various pots. A wheelbarrow would also
work. But, a spare trash can serves well being able to hold the soil
until needed.

I realize you're indicated your mum doesn't want compost, but what I
do is maintain a "soil pile" just outside the main entrance to my
garden. I empty spent container plant soil there (the stalks go into
the compost pile), add some compost, usually also dump some ashes from
the pellet stove (during the winter months), sawdust from my workshop,
as well as some chicken manure. I'll shovel it over once in a while,
adding some of my finished compost, and then when I decide I need to
"clean up" the pile and make it a nice mixture for fresh use, I back
the compact tractor tiller, or the walk-behind tiller into it and till
it for a couple of minutes, then put it to use. Works really well,
and I have a perpetual place to dump excess soil that I excavate from
elsewhere (such as when I dig post holes or level a spot).

I also have a soil sifting apparatus, so I'm able to produce a nice
fine soil (I don't like rocks in with my root veggies, and I _do_not_
put rocks in the bottom of container plantings - I use a couple of
handfuls of straw, which keeps the soil from pouring out when I water,
and doesn't introduce rocks into my soil pile when I recycle the
soil).

Could you mix fertiliser into it?


Sure, but compost is natural fertilizer, and introduces organic
biomass to the soil, which is good. Chemical fertilizers don't, plus
most are petrochemical based.

As to crop rotation - plant legumes in some of the pots during the
off-season.

learnt about it at school, but I can't remember how it works).


Well, crop rotation has two chief goals:

* pest mititgation - not growing one crop in one place too often means
that certain pests don't take a hold and then become permanent
residents. You can spoil a field by growing pumpkins every year for
instance.

* giving fields an opportunity to replentish their nutrients. If you
grow something that has high nitrogen demands, following it with
something such as a legume (bean or pea) that fixes nitrogen from the
air into the soil will help the soil recuperate. Different crops
place different demands on the soil.

Doing a 4 field rotation - three actively growing grops and the
fourth growing 'green manure' (nitrogen fixers that will be tilled
under) is a common approach that addresses these goals.

It seems counter-productive to keep buying more compost, when gardening
is supposed to be economical.


I dunno if gardening is truely "economical". Price garden gadgets and
tools, and all that, and pretty soon, you're spending real money. If
you don't start everything from seed, you can spend a fair amount on
starts too. I was perusing some starts at a store the other day (not
really intending to purchase any because I start virtually everything
from seed), and I noted this store was selling single packs of corn -
a single stalk in a 3" plastic nursery pot - for US$1.29. Someone is
bound to think that's a good price, but at best, you can expect it to
yield one good ear and a lesser secondary ear, provided the plant
successfully reaches maturity - but they're charging more for the one
plant than I can walk into a grocery and by 2 or 3 ears of corn _now_
for. Nevermind when corn is in season, and it's being pitched for 6
or 8 ears for a buck. A packet of seeds though will set you back
little more than that one plant, and you can get say 75 plants from
that (and if it's heirloom, you could save seed and have a ton the
following year for no added cost).

Anyway, back on topic: if soil amendments are a big part of your
garden expense, then composting can significantly reduce your costs.
A proper compost bin doesn't translate to "pests" and "stench". My
household feeds kitchen leftovers to our chickens (and I use a hay
fork to dump weeds from the yard into one of their pens for them to
scratch through, eating seeds, thereby gaining nutrition while at the
same time reducing the number of seeds that might not compost down),
for which we get eggs in return (the eggshells of which are returned
to the chickens with kitchen scraps). They get feed too of course -
but all the while, we're getting fresh eggs which we don't need to
purchase at the store (an 80# sack of lay mix only costs me about
US$18 at the feed store, and at 4lb/dozen or 4lb per lb of chicken,
that works out to less than US$1/dozen fresh eggs or $1 per pound of
roaster - but fresh, not second grade). We also get chicken manure
from the chickens, though by and large, that drops wherever - in the
yardwaste they're scratching through and converting into compost, and
on the ground underneath the moveable chicken tractor (a coop on
wheels). Other kitchen waste (stuff we'd expect the chickens to take
a pass on, or which they can't really digest), goes into a worm bin,
which produces a compost tea as well as castings (which are VERY
beneficial to plants). Garden waste after harvest, as well as tree
trimmings, get added to composters and a larger compost pile in the
yard, though some garden waste goes to the chickens too (aww, did the
brassicas go to seed? No problemo.)

That whole approach leads to very little household waste overall, but
also provides a lot of compost for gardening. However, my uptake from
the garden - I grow a lot of stuff - still needs more. So I get
composted horse manure from a stable, and duck manure and rice hull
compost (which I got a delivery of today). Around here, horse manure
compost is free, but I've got to transport and unload it. Duck manure
isn't, but what I pay for the compost and the delivery is trivial
considering how much of it I get, as well as the labour savings for
me. The bill was US$191 for delivery of 20 cubic yards (=540 "1 cubic
foot" bags of compost at a garden centre), and I didn't have to load
or unload any of it. I just need to spread and till it in. That
quantity of course it overkill for someone with a few potted plants -
but if all you have is a few potted plants, you probably are able to
generate a sufficient amount of compost from the scraps of
store-bought vegetables and yard trimmings.

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Old 26-05-2012, 01:12 PM
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Thank you everyone so much for taking your time to reply and giving such good information.

I will start using fertiliser for now, or mixing half old with half new, but I told my Mum again that a compost bin would be a good idea. We're both finishing university soon, so she said there will be time to sort the garden out, and make room for one


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