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<  Composting, Mulch, and Soils  ~  Leaves

PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 2:54 pm
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
My bins are full and steaming. I was able to mow some grass with the first load and that section is cooking very well. There are still some to gather if the weather will permit. It has been raining too much lately and I need a day or 2 of dry weather to mow them, otherwise the mower chute gets clogged too often.

How is everyone elses compost doing?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 9:50 am
User avatarJoined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:14 amPosts: 106Location: Ontario
Same as your's I think.
I did add some Corn meal in layers while filling the bins, seems it makes a good compost accelerator. First time I've ever had just leaves 'smoking'.
Interesting the smell of the Maples this year, a sweet, very pleasant smell. Perhaps it's why Maples always rot down faster, the sugar content.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 12:06 pm
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 10:08 pmPosts: 187Location: Zone 5
I've got mine all piled up, too, and they're warm but not steaming. There was nothing to mix them with unfortunately, but think I'll try the corn meal idea next year, too. By the time the leaves come down around here, the grass has stopped growing and I'm in a mad dash to beat the snow. :P



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PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:34 pm
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
I was going to try adding some pipes, as bogydave did in his bins, but life got in the way, so they're just piled in the bin like usual. I'll have to remember the corn meal for next year. I had forgotten about using it that way.

The leaves did smell good, sweet with a little spice, much nicer than manure piles. :D Chicken is the worst.

Last years piles will be ready for use next spring and I have a garbage can of completely finished compost left from a former pile.

Snow isn't a problem here and the grass grows throughout the fall. The problem I have with that is it usually doesn't dry out enough and I end up having to remove the chute on the grass catcher too often when it gets clogged with wet grass. Our old JD didn't have that problem. I think it had a straighter chute, so why they made one with a curve in it, I don't know. A tank of gas lasts a lot longer in our current one, so that's a big improvement.

I hope to get one more load, but we're into the rainy season, so the dry days are less often now. I may just have to rake them onto a tarp and move them that way.


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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 1:03 pm
User avatarJoined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:38 amPosts: 145Location: New York
Hi all!!
They just past a law here, limiting the amount of chemical fertilizer people can use for lawns and gardens.

I've got a friend that mows lawns n rakes leaves. He has to pay to dump them in a landfill, so I offered to take a load or two. I got the 1st load yesterday, it's huge!! Mostly leaves, all kinds, some grass. It's well ground up.

I'm thinking of adding the pipes that I've been reading about. Is there anything else that will speed things up a bit?

Anyone have any luck with those "tonics" that Jerry Baker pushes. I don't want to start a big discussion on his real wacky, "toxic tonics" stuff, but I have heard the compost booster is pretty good. Anyone?



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 18, 2009 5:17 pm
User avatarJoined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:14 amPosts: 106Location: Ontario
NiftyNabber wrote:
I'm thinking of adding the pipes that I've been reading about. Is there anything else that will speed things up a bit?
Anyone have any luck with those "tonics" that Jerry Baker pushes. I don't want to start a big discussion on his real wacky, "toxic tonics" stuff, but I have heard the compost booster is pretty good. Anyone?


Don't know who 'Jerry Baker' is, but my information is "Don't waste your money". A lot of these 'compost accelerators' are just so much smoke and mirrors.
Corn meal is cheap, works well. Another would be to use BIM, but that's a whole new ball game and will require some research. Google 'BIM' or Benificial Indigenous Micro organisms.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 9:41 am
User avatarJoined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:38 amPosts: 145Location: New York
Baker is some guy that has a tonic for everything, made up mostly from household products, so no real expense.

I've read here about using corn meal, what about critters?? Won't the meal attract mice, rats and the like?



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 1:40 pm
User avatarJoined: Thu Dec 04, 2008 9:14 amPosts: 106Location: Ontario
NiftyNabber wrote:
I've read here about using corn meal, what about critters?? Won't the meal attract mice, rats and the like?

Nope. I use it all the time now, works a treat.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 19, 2009 10:19 pm
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:51 pmPosts: 307Location: Alaska
Old post I asked same ?. Got hammered by some
https://thegardenforums.org/viewtopic.php?f=33&t=15818
High nitrogen fertilizer helps. Found some 22-0-0 at Lows, fair price
Fresh green grass clippings mixed in, lights it up pretty hot& pretty fast.
Tonics should work fine, lots more work though.



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2009 2:25 am
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
I didn't mean to dredge up old garbage. Everyone is entitled to do as they please in their own yard without someone dictating their way or no way. That old thread isn't what this forum is about, thank goodness.

Mine are still steaming, even after a lot of rain. I think it has been about 2 weeks, maybe more since I added the last load of leaves. Next spring I'll mix some with grass clippings to speed up the process. If we get a dry spell, I could mow once more and keep it cooking.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2009 4:28 am
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:51 pmPosts: 307Location: Alaska
History is a place to go & learn. I believe every one has to work their garden, compost & nutrients at their comfort level. That thread, when all said & done, got my compost system to where it is now. (I think it has improved since that first post)

I have the Baker books & refer to them now & then. Wouldn't call him an "organic" garden guru but Some of his ideas are pretty inventive, fun & get you thinking.

I found, like almost everything you do, after a few times, you get better. & if you are trying to make improvements, just tinker/try/experiment with your way. You usually end up with a better knowledge level & one that works for you in your conditions.

I found I have to put some of the 22-0-0 (high nitrogen fert.) in the HM. The sawdust bedding uses up the nitrogen in the HM pretty quick. The 2nd time I mix the HM piles I add some & water it. To me, it's a good, relatively in-expensive, nitrogen source.
The worms in the SFG beds in the garden multiplied & I have more than I've ever had.
The Garden compost bin with plants, leaves & grass clipping seems to cook pretty good. All the green plants & grass heat up pretty hot, but it does take a full year & a couple of mixings. (freezing in the winter slows it down 4 months here though & I have to add/mix some fresh HM or grass clippings in the Spring to get it to heat up again)



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 20, 2009 4:07 pm
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
Yes, I agree that people should do things as they please and I do learn from them, but not when they try to force it on others and get rude about it. There's a lot we still don't know.

The Baker methods sounded like too much fussing to me, so I never tried them, but, as you said, it's a fun read. Some of the things he suggests I wouldn't put in my body, let alone my garden. :lol: Nature does fine on her own and I've sure observed that living in this forested area. If you have good soil life, then things should do well. I have trees planted in areas where the soil was disturbed during construction that don't grow nearly as fast or as well as trees I've planted in undisturbed areas. The tree trunks thicken up so fast, like I've never seen in our other yards. All the years of debris breaking down created a very healthy soil.

I've only had one insect problem where I've had to intervene, thanks to the good predator population, whereas in other yards, it would take a couple of years to get the balance up. I've enjoyed seeing it all work, although I'd like to know what happened to all the paper wasps over the summer. I don't use any sprays that would kill them, but one of our neighbors uses herbicides. It hasn't affected them in the past.

Your soil should be even better next year with all the worms mixing the compost into the lower levels, plus the fact that they add their own fertilizer to the mix.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 10:10 am
User avatarJoined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:38 amPosts: 145Location: New York
As I said, I didn't mean to get into a big deal about Jerry Baker, I've read that thread before but couldn't remember where.

I've got my pile of leaves piled, and pipes down the center. Since the pile is as wide as it is tall, I'm thinking of putting horizontal pipes along the length of the pile. Is there such a thing as "too much" air? Can too many pipes "cool" the pile?

Am I over thinking? How hard can it be to rot leaves??!! LOL



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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:51 pm
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
Yes, you're over thinking! :lol: Leaves have broken down without our help for many years. :D I just used some of my finished leaf mold yesterday when I was planting some bamboo. It's such a dark, fluffy material.

Maybe you should experiment and just put pipes in part of the pile and see if it breaks down any faster than the other without pipes.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 24, 2009 4:37 pm
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:51 pmPosts: 307Location: Alaska
Can compost have "Too much" air?
Yes , the pile will not heat up with too much air. It will dry out quickly.
Best is to mix the pile every 4 - 6 weeks. (Mixing puts the outside (less broken down parts) to the middle where it can feed the bugs & be broken down, adds air & you can check the moisture. (also good exercise)
The hotter the pile, the quicker it makes compost. (140 -150 deg F) also kills most weed seeds.
Add water if the leaves are dry. Damp is key not wet. (damp like a wrung out sponge)
Patience, leaves take a long time, in a few months you'll know if what you are doing is working. If the pile is shrinking, it's composting :) I cover mine with plastic: to maintain moisture & help it stay warm & wind not blow the leaves away. Air ,moisture & patience ;)



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 25, 2009 1:35 pm
User avatarJoined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:38 amPosts: 145Location: New York
Well the pile is piled! The pipes are in. What do you think? Too many pipes? The pipes are 2" with 3/4" holes 6" apart. The vertical pipes are 4' tall, and the horizontal ones are 15' long.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 2:48 am
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:51 pmPosts: 307Location: Alaska
Looks great. I don't think it's too much air, but check the moisture in a few weeks,
Only thing I'd do is cover it with a tarp or plastic (hold in the heat & moisture & keep the wind away).
I've never done all leaves, I mixed fresh grass clipping & garden plants, it got hot
I cut holes in some plastic for the pipes on mine. 5' X 6' X 5' tall bin when full, was domed as tall as pipes, kept shrinking down, now snow covered & I think it's done for the year.
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Best question is how is it working? Is it heating up?
It should start to shrink & warm up in the middle. Either way it will work, time & MN will make it into compost.
Let it alone for a while, & let us know how well it's working.



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 9:45 am
User avatarJoined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:38 amPosts: 145Location: New York
It's hot, in spots. I've dug around and found steam, but not everywhere. It has shrunk down a bit, but that must be the leaves settling down, it's only been barely a week.

There are some grass clippings mixed in. The guy I got the load from has a lawn mowing, leaf bagging business, so the truck load was a mix of several customers, all kinds of leaves even some pine cones! He dumped it off, and I had to re-pile it further back on my property. I was carefull to try to blend various types of leaves/grass/pine together as I moved it with my lawn tractor and trailer.

Someone said that it might be less work to compost "in" the garden, mulch with a mix of grass and leaves. I was thinking the same thing. The stuff I have is ground up pretty good, so I'm thinking of using it between my plants and in the rows this year coming.

Winter's barely started and I can't wait for spring already!!



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PostPosted: Sun Nov 29, 2009 1:10 pm
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
I mulched some areas with some of my leaves. I always do that in one part of my yard since it's too far to take it to the bins when I have to empty the bags so often, plus my bins are usually full by the time I get to that area.

I get anxious for spring around January and enjoy the weeding break before then, although I should spend the time before then going after them while they aren't growing by leaps and bounds.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 30, 2009 4:52 pm
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:51 pmPosts: 307Location: Alaska
I think it will compost better in the pile than in the garden through the winter. Especially if you cover it before it snows. It will stay warmer in the pile & let the microbes work all winter in your location (NY). In the spring, you can spread it on the garden & mix it in but it will be broken down pretty good by then. If used a mulch, the worms will go nuts in it. :)


Going to be a good test, either way. Let us know the results.
If you had some fresh HM to mix in & covered it, in your area it would ''cook'' all winter.

I was not able to get fresh HM to mix in for this years batch so it cooled of pretty quick. I'm curious how well its doing in the bottom & middle (top is frozen & no steam from pipes now)
I Agree, When will Spring arrive? I'm ready :) (I know the answer, April :( )



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PostPosted: Wed Nov 03, 2010 8:22 pm
User avatarJoined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:38 amPosts: 145Location: New York
It's been a year. The pile is all broken down!! I now have about 2 square yards of compost!! Not bad for my 1st time out!!

I've already got a new, bigger pile started. I'll use the pipes again. Once I'm done adding leaves, I'll put black plastic over the pile to hold in heat.

Composting, I'm hooked!!



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 4:19 pm
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:51 pmPosts: 307Location: Alaska
NiftyNabber wrote:
It's been a year. The pile is all broken down!! I now have about 2 square yards of compost!! Not bad for my 1st time out!!

I've already got a new, bigger pile started. I'll use the pipes again. Once I'm done adding leaves, I'll put black plastic over the pile to hold in heat.

Composting, I'm hooked!!


Yep, don't know why, but composting does that to you.
2 cubic yards of compost & you know what's in it. Just feels good!

Good stuff like that just makes you want more.
You can never have too much compost :)



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 7:01 pm
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 4:27 pmPosts: 22
It's that time of year to drive the neighborhoods and snatching bagged leaves on the curb. Oh the guilt!!!

Since I don't have large trees, I have to build my winter leaf stash and that adds a little spice to this time of year as I jump out of the truck and snag the bags like a bandit!!

I don't believe I am alone in this nefarious act????



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PostPosted: Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:24 pm
Joined: Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:17 pmPosts: 21
As said, Jerrry Baker is good reading if one has his books but one can count on his return to American Public Television in the spring; watch your local PBS staton for announcements.

Jerry Baker only uses products that are common to our kitchens and what is used to make the store bought fertilizers and insecticides by the large concerns.

High nitrogen fertilizer is a common chemical means to speed up compost breakdown since the action of breaking down uses nitrogen. One might find ammonium nitrate on sale in local nurseries and garden centres. It is high in nitrogen. Its this chemical that was used to bring down a building in Oklahoma City. Proper storage is of paramount importance.

Where one cant use further leaf pickups, use a plastic garbage bad, toss in some soil, some kitchen scraps, some clippings, some nitrogen fertilizer, some old perennials still hanging on, tie up, poke some finger holes into the bottom of the bag and hide behind a bush. Time will do the rest.

Some trees seem to hang on to their leaves well into late November and many times gets snowed on before they release their hold. Florida this week is calling for low 40's and northern areas might get a dusting of snow in higher elevations. If one still has leaves on their lawn, it is best to get out there and, whether by mower or rake, get them off so they cant smother the turf and you have problems of dead grass in the spring.


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 7:59 am
User avatarJoined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:38 amPosts: 145Location: New York
While driving around with my kids, we'd pass some bagged up leaves or grass clippings, and I'd say, "I wish I had a pick-up truck....." Well, I just bought an old pick-up, but my neighbor is getting me all the leaves I need, so far more than last year!! Go figure!!

I used Baker's compost excelerator tonic last year. Did it help? Maybe. Was it more work? Yes. I've read that coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen. I used alot of them too. Which one did the trick? Maybe both!

This year, I'm just using the leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and coffee grounds, and some compost from this past year, all mixed up together. I also save a bucket of liquid stuff, what ever is left from the morning coffee, and if anything is left in a can of soda, iced tea, or beer. I pour it into a bucket outside, then, when it's near full, pour it over the compost pile. Seems to work.



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 10:36 am
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2010 4:27 pmPosts: 22
NiftyNabber wrote:
While driving around with my kids, we'd pass some bagged up leaves or grass clippings, and I'd say, "I wish I had a pick-up truck....." Well, I just bought an old pick-up, but my neighbor is getting me all the leaves I need, so far more than last year!! Go figure!!

I used Baker's compost excelerator tonic last year. Did it help? Maybe. Was it more work? Yes. I've read that coffee grounds are a good source of nitrogen. I used alot of them too. Which one did the trick? Maybe both!

This year, I'm just using the leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps, and coffee grounds, and some compost from this past year, all mixed up together. I also save a bucket of liquid stuff, what ever is left from the morning coffee, and if anything is left in a can of soda, iced tea, or beer. I pour it into a bucket outside, then, when it's near full, pour it over the compost pile. Seems to work.



About twice a month I will visit our local starbucks equivalent for a bucket full of coffee grounds to add to the mix of my own.

Most stores won't mind at all if you ask them a bit in advance. Bring your own bucket and even better!!



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 10:25 pm
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
I spent 4 hours or more on the mower today, gathering up my neighbor's leaves again. I filled both bins with leaves and grass since that area needed mowing. It's a slow process and it seems like the maples dropped almost all of their leaves in one week, so they were thick. Must've been the heavy rains that knocked so many down. I had to empty the chute too many times and I made a lot of trips back and forth emptying the bags since they fill up so quick. That gets tiring. I think I'll be feeling it tomorrow.

We made a new raised bed earlier this fall and I used a lot of the composted leaves in it, along with some spare soil we had around. I think it will be a good mix and I think the worms will enjoy it over the winter. I had to catch a few to put in it since I put down several layers of newspaper before the soil mix went in and I didn't think they'd find their way there quick enough for my liking. It's on a section of lawn, so that's the easy way to kill it off. I hope the soil life will get established by next summer so whatever I plant will take off. I already transplanted some strawberry plants in it and some garlic. I put hardware cloth on the bottom of it to keep moles out and I'll put up PVC hoops with either chicken wire or bird netting over them to keep out deer, rabbits, birds, coons, and whatever else might want to get to what I plant. I'll plant root crops since I haven't been able to grow them here because of the moles tunneling.

I'll add more leaf mold next spring if it settles too much since I'll have enough left from previous years. I think I mixed in enough soil to keep it from settling too much.

Happy composting!


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PostPosted: Sun Nov 07, 2010 12:09 pm
Joined: Wed Sep 29, 2010 3:17 pmPosts: 21
Compost bins are like our stomachs, when we eat too much, we stand a chance of getting sick. Our bodies sometimese cannot digest what we force on them and we pay the piper.
When a compost pile is given too much of a good thing, it rebels too, it usually stops working.
So when we have inordinate amount of leaves that we shouldn't put into the pile, we can, like our pantries do, store food for another day. Place the leaves, chewed up if you can, but nevertheless save them, in a garbage bag mixed with other stuff we throw in the pile, dampen, and tie them up, poke finger holes in the bottom to let the worms enter, and place them behind a bush to hide their ugliness and next spring or summer, they can be either added to the pile to continue working or leave them where they are and count on their being used at a later date.
The worst thing you can do is try to force the pile to accept all what you pick up just because the trees dropped them.
If the community has a composting program, there's nothing wrong in placing them out for roadside pickup.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 08, 2010 1:53 pm
Joined: Sun Nov 02, 2008 10:08 pmPosts: 187Location: Zone 5
Good suggestion for those without the room, but I think a lot of us need more, not less. ha ha



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PostPosted: Fri Nov 12, 2010 9:42 am
User avatarJoined: Wed Feb 01, 2006 9:38 amPosts: 145Location: New York
I have an acre, so there's plenty of room here, and plenty of leaves n grass!! I'll be getting some horse manure as well.



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