Compost Using FAQ
Downloaded 02/25/02 from http://www.oldgrowth.org/compost
Tue Nov 29 19:38:53 EST 1994
Article: 48605 of rec.gardens
(Michael E. Matthews)
Subject: Using Compost FAQ (long)
Date: Mon, 28 Nov 1994 21:23:08 GMT
The following is a collection of composting advice from Jim
McNelly, aka Mr. Compost. Long-time readers of rec. gardens
will know him well. It is a compilation of some of his replies
to various questions from this group. It contains the
essentials of composting. If anyone has other of his posts
saved, I would sure like to recieve them.
Michael Matthews in central VA
Subject: Composting 101
Organization: Granite City Connection St. Cloud MN 612-654-8372
Denys is about to buy soil instead of compost :-(
DC>I am planning on hiring a landscaper to install lawn on my
5,600 sq foot yard. The thickness of the loam makes significant
difference in cost. Some landscaper told me I need 6 inches'
loam, while another said I only need 3. Someone even said the
quality of lawn has little to do with the thickness of the
loam. I am really confused. How do you think ?
For the beginning lawn or garden, there is no substitute for
tilling in 3" of compost 9" deep. I have been in the organic
fertilizer business since 1975 and have helped thousands of
yards. They all have lusher yards and lawns with a healthy soil
system. Once the lawn is planted, it is very difficult to go
back and add compost later. Most homes had the topsoil scraped
off and sold, leaving subsoil with a token layer of black dirt.
Most topsoil sold is low in organic matter and is worthless for
soil building. A rich application of compost will pay for itself
in a few years in water savings and increased property value.
All else is secondary. If you have a lawn that you are starting
to reclaim and don't want to start all over, then applying 1/2"
of compost and reseeding in the spring for the next ten years is
a way of building up the lawn gradually over time. Remember to
leave the clippings to lie. Organic matter is the only way to
build up a soil.
Granite Connection 612-259-0801
* May 22nd - Nitrate: Lower than the day rate.
>>My girlfriend told me that the sticks and twigs poking out of
the gound had been pulled in by worms.I laughed of course but
last night we crouched down in the garden and sure enough worms
were grabbing stuff and trying to pull it down their
holes!>They were yanking on the dead tulip leaves, the cosmos
and whatever they could get their mouths on!
Nightcrawlers, lumbricus terrestris, live in permanent burrows
in the soil which they excavate from childhood. They can go as
deep as sixteen feet and typically have around seven openings
on the surface. When it is moist, dark, and cool, they rise to
the surface, keeping their tail in the burrow, and forage for
scraps of organic matter. This material they tow back into the
burrow where it is stored in "root cellars" for eating at a
The mass of organic scraps in the underground chambers are
tended carefully as the worm excretes enzyme rich "coleomic
fluids" that cause the matter to be digested over time. This
is why worms are called "exodigestive" organisms as contrasted
with mammals that are "endodigestive". When the mass of
organics is properly composted, full of protozoa and other
earthworm delicacies, the worm finally eats it.
As such, earthworms do not "eat" soil except to excavate. Nor
do they "eat" organic matter, unless it has been fully
decomposed in their underground chambers. Without a burrow
network, the nightcrawler has no habitat or a means to prepare
their food. This is why I do not recommend adding soil worms
to compost piles, as they must have a burrow network underneath
in order to be of any use. Redworms, or manure worms can be
added to compost piles past the cooking phase. They do not have
permanent burrows and must eat with other worms en masse~,
relying on their fellows to pre-digest for them just as they
pre-digest for others.
Redworms fare poorly in mineral soils just as nightcrawlers
fare poorly in compost piles. The best way to increase worm
populations is to add mulch! The worms will mix it with the
soil and effect its decomposition. A healthy virgin prairie or
deciduous forest soil may have up to 1,000 pounds of worms per
acre, compared with about 5 pounds of all other large animals
combined. Depleted soils that are overmuch tilled and eroded
may have fewer than 100 worms per acre.
So be glad your worms are eating, for soon there will be young
worms hoping for more food to be found on the surface.
In my estimation, all successful gardening and farming can be be
narrowed down to one key concept...... Feed Earthworms!
* June 13th - Old musicians never die, they just decompose.
It is the lousy clay soil that killed your grass to begin
with. Tilling in the old sod is a noble organic gesture, but
will not solve your fundamental problem, which is the lack of
organic matter in the soil.
You need to till in 3" of compost 9" deep before replanting.
All else is treating the symptoms, not the cause.
My first organic soil business was in the Denver area and I
prepared hundreds of lawns this way. I will guarantee, that
even after over ten years have passed, that these lawns are
still green, lush, and drought resistant. You could see the
difference the very first year when they watered less and still
the grass stayed green during the summer.
Face it. Your topsoil was stolen by the contractor. The
topsoil that was there was poor to begin with anyway. Build a
new soil from scratch. Call E&A fertilizer, Arts, Colorado
Mushroom, or A1 Compost out of Greely. There are plenty of
organic sales companies in your area. Don't get talked into
the "sheep and peat" mix. Go for the pure compost.
* April 9th - Recycle! Today's Garbage is tomorrow's America.