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the downsides of composting

 
gardener
Posts: 1500
Location: South of Capricorn
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this thread makes me feel a lot better about being a failure as a composter. I have been fighting with my compost for the last 10 years or so (I live in a place with almost no browns, and only recently found sugar cane bagasse as an option, but it's a pain to haul. No decidious leaves, only hay if I want to buy it by the kg.). Even when I get what I figure would be a balance, the piles take up too much space in my tiny backyard garden (taking a lot more time to break down than I would have expected), tend to attract vermin, and I end up losing space that could be productive.

This past year I decided to get rabbits, and reduce my (admittedly) gigantic stream of greens (mostly kitchen scraps, we cook most of our food out of the garden). The little that the beasts won't eat is now going into a bokashi barrel, which so far is going great (got my first bit of liquid slime from it today). The 1-2 sq m I was losing to compost piles (often more than one) is now producing corn and spaghetti squash, and the rabbit poop is doing its magic.
 
gardener
Posts: 6649
Location: Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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I compost for two reasons; 1. so I can make compost teas for areas I am building up for garden space and for spraying tree trunks to fight a disease, this compost is done in a container that doesn't allow easy escape of gasses but some do get out so the moisture excess can leak out.
I make about 100 lbs. of this type of compost per year and when it has been used for tea the left overs go into a garden bed.  2. I compost the bedding from the chicken house and the donkey poop that piles up in the donkey's bathroom area, this is used in the gardens three or four times per season.

I don't rake leaves except from around the fruit trees, these are just turned into leaf mold or reused as leaves out in the forest floor.
Chickens and hogs get all the food scraps.
Paper is turned into char or ash for addition to composting manure or directly into straw bales that we use for vegetable growing.

tree branches, cut in the process of making firewood for cooking and heating or fallen from high wind events, are turned into wood chips for pathways and low, soggy areas.

That takes care of everything organic that is created or left over on the farm.
 
Posts: 65
Location: Central NJ, Zone 6b
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This thread has provided some excellent food for thought.  After 11 years in an apartment, I am purchasing a house, and the thing I'm most looking forward to is being able to start composting again.  

I appreciate those who have pointed out that different people have different needs.  Intensive composting might not be optimal for everybody, but that doesn't mean that it's not the right solution for others - especially for those of us who don't have a garden that is up and running yet.

The soil on my new estate* seems to be in pretty poor condition.  I will get a soil test as soon as I can, but I'm quite certain that it will need a heavy infusion of organic matter.  You bet I'll be "importing" organic materials!  I will be giving serious consideration to how I source these materials, however.  My options are somewhat limited here in central Jersey, but I'm going to do the best I can. I expect my need to import materials to go down over the next few years.

More importantly than the above, I just really enjoy composting.  It's a fun science experiment.  I like trying different methods.  I like scrounging materials and seeing what happens to them as they rot down.  I like composting more than gardening - it's certainly less stressful.  No matter what I do, I'll end up with compost sooner or later.  The anecdote above about the people with the towering piles of compost that took up 90% of their space was funny, but I have to admit I was just a little bit jealous.

I'm looking forward to seeing you all around the forums.


* Okay, it's only 1/6 of an acre.  Establishing a true permaculture garden just isn't feasible given the circumstances, but I will be applying permaculture principles wherever possible.
 
gardener
Posts: 532
Location: Central Texas
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I've enjoyed this thread. It's nice to see how different people use different processes, based on their environment, needs, & preferences.
In the past, I've never done "official" composting. I've always just dumped my organic wastes in an open spot in the garden, under a tree dripline, or wherever I thought it would be useful.
I breed & raise show rabbits as a hobby, so rabbit manure/urine, clipped/shedded wool (Angora breeds), and hay/straw scraps makes up the bulk of my compost.
The only outside inputs I bring in are animal feed & wood chips, which I don't see any issues with since they're available, and are being used instead of dumped or burned. While I totally see the point of only using what is there and not outside resources, I also give away a lot of produce, meat, plants, and eggs every year; so I need to try to balance it out a bit to make up for the outputs.
I just recently made a "dedicated compost area" out of hardware cloth & cage wire outside the rabbit barn & cold frame that I plan to "store" excess rabbit wastes, extra fall leaves, used paper products, and chopped stuff with seeds. I know I won't have time to baby sit it, but it's in a spot where I can easily monitor it and add urine/coffee grounds to heat it up a bit (and hopefully provide a warmer microclimate around the cold frame in winter). I divided it into 2 sections of 4ft high, 3f wide and 3 foot depth, so I can, either, flip/mix it a few times a year, or start a second pile.
I will probably still end up just dumping most of the waste in one of the gardens/beds, but I had the extra wire taking up space and figure it doesn't hurt to have a spot set up for extra material or stuff like paper towels/junk mail that makes a mess & looks bad if it hasn't broken down a bit before being applied to a garden/bed.
 
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