Glen Kowalski

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since Sep 18, 2019
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Recent posts by Glen Kowalski

Sorry for the lack of updates work and life have been hectic.  The new recipe was/is 40 lbs of alfalfa pellets 40 lbs of coffee grounds about 12 lbs of bananas and kitchen scraps and an equal amount by volume of pine wood shavings.  The pile got hot in 2 days and stayed around 135-145 degrees for almost 3 weeks.  It has since cooled and I haven't been able to get it to reheat yet.  Temps stay in the 60-80 degree range or just over ambient air temps.

The lettuce and radish patch is doing ridiculously well.  Harvested over 5 lbs of lettuce and three dozen icicle radishes already.   When I harvested the radishes I dug down to see how the base of alfalfa pellets and coffee grounds were doing and was shocked to see they had completely broken down already!  In it's place I have the best looking dark black soil you could imagine.

 Very excited by the success of this secondary experiment.  I expected.it to take over a year to fully break down and was pleasantly surprised.  Included is a picture of the lettuce patch taken 3 days after a harvest.
6 days ago
A mix of covers will serve you better.  Cut it down when the first species flowers to avoid self seeding.  Covers don't have to mature fully to help your soil.  Do you get a good frost where you are?  I'm in Northwest Florida and we don't get much if any truly hard freezes so winterkill isn't an option here.  However timely mowing has kept my garden beds from being over run with volunteers.  

If soil organic matter and N are your primary concerns try Winter peas and oats.  Both are easy to kill and oats provide a lot of rootmass.  Though tillage is going to undo a lot of the good the covers provide.

Not sure your tractor could handle a notill drill but it should be possible to strip till leaving much of the cover residue in place and more importantly not disturbing the microbiome as much.  If you can graze the covers or use your chickens on the fields things will get better even faster.  
1 month ago
How did the experiment go?  Did any of the oats produce seed?  I would buy that seed since it is likely from very strong stock😀.
1 month ago
Sorgham-Sudangrass, oats, fieldpeas and daikon radish could do the trick for you.  All are fairly inexpensive and a good covercrop mix which can help improve the soil at the same time.  Both oat and Sudan grass have chemicals which inhibit seed germination of weeds and both normally overwinter and come back strong in the spring.  Switch to no till and you should be good to go after that.
1 month ago
I've decided to abondon the compost experiment In its current form.  The alfalfa pellets simple swelled too much and the tumbler is too compacted to mix properly.  I've restarted with lessons learned and a new formula and we'll see how that goes.  Attached is the picture of the half composted material after I dumped over a bare spot in the yard.  Will likely spread it out over a few bare spots and let time do the rest
1 month ago
A couple more pics
1 month ago
Temps are around 100 degrees in both tumblers now.  Had several days of steady rain and drizzle and now ancold front moving through with temps down into the lower 40s at night and high winds.  The temperature should get back into the upper 60s lower 70s by this weekend though.

The cover crops and winter plantings are loving all the rain and cool temps though.
1 month ago
Temps in both bins are ~110-115.  The first bin still smells faintly of ammonia but the second bin already has an 'earthy' smell to it.  Both bins are continuing to compost but I've already learned a few lessons.

1) Alfalfa pellets in all likelihood would have made a fine compost on their own if not for a few mistakes on my part.  First of which was underestimating how much they would swell once exposed to water.

2) I already knew this but my misfortune with the freak rainstorm reinforces it-Proper water levels are crucial to a healthy compost.  Combined with compaction from the alfalfa pellets swelling the 1st tumbler did indeed go anaerobic and the end product is going to suffer some from this.  

3) While single-source compost like alfalfa will likely compost nicely a mix of at least a few different materials is even better.  The second tumbler is barely half-full yet is maintaining the same heat as the first while smelling better.  

4)  The tumbler I'm using has a leachate gathering base.  While gather the leachate may be nice it is also fairly easy to overfill and cause issues.  for now I have it set to half open to the ground beneath so excess leachate will drain out rather than back up through the drainage holes.  

5)  Despite my mistakes and follies I still believe I will be getting a good batch of compost from both tumblers.  The time frame has been extended due to the issues I ran into but should still be ready before the weather gets too cold.
1 month ago
Thank you for the responses!  It is flowering well now so I'm guessing my expectations of how tall it would grow were what was wrong not the plants themselves  I've decided not to cut down the cover crop and just let the buckwheat reseed itself if it wants to.  The people who lived here before me decided to use masses of landscape fabric in what I thought was a raised bed but now am thinking was just a 'picnic' area.   I didn't know this when I planted into it but rather when I went to make 3 more beds I found the offending fabric.  Instead of ripping it up I'm just going to use the area as a wood mulch composting zone with the exception of the 2 beds already in it.  Those beds I'll plant herbs into-mostly annuals but also some mints that should do well in partial shade and hopefully be mostly contained by the fabric+wood chips all around them.  
1 month ago
Tumbler one has cooled to 105 degrees while the second half-filled tumbler is still cooking at 125-130 degree F.  I think the second one is still cooking because I'm still adding to it as it goes until it is about 90% full.  A hard lesson I learned is filling the tumblers to capacity is a bad move since it inhibits the ability of the compost to mix when you spin it.  Otherwise things are going well.
1 month ago