alder leaves and produce greens compost

sgullJanuary 16, 2014

I seem to be getting contradictory information in regard to whether a 50/50 mix of brown alder leaves (fallen and collected off the ground) and grocery produce trimmings/waste would create a good nutrient-rich compost. Numerous articles/info I've seen on the web seem to indicate it would be good, however the plant/horticulture expert at the local extension service says "Probably not much nutrient content in that compost. It would not be like plant tofu but it would be a drop in the plant nutrient bucket." Any comments appreciated.

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The compost would help the soil by aeration and benificial microbes, add manure if you need more nutrients

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 8:57PM
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Jeff1961 thanks for your reply above. So I can be clear, is the suggestion to add manure directly to the decomposing mix of 50/50 browns and greens I described? I could do that easily but just want to be sure that would be a good method.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 9:25PM
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The extension service is correct. Nutrients in compost are close to NPK
1-1-1. Don't let that stop you from using it. Jeff1961 is correct you are inputting organic matter into your soil which will bring earthworms that will do your tilling & fertilizing. If your soil is sandy the organic matl. will increase water retention. If your soil is clay it will separate the particles to help with aeration & drainage.
Manure is a great addition, a little goes a long way. Mix a handful with everything you add to your pile.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:02PM
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How much manure I might add to my composting mixture of 50/50 mix of alder leaves and grocery store produce trimmings? How much would be too much? For example, I have about 12 large wheelbarrow fulls of brown alder leaves and 5-6 five-gallon buckets full of produce green/trimmings mixed together. How much manure would I want to add to that?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:21PM
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My guess is that compost made as you suggest would be good for the soil, but you might have to supplement with a nitrogen source if you want to get the most growth possible in a short growing season. The nitrogen could be supplied as composted manure, urea, or ammonium sulfate. However, ammonium sulfate will lower soil pH, so that might not be appropriate for your soil type. People have a tendency to over-apply nitrogen fertilizer, so I would suggest being conservative if you decide to go this route.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:23PM
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A "few" handfuls w/ each wheelbarrow load & a "couple" handfuls per 5gal bucket & you are set.
The important thing is you are making your own. You will decide what works best for you, every batch you make the recipe will be a little different. The bigger variety of "stuff" the better. Learning by doing is part of the fun of composting. That & knowing that the compost you make is the best because you know what you put in it.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 10:58PM
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Okay but I wouldn't have thought that the addition of such a relatively small amount of the manure would make that significant of a contribution. If I can "over-do" it with the manure would that be all the more beneficial? Or would that just be potentially detrimental instead?

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 11:20PM
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A little manure goes a long way in compost. I add a few handfuls here & there in my piles. More will not be detrimental, but as the pile is watered it will just leach out. Just a dusting is all it takes for the microbes to really get working on the process of decomposition.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2014 at 11:46PM
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Is it important that the manure be aged before adding the handfuls? Or can it be added while fresh/green?

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 12:20AM
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Most all tests for nutrients in compost indicate very low values, because these tests look for soluble nutrients and most in compost, evidently, are not that soluble, Plants growing in soils that have had compost, in adequate quantities, added grow healthier then plants growing in soils with little or no compost.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 6:07AM
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You can put fresh manure in compost. However, fresh manure can damage plant roots if you put very much of it around the base of the plant, or shrub.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 10:27AM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

Composted manure is already compost so it won't add much (anything really) to your compost that it wouldn't add directly to the soil if used there.

I've composted my kitchen scraps for decades and the compost is just fine. Yes, manure is potent, and can also have high levels of salts which is one of the reasons you can 'overdo' on manure unless you have a very sandy soil where it will leach out.

Compost made from a variety of materials and a good CN ratio will be fairly similar regardless of the starting materials. I wouldn't worry too much about the 'tofu' comments. Consider that this might have been coming from a chemical fertilizer oriented person, too.

You'll know when you have too much fresh manure (or kitchen waste for that matter) by the smell. If the pile gets stinky, it's too wet or too high in N-rich materials. Add more browns. Observe and adjust and your compost will be great.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 11:37AM
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In regard to composting manure, I have access to some fresh un-composted (green) horse manure which I intend on storing and aging/composting before adding to my garden soil. I happen to have one of these large shipping containers (conex) on the property which, because of lack of a better place at this time to store/age/turn the manure, I'm hoping can serve as an adequate place in which to keep/turn a pile probably about 6-7 feet wide at the bottom and 3 feet high. My plan would be to pile the manure in the back of the container, leaving the doors open all the time to keep it aired. My concern is whether the lack of sunlight (mostly dark all the time back there) might significantly prevent/inhibit the process of the manure decomposition. Or would sunlight (or the lack thereof) on the pile not make too much of a difference? Any comments appreciated.

Here is a link that might be useful:

This post was edited by sgull on Fri, Jan 17, 14 at 14:18

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 2:15PM
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The shipping container in the photo you posted is made of welded steel. It might work OK for composting, but it will rust through in a few years, leaving you with a large pile of rusty steel that has value only as scrap metal. Given your location, it might not be very practical to haul off a rusted shipping container for recycling. Our compost pile is open, about 8 feet in diameter at the base, and it varies in height, between 3 feet and 6 feet. Our pile does not seem to attract critters, since we do not compost much food waste, and never meat scraps or similar items.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 2:55PM
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Actually the shipping container we have is already a recycled one, quite old and rusted, much worse condition-wise than the one shown in the photo I linked as an example. If it were to rust out much worse it would be of little consequence for our particular situation. To clarify, my intent is not to use it for a long-term multi-season/year place in which to compost varieties of materials but rather as a place to compost a pile of manure (only) in the back as I described, for a period of up to 4 months maybe one or two seasons for now. I realize composting manure in the open would be fine too, but in our very typically rainy location (southeast Alaska) I would prefer having the pile at least covered by a roof to prevent the manure pile from getting too wet from the rain all the time, and right now I don't have the space or time or materials to build a more ideal manure-composting shelter type structure. My concern/question is whether composting the manure back inside that container like that (essentially void of any direct sun exposure and rather dark most of the time back there) would significantly inhibit the natural decomposition process of the manure or its potential as a nutrient enricher for the garden soil. May be a dumb question, but still would appreciate any viewpoints/comments about this.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 3:45PM
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I was not aware of the amount of rainfall in your area, so I am glad you mentioned this. It is quite possible to compost in the dark, composting toilets and also various composting bins you can buy keep the material in dark conditions. There must be significant differences in the microbial life found in an open compost pile, versus a covered and contained pile. Open piles must be getting additional air penetration, particularly if there is some brush included in the pile.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 6:07PM
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I'd hadn't even stopped to consider the (otherwise quite obvious) fact that of course various compost material is frequently/commonly done in dark enclosed bins with no concern about lack of light. So in that case composting my manure back in the big conex container should not be problematic at all, I should think.
It'd be even simpler for me to just pile the manure on the ground out in the open and cover it with a tarp to keep it dry. But I'm thinking with it stored in the flat-bottomed container I might be able to turn/mix it more thoroughly with a shovel and also avoid it getting lost outside the perimeter of the pile as it would tend to do in an open un-contained pile on the open ground. Plus the fact that sometimes it'll snow this winter and then the tarp will be all covered with snow I'll have to remove if I want to remove the tarp to turn the manure. So, either/or I suppose, could store it in or out. Which might you choose, and why? Need some help making up my mind here.

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 7:16PM
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Well the critter left it on the ground...
Mixed with yard waste prune, dead heads etc & that's a cold pile. You can add to it or walk away from it, either way you'll have compost.
I use mine as a spot to mine from when I build a hot pile in my bin.
Use the box as your shop, tool box or shed. Or ship it to me so I can! :)

    Bookmark   January 17, 2014 at 7:51PM
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