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Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Posted by westtexan 7b (My Page) on
Fri, Mar 14, 08 at 10:10

I have a bunch of leaves from the fall, but very very little green matter to help with the composting process so I took some advice of someone online and added some fertilizer (13-13-13) to the leaves. It is working very well. But will the extra phosphorus and potassium do more harm that good to the plants when I add the compost to the garden? I was at Lowe's and saw some sulfate of ammonia that was 21-0-0. Would that be better or is the sulfur in it detrimental? Sulfur and/or ammonia lower the ph of the soil too, correct? Any advice on the subject will be greatly appreciated.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Either will work well, however, make sure the compost is well cured over 3-6 months to ensure it is not too "hot" with excess NPK, otherwise it should be fine and I wouldn't worry about it as sulfur too will only add some acidity to the compost if at all.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Thanks for the advice. Could I use the compost sooner and lay it on the surface of the ground around the plant instead of planting directly into it? I would then place wood mulch on top of that.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Adding synthetic N kind of defeats the purpose of composting.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

decklap;
<< Adding synthetic N kind of defeats the purpose of composting. >>

That's an interesting statement. I have to ask then, what is the purpose of composting, as you see it?


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Purpose of adding some synthetic fertilzer

The purpose of adding some synthetic fertilizer is to add a quicker and constant release of nitrogen to heat up a compost pile and to make the compost faster, especially in spring or fall weather. It all breaks down and you can get the finished compost faster. It is a common practice, unless you are from the "Hamas" or "Hezbollah" school of "organic" gardening where anything synthetic, no matter how organic, safe and bio-degradable is going to poison the World. To them a bag of 10-10-10 fertilizer or heaven forbid, Milorganite 6-2-0 might as well be a truck full of DDT.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Common sense is something that often gets displaced by some people when discusing gardening. Whether to use a synthetic fertilizer or not depends somewhat on what is most readily available, although using a synthetic fertilizer is generally more expensive than using manures, or maybe something more natural, as the Nitrogen source. There are people that think they must spend money on "Compost Starters" not realizing that the people that sell that stuff charge them atrocious sums for some Nitrogen. People that do not have ready access, or any access at all, to manures need some other form of N, possibly, and what may be most available might be a synthetic source. Belittling someone because what they do is different from what you might do is counterproductive.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

I use organic fertilizer if I want to get it cooking.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

First of all you don't need synthetic N to get your pile cooking so its money you don't need to spend unless you just like spending your money on stuff you don't really need.

Secondly and more importantly in my opinion the primary point of compost is to introduce the microbiology that feeds off the OM into your soil. Synthetic N is a salt which is incompatible with the life of the bacteria and fungi you're tying to encourage. So if you just want the benefit of the synthetic N just go ahead and use it without going to the trouble of piling up your browns. Just seems like common sense to me.

I think it'd be an interesting experiment to do a bio-assay on compost made with synthetic N and without to actually see what you're getting.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

What is "synthetic N"?


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Decklap,
N is bacteria food as much as carbon. The bacteria don't care if it comes from urea or grass clippings. When you add N (synthetic or otherwise) your pile heats up because microbial activity and population increase. It's the microbes that do all the heating and digesting.
If you just added nitrogen fertilizer, you wouldn't be getting any of the other benefits that go along with compost.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Squonnk it isn't strictly true to say that N is N regardless of the source.
Your compost will be of much better quality if your nitrogen is coming from a protein and there's no getting around the fact that the salts from synthetic forms are going to impede the growth of the biology in the compost.

And heavens... unless someone is dealing with a truly massive amount of leaves then I can't imagine anyone actually *needing* a product with 21% N.
Piles will heat just as nicely with much much less N so why not opt for an organic source if you absolutely must buy in N to get your pile cooking.

So what you end up with is a lesser product for more money than you need to spend. If that's what folks want to do then more power to them but that's why I said it seems defeat the purpose of composting in the first place.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

<< Adding synthetic N kind of defeats the purpose of composting. >>

That's an interesting statement. I have to ask then, what is the purpose of composting, as you see it?

In my opinion the purpose of composting is to keep your organic nutrients at home and not haul them to the landfill. I don't see any reason to buy new fertilizer (organic or synthetic) and put it into compost. Just to take it one step worse, ammonium sulfate is reported to be antifungal. One of the good things that happens in compost is the fungal decomposition of leaves, wood, and other cellulosic materials. If the antifungal properties are true, then using ammonium sulfate in compost should stop the fungal decomposition for as long as the AS lasts.

One good use for compost is to decompose animal dung and dry leaves or grass clippings along with food scraps.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

decklap
unless someone is dealing with a truly massive amount of leaves then I can't imagine anyone actually *needing* a product with 21% N.
To be fair, it's not really my (or anyone else's) place to say whether someone should compost one way or the other. If they want to use a synthetic nitrogen source.....what the heck.
there's no getting around the fact that the salts from synthetic forms are going to impede the growth of the biology in the compost.
Salts are not the devil. They're going to be there anyway. As they say, it's the dose that makes the poison. The amount of synthetic nitrogen required to heat a pile is a tiny addition to total salts and will have very little negative impact on microbes. And, those populations bounce back post-haste. After adding synthetic N, your pile will still heat up (if N was needed). Fungi and bacteria will continue to break down the material. Actinomycetes will still bind colloids. Humus will still be produced. etc. etc. etc.
If you're truly worried about salts and synthetic nitrogen worries you more than manure, you may want to check out the salt content of those manures.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

You're right that the dose of salt is at least part of the issue but the larger question is why introduce those salts at all when there are plenty of other options that don't introduce salt. One can't say with any certainty that the damage done to the micro-herd is "very little" or not without a bio-assay but what is true is that to one degree or another synthetics come with a downside which isn't necessary. Why make that choice when you don't have to??

Like you say people can use whatever they want in their piles of course but it isn't' being judgmental to point out that some options have ramifications that other don't.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Why make that choice when you don't have to??
Again, why is it my (or anyone else's) job to decide what choices others make?

Like you say people can use whatever they want in their piles of course but it isn't' being judgmental to point out that some options have ramifications that other don't.
This is the phrase I was trying to addressing:
Synthetic N is a salt which is incompatible with the life of the bacteria and fungi you're tying to encourage.
That is a half truth. Synthetic N is a salt but it is not incompatible with the life of bacteria and fungi. It is food for them if used correctly. Also, while remarking that salt in synthetic nitrogen sources can be bad for the microbes (and at high doses they can be) you omit that those same salts and others are just as detrimental from non-synthetic sources (and often higher). In effect, you are implying that synthetic means bad and non-synthetic means good, due to salt issues. Allow me to high-light:
some options have ramifications that other don't. Suggesting that the salts in non-synthetic sources are somehow, completely safe while salts from synthetic nitrogen sources are inherently problematic.
I refer you again to the salt content of manures, which are non-synthetic nitrogen sources. Salts can have ramifications and benefits just as dire or desirable, depending on how they are used, from either source.
Synthetic sources are good if used correctly.
Non-synthetic sources are good if used correctly.
I think people should make their decision based on their individual situation. Suggesting that synthetic N is inherently counter-productive in compost production, regardless of how it is used, is a disservice.


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funny thing happened on the way to the compost pile

It seems to me, from where I'm sitting, that too much thought is put towards nitrogen/carbon mix, I have had umpteen number of piles heat up just from watering with rain water or pond water or just (shudder) building a massive mountain of wood chips/leaves on a lowish area where a gravel road acts like a bowl thus creating a unwanted man made swamp, the wood chips wick up the moisture and the pile gets hot and stays hot, without much aeration on my part, apart from addition of food waste only (on the western side of this pile) no nitrogen source was added, the pile was 50/50 leaves and wood chips, it was 15 feet tall, 50 feet wide and 150 long. I've also had piles of only (or permuch)leaves in a pallet bin heat up, shredded or not and piles of only wood chips too, chips that hours earlier used to be a tree, and dumped in my driveway, heat up. These chips only had the nitrogen from their own leaves and these piles were steaming hot after a few hours and they stayed hot for weeks.
The microbes are the source of heat and the thermophilic phase is the most productive phase in the composting process (if I am not mistaken)
Heck, I've even taken a bunch of cardboard, shredded it by immersing it in rain barrels and shredding it with a garden claw and a spade, the cardboard would soak up the water and I would throw it in one of my pallet bins, once the bin was full (after a real workout) I would fluff every few days and it would heat up, the microbe laden rain water provided the microbes and the cardboard gave them a place to live and multiply.
If I loaded up the bin with fresh leaves in the fall AND a handful of "reduced worms" that bin would get hot in a few days, stay hot for months (with a lil fluffing)and be done by spring, chock loaded with worms to used with whatever the next batch of compostables was that came along.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

I don't think Im implying anything one way or another rather it seems that sometimes people are overly sensitive to the implications of fact. If someone wants to heat their pile with synthetics that is their business but it just isn't a necessary choice and does in fact have negative ramifications relative to other resources. Somehow that's gotten to be an inflammatory observation but that doesn't make it any less accurate.

Organic substances do indeed have salts but not anywhere near the level of concentration that the synthetics do and the salt content of cow manure isn't likely to be an issue for the backyard composter at all so thats strikes me as a false choice. A more apples to apples comparison would be to compare AS to kitchen scraps, bloodmeal, or other grain meals which are readily available.
In that more realistic scenario you'll have to admit there is no comparison whatsoever to AS. Again, use it if you like but lets not ignore the facts.

As for the detrimental impact of AS on the micro-herd of the pile I'll stand by
that observation. AS will do to the microbes in the pile what it does to the microbes in the soil. While it may cook your pile it will not encourage a broad spectrum of bacterial or fungal life to flourish in the same way N from protein will. If you have bio-assay results to the contrary I'd love to read them but I have never seen a single test done by an individual or university lab that suggest that to be the case. Just an observation, not a judgment.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Ammonium sulfate, 21-0-0 is 21% N and 24% S. A sprinkling of this in a compost pile of leaves that are being piled up for composting should have no salt issues. Of course, don't forget to water and turn the pile as you are building it.

After a few days, the pile will heat up because the bacteria are converting the sugars of the leaves into ATP, heat, CO2 and water. In fact because of the plentiful nitrogen, they are multiplying and really having a feast. If they had legs, they would be dancing.

On the other hand, if the salt index of the ammonium sulfate was a problem, the osmotic pressure would destroy the bacteria. This would mean no conversion, no heat, no compost, no dancing.

It's easy to tell whether you are doing it right or wrong.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

There is no question the AS will heat your pile but as you point out that is strictly a bacterial reaction and the full benefit of compost is hardly restricted to bacteria. Synthetics in general and AS in particular retard the growth of fungi, nematodes, and protazoa. All of which along with bacteria combine to create the functioning soil food web present in healthy soils. So again, use whatever you like but facts are facts.

If one had no other options then it would be a small matter to shrug off but since many many other options exist that don't introduce retarding agents into your pile AND create the same amount of bacterial activity then perhaps its worth asking if synthetics represent the best option. Given the full range of facts I think many folks would opt for materials that encourage the broadest spectrum of microbiology.

Its my opinion that a lot of this can be traced to an over-emphasis on the heat of the pile. Heat of the pile is not necessarily an indicator of microbial
diversity.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

I'm just too cheap to "buy" anything for my compost.

If you are looking for greens, think yellow.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

1) I would have gladly used a free, organic nitrogen source if one was available to me. Who wouldn't? There aren't too many sources for grass clippings in the winter, even in Texas. And even then, if I got the clippings from the landscaping guy who I get my leaves from, how do I know that the clippings aren't full of synthetic fertilizers and weed killer?

2) I know that if the leaves just set there, they would *eventually* decompose, but I don't want to wait a year or more. The idea was to have a batch of compost made very quickly. I saw a Dirty Jobs episode on the Discovery channel where the workers at a mushroom farm were making compost using large amounts of hay from a horse farm and adding bags and bags of urea. They had a finished product in a week.

3) So if composting produces CO2, then isn't that contributing to "man-made" global warming? People say that is a fact too, but it's also "fact" that the earth has heated and warmed on its own for its entire life. Volcanoes put more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than humans do. Yes, the icecaps are melting, but how is it a proven "fact" that humans are responsible? I am all for cleaner air b/c it's better for our respiratory systems.

4) I get the impression that some people don't approve of synthetic fertilizers under any circumstances. But hasn't it been said over and over in this thread that even from the anti-synthetic fertilizer crowd that using the syn. fert. to cook my pile of leaves is not AS GOOD AS using an organic supply? Doesn't that mean that using the synthetic source is better than taking the leaves to the landfill? At least then they would be buried and the CO2 would never make it to the atmosphere...

5) How exactly does one balance the N and C supplies over the course of a year? I have lots of grass clippings (although I am never sure if weed killers were used on it) in the summer, but very little browns. I have lots of leaves in the winter, but very, very few greens relative to the amount of leaves.

6) Could someone give me their opinion in response to my question in the third post? Could I use the compost sooner and lay it on the surface of the ground around the plant instead of planting directly into it? I would then place wood mulch on top of that. Will that avoid burning the plants? Of course I would prevent the compost from touching the plants.

Thanks for your opinions, even the ones that think I am doing things the wrong way! It's a free country with freedom of speech, so go for it, but I think we should be respectful in doing so. We are headed for a place and time where we don't have as much freedom. You have to be politically correct in everything you say or you could get fired. In California, the courts are telling people they don't have the right to home school their kids. And there is the ever increasing effort to prevent law abiding citizens from owning firearms...hopefully the Supreme Court will back up the 2nd amendment in June. What good is the constitution if we don't put it to good use...before some lawmakers decide to go and change it?


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Joe Pye you hit the nail on the head. If you stop and think about it a bit there is free N all over the place if folks are willing to use it. There really isn't any reason to purchase anything for you pile synthetic or not. We generate more than enough waste, brown and green, to feed a pile.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Little boys enjoy providing nitrogen for the compost bin, & their parents can do the same by using a pail or a jar or some such.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 19, 08 at 9:27

??

Bunch of responses missing?

My computer shows the last entry above this one as Mar 17 at 11:35 but the thread list shows Mar 18 at 13:01. What the heck happened?

Lloyd


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

we started talking about gun control, so big brother deleted a few posts...


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Sorry bout that Chief.

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Wed, Mar 19, 08 at 9:44

oh, okay.

If I may be so bold as to suggest that perhaps maybe in the future that the deities that wield the scepter of deletion put a little note in there so that us mere mortals do not panic and consider for a moment that our computer is screwing up.

Lloyd


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

the yanking of threads makes me remember that these boots were made for walking (there are A LOT of other composting web sites out there) (lets see how long this post lasts)


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

When you start paying the bills, I'm sure they'll let you decide what goes and what stays.

(gift horse...mouth...etc.)


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re: sulfate

By the way, that wasn't directed at you HRC. A request for information is absolutely appropriate.
But threatening to take your ball and go home because you don't like the rules gets under my skin.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Fri, Mar 21, 08 at 9:37

McLove'N Hugs

I detected no nastiness in your post.

On second thought.... That post brought me to tears. Then I read the post to my wife and child and it made them cry too.

We were so traumatized we had to eat TWO cherry pies all by ourselves to calm down!

"snort"

Lloyd


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Your replacement pies are in the mail.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Yes, however too much censorship (deciding what stays and what does not) and we will decide whether we stay or not. It would not be much of a forum without us. Those of us who, like professor dirt, remember 'sent to Disneyland' as censorship still see this as a sore spot.

Chuck


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

After reading this thread, other than the big government or gun control. On the compost issue, may I understand the discussion this way:

1. Adding chemical fert., in this case Sulfate of Ammonia will great speed up the composting process? Although adding more natural product like manure or coffee etc will achieve similar result?
2. The chemically enhanced compost would be as good as the 'all natural" compost? Assuming one doesn't over dose the chemical.
3. The down side of adding Sulfate of Ammonia or other chemical product to compost would be (a) additional cost (b) non natural product added, so potentially not as "green"?

Have I missed anything?


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

I have attempted to compost some brush from clearing underbrush here on the windward (wet) side of the Big Island of Hawaii. This includes a very large percentage of Uluhe ferns. These are climbing vinelike ferns also known as False Staghorn ferns I believe. They seem to have an almost magical resistance to rotting. I shoved them through a wood chipper/shredder along with lots of strawberry guava saplings. Piled them up in a 3' x 3' x 3' pile. Turned them. Let them get wet from rain. Protected them from rain. Nothing happened. Tried adding amonium sulfate. Nothing happened. Turned them. Nothing. Added some horse manure. Got a brief warming trend, then nothing. That pile has been sitting out there well over a year now and is unchanged as far as I can tell. If I could isolate what is in there I could patent an organic wood preservative. Meanwhile on a trip back to visit my parents in NY we chipped a bunch of junk from their garden and 12 hours later it was 136 degrees.

I suspect that the culprit is the Uluhe ferns. A relative, the Hapu'u or tree fern is used by gardeners as a substrate to grow orchids on. It can be rainforest wet for years and not break down. Any suggestions on how to get the stuff to rot? I have no qualms about using inorganic fertilizer.


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Road Trip!

  • Posted by pt03 3 Southern Manitoba (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 30, 08 at 8:30

Mark, I'm afraid I can't quite picture what you are saying, perhaps you'd like to provide a round trip ticket for myself and perhaps a few other "experts" to come over there to check it out for ya. I'm thinking there could be a few of us that would be willing to put down our gardening tools to rush to the aid of a fellow composter in dire need. I'd guess maybe 2 weeks oughta be sufficient for the task.

Lloyd


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

Does anyone know where I can buy Sulfate of ammonia, double superphosphate or potassium sulfate in central Florida?


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

The highest concentration nitrogen fertilizer you can buy is urea, 46% nitrogen. Ammonium Nitrate would also be very high but you can't buy it anymore because it could be used the make bombs. Don't use general purpose fertilizer unless you wanted to add potassium and phosphorus, you are wasting your money on unneeded ingredients. I buy 50 pound bags of the pure stuff cheaper than you would pay for general puropose fertilizer at Orange County farm supply. I use urea, ammonium phosphate, potassium nitrate, and zinc sulphate. I can add just what I need for whatever I am doing without building up excess of what I don't need. BTW, in California most people only need nitrogen and zinc, the soil already has enough potassium and phosephorus unless it has been heavily farmed. I can also mix the stuff with water and use it for foliar feeding.
BTW, if you don't add chemical nitrogen to compost having a high wood content you will deprive your plants of nitrogen as the bacteria will rob it from the soil trying to digest the wood.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

The bacteria will rob nitrogen from the soil trying to digest the wood, along the 1 mm* thick soil-compost interface. The rest of your soil will be fine.

*I made this number up, but I bet it's reasonably accurate.


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RE: Sulfate of Ammonia in compost?

You are right if you are only using the compost as a surface mulch. But if you are mixing it with the soil as an amendment a high cellulose content compost will rob nitrogen from the soil unless you add more nitrogen, most easily done using a synthetic form of nitrogen. I had to add huge amounts of nitrogen to the soil around my citrus trees to finally turn them green because I had amended the clay soil with a compost that had a lot of sawdust in it and it sucked all the nitrogen out of the soil.


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