Report for Production of Compost, Compost Tea, and Native Grasses at SMI 2010-11


Three batches of compost were made using the recipe in the SMI compost manual. These batches were made in October 2010, March 2011, and April 2011. The first batch was made of shredded material while the other two batches were not. We found there was no difference in the process between these two preparations. It is much less work not to shred the material.

The turning procedures were strictly followed and the compost was of high quality. The level of proper moisture was a bit of a learning curve but the crew is comfortable with it now. The compost was then rotated to covered crates and worms then transformed the compost further.

From each batch of compost we were able to get 35 totes of finished material. Each tote is filled to the mid-rib line. Each tote produces 500 gallons compost tea. So for each batch: 35 x 500gals= 17500 gallons.

*Azolla Compost

Two batches of compost were made using an Azolla sp. of water fern. The fern was skimmed from the pond near the bunkhouse and placed near the wood chip piles. The first batch was a mixture of Azolla, alfalfa, wood chips, and straw*. The second batch was 50% Azolla and 50% wood chips with two cups molasses. They both reached 130ºF allbeit somewhat slowly and the compost has a fine consistency. I have not had a chance to view it under the microscope.

Compost Tea

Production of compost tea has occurred on a regular weekly basis in 2010. Each week 500 gallons was made and applied. For 2010 48 weeks of compost tea @ 500/ week is 24,000 gallons.

Native Grasses

The planting of native grass plugs started in June 2009 and continued through May 2011.

June 2009

Grasses were planted for a demonstration garden on the flats near the gate. These grasses needed to be watered during the first summer of their lives. Upon inspection the following spring, only the purple needle grass and the blue wild rye survived and a significant number of purple needle grass made it. This led me to believe purple needle grass was the heartiest of the bunch. Species and numbers planted are as follows:

  • Purple needle Grass
  • California Wild Rye
  • Foothill Needle Grass
  • California Barley
  • Idaho Fescue

December 2009

The first major planting occurred on Maude Hill. Maude Hill is the slope directly behind the bunkhouse. I don’t have precise numbers but they are as follows:

  • 6000 Purple needle Grass
  • 4000 Blue wild rye
  • 4000 Foothill needle grass

The Purple Needle Grass had the highest percentage of survivability. Most of the plants did well in areas where annuals were small.
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April 2010

6000 Purple needle Grass plugs were planted in an area we call Red Tail Ridge. This area is approx. 400 yards from the arena on the right hand side on the road to the main house. The annuals were fairly small here and it rained a considerable amount in May. The survivability here was also quite high.
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January 2011

This planting was to occur in December but did not happen until late in the month. We used collected and purchased grass seed for this sowing. The plants were quite aged and difficult to get out of the containers. 7000 plugs from collected seed and 7000 plugs from purchased seed. They were planted on the left side of the road to the cedar house just past the gate. The annuals were pretty tall here and survivability seems low here.

May 2011

This planting was delayed due to cool, rainy weather. However, we did receive a great deal of rain after the planting. Sowed species and numbers are as follows:

  • 8200 Purple Needle Grass
  • 1600 California Barley
  • 3000 California Brome

4000 Purple Needle Grass and 2600 California Brome were planted at the site where the yellow house was. These plants will need to be watered periodically throughout the summer.

4200 Purple Needle Grass and 400 California Brome were planted downhill from the Cedar house in the mowed area. It will be interesting to see how these grasses will do, planted in a recently mowed area.
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The 1600 California Barley Grass plugs were planted in the swale on the north side of the road downhill from the back of the cedar house. We planted these in tall grasses and will only know the success when we see the seed heads form next season.
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Some notes about grass propagation

For a December planting sow grasses on the previous mid-August. For early April planting sow the previous late December (after the December planting).

Protect all new sowings from birds and rodents. Hardware cloth cages work well.

Do germination tests to determine acceptable rate of sowing.

Collect as much native seed as possible.

Make sure irrigation system works well. Overwatering will cause plants to be weak.

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