Soil Building

com•post |ˈkämˌpōst|
noun: decayed organic material used as a plant fertilizer.

The real question is how does organic matter decay? If it weren’t for microbiology, a vast world of invisible decomposers we would be living on a pile of rotting meat and vegetation. But we aren’t. Soil organisms consume organic matter and convert it into available nutrients that new plants access for their growth. It is the digestive system of the plant. It is the base layer of the circle of life. Just as blowing on the fire speeds the burning we can encourage a rapid aerobic compost process that tends to promote a more healthy and advanced community of organisms. The addition of these organisms to our soil system moves the general health of our soils to a more advanced state of succession and a mmedium for the plant communities we desire.

Comparing teas made with different amounts of Fish Hydrolysate

In the ongoing quest to explore the relationship between different foods in different amounts added to compost tea, here we have the first round of tests using fish hydrolysate.

Comparing teas made with different amounts of Fish Hydrolysate

More Turf Pro Comparisons

Here’s the latest from the ongoing comparison of compost teas made with different amounts of turf pro.

Comparing teas made with different amounts of Turf Pro

Comparing teas made with different amounts of Turf Pro – 2

OK, I completed another round of brews and testing on the turf pro trial. Now we have 3 brews for each of the different amounts of product, all made under similar conditions, and all using the same compost resource.

Comparing teas made with different amounts of Turf Pro

In looking at the results, I don’t know how to read this other than as inconclusive. Looking at the averages suggests that both no foods and 3 liters of turf pro had a positive effect on total fungi. However, looking at the standard deviation kind of evens everything out. Then looking at individual brew results suggests that each brew is pretty variable even when using the same compost.

So what is the next step? Run more rounds of samples and average all of them out? What does that mean for a grower who will only do one or two applications of tea in a season?

This takes me back to earlier observations that suggest that, as much as anything, it all depends on which scoop of compost you grab from the pile. Maybe playing some Marvin Gaye would get the fungi “in the mood” so to speak…but how would you test that?


New Compost Piles – BLUE, YELLOW, & PINK

We built three new compost piles last week. All three piles share the same ingredient base of wood chips, fresh cut greens, and alfalfa, but each with slightly different proportions and differing additional ingredients. All three have been heating up nicely, and have been turned at least once so far.

New Compost Piles

The BLUE pile was created on 2/4/08. It has the least diversity of materials.

  • 50% aged wood chips
  • 35% fresh greens
  • 15% alfalfa (1/3-1/2 old bale)

The YELLOW pile was created on 2/5/08.

  • 40% aged wood chips
  • 20% fresh greens
  • 15% rice straw (~1/3 bale)
  • 10% aged, dried, brown grass
  • 15% alfalfa (1/3-1/2 old bale)

The PINK pile was created on 2/7/08.

  • 35% aged wood chips
  • 20% fresh greens
  • 20% aged, dried, brown grass
  • 5% aged, shredded cardboard
  • 20% alfalfa (<1/2 new bale)

*Some notes about ingredients: Some of the sections of the wood chip pile

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Comparing teas made with different amounts of Turf Pro

Over the past couple of weeks, I made a series of tea brews using equal amounts of the same compost, and different amounts of Turf Pro Humic Acid. Each brew was replicated and all were tested for totals and activities.

I entered these results and averaged the replications to get an idea of how different amounts of Turf Pro affects the biology of several compost tea brews. Please note that the first tea brews on the sheet were made without any additional foods, then I added 1 liter, 2 liters and 3 liters to the next series of brews.


Comments always welcome…

New Compost Pile – RED

Created a new compost pile on 12/03/07, using similar methods and ingredients as for previous piles. The ID tag for this pile is C-120307-RED. It has been a little slow to heat up, especially after changing its location. Temperatures should hopefully increase after adding more alfalfa on 12/10. Generally I’d say this ended up being a low-nitrogen pile; we may need to add alfalfa consistently the next several times turning.


  • 30% Oak wood chips
  • 25% Willow wood chips – includes leaves and ramial twigs
  • 10% Rice hay – shredded, partially decomposing in pile
  • 10% Dried cut grass – some shredded and some not, also partially decomposing
  • 10% Freshly cut greens – forbs growing around compost pad
  • 10% Garden greens – mostly beet greens, bermuda grass, & purslane
  • 5% Alfalfa – 1/3 bale
  • Amendments – oyster shell, rock dust, coarse dry humics, crab, baby oatmeal

Temperatures for C-120307-RED, first 9 days

RED Pile

Compost Temperatures

I averaged and formatted the compost temperature datasets from 2006 and 2007 to allow graphing. The tables are on the fileshare under the Compost folder and can be easily manipulated to show whatever you wish (different piles, time periods, alfalfa addition, etc). Here are two examples, from 2006 and 2007.


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