Category Archives: Composting

Podcast #26 Minding Your Manure

The Show

The manure problems—pollution and contamination—that I reviewed in my last post occupy the first part of this podcast, and if that were all we covered, you too might be inclined to crawl under your desk and stay there.

A quick recap: Rather to the surprise of many an organic gardener, even organic manures can cause problems: phosphorus can contaminate surface water, while nitrogen can leak into ground water and can also form nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas almost 300 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. Continue reading

Podcast #19 – The Way It Works: Compost Science

The show

I remember two things in particular about the first time a friend showed me a book on composting: first of all, I was dumbfounded that anyone could find enough to say on the topic to fill a book; and secondly, I had no temptation to read it.

How things change. I’ve now read several books and probably hundreds of articles on composting, and I find the topic endlessly engrossing. So much so that I’ve added my own book-length article to the stack. (Check out the green table of contents on the left at Composter Connection. Yeah, the one that kinda goes on and on.)

The thing is, once you do get interested in compost and actually try to learn about it in any detail, you realize how inadequate most web resources are. Continue reading

Fall work in spring: Let the earthworms do it!

I'm not sure where I first heard that line about letting the earthworms do your digging for you, but I'm putting it to the test this year. It's part of my effort to get away from digging in amendments every year, which is hard on the worms (they have permanent tunnels) and can even be hard on soil structure. Besides, it's too much damn work!

This year, I've got another excuse: no time. My shoulder injury last autumn meant that I barely managed to finish the harvest. As for cleaning up plots, laying down compost, prepping new plots—forget it. None of that happened.

Which means that all of that was left for spring. Which, as most of you know, has its own task list.

Now, some people faced with a particularly steep challenge will leap into action.

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Large-scale Bokashi??!?

Food bank
Bokashi bins outside Great Falls food bank. Photo by Mary Jane Arendes.

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I'd never heard of largescale Bokashi composting until Sunday afternoon at the Best of Bioneers festival here in Bozeman.

Several years back, Michael Dalton and Mary Jane Ahrendes hadn't heard of it either, but that didn't stop them. Inspired by another Bioneers conference several years ago, they founded an organization, Gardens from Garbage, and started setting up composting systems around their city of Great Falls. Bokashi composting systems.

Bokashi is an anaerobic (oxygen-free) composting method (as to opposed to the back-yard aerobic heap methods most of us are familiar with) which uses special microbes to essentially pickle waste into compost. Most often used for household garbage, the method requires nothing more than an airtight container and some starter microbes, usually in the form of treated wheat bran, which gets sprinkled over each layer of garbage until the vessel is full.

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Holy smokes!

Steaming compost

Actually, it's steam, and what's steaming is the compost pile I wrote about yesterday. Now, I've often seen steam when I've dug into a compost heap, but I've never seen an undisturbed pile steaming away like a small volcano.

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