One Person, Garden Compost

digitS'

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I was watching a travel show that emphasizes restaurants and cooking with local ingredients. The host visited an organic farm. I don't believe that they said how large it was but there was was an aerial view and it looked to me that it was about 5 acres.

The farmer said that they brought in between $50,000 and $70,000 worth of compost each year to fertilize the soil :oops: !!! Good Goobly Goop! Well, maybe they could afford that ...

Home Gardening. It would likely take some additional soil amendments in the first year or so. How many square feet of garden could one person keep fertile simply with his or her kitchen scraps?

I imagine that this two person household consumes more fruit and vegetables than the average American couple. I don't collect lawn clippings for the compost but some tree leaves and ornamentals from the yard are composted. I applied my compost to the front lawn once, about 20 years ago and thought "what am I doing? This stuff is much too valuable to use on grass!" Ornamental beds receive conventional fertilizer.

Because of the climate, gardening here is fairly short-term/limited production meaning that not a lot of nutrients are pulled out of the soil through each year. Frozen in place ...

My 3, 5-gallon buckets of kitchen scraps are also frozen in place. Soon, there will be 4 buckets! It's unfortunate in that way that my "stealth compost pits" aren't larger but I've also used the three garden beds, an 18' by 20' garden, for both compost placement and kitchen scraps. My approach is to try to limit that to every two years but I actually do a little better because there is "excess" compost. Imagine me making that claim! How is there excess compost ever? Well, darned if I'm putting it on the lawn grass and I sure ain't gonna haul it out to the distant garden more than a dozen miles away. It's for the fertility of those 360 square feet.

Two people and 360 square feet ???? Subtract the frost-killed flowers and tree leaves - what is that? Easily 1 person's kitchen scraps/100 square feet?

Steve
 

flowerbug

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I was watching a travel show that emphasizes restaurants and cooking with local ingredients. The host visited an organic farm. I don't believe that they said how large it was but there was was an aerial view and it looked to me that it was about 5 acres.

The farmer said that they brought in between $50,000 and $70,000 worth of compost each year to fertilize the soil :oops: !!! Good Goobly Goop! Well, maybe they could afford that ...

Home Gardening. It would likely take some additional soil amendments in the first year or so. How many square feet of garden could one person keep fertile simply with his or her kitchen scraps?

depends a lot upon the basic soil type, carrying capacity and moisture to begin with. i'd say 1500 - 3000 square feet depending upon what they did with cover crops, fallowing and rotations. more if you were willing to scrounge organic materials and road kill. using green manures that you can chop and drop or cut and use from edge areas or tree lines could add quite a bit of added nutrients.

some people manage to grow a lot of crops in tiny spaces, but i'm more of a one or two crop per season per garden and some of the crops may be for bee and other insect food or habitat.

if you weren't too paranoid about humanure composting you could go a quarter acre per person i think. manage your nutrient flows and the gardens should keep improving. even with what limited things i can do here the gardens do keep improving each year and that is without much in the way of cover crops or humanure composting and limited scrounging of roadkill or other organic materials.


I imagine that this two person household consumes more fruit and vegetables than the average American couple. I don't collect lawn clippings for the compost but some tree leaves and ornamentals from the yard are composted. I applied my compost to the front lawn once, about 20 years ago and thought "what am I doing? This stuff is much too valuable to use on grass!"

for sure!


Ornamental beds receive conventional fertilizer.

Because of the climate, gardening here is fairly short-term/limited production meaning that not a lot of nutrients are pulled out of the soil through each year. Frozen in place ...

yes, that is part of a fallow period here too. in the warmer climates it is harder to keep soil organic levels up.


My 3, 5-gallon buckets of kitchen scraps are also frozen in place. Soon, there will be 4 buckets! It's unfortunate in that way that my "stealth compost pits" aren't larger but I've also used the three garden beds, an 18' by 20' garden, for both compost placement and kitchen scraps. My approach is to try to limit that to every two years but I actually do a little better because there is "excess" compost. Imagine me making that claim! How is there excess compost ever? Well, darned if I'm putting it on the lawn grass and I sure ain't gonna haul it out to the distant garden more than a dozen miles away. It's for the fertility of those 360 square feet.

you need a bigger garden closer. :)


Two people and 360 square feet ???? Subtract the frost-killed flowers and tree leaves - what is that? Easily 1 person's kitchen scraps/100 square feet?

much more than that IMO but i rotate plant and don't do intensive multi-cropping in each space. we have a lot of room so i have to use whatever compost i generate wisely - which means it only goes under the heaviest feeding plants and then i rotate plant through for a few years before i can add some compost back to that garden again.

given free comost it's great when that happens here. not very often i've managed to have that happen. more often some years i get bark scraps or other wood making debris that i can use and that's well appreciated. wormies love it.
 

digitS'

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Well, I was hoping that you would express an IMO, @flowerbug .

Keep in mind that I'm talking about just kitchen scraps. Lots is left in our big veggie garden for the tractor guy. I don't buy expensive (really expensive!) worm castings or anything like that and there have been few, mostly futile, attempts at cover crops/green manure. I'm very willing to be a selective snob about what comes home with such an oversized garden; more food left for the soil organisms!

At home, we have buildings taking up too much space on 50 x 150 lot. The flower beds are small. And, I seriously appreciate green grass and shady places to sit.

You are a champion for utilizing margins, worm composting, and composting-in-place, FlowerBug. Good for you. BTW, if that farm was your model, and with no other inputs, a quarter acre would require about $2000 worth of purchased compost each year!

Steve :D
 

flowerbug

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lol about IMO. :)

for any farm if you are exporting a lot of things eventually you will have to bring something back. if you can work with the places you sell to for returning food scraps from their processing that can make up for a large percentage of trace nutrients.

one thing i appreciated about Joel Salatin's methods for when he was describing his farm was that he was willing and able to buy nutrient sources if they became available and he had a price where he knew what basic carbon sources were worth. so when someone called him up asking if he'd take some spoiling sweet potatoes or whatever he could usually justify that price or lower just because he knew what his fields could use and what it would cost him in terms of time to recondition the soil. etc.

he did have to bring in feed for his chickens, pigs but his cows were fed grass/hay for the most part.

i haven't checked on him recently to see what he's been up to. i think he ended up making more $ on the lecture circuit than from the farm. not a bad gig if you like to talk to crowds. his son probably does more now to run his farm than he does.

$2,000 is a lot of $ for what we grow here. once in a while i have purchased wood chips but those are sometimes also available for free. of course i prefer free if i can get them. often the free ones have more green stuff in there which is better for garden use if i can get them put into the dirt before they ferment. for topping off perennial gardens Mom likes the plain wood chips that don't have any bark included in them.
 

Dirtmechanic

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Lets engineer it:

Assume target of 10% organic matter, which is high. Subtract existing om so - 2% to 5% existing already. Net need at least 5% more organic matter. What does that mean?

Well topsoil weighs roughly 40 pound per cubic foot. We can impact the top 6 inches of soil so every 2 square feet we need roughly 2 pounds of compost. Thats 1 lb compost per square foot or 20 lbs of soil. By volume the compost weighs half of what soil does roughly. So 2.25 inches per foot if the compost weighs 20 lbs per cubic foot. Sound familiar?

Pro Tip: People may not understand when they find you weighing the garbage.
 
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digitS'

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John Jeavons, who wrote Growing More Vegetables said that you should grow 60% of your garden crops: For Compost. That's probably about right for a "larger" garden. I just have not been willing to do that, lazy creature that I am!

Jeavons also said that using his method, a gardener could grow 12 months of food for 1 adult on 4,000 sqft. With compost, garden soil could be "grown" at 20# of soil/1# of food. I think Jeavons also had some percentages if the gardener wasn't interested in all the square feet needed for a typical diet including grain crops. Lots of digging for Jeavon's method but ...

:) Steve

Oh, I found some of that, "John Jeavons, says you’ll need about 200 sq.ft. per person to grow enough vegetables and soft fruits for the growing season at intermediate yields." link
 

canesisters

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Hey Guys!! Long time no see :)

I've recently been able to get back to paying a little attention to my yard and am - once again - trying to start gardening. This post is very interesting as I'm trying to maximize my compost out-put from what is available around my place.
I have:
VERY LARGE amounts of cow manure already mixed roughly 1/2 & 1/2 with spoiled hay - can make a 5' high pile every 3 months or so
Small amounts of chicken manure mixed with straw/wood shavings - 2 wheel barrows full a year
Quite a good amount of mowed/mulched mostly oak leaves & pine tags - if I am super careful about emptying the bagger every pass, maybe a pile equal in volume (NOT weight) to the cow manure
Very small amount of kitchen scraps - since starting to eat keto - not a lot of veg scraps - those mostly go to the chickens to supplement their pellets

The cow manure is the heaviest and the largest amount - so the most difficult to move.
I'm trying to figure out how to construct some sort of bins close enough to the hay feeder that I can clean directly into it/them. Moving the leaves and other veg to them wouldn't be a problem.. but keeping Eva from sorting through to see if there's anything she wants to re-recycle first might be...

With that mixture.. and of course with it all being estimates :confused: ... do you think I'd end up with useable compost by next Fall??
 

flowerbug

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Hey Guys!! Long time no see :)

I've recently been able to get back to paying a little attention to my yard and am - once again - trying to start gardening. This post is very interesting as I'm trying to maximize my compost out-put from what is available around my place.
I have:
VERY LARGE amounts of cow manure already mixed roughly 1/2 & 1/2 with spoiled hay - can make a 5' high pile every 3 months or so
Small amounts of chicken manure mixed with straw/wood shavings - 2 wheel barrows full a year
Quite a good amount of mowed/mulched mostly oak leaves & pine tags - if I am super careful about emptying the bagger every pass, maybe a pile equal in volume (NOT weight) to the cow manure
Very small amount of kitchen scraps - since starting to eat keto - not a lot of veg scraps - those mostly go to the chickens to supplement their pellets

The cow manure is the heaviest and the largest amount - so the most difficult to move.
I'm trying to figure out how to construct some sort of bins close enough to the hay feeder that I can clean directly into it/them. Moving the leaves and other veg to them wouldn't be a problem.. but keeping Eva from sorting through to see if there's anything she wants to re-recycle first might be...

With that mixture.. and of course with it all being estimates :confused: ... do you think I'd end up with useable compost by next Fall??

you want your carbon parts to be in the range of 25 - 40 to 1 part nitrogen so depending upon how much of your materials are the nitrogen components and how much bedding or woody parts you have in there would give you the amount of added carbon materials to make a compost pile. you'll have to guesstimate but there is some leeway in the numbers (25-40 parts) and the only difference if you get it wrong is that the pile either goes faster or slower if you get it wrong completely you'll know it (ammonia smell (too much N) or no heat generated at all (too much C, not enough air or not enough moisture)).

how you would mix this and manage it is up to you. some people want the pile to cook so that it destroys weed seeds and pathogens and so there is a minimum size needed for that to be possible. i don't ever have that many materials of the right kinds here to even try do that so i don't even know that size but it is probably a few cubic yards at the least. also it has to be moist enough, but you don't want it to be too wet. if you can grab a handfull of material and make a ball out of it and it doesn't drip that is good. if you can wring water out of it then you don't need to add any more water. when you pile the stuff up the extra water will drain away and you don't want to put this pile near a stream or river where that extra water can run into it.

layer or mixing the materials will both work. some people will mix and screen stuff so there aren't any big chunks in the pile. i've never done that myself. i just layered stuff and piled it up and made sure it was moist enough. it cooked, i turned it (putting the outer layer inside) to make sure it all got hot enough and then it was done enough - whatever was left as chunks on the outside i just put on the next pile to go through again the next round on another pile.

learning by doing, but also there are plenty of videos on youtube about this so you should be ok once you get going. :)
 

Marie2020

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Slightly off topic.

We have a lot of clay around here and the rain has turned my garden into a slippery slope.
So I've started throwing the hard wood chips out of the chickens run onto this mud under the outdoor chicken shelter and life's a lot easier for me and my chickens. This is the best thing I've come across. No more slipping and sliding everywhere.
 

Marie2020

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@flowerbug
I'm going to start putting a bit of my chickens poop into my compost bin.
I've already added vegetables and leaves.

What do you think?
 
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