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Best Practices With Homemade Compost?

Discussion in 'Organic Soil' started by jkpaw, Oct 11, 2018.

  1. jkpaw


    I've been gradually transitioning to organic over the past three (decent) grows, and I'm finding a goldmine of great soil recipes here -- so that's not my main question. After a year of learning how to keep a big compost pile thriving, I'm ready to put it to use. I plan to be up and running again in about three weeks, so I'm not prepared to go all TLO or anything.

    After several unpleasant episodes with supposedly good bags as base (e.g. FFOF with hot spots -- not to mention the usual suspicions of fungus gnat origins), I'm hoping to rely as much as possible on myself. My pile looks great -- almost usable as is, thanks in part to the addition of my past used soils (mostly perlite, pro-mix, and FF) -- fed with plenty of greens and browns, and I've been mineral-supplementing here and there according to basic home soil testing. I find I can keep it going for months on end at 110-140 F by blending in new yard clippings whenever the temperature dips. Since grass decomposes quickly, I always feel the pile could be cooled and put to use within a few short weeks.

    Every grow so far I've had annoying nonfatal battles with spider mites and fungus gnats, so I'm preconditioned to be wary about bringing in soil from the outside. I keep wondering why I shouldn't pasteurize (or sterilize?) half of my pile, leaving the other half alive to make teas with. But I don't have a clear enough picture of what I'd be left with. My assumption has been that I'd wind up with pretty much what you'd expect from expensive bags -- a basic, pest-free, balanced foundation that can be brought back to life with tea, used as a third of a three-part mix, alongside, say, peat and perlite (with assorted smaller supplements like neam and kelp).

    So what am I missing? And, if this isn't such a dumb strategy, what's the best way to kill my compost? Black plastic in the sun? Sealed trash cans? I guess I'm just not quite brave enough yet to trust a full living ecosystem in my grow room.
  2. were your temp is 140 be the best collection site of pile,the hot temps kill any larvae or bugs,and in my opinion the best soil for indoors,you can also bake your soil if you really want to make sure,but in turn your gonna kill the life there,and will have to rebuild,i choice to make my soil mix and let it sit in a 5 gal bucket on the sidewalk out back,was in there i guess about 2 months,condensation on lid keeps it from going dry but not anarobic,im using my second batch in the tent right now,i aint got the cash to buy bag soil,so it all me if you dig,i havent had any bug problems in last 2 grows using it,i collected in the center and right under the really hot steaming stuff,and right into the bucket for my compost,i also use EM1 on my compost pile,5 months ago my pile was the size of a full size truck,now it will just fill the bed,the EM1 get things done inside were the magic happens,i also try to keep a balance of brown and greens going into pile,all kitchen waste minus meat and bitter tasting things like onions i dont use,the rest goes in,im giving the pile another month and straight into the raised beds it goes for winter crops,but there is just a idea ,if you really dont want bugs,far as plastic goes,i kill weeds that way,first i cover beds with clear plastic,all the weeds will grow there ass off,leave on for a month ,then black plastic laid over all the weeds ,no light then and kills weeds for upcoming planting,couple weeks before you plant,the weeds should be compost by that time,again the EM1,plus my bokashi will work that compost down quick,does this make any sense,all you mention you can do but pros and cons to every thing if you dig
    OldSmokie76, Madmax, Jack og and 5 others like this.
  3. by the way,the EM1 i put in compost piles,works there and when i put compost on beds,the bokashi i make is wheat bran,sugar beet pulp with mollases with EM1,as long as that bran stays moist the microbes get busy,when applied
    1diesel1, OldSmokie76, Madmax and 3 others like this.
  4. jkpaw


    Thanks, you've given me some great things to think about and research. (Such as Em1.) As you mention, I'm finding there's a trade-off to every choice. Maybe I'm overthinking, but this will be my first run with my own compost, so I'm kind of afraid of the unknown. And, as you know, certain mistakes can turn into a real pain in the ass.

    I forgot to mention that I also have pond plants, which I regularly trim into the pile, and sometimes I water with pond-scum water. So I'm feeling pretty optimistic about my potential soil, as long as I gain confidence in a methodology. I appreciate you sharing your experience (and anyone else who has ideas about my situation)!
    oldskol4evr likes this.
  5. you want know till you try,i believe you will surprise yourself,lilly is a great addition by the way,and if the pond has fish in it ,the best for a water table
    Smoking Gun and jkpaw like this.
  6. Good subject! I’m a compost nerd, and have been learning and building compost piles outdoors for 3 years now. I usually have 3 going at any time, and use it on our veggie gardens. When I get my hands on grass clippings from friends (I don’t have much lawn), I can get a hot pile going up around 145deg, but 95% of the time I’m running cold-compost piles.

    BUT... I’ve been afraid to bring it inside and use with my cannabis recently. I did so, back in the beginning a few years ago, and brought spider mites & aphids in. Took a lot of work to get rid of them.

    @oldskol4evr ... sounds like you are basically pastureizing your compost for 2 months before bringing it inside. So you put a SEALED bucket out in the sun, on concrete, for 2 months (warm months I’m guessing), then bring it inside for use? I like the idea, just wanna make sure I’m understanding.

    @jkpaw sounds like you are doing everything right as far as managing your compost goes though! I wish I had a regular supply of grass clippings. One thing to consider is an indoor compost pile, in a garage or basement. I recycle my soil in a large Tupperware bin in my garage. I re-amend it heavily, add cannabis plant refuse, and the temp will jump to about 110deg. After a few weeks it’s reusable. (Btw, this is following the The Revs methods. True Living Organics 2.2)

    But I bet you could buy a compost tumbler, and put in a garage or basement over a tarp, and try to keep things a little more bug free. Bringing in a good dose of grass clippings and spiking the temp to 140+ would probably pastuerize. Or, only use veggie scraps and indoor plant clippings with some clean-ish browns to prevent bugs? Just a thought. Also, indoor vermicomposting would be a good idea!

    I’m jealous of your pond water too, haha.
  7. correct,i get a couple 5 gal buckets from pile,put lids on it and just sit them on the sidewalk behind the house here,every couple weeks i pop the top to make sure the condensation hasnt been over whelming and shove the hand in there for a little stir,put lid back on and it there when ever i get a wild hair to grow more or send the used out to the compost pile ,i use the EM1 because it breaks the pile down quick and the effective microorganism are in a real happy place,i do stir my pile when first introducing the microbe herd,every 3 days for first 2 weeks and then about once a month,i also have a little resale shop near me ,they have chickens and cows,he is more than happy when i come by to get his shit,hahahh his wife tells me enjoy my shit lmao,i do that is custom magic for my piles,i got 1 pile right now,i go threw the whole year and seasons have me starting new piles,kinda a perpetual composting saga hahah,im always filling my raised beds with fresh food and the EM1 goes to work and stays that way from using the bokashi when i add the fresh compost,reason for all this is i have been building my soil for 6 months now,ive had so many issues last 2 years,i just started over,first step is the soil layer test,i like to keep my sand and silt pretty even ,my clay i go half of what the other layers are,when layering is done and all good,time for NPK and PH test,i like to run my raised beds at a 6.0 ph,gives me more options for rotating beds,every veggie i grow are all in same range of ideal ph requirments,also leaves me just doing a little reamend here and there,my amends are mainly,blood meal,bone meal,fish bone meal,alfalfa,and i use crushed granite for minerals,cant use rock dust if you use bone meal ,they collide and cause you 2 years of wtf,hahah,i use wood ash for balance of ph too,not wild about lime,wood ash will leach out quickly were lime doesnt,lime holds at 7.0 no matter what you do lol,but ya thats how i do it,but honestly,just buying a SOLICE test for soil and compost is the best and scientific way to do it right,im on a weekly budget which runs out first day if you dig,lmao the kit comes with 5 or 6 test for each but i just cant come up with 150 bucks to buy it,im cheap bastard,also forgot,with the wood ash i also take my char and bucket it and guess,yep soak in EM1 for couple weeks to charge it and to the beds it goes,all i got left is a 10 x20 corn bed left to do and i be done,lots of N and P is my goal,summers here last 9 months,and watering is a big factor for produce,with layers even no need for much water if you dig,anyway i could go on forever,but thats the way this old gizzer does it,i feed family of 6 out of my garden and feed 1 with the tent produce,my meds hahahah,ya
    jkpaw and OldSmokie76 like this.
  8. That’s a treasure trove of good info! Thank you.

    I get really in to my composting too. Once you get a “feel” for it, it’s fun to see how fast you can get it to go. I’m definitely going to look in to the EM1 and Bomashi more. I know about them, just haven’t used. Although I just always keep some dirt from a finished compost pile, and add to a fresh pile, to kick it off.
    OldSmokie76 and oldskol4evr like this.
  9. the bokashi is made with the EM1,i get 50 lb sack of wheat bran at feed store 14 bucks,sugar beet pulp 14 bucks,EM1 mother culture is 35 ,buying the em1 mother culture you have to activate,easy,the reg activated em1 is open and use,the mother culture you ferment and get 20 times of what the reg bottle is,easy as hell depending on how much you use just put in a sealed container,with srew on lid ,like a paint bucket,i ferment all my shit in them ,hahahah got 1/4 in air hose going to a coke bottle ,feed tube to 1/2 off bottom of the coke bottle,fill with water about half way,when you put the culture in the 5 gal bucket with the mollases after 5 days i open if it just starting to get a few white spots on top it ready,fill how ever many containers you can for what you made,just no air for minimum of 5 days,it hot as hell were im at,up north i wouldnt open until 7 days,take in consideration adding the mollase,i make enough just to fill the reg bottle it came in so to keep fresh ,stuff stays good up to a year,white stuff floating isnt a bad thing here,i use that same bucket or buckets to ferment ,comfrey,stinging nettle,fresh tips from veggie plants,like brocille high source of calcium for you and the plant,ive done sweet potato,sweet potato and tamato,comfrey and stinging nettle mixed in all,sky the limit,bright side is the plant you clip at soil level the rest of a harvested plant is compost after it been chopped and fermented,make your own,feeds for your plants,all life is a cycle
    Smoking Gun, jkpaw and OldSmokie76 like this.
  10. jkpaw


    Amazing how much experience and knowledge there is around here!

    I haven't splurged on expensive soil testing either, but I picked up this tester (cheap) just to give me a general idea of how I was doing with the major ingredients. Early in the summer it told me I was deficient in K, so I did a few supplementations (directly to the pile) with sul-po-mag. Maybe this makes my compost non-organic, but, as I said, I'm trying to ease gradually into this lifestyle. I've also added sulfur a couple of times because the soil around here has a lot of calcium. Plus I regularly sprinkle in kelp, just because I figure it can't hurt, and maybe helps warm the pile.

    After hearing Perception's experience with spider mites, I think I'll do my best to kill the compost before bringing it indoors -- at least for this upcoming season. It'll be interesting to see how it behaves, both structurally and nutritionally. You guys remind me that years ago I had an inside worm bin just for fun, but I've never tried an anaerobic route (at least not intentionally). Since I have such a long hot season, and such good access to diverse greens and browns, my main goal is to incorporate this big warm outdoor pile into my indoor grows, to whatever extent possible. Instead of suddenly doing something drastically different I suspect I should keep building on knowledge from my first three grows, each of which was better than the previous one. Basically, this means substituting my own compost for FFOF as 1/3 of my primary mix.

    With that in mind, here are some of the questions I'm still mulling during these last few weeks leading up to planting (just in case anyone cares to offer any more advice):

    Since my tap water is naturally very alkaline -- like 9.0 -- I always first adjusted the water (and/or nutes) down to the low sixes with Botanicare's phosphoric acid (0-15-0). I shied away from organic adjustments because I read they aren't stable enough. Sometimes I've wondered if my constant fighting with pH was adding more stress than any good it was doing. If my soil is good enough, could I count on it to buffer the pH adequately, or is that dumb when the water levels are so high? (I'm not ready for an RO filter, but I did get a nice cartridge filter recently, which takes out chloramine, etc, but leaves the pH high.)

    From another thread here I'm thinking maybe container size affects buffering ability. I've been growing nice medicine in 5-gallon fabric pots (or slightly smaller), but I've been struggling a bit with a sense that they stall out a little toward the end of flowering (regardless of how and what I feed them). Yields and quality have been nothing to be ashamed of, but this site makes me wonder if the stall-out issue might be related to pot size. Hard to say, since the post-harvest root system has always looked robust, but not nearly to the point of overloading the pots. Anyway, maybe I should try larger pots for both reasons? As an old man, smaller pots are a lot easier to manage, so I don't want to go bigger just for the hell of it.

    And, of course, I'm still wondering how to ensure I've adequately killed the compost before I add it to my mix. I can't imagine baking it in the oven, since it'll be a lot more than a tray or two. So I've been vacillating between trying some sort of thin-spread-under-plastic-in-hot-sun technique, or a sealing-in-trashcan method. The compost smells and feels perfect as is, so I'm not sure it would be wise to introduce anaerobic bacteria intentionally. But the pile is not so big that I could confidently just extract from the hottest center... So much to learn.
  11. if your water ph is that high,i suggest,bubbling it,bubble for about 4 or 5 hours,drop ph down with lemon to around 5.8 to 6.0,then bubble again for 4 or 5 hours,check ph and adjust to 6.5 for soil after you add your feeds,if you dont want to bake the soil,wait till you have a frezze and spread it out on a tarp about 1/2 thick and frezze them varmit to death,living in the city i did just that,i would cook my soil till first frezze leave it spread out till temp starts to rise to about 40 and put that stuff in a closed bucket with lid,and done,when you ready to start a new grow you already got the soil cooked and critter dead,the cold will also kill the larvae if you dig.
    my water from tap in the city was 7.8,as desribed that is what i done,i have a 55 gal drum,that when i get my water ready i stored it there,i used asorbic acid[vit c] to rid of clorimine ,the bubbling raise the ph even more but gets all clorine out,that why the break in between was mentioned,before i put the water in my drum i ph it down with lemon juice,just a tip ,been there sucks,i remoldel houses while i live in them,so ro filter and setup was also out of the question for me,a lot to grab on here,easiest way is buy you a couple 5 gal water bottles at your local grocery and just use the osmos machine out front of store,5 gal cost 1.75 ya it adds up,but the headache is worth the cost,like i said been there and it sucks,outdoors the volume of soil you plant in will adjust to buffer that offset in ph,in containers almost impossible
    jkpaw likes this.
  12. jkpaw


    Okay, that's a nice big question answered. I'd been kind of hoping good soil might buffer pH adequately, but I guess I better not mess around with these acid-loving plants. Thanks for the ideas -- maybe I'll get some sort of drum running like you.

    Freezing the soil's a new idea to me. Only problem is I'd be waiting a long time for a freeze around here. Maybe come January.