Composting Directly in Garden Over Winter

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by Sassy, Jun 21, 2006.

  1. Sassy

    Sassy Member

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    Hi – I heard this crazy idea that we can compost over the winter directly in our garden plots! Is this possible in the Vancouver, BC area? I started a new vegetable garden plot this spring and I’m trying to think how I can improve the soil – the cheep and organic way.

    After this year’s crop is over and done with in the fall, I was thinking of digging a number of holes in the plot and fill them with dried leaves and some kitchen scraps and then cover the mound with the old original soil. If I do this in late fall, early winter (November/December) will the pile be warm enough to create finished compost by spring (March/April) ready for new plantings? Will I need to cover the plot with plastic to keep in the heat in or is our climate mild enough that just covering it with soil will do? And how deep and thick should the composting material be? I assume I won’t need to turn the pile, because I expect the resident worms to do their share.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Raakel

    Raakel Active Member

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    Hello,

    I have heard of this method of composting. Certainly you can add leaves directly to your garden, however they will not break down in a single season. The same goes for your kitchen scraps. In general a compost pile 1 meter by 1 meter is recommended in order for the compost pile to generate some heat (along with a proper ratios of carbon to nitrogen and adequate moisture levels). If you were to add the compost during the winter and start to plant in the spring, I am certain that you would be digging up remnants of kitchen scraps and leaves. You can create your compost holes in areas where you do not plan to plant at all, perhaps in the vicinity of a shrub or established perennial planting. Avoid adding materials such as sawdust or wood chips. They need nitrogen to break down and will rob the surrounding plants of this important nutrient. Be sure not to damage the roots where you dig. You can also use this method of soil preparation if you are planning to plant two seasons after the kitchen scraps and leaves are added.

    Raakel
     
  3. groovyjoker

    groovyjoker Member

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    Hi Sassy,

    I have been doing it this way for years. Every year, when the vegies are done and the flowers have died back, I trim stuff back. Then I lay a mix of compost and leaves over the vegie garden, covered by plastic. I poke holes for water seepage. It stays there until Spring, when I till it under. For the flower gardens, I just lay compost ontop of the soil and work it in when spring comes. It keeps the soil warm during winter.

    I use all my compost this way (2 bins) and during fall/winter, I fill my supply back up, ready for planting during spring and summer.

    I agree about not using wood or woodchips - nitrogen suckers - although I do add pine needles to my red worm compost bin because my worms love them.
     
  4. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    I prepared two melon beds this way this season: dug two long trenches in the fall, placed all kitchen scraps directly into the hole, a layer of soil, and so on...by the late spring (melon planting), there were no scraps left, just rich looking compost: in a single season. It seems the worms make very short work of the material. The melons are doing well. I can imagine a couple of drawbacks to this method....in an urban/suburban area, the scraps might attract vermin, and the addition of wastes from alliums might provide an environment for disease(s) that would preclude the growth of other alliums...
     
  5. ImaTucker

    ImaTucker Member

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    This method works very good in the south, too. Even during the summer when I prepare vegetables, I take the scraps from the preparation and 'bury' them directly in the ground wherever needed in the garden.

    I also dry my egg shells and coffee grounds and add them directly to my roses and strawberries. Banana peels are also good for roses.

    I much prefer organic growing to chemicals.
     
  6. Ralph Walton

    Ralph Walton Active Member 10 Years

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    One of the effects/purposes of the heat in conventional composting is to cook any or at least some of the seeds that inevitably end up in these mixes. Squash scrapings come to mind. If you don't mind volunteers that should present no problem.

    Ralph
     
  7. trh

    trh Member

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    Evening.. these are all great ideals.. but the one thing i did notice was nothing was said about meat scrapes... DO NOT PUT MEAT SCRAPES IN YOUR COMPOST PILES!! Tom...
     
  8. cowboy

    cowboy Active Member

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    Tom,

    Your intentions with your warning is well meaning but it is just an admonishment that is oft heard in composting talks and writings. I don't know if you speak from any personal experience.

    The addition of small amounts of meat and fat from table scapes in home composting is not a problem. I have been doing it for years and without odour or an increase in pests. A well designed compost bin will keep out all pests but mice and bears.

    I am involved with a composting project at a local elemetary school. Leftover lunch material will be composted. This of course involves sandwiches with meat products. It has been an uphill battle to convince people that small amounts of meat can safely be composted. I feel that this is due to people like yourself that repeat what you have heard. Say it often enough and people will believe it's true.

    On a much larger scale, we can look at the disposal of road kill and slaughter house wastes. This is a mounting issue because of increased road traffic and decreased rendering of slaughter house waste due to BSE and specific risk material. My son-in-law has a small abbatoir and composting is an inexpensive and effective method to deal with this material. For further reading please see -

    http://compost.css.cornell.edu/naturalrenderingFS.pdf
     
  9. Karalyn

    Karalyn Active Member

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    Cowboy,
    I really enjoyed your link to the Cornell Universities studies. I particularly liked the cartoon drawings. Some were actually funny and others I was a bit skimish, but with a smile and a bit sadness as well.

    As I can see my own dog, a Sheltie Collie digging up a cow and bringing the bones home and the diahrea, as my Sheltie has dug out from a trash can a turkey carcuss and ate quite a lot of it, it was frozen, and then proceeded to have his Rocky Mountain Trots in my Ford Club Wagon van! Oh, it was awful and he was being so good to choose the floor. My dog likes to go with me everywhere and will wait for me while go into a store, etc. Then we go for walks later.

    My husband put the van's front wheels on ramps and took the benches out and since we own several Hotsy or Viking powerful steam cleaners to clean grease off of the vents and fans on the roof tops, from beef being BBQ's or grilled in a restaurant, he degreased and deordoured the van's carpet and benches with our powerful cleaners.

    I had done my best to clean up what I could by hand. But I think my husband's way was the BEST! LOL Plus I had surgery so using any abdominal muscles were a pain.

    Also, we have buried our cats and pet hamster in the ground. And I never see any glimpse of them until I find a small bone and sometimes not even then.

    I have seen some of my large koi fish already gone in about a day or two after they have jumped out of the pond or died and I dumped them near a garden area before I could bury them. The maggots have pretty much taken care of them.

    When you think about it, what do dogs do if they were given some porkchops with some meat left on them. They bury it. I rarely see even the bones from them.

    I do like the reasoning of the coyotes and dumping off dead cows or sheep into the forest and wonder why do these coyotes keep coming back for more live cows.
    As we aren't too happy to have the wolves in upper Idaho.

    My husband was raised on a Dairy Farm and processing plant and I wonder now what did they do with their dead cows, chickens, etc. I know that if a cow got out from the Uncles house and was hit by a car, they called the mobile butcher. But never thought anything of it.

    Also, I recall while growing up in the bay area and went to a horse riding business, riding on trails that had bad smell and then to discover there were dead horse carcusses nearby and not buried very well at all. I wonder if my horse was suppose to go that way. Heehee.

    Now I'm disappointed that while I visited my sister whom lived near Binghamton, NY I didn't get to see the whale bones. But at the time I wasn't into much composting via learning through the internet.

    Great Article!
     

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