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Composting: The good and bad?

By ERIK LARSEN Published: May 10, 2017 12:00 AM

One of the last classes that I had when I took the Master Gardener classes was conducted by Harvey Burkholder of Shiloh.

The compost business he owns is called Incred-a-soil. This man knows how to do composting correctly.

There are many companies that know how to compost in the area. But I haven't come across very many that go the extra step and grow beneficial microbes in their compost with an intensity and skill that Burkholder pursues in his compost.

Seriously, this is not as easy as it sounds to get the level of activity that you really want in a great compost or black gold. One of pastors asked me if I was ready to help him to get his compost pile started this year, so here is a good start pastor.

Should everything be composted was the question that was brought up and addressed during the meeting.

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The answer was not really as complicated as it initially sounded. Compost done correctly will be something that you can easily determine. If you smell the compost that has been processed and done the proper way, you will not be able to tell what the material was originally either with any smell and probably not be able to see what it was either.

The smell will give it away if you can smell what it was then it wasn't processed properly. I have seen that situation come up in composts that claim to have been done. A well done turned compost material will be black gold and not spreading diseases to other plants, which is the real issue.

Many diseases overwinter in leaf litter, which means that you have to kill these problems so that you don't infect your plants next year with a new batch of the disease.

The simplicity and complexity of the answer to this dilemma is that most of these diseases die off when a compost pile reaches 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

What I also find exciting is that you are killing fungi, insect eggs, nematodes, bacteria, weed seed and more.

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For me if you do it right, you should not have any problems composting about anything, but that is also the problem.

Burkholder has all of this down to a science. Sounded like the recipe and format for doing things has been tested and tried and the results were amazing.

Please, when you read his steps, you can take the information and adjust this all as to how you could make your own black gold. Start out by making something like lasagna.

You need to layer material that will provide a mix of 45:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio.

The basic materials you could use are a variety of manures, which raises the temperature, as it decays leaves, non-animal kitchen scraps, black and white news print, wood chips, corn fodder and a number of other materials. Air has to have a chance to circulate in the lasagna mix of the compost pile.

This means that four to six times every day for the first two weeks you are going to turn the mix.

Temperatures achieved by the decomposition should reach between 130 degrees and up to 150 degrees.

Decomposition should take place, solving the disease issues.

Too wet of a pile will slow the decomposition process and you may never achieve the temperatures needed.

For another four to six weeks, turn the pile intermittently with some older microbial mixed compost to start the action in the new pile and with some molasses.

The CO2 monitoring will be the sign that the compost is ready for being called done.

If you find something not exactly right in the garden during your stroll this week you don't quite know how to solve, drop me an email with your question and I shall do the best I can to answer the question.

I can be reached at ewlarson546@yahoo.com. Soon you will find a link to my blog through my Facebook page. Thank you for your participation.

Eric Larson is a Jeromesville-based landscape designer.


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