This summer  Frog Hollow Farm is accepting yard material from local landscapers in addition to fruit that is not sold, horse bedding from a local ranch and Frog Hollow Farm kitchen residue. Slowly but surely we are running out of space for the thermophilic compost windrows. Before the compost is applied in the orchard, the temperature has to drop to 110 F or below. Also, we check the biology of the compost using a qualitative and quantitative test that takes 2 days. We want all the indicator organisms to be present (beneficial fungi, bacteria, protozoa and nematodes) and we want them to be somewhat active. This week one windrow out of seven was given the green light for spreading in the orchard. The application of the compost will probably take about a day.

Incidentally, most of the materials that we use in our compost windrows come from the farm and from local sources. This should result in a microbiota in the compost windrows that is mostly local to Brentwood.

This week vermicompost was applied to around 111 peach trees that were planted two years ago and that display some problems. The applied vermicompost will be covered with a layer of fungal thermophilic compost to make it more fungal and to keep the vermicompost moist during the hot days. This actually represents an experiment. We should results next year as to how  well the trees grow and we  also have  data on the biology around the trees (including controls).

We are working on improving the harvesting of worms (Eisenia fetida) after compost is produced in the worm beds. In other words, we want to remove as many worms as possible (using the trommel drum) before applying the vermicompost in the orchard. The worms are sensitive to vibrations and we try to do the harvesting in the absence of any noisy machinery (such as a front loader that is used to remove the finished vermicompost). The worms are sensitive to extremes of temperature and we think that it is easier to harvest when the temperatures are cooler early in the morning. This is still an experiment in progress.

A fungal compost tea was brewed this week and was used to inoculate the thermophilic compost windrows with more fungi (suitable for fruit trees). Some of the tea was used to irrigate part of the orchard. We have not finished our discussion of the experiments that show the effects of vermicompost teas on plant growth.

As soon as possible, we will discuss how compost piles behave like climate change.

Author: Christophe Kreis
 MLF Soil Consulting PhD, Molecular Biology/Developmental Biology, University of British Columbia, Canada. Christophe is co-founder of MLF Soil Consulting with his wife Monique. He started his career in basic medical research and after various positions in academia and industry Christophe slowly returned to his first passion Soil Ecology and Microbiology. It is his belief that human health is tied intimately to soil health through the production of healthy food. For this reason MLF Soil Consulting is committed to help farmers improve the management of their soil through composting, vermicomposting and biological analysis of microbial soil life.
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