Frog Hollow Farm: An Updated Account of our Composting Efforts

  • Next month, the Institute For Sustainable Development (California State University-Chico), is organizing a conference titled “Growing toward a sustainable future”. The purpose of the conference is to explore approaches that will make a difference for a sustainable future. This year’s conference is primarily addressing food and agriculture. Farmer Al will be presenting the history of organic and ecological farming at Frog Hollow Farm and the production and use of compost made from residues available on the farm and in the local community. We are in the process (Farmer Al, Pearl and MLF Soil Consulting) of preparing slides and getting organized for the presentation.
  • A week ago we had some rain followed by cold weather and then this week we got more rain. The rain is helping to keep the thermophilic piles moist and this may reduce the amount of water that has to be added to keep the piles at the right moisture. The piles have to be kept moist because the microorganisms need water for reproduction. However, moisture content (40-60%) has to be monitored because on the one hand  too much water creates anaerobic conditions (organisms that live in such conditions produce  substances that kill plant root cells) but  lack of water can kill most organisms (or make them dormant). In good compost (and for that matter good soil) half the pore spaces are filled with water and half with air. This setup results in water movement and fresh air exchange: this stimulates the metabolic activity of microorganisms. Also, water serves as a passageway for the movement of microorganisms.
  • The vermicompost beds (worm piles) need more moisture than the thermophilic piles (up to 75%). However, because the temperatures in these piles range from 60-90 F (16 – 32 C) depending on the ambient conditions, water evaporation is not a big problem at this time of the year. However, a heavy rain can “drown” the worms and also create anaerobic conditions. The vermicompost beds at FHF that are outside are covered with a thin layer of straw and this is sufficient to control the moisture in most circumstances. There are three beds that are protected from the elements inside a stable.

- Christophe Kreis

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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