Christophe's Compost Corner Update from Frog Hollow Farm: Sept. 4, 2014

Christophe's Compost Corner Update from Frog Hollow Farm: Sept. 4, 2014
  • We now have 5 thermophilic windrows that are cooling down. When the temperature drops to  110 F (43 C) or  less, they will be assessed for the biology  (biomass of bacteria, fungi, numbers of protozoa, numbers of beneficial nematodes; activity of bacteria and fungi) and water/enzyme micronutrients will be chemically analyzed. The stability and maturity of the compost will be determined using evolution of carbon-dioxide and ammonia (Solvita test). This compost is usually applied in the orchard and is fungally dominant: that means that the ratio of fungi to bacteria is more than one. However, we may need some of this compost to start a vegetable patch/block for this winter. Vegetable crops usually grow in a bacterially dominant compost and so the fungal compost will be treated with a bacterially dominated tea and then analyzed. This compost may be supplemented with some vermicompost. Unfortunately, we have not ramped up the production of weed seed free vermicompost as of now. We presently have about 500 tons of compost sitting in our windrows. Approximately, 150 tons will be ready to be applied in specific areas of the  orchard (for example, a set of problem trees) at the end of this week (the rest will be ready in the next two weeks). It’s also possible that the 150 tons will be applied to the vegetable block after they are analyzed and made more bacterially dominant.

  • The production of two types of vermicompost is continuing. Materials used in the standard vermicompost: fruits, shredded FHF cardboard boxes, horse-bedding. We are constructing two new 100 foot beds and we ranout of discarded fruit. The fruit is being replaced with juices that are discarded in the kitchen. This type of vermicompost potentially contains weed seeds (originating in the horse bedding) and is most suitable for applying around trees (it is fungally dominant because the worms feed on the bacteria and fungi that decompose the shredded cardboard). We are also producing coffee vermicompost: spent coffee grounds (FHF café), juices, shredded cardboard boxes. This vermicompost should contain negligible amounts of weed seeds and is destined for the vegetable block. I am optimizing the ratios of the various materials. I am specifically limiting the coffee grounds to 20-40 % of the total mass because higher amounts may have detrimental effects on the worms. The coffee grounds are very rich in various micronutrients (for example nitrogen) and I have to wait several days for the beds to cool off before I can add worms. I  have prepared a 25 foot worm bed with coffee grounds and I hope it will be ready in a month. The vermicompost to be used in the vegetable block has to be bacterially dominant and will have to be analyzed and adjusted with compost tea.

  • Coffee grounds factoids (we will discuss the biological and chemical merits of coffee grounds in future blogs). As coffee grounds decompose in a compost pile or in a soil application, they appear to suppress various bacterial and fungal diseases of plants (for example Fusarium). In some of these studies, coffee grounds represented only 0.5 % of the total mix. Research suggests that non-pathogenic fungi and bacteria normally found on coffee grounds inhibit pathogenic bacteria and fungi from being established.

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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