|Kelly’s secret compost pile.|
I found out via a blog post last week that Kelly had secretly constructed a compost pile to deal with a surplus of kitchen scraps. She knew I’d be unhappy with this due to my anal retentive approach to composting.
So why am I unhappy with this pile? The reason is simple: it’s too small and will never generate enough heat to:
- Kill weed seeds.
- Kill human and plant pathogens.
- Kill root nematodes.
Don’t just believe me, listen to soil scientist Dr. Elaine Ingham in this youtube video:
Ingham’s work is controversial, but I believe time will prove her ideas correct. To grow fussy plants like vegetables we need to introduce beneficial microorganisms and fungi into the soil via well made compost. To make that compost we need to monitor the pile’s temperature carefully (it should be between 55ºC and 65ºC for at least three days according to Ingham). The pile also needs oxygen, provided by introducing loose materials like straw and through periodic turning. A compost pile needs water too. It’s not difficult to achieve the conditions Ingham specifies. You just need enough mass combined with the use of a compost thermometer to figure out when to turn the pile.
O.K., so now I’m headed out into the garden to combine that tiny and ugly tire pile to the new pile I’m building.
For more information on Ingham’s work read, Teaming with Microbes: The Organic Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web, Revised Edition by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis.
Mrs. Homegrown here:
Just rebutting the rebuttal. I don’t disagree with anything Erik says above, and Ingham’s work is fascinating. But to be clear about my post, the “sooper seekrit” pile was not about producing compost, it was about disposing of waste. Indeed, such a small pile does not have the mass to heat up enough to burn off nasties or to decompose very quickly, but it suited my needs at the time. Homemade compost is a wonderous thing. It’s vital to organic gardening, and moreover it’s really satisfying to take the waste products from your kitchen and garden and make them into something which will build your soil. You get to keep all that wealth close at hand. However, if you don’t want or need compost for your garden, but you don’t want to send green scraps to the landfill, you can return it to the earth in more casual ways, like the sooper seekrit pile.