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Composting/Composting and no till gardening


QUESTION: Hi I recently read an article about the no till gardening method. It seems to me it is basically a large compost pile made in the garden and I and it makes rich, fertile soil. It's too late to start now but I was wondering if I started as soon as the fall crops are up if it would be ready for spring crops? Have you heard anything about this method? How exactly is it done?As far as composting goes I have chickens, a rabbit and a horse. If I use these manures in compost how long will they have to cure? And the compost pile has to heat up to a certain temperature for how long? Thanks!

ANSWER: Hello Elizabeth

The no till requires you to have a Raised Bed, because the natural soil, should be 6-8" below the top, or no till Zone.

You will be using mostly finished Compost in the 6-8" on the top, and it's very important that the Compost is fully Decomposed. If the Compost is not fully Rotted, it will take Nitrogen to complete the process, robbing Nitrogen from the Media <soil> and the plants will not get it.

How long will it take to Cure? this depends on many factors. Oxygen, Water, and Heat being the 3 most important. If you purchase a Compost Thermometer, which looks like a Turkey Thermometer, only much longer, this will tell you the temperature in the middle of the Compost Pile. You can achieve Temperatures of 180 degrees in the center of the Pile. When you see the Temperature fall, say by 20 Degrees, its time to turn the Pile. Each time you turn the pile, and take the Temperature, the Pile will show less of a Temperature. When the Temperature is about the same as the outside, and you can no longer tell what went into the pile to begin with, it's done.

Add a lot of leaves, which are carbon, to the Manures, which are Nitrogen, keep it moist, but do NOT soak it. How long will it take to cure? Everyone's pile is different, but 4-6 weeks, is a good guess, if you are keeping an eye on it, and turning it over when the heat goes down.

I hope this helps, if I have missed something, please ask a follow-up question

The Best Of Luck


---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Would you recommend the no till method? And if I added chicken and/or horse manure would it still be done in 4-6 weeks? Thanks!

Hello again Elizabeth.

I am sort of Neutral on the no till method. If you have the means to raise the area to hold the 4-6", by all means do this. For a larger scale area, this is not practical.

You have to Compost the Manures first, before you use them in the planting area. It could be done in 4-6 weeks, if all of the things I mentioned in my First post are met. There are no guarantees that everything will be decomposed fully in 4-6 weeks, because everyone uses something different in their Compost piles. You "could" buy Commercial Compost for this growing season, and then add yours next season, if you are working a small area.



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As a Master Gardener: taken classes in All Phases of Gardening...I Specialize in Lawns... Pererennials... Compost... Organic Gardening.

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