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Local Write-up about composting.

Postby Durgan » May 10, 2008 9:31 am

Local Write-up about composting.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10 May 2008 views on composting by Durgan.

Local News

Dishing up the dirt; City gardener shares recipe for quality compost

Posted By Heather Ibbotson

James Durgan Young enjoys having dirt under his fingernails. This time of year, it's likely to be compost, which, according to Young, is greatly misunderstood.
Many gardeners are too fastidious in tending compost piles, Young said in an interview on Thursday.
"Don't fret over it," he said. "Just throw it in a pile and leave it alone."
Turning a pile too often can kill the composting action, he said.
Young knows his subject. Over the past five years, the 72-year-old has created a garden paradise on his nearly half-acre Childerhose Crescent property.
Growing dozens of varieties of vegetables, flowers and trees, Young produces a smorgasbord of produce including, but not limited to, tomatoes, potatoes, raspberries, grapes, brussels sprouts, broccoli, lettuce, cucumbers, artichokes, parsnips, beets, radishes, carrots and peas.
"I feed the neighbourhood," he said with a smile as he wandered about his yard sizing up the health of overwintered plants and spying out miniscule sprouts seeking the sun.
Young was raised in a log cabin homestead at Carrot River, Sask., and went on to a career as a technician and manager with Hitachi. His work involved installing electron microscopes at universities across North America and around the world.
Since retirement, Young's passion for gardening has fully flowered. The backbone of his backyard Eden is good clay soil and his gardens are fed through yearly applications of compost and wood chips.
The composting area, located at the rear of Young's property, is comprised of four adjoining bins, simply and inexpensively constructed of metal fence posts and wooden lattice. Each bin measures four feet by eight feet by four feet and is open at one end for easy access.
Young started with one bin and added on as his gardens grew.
One bin contains fine, strained compost given away free by the city. Other bins contain developing compost - comprised of garden refuse and grass clippings with some dirt thrown into the mix - and the remains of last year's compost, which was largely used last fall in preparation for spring seeding and planting.

Young has no patience for plastic stand-alone composters offered by retailers and municipalities.
"Those little spaceships they give people are hopeless," he said.
A gardener needs access to the compost for occasional mixing and removal. Barrel-sized plastic composters do not provide proper access, he said.
Young's compost corrals are large because of his vast garden. Smaller and fewer bins would be enough for most gardeners, he said. Some gardeners go overboard and construct the "most elaborate silly bins," he said, adding that simplicity is best when it comes to composting.
"Compost is working all the time. You just throw it in and play it by ear," he said.
Materials must be finely chopped to achieve proper compost, Young said.
He now uses a portable mini-chipper/shredder but he is no stranger to using a simple block of wood, a machete and some muscle to chop up material for his compost pile.
'don't like to work'
"A machete and block is fine for a small garden," Young said.
The drawback, of course, is that "lots of people don't like to work," he said.
Young generally spreads compost in the fall and then seeds garden areas with red clover to fix nitrogen in the soil. The winter kills the clover and Young plows it under with his Rototiller.
"You shouldn't leave land fallow," he said.
It is fine to spread compost in the spring or fall but it needs to be well turned in the soil, either by spade or tiller, he said.
He also avoids putting fallen autumn leaves in the compost pile.
"I don't touch leaves," he said. They are useless as compost because they must be laboriously pulverized by repeated passes with a lawn mower or they turn into sodden, matted clumps thick as phone books, he said.
"I gave up on leaves. They're a real misery."
Compost piles get hot when working properly, Young said. "In the summer time, it's too hot to put your hand on."
It seems everything Young does touch in his garden thrives and he produces a host of healthy flowers and edibles each year.
Young is nostalgic for the open vistas of the prairies and he has lived in or spent time in many other areas of Canada.
But from his experience, Brantford "is the nicest growing area I've been in," he said.
"We're pretty well blessed here."

Article ID# 1022255
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Postby bluewillow » May 10, 2008 10:04 am

Thank you Durgan for your write-up. A great article indeed. Congrats.

If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn. ~Andrew Mason
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Postby MareE » May 11, 2008 7:26 am

Hey, Durgan! Informative article about your insights and developments. Here (and there) I've been stealthily availing myself of neighbourhood Maple leaves for overwintering perennial gardens and topping up dreaded plastic compost bin and old dog kennel. sheesh Where should fallen leaves go to if not for aiding recycling of the soil?

MareE;o} Leaf fan LOL
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Postby mollyzone5 » May 11, 2008 7:49 am

I use leaves year round in my tumbler composter,and I get finished compost every 4 weeks.Mother Natures gift for sure.I have great soil too.
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Postby Durgan » May 11, 2008 8:53 am

Hey, I have no problem with recycling leaves, and don't decry the utility of such for the soil. But a bin full of leaves are difficult to handle, compared to normal cut up vegetation. In very small quantities handling leaves is possible, but try an 4 by 4 by 8 bin full of leaves. It requires much turning and time to get reduction by compost action.

If the leaves are chopped then mixed in with the rest the result is fine. My point is in any quantity, they require special treatment.

The best method is the huge city compost setup to handle leaves, meaning they have the bacteria, and machinery. There is nothing more iritating than a bunch of pressed leaves stuck onto the fork.

For mulch leaves can be most irritating, in that they blow around, and sometime form a glutinous mass when wet. I prefer wood chips if available, since they stay in place.
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Postby MareE » May 11, 2008 9:15 am

Thanks most kindly, Durgan. I'm with Molly in leaving things to Ma Nature but surely she's feeling a crunch, Ma Nature.


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Postby dlb » May 11, 2008 10:02 am

I use my leaves as well. I rather like that sticky mass on the end of my fork. They're half way to being compost at that point. Apparently one way to break leaves up is to throw them into a garbage bin and go at them with the weed whipper. Unfortunately I haven't tested this out. The weed whipper always seems to go missing whenever I've had the intention.
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