Composting – Family Plot

All right, Mike, we’re
glad to have you on, man. We’re gonna talk
about composting. A lot of people wanna
know about composting. A lot of people,
believe it or not, are not doing
composting correctly. So you gonna walk us
through that process, right? – For sure, I’m happy to be
here, it’s good to see you. – Good. – Yeah. – So how you wanna get started? – Well, so this is something
that we do with demos, and this is sort of a why,
why are we composting. We start with why
and then go to how. So this is the journey of our
food right here, if you will. So you start with a
homegrown tomato right there, and that’s where the
whole thing starts as far as composting is
concerned, how it hits us. And then we’ve got, good
thing this isn’t smellevision, this is
[Chris laughs] this is day one, so we’ve got
some fresh stuff in there. And a little caveat on that. That would make an unbalanced
product right there because this is mostly nitrogen. There’s very little
carbon in there right now, and to balance that we
would be adding a whole lot of carbon to it. A good carbon source is
leaves this time of year. Also sawdust; make
friends with a carpenter. – (Chris)
That would help, wouldn’t it? – Yeah, for sure, but
you wanna watch out for treated lumber there
and also black walnut because they will affect
the growth of some plants. If you’re growing veggies,
it could be a problem. And then, so compost wants a lot of the same stuff that
we do to be healthy and to complete their
metabolic processes. So you wanna make sure
it’s got enough water, moisture content needs
to be good, and air. So it needs oxygen to be a
good, healthy anaerobic– – And I’m glad to
mentioned that ’cause a lot of people don’t realize that – (Mike) Yeah, that’s true. – it needs air. – Yeah, it does, yeah, for sure. And it will, for sure, decompose
in the absence of oxygen, but good, healthy
compost needs oxygen. So you wanna turn it
every once in a while. So this is an example
of what it looks like when it’s first turned. And you see the tender greens, like the spinach and all
that stuff is gone already; it’s already breaking down. But the more fibrous
stuff, like for example, there’s a pineapple
top in there, and heavy leaves
and stuff like that take little bit
longer to break down. You’ll still be able to
recognize those at this point. – (Chris)
Yeah, I’m with you so far. – Yeah, next go around,
things start to break down. You see it’s starting to
look more like dirt, I guess. But you see the sticks
are still in there and beech leaves
and stuff like that, and oak leaves that take
longer to break down. And then right over here is
where you starting getting into the exciting stuff. – (Chris)
[laughs] It’s exciting. – Yeah, this is pretty close
to being finished compost right there, and
you really notice that it starts to, it has
a different character. It starts to get
looser and lighter, and it smells kind of
woodsy and sweet and nice, and that’s sort of where
it starts to get finished. And then we cure it up at that
point, and you let it sit. And that’s when it really
develops the nutrients that you’re going to be looking
for as a soil amendment. – Now how long would
you let it sit? – Well, okay, so this
whole process, it depends. Composting is a input
in, output out situation. So the more you fool with
it, the faster it’s going to break down, and the faster
you get to a finished product. So if you follow the University
of California method, for example, and you’re
turning it every day or two and maintaining a
consistent moisture level and keeping that oxygenated
pile going, you can get to this stage here in a
couple of weeks sometimes. We have a much bigger facility. We’re dealing with windrows,
so every couple of weeks, we’re making sure
that we’re turning it, especially during the
growing season when it’s hot. We get to here generally
in about maybe two months, three months, and then it sits– – (Chris)
That’s still pretty good. – and cures up and
in the cure pile for another couple
of months from there. And then you get,
this is a poor, little volunteer
[Chris laughs] that I got. – He’s kinda hanging there. – I picked him out in
the garden this morning against his will ’cause he
was happy where he was at. But he’s sitting in
some brand new sifted and finished composting. – (Chris)
Man, that looks good. – It looks pretty
good, I gotta say. And a good, heavy
nitrogen feeder like that, a tomato would love a
lot of that at home. But yeah, this is what
we’re putting back out in the world instead of
letting it get to the landfill where it’s going to cause
problems instead of be helpful in growing stuff in
our own landscapes. – Some good stuff. Let’s talk about the
carbon nitrogen ratio. – Okay. – ‘Cause a lot of us get that wrong. – Yeah, that’s
true, that’s true. Yeah, it’s not a one to one– – [laughs] Yeah, yeah, it’s
not one to one, right, right. – One to one, and
we were talking about that a little bit earlier. If it smells funky,
[Chris laughs] you don’t have
enough carbon in it. So you wanna be adding carbon. The general rule of
thumb is somewhere in the neighborhood of
25:1 carbon ratio to nitrogen. So you wanna be stockpiling
those leaves this time of year, ’cause they’re valuable. [Chris laughs] If you’re gonna be
composting in the summertime when there’s not leaves
available, maybe, unless you got a magnolia
or something like that. If you have space for
them, it’s good to hang on to those so that
you can add those as you’re bringing
your kitchen scraps and your grass clippings
out to the compost pile and adding that nitrogen. – Okay, let’s give the
folks some examples. What is considered a carbon? – Yeah, carbon, so leaves are like the most
readily available source. Everybody’s got a
tree in their yard or in their neighborhood that
they can jack some leaves from. And don’t put them on the
side of the road in bags. You can cut down on your waste– – (Chris)
I say that all the time. – Yeah, save your
leaves, save your leaves, they’re important. But also sawdust
is a great source. Shredded newspaper
is another one that you can get your
hands on pretty easy. You wanna stay away from paper that’s bleached if
you can help it, and you stay away from
paper that’s been any kind of wax coating or heavy dyes
or anything like that, too. But those are some fairly
easily accessible carbon sources for folks. – Okay, what about
the nitrogen sources? – Nitrogen is greens. So yeah, anything that comes out of your kitchen
for the most part. There’s some carbon that you’re gonna be putting in
your kitchen bucket. But most of your stuff that’s
coming out of your kitchen, your veggie and fruit
scraps and stuff like that, it’s actually gonna
be heavy in nitrogen. Also grass clippings,
which are great, and they break down
super quick, too. – All right, so we talking
about the good things you should put in your compost pile. What about those things
we shouldn’t put in? – That’s a good point. The question is scale. But in a backyard
compost situation, yeah, you absolutely,
absolutely wanna stay away from animal products, any kind
of processed or cooked foods. If it came out of a bag
or a box, probably not such a good idea to be putting
it in your compost pile. Anything that you’ve cooked
you wanna stay away from, too. Oils, bones, anything like that because
that’s the difference between healthy
compost that’s useful in your environment
and a rat farm. – [laughs] Right. – You don’t wanna
be growing rats. – Yeah, you don’t be doing that. – Memphis has enough rats. – Yeah we got enough of that. – We don’t need
anymore of those. – I’m with you on that. – So yeah, that’s a great point. – Okay, what about scale
with the compost pile? Does it matter with homeowners? Should we start with a smaller– – Yeah, that’s
also a great point. If you want a
really hot compost, there’s a critical
mass in terms of volume that you’re gonna be looking at. And it’s usually
about a cubic meter, which is a lot if you’re
thinking about it. And it could take
awhile to get that. The thing to remember
with composting is it’s a fairly forgiving art, [Chris laughs]
and no matter how you do it, within reason,
you’re gonna come out with a fairly useful product. It’s efficiency, and
more energy put in, the faster it goes, the more
you are concerned about, properly sized compost
pile and your inputs, the better the nutrient
value of the compost that you’re making is gonna be. Another thing about
that is you wanna have at least two containers so
that one can do the curing, right, while you’re
starting a second pile because you’re not
gonna stop eating, you’re not gonna stop
mowing your grass, and the leaves are not
gonna stop falling. So you need to
have a second pile or second container available
so that this first one can finish doing
what it’s doing. And then you just flip and
start that cycle again. And you can do a heap, I
guess, in a bin on the ground with that soil contact,
which I find is helpful because you have more
access to those microbes that are in the ground,
and they’re gonna be doing the decompositional
work for us anyway, and worms, and all
that other stuff. There are lots of
containers on the market, tumblers, and all kinds. And worm bins and stuff
like that as well, for sure. – (Chris) Okay. – Yeah. – All right, well we
appreciate you coming on, telling us a little
bit about composting. – Well, sure thing. – ‘Cause you are
the Compost Fairy. – I am the Compost Fairy. [Chris laughs] Yeah, we’re serving
Memphis for sure. I’m happy to help with
the education process, diverting some of that
waste out of the landfill and turning it back into
some of that good stuff. – Well, look, you’re
doing a good job, man. – Well, thanks so much. – So we do appreciate that. Thanks for being
here, all right? – Thanks, Chris,
I appreciate it.

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