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  1. I have a cattle auction house near me. I used to get manure there. But then I ended up with a whole section of my garden dead. Found out there is a herbicide used on hay that survives the digestion process. I stopped using their manure. As it is very difficult to determine herbicide content in purchased hay, even manure from a small hobby farm could be a problem, unless they grow 100% of what their animals consume.

  2. Hey Hobbit Farmer, excellent article.

    I agree that solid sides to the compost pile are the best way to go. My two piles have sides constructed with pallets, two old-time bed springs that I needed to get rid of, and t-posts to hold it all up. To make solid sides, I used salvaged plywood that was too damaged for use elsewhere and scraps left over from putting metal roofing on my house and shop. Surprisingly the plywood has held up for 7 years now. When I get rich and famous, I’m going to build two bins from concrete blocks with a concrete floor.

    Is there a particular compost thermometer you’d recommend?

    My biggest brain cramp with composting was assuming that hardwood sawdust would compost much more slowly that softwood. I had problems getting my normal sawdust from the mill this year due to the virus and just barely googled it right now. Hardwood sawdust composts 2-4 times more quickly than softwoods. Wow. It must be all the resins in softwoods. I can get all the hardwood sawdust I can use from a cabinetmaker friend and he has trouble getting rid of it. So it’s a win-win I should have googled this ten years ago.

    Here’s a link with some decomposition numbers. The higher the number, the more quickly it composts.



    Red Cedar 3.9
    Douglas Fir 8.4
    White Pine 9.5
    Western White Pine 22.2
    Chestnut 33.5
    Yellow Poplar 44.3
    Black Walnut 44.7
    White Oak 49.1
    Average of all hardwoods . . .45.1
    Wheat straw 54.6

    The lower the number, the slower the decomposition rate. Hardwood sawdust decomposes faster than softwood sawdust.

    Source: Haug, Roger T. (1993). The Practical Handbook of Compost Engineering.

    Thanks again for taking the time to put this article together.

    1. St Funogas thanks for the info on sawdust decomposition. I didn’t realize that hardwood sawdust breaks down faster. It makes sense with all the resins in most softwoods.

  3. We have pallet bins for most of our garden scraps that I don’t feed to our chickens that are made out of pallets. Your way is very informative and efficient. But I take a very easy way. I just pile the stuff and 2 years later we take our little Mantis tiller and till it up and then spread it over our garden. For our chicken coop bedding we just pile it up and do the same way . It might be slower but it works the same. Compost is so beneficial for your gardens and I agree that everyone should be making and using it.

  4. Growing up in FL, my pediatrician told my mother to buy canned or out of state vegetables, because the locally grown vegetables were nutritionally deficient, although they looked really good. Other areas may have the same issue. Compost is a very important component of home food production.

    After years of trying to amend the soil for local gardens, we switched to the Square Foot Gardening methodology. Mel’s soil mix uses one third part compost, and compost is added to the beds each year.

    Some folks buy bagged compost, and there seems to be a good supply of mushroom compost in bulk.

    But, it is more economical to produce your own compost and you know what is in it.

    Leaf shredder, wood chipper, and mulching mower with bag, are some great tools…

    Sadly, the once beloved 5 hp rototiller has gone on to greener pastures…

    Great articles, thanks for posting…

    1. Anonymous… You make a great point!

      From your post: “Growing up in FL, my pediatrician told my mother to buy canned or out of state vegetables, because the locally grown vegetables were nutritionally deficient, although they looked really good.”

      I often say that “it may look like broccoli, but it’s not truly complete broccoli in all the ways it should be broccoli!”

      As SB readers are aware… This is largely the result of commercial farming practices which arise from commercial farming business models.

      If you can grow your produce organically in nutritious soil, get to it!

    2. Hobbit Farmer, you have helped readers close the circle of raising food.

      Your comment: “The other major consideration while waiting for the pile to finish is moisture. If you live in a wet climate you may wait to cover your pile or build a roof over your bins.” This is important to maintain a steady rate of breakdown. I use a simple tarp upcycled from a roofing job. It keep the moisture level balanced. Furthermore, the tarp keeps the heat from composting in as winter comes on and I reckon gives me 2-3 weeks extension for the materials to break down. I greatly enjoy going out to the car and passing the bin with holes melted through the snow on top of he tarp. A good indicator that the microbes are still busy.

      Carry on

  5. Hello Hobbit Farmer!
    A question…

    From your article: “My spring carrots were planted in 2 beds that had been established with this method.”

    I wanted to clarify… Are you saying that you planted the carrots in compost that was resting on top of a cardboard layer? …and if so, how deep such that it did not interfere with the carrots? We have read about the cardboard technique, and haven’t used it yet, but will this year. I don’t think I’ve been so excited about cardboard ever before!

    From your post: “Once you start composting and experience the value it brings to your garden, you will realize you need more materials for your pile. You will become a weirdo who runs a neighborhood yard waste center in your backyard.”

    This was hilarious, and we know it’s also true! We have become worm tunnel weirdos among other forms of “strange”. Since we don’t participate in social media, we don’t track what people around us might be saying, but we’re sure they’re saying something! It’s ALL GOOD.

    1. Telesilla,

      To clarify your question about the carrot beds, those 2 beds had already been established parts of the garden. I converted the beds to raised frame beds with 2×6 frames and filled in with about 5” of compost. I had to regularly weed the previous bedS, but the compost was layered thick enough to virtually suppress all weeds in the soil below. I’m not sure it would be a good idea to put carrots in a new bed with cardboard under, but it could be an interesting experiment to see what the carrots would do. I may have to try it.

      I did use cardboard with a wood chip mulch to suppress weeds between rows of asparagus and that virtually eliminated weeds this season in the patch.

      Thanks for reading and the great questions!

    2. Paper towels and newspaper also make good carbon-rich additions to the compost. Yep, I’m that weirdo who plucked the paper napkins out of the trash after a potluck, in pre-covid times.

      Carry on

    1. Noah,

      I have never placed compost bins under a tree before so I haven’t run into this problem. You will probably want some sort of barrier under your pile, maybe something like a thick rubber garage floor mat. You could also place a pallet down before starting the pile which will raise it up off the ground and create an air gap the roots won’t bridge. Downside will be critters from the soil can’t move into your pile to help finish it off. If you use a barrier or air gap I would add some shovels of earth to the compost for the final stage to introduce some additional biodiversity.

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