UACES Facebook Composting

Composting

(October 2012)

QuestionI really enjoy your columns and now have a question of my own. I have received conflicting answers on this. I have faithfully put yard clippings in a mulch pile consisting of leaves and mower material. Because of the overwhelming amount of weeds, etc this year, I have been told not to use this around my flowers and shrubs. The threat is presenting a never-ending buffet for weeds to grow. You get the tie-breaker--yes or no.

 

AnswerHome compost piles typically don’t generate enough uniform heat to kill weed seeds.  Have you ever had a wild squash or gourd sprout magically in the garden—the vegetable seed wasn’t killed either.  If you had a lot of weeds in your lawn, you could be incorporating them into your flower beds via mulch.  I think the prevalence of the weed chambers bitter had to come in via mulch or nursery stock in many home gardens.  So my answer would be no as a mulch.  If you do use it, just be on the look-out for weeds—the smaller they are the quicker they can be killed and your chance of establishment is less.

 

QuestionI really enjoy your columns and now have a question of my own. I have received conflicting answers on this. I have faithfully put yard clippings in a mulch pile consisting of leaves and mower material. Because of the overwhelming amount of weeds, etc this year, I have been told not to use this around my flowers and shrubs. The threat is presenting a never-ending buffet for weeds to grow. You get the tie-breaker--yes or no.

 

AnswerHome compost piles typically don’t generate enough uniform heat to kill weed seeds.  Have you ever had a wild squash or gourd sprout magically in the garden—the vegetable seed wasn’t killed either.  If you had a lot of weeds in your lawn, you could be incorporating them into your flower beds via mulch.  I think the prevalence of the weed chambers bitter had to come in via mulch or nursery stock in many home gardens.  So my answer would be no as a mulch.  If you do use it, just be on the look-out for weeds—the smaller they are the quicker they can be killed and your chance of establishment is less.

 

QuestionArkansas Gardener October 2012 Zone Report

 

AnswerIn spite of the growing season, we actually had a pretty good vegetable garden, and that trend can continue.  By now, for the most part things should be in the ground.  You can still find cabbage, broccoli, and other cool season transplants, so plant them.  Last year our winter was so mild, that gardeners who planted fall vegetables gardened all winter long.  Greens and kale can take it fairly cold and can serve as a cover crop and an edible.  If you haven’t planted a fall garden, don’t leave the garden spot bare all winter, or you will end up with a great crop of weeds.  Either plant a green manure crop or cover crop, or put down a thick layer of mulch –shredded leaves, compost, etc.  This can keep the weeds at bay and you can work this organic matter in when you till the garden next spring.  Leaves started falling this year in June and have continued.  We preferred falling leaves to those that died and stayed attached to the trees.  If they fell early, we at least knew the tree was healthy enough to produce the abscission layer and conserve its resources by not having to supply water to the foliage.  Plants that have leaves that are brown and attached to them, probably have dead limbs.  Some oak species hold old leaves until early spring and then drop them, so if you want to be 100% certain a tree is dead, wait until new growth next year.  But with all the dead plant matter, coupled with garden clean up and leaf shed, this is a composter’s nirvana now--so many raw materials to work with.  Remember, you need a combination of green and brown matter to make it work.  Vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and fruit peelings work well, but avoid adding any meat or dairy products to the compost pile.  If you can shred the materials before you add them, it will speed up the composting process.  If plants died because of drought, add those to the pile, but if they were heavily diseased, or loaded with weeds, don’t put them in.  Although a compost pile does heat up and can kill many disease organisms, insects and weed seeds, a home compost pile doesn’t have great uniform heat throughout the pile and we don’t kill all the bad stuff.  How many of you have used compost and had tomatoes and unusual gourds or squash emerging?  This is from seeds that made it through, and while they aren’t bad seeds, the pigweeds and nutsedge are.


(October 2008)

QuestionI have become increasingly concerned about the possibility of e-coli in my vegetable garden due to recent outbreaks. I amend my vegetable garden with a garden mix, but noticed clumps of manure in it. Is this unsafe?  What precautions should I use? I garden in raised beds and will need to add soil this year. What should I use?

 

AnswerE-coli has been in the news a lot these days and has worried many gardeners.  If you are using bagged soils with manures, they have been composted and should not have the risk of E-coli.  We do not recommend the use of any fresh manure in gardens these days.  Manure can be used, but only after it has been well composted.  Almost all disease organisms are killed at 135 degrees, so composting in as short a time period of one month should suffice.  Typically fresh manure holds together, whereas the composted form is more crumbly like soil.  I think you should be safe.


(September 2006)

QuestionWe have recently moved into a house that has a lot of oak leaves that were left over from last year.  I've been trying to clean out the fence row etc, and thought that if they would be good for mulch in a garden spot for next year, I would save them.  Someone told me oak leaves are not good for a compost pile. Do you have any suggestions for them?

 

AnswerOak leaves make excellent compost.  Shredded leaves are easier to deal with than whole leaves, but eventually they all break down.  If you need information on composting, we have numerous publications on composting at your local county extension office.