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My interests include Amateur Radio, Message Traffic Handling, Disaster Preparedness, Space Weather,

Terrestrial Weather, APRS, Doppler Radio Location Direction Finding,  Emergency Communications, Packet-Radio,

Scottish Kilts, Smoking Pipes, Sustainable Organic Gardening, Composting, Worm Farming, Constitutional Rights,

Food Preservation, Microbiology, Soil Microbiology, Sustainability, Long-Term Food Storage, and much more.

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By Dr. Tamitha Skove

Updated:  09/02/2020

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#130 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 23

Ok, Just a quick update today as I have some pineapples to get planted this morning. Both piles were cooking away nicely at 160 degrees when I checked on them yesterday . . . It will be interesting to see how Pile #2 with only the sawdust as the brown carbon component progresses but so far everything looks good. The main pile is darkening up now. It was a little delayed in showing outward signs of decomposition, maybe due to the fact that the pile kept running so hot with its daily temperature staying around 170 degrees but it appears to finally be acting right now and staying in the 140 to 160 degree temperature range where I want it to stay. This morning the temperatures had not changed mu

#129 - Worm Bin Temperature Control

I have been having a very hard time in controlling the temperature of my Hungry Bin worm bin in the Hawaii afternoon heat. The location where I have the worm bin stays in the shade until the later afternoon as the sun starts to dip down in the west, then it is in direct sunlight unfortunately at the hottest part of the day. It has been in the low to mid 90s outdoors lately and inside the bin it has gotten as high as 97 degrees. Luckily the worms are able to go deeper in the Hungry Bin to escape the heat, but that is not ideal for them as unlike regular earthworms, compost worms do not burrow deep into the soil, they like to stay in the top couple inches. Because of the higher moisture level

#128 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 21

Welcome to Day 21 of our Active Compost Series. The pile was running at 168 degrees yesterday when I checked on it, so it is still chugging along at an elevated temperature. It seems no matter what I do to this pile it always wants to run extremely hot. This morning it finally came down to an acceptable temperature of 160 degrees so since the temperature dropped, that signals that it is time to turn the pile to get more oxygen back inside it. Normally, the pile would be complete somewhere between the 21st and the 28th day of active composting, and if you remember Pile #1 was almost complete, but because of the herbicide overspray incident caused by my idiotic former yard maintenance people,

#127 - Bokashi Composting System

We are going to take a look at another newer form of composting systems available on the market which is Bokashi Composting. I will be using the Bokashi stem as part of my overall composting system here for my garden, however I want to go over a few things to help people understand Bokashi better, and understand how it works, what it actually does, and most importantly what it does not do. First off, Bokashi is a Japanese term which means to ferment. Bokashi is NOT compost. The Bokashi system does not produce compost, period. No composting takes place of the food scraps that you add to the Bokashi bucket, the food is simply fermented or pickled over a two week period. You then have to take t

#126 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 19

After the herbicide setback with the garden on Tuesday, to salvage the compost that was almost finished I needed to raise the heat back up on it again to try to cook off the chemicals that over-sprayed onto it so I combined it with the second pile that was still in the "hot phase" of its decomposition. The pile was holding 168 degrees on Thursday so I decided to just let it continue to cook some more and not turn the pile over until the temperature started to drop, signaling a reduction in oxygen inside the pile. This is why there isn't a DAY 17 update post. So now we are all caught up. I have been checking the pile temperature daily, waiting for it to drop but it was being stubborn and just

#125 - Adding Worms to the Hungry Bin

Ok, after letting the Hungry Bin sit overnight to settle in (which is not required per the instructions but I am erring on the side of caution) I retested the pH level and moisture level. Using a moisture meter is basically useless as it will only show that the compost is "WET" but that doesn't really give us any information. For instance is it just right or is it too wet. According to the meter it is pegged all the way to the wet side of the indicator, but by performing a manual test of the compost just as we do on the hot compost pile, it appears to be just right. I am not able to squeeze any water out of the compost, yet it does hold together in a clump when squeezed and breaks apart easi

#124 - Setting Up The Hungry Bin Worm Farm

Along with the hot composting piles that I am doing for the garden I will also be adding on Vermicomposting, or "Worm Composting" which uses specific species of worms which are Eisenia fetida, commonly referred to as "red worms", or "Red Wigglers" to compost food scraps and other organic materials. One of the end results of the vermicompost system are worm castings which is just a politically correct way of saying worm poop. Worm castings are one of the best fertilizers that you can mix with your soil in your garden and house plants. The other very beneficial end result of this composting process is worm leachate or "worm juice". Leachate is a brown liquid which comes from the moisture in th

#123 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 15

OMG I almost blew a gasket today which would have resulted in me going to jail for murder. I got a later start than normal on the compost pile today, and ended up having a lot more work to do with it than I normally do, so it took me longer to get it all done. Normally I am finished working on the compost before the yard crew shows up to do their maintenance, this time they were working on the yard while I was still finishing up, and I am glad they were because I saw something that shocked me and almost made me completely loose it on them. One of the guys on the yard crew was carrying a white plastic pressurized plastic tank with a spray wand around the yard and I saw him spray a liquid on t

#122 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 13

Welcome to Day 13 of the step-by-step Active Composting series. I checked the temperatures in the piles yesterday and both piles were holding their temperatures fine. Pile #1 was holding at 145 degrees . . . and Pile #2 was right on 160 degrees. Since both piles were holding their temperatures and their moisture levels were fine I decided not to turn them yesterday but to just let them keep cooking away. Today when I checked them again I saw that Pile #1 had dropped slightly to 141 degrees . . . When I checked Pile #2 I noticed that it is still holding right on 160 degrees. Temperature drop in a pile is an indicator that oxygen within the pile is becoming depleted and that it is time to turn

#121 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 11

Welcome to Day 11 of my Active Compost series where I walk you step-by-step through a full compost cycle. After checking the temperatures of the piles yesterday I decided not to turn the piles as they were all holding good temperatures and I did not want to disturb that decomposition process that was taking place within them. Pile #1 was showing to be holding 143 degrees Pile #2 showed to be 160 degrees and Pile #3, the one that I broke off of Pile #2 was showing to be 150 degrees. Since all of the piles were within the proper temperature range I decided to wait and give them an extra day before I aerated them again. Today when I checked the piles I saw that Pile #1 had dropped a little to 1

#120 - Benefits Of Having A Worm Bin

In addition to traditional composting, which I have written several posts about, there is also another form of composting which is even better, and is so easy to do that almost anyone at almost any age and physical ability level could do it successfully. That is vermicomposting, or worm composting. For the past several months I have been contemplating either building or purchasing a worm composting bin. I had a worm bin set up at my last house before I moved and I really miss the benefits of having it around. Worm castings or vermicompost is an extremely beneficial fertilizer for gardens and house plants. Many gardeners will purchase worm castings to add to their garden beds each season to g

#119 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 9

Welcome to Day 9 of Pile #1, and Day 7 of Pile #2. We had a very warm day yesterday at 95 degrees which is hot for Hawaii. It has been in the mid 90s for the past couple weeks now. I know everyone thinks Hawaii is so much hotter than the mainland US because we are so much closer to the equator, but it doesn't quite work that way. This is the hottest it ever gets here. Unlike the mainland, here in Hawaii we do not get up to triple-digit temperatures, other than in my compost piles. Luckily the Trade Winds act as a natural air-conditioning to keep the islands cool. Unfortunately, we will loose them in August or September for a few weeks and it will feel unbearably hot until they come back. Ok,

#118 - Carbon to Nitrogen Ratios (C:N)

After uploading my last post I received an email asking about the carbon to nitrogen ratio of a few common items that people add to the home compost piles, so I thought I would upload a list of common compostable items along with their Carbon to Nitrogen ratios. All organic matter is made up of substantial amounts of carbon (C) combined with lesser amounts of nitrogen (N). The balance of these two elements in an organism is called the carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C:N ratio). Although we want to have an ideal balance of around 30:1 that does not mean that we want to have 30 times more brown material than green material. It all goes by the C:N ratio of each item. Even green items which are consid

#117 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 8

I checked the compost piles today and I noticed that Pile #1 is staying at a good temperature of about 140 degrees so I do not want to disturb it. At 140 degrees it is actively composting without being so hot that it risks killing off the beneficial microbes. So I am not going to turn that pile today. Pile #2 on the other hand is still running hot at just over 160 degrees so I need to cool it down just a bit. Adding the carbon to the pile yesterday in the form of the shredded cardboard did help to bring the temperature down a coupe degrees, but it did not bring it down enough. For me to bring the temperature down to the 140-150 degree range where I want it to stay at using the addition of ca

#116 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 7

We are now on Day 7 of Pile #1 and Day 5 of pile #2 and I am seeing very different results from what I expected to see. As I pulled the tarp off of the piles today I saw that the piles were soaked, it looked like someone had just flooded the piles with a water hose right before I took the tarp off of them which really worried me because the wetter a pile is, the less oxygen there is in a pile as the water will fill in all the spaces where air should be. I also noticed that both piles were also between 165 and 170 degrees Fahrenheit which is just way too hot, so I knew there would be some anaerobic issues happening within the piles. As I started turning the piles I noticed that after about th

#115 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 5

Ok, it is now Day 5 of the Active Composting cycle for pile #1 and it is Day 3 for pile #2 that I set up with all those bags of grass cuttings that I picked up the other day. Pile #2 is also the one that I used as an experiment to try out adding the "Compost Starter" product to. Both piles have shrunk down about a foot in the past two days. Pile number 2 was at the very top of the cage and I even added another bag of older grass cuttings that were dried a little more than the rest on top of the pile which put it just over the top of the cage, now it is below the top again. as you can see in the photo below. Both piles are working hard and are within the "active composting" temperature range

#114 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 3

It has been two days since we set up the new compost piles so it is time to check their temperature again, turn them over to oxygenate them, and check them for moisture. Since the piles have been working hard for the past two days, I am absolutely sure they will be extremely thirsty and will need water. I did check them yesterday and had to add water to both piles to keep them going as they were drying out too quickly in the Hawaii heat. The first pile yesterday morning was at 165 degrees and the second pile was at 125 degrees. Both were starting to get pretty dry so I had to moisten them both back up again to keep them going. Since the first pile is getting so hot I need to back its heat do

#113 - Step-By-Step Active Composting - Day 1

I decided to start a new compost pile and use it as a step-by-step guide to show how easy it is for anyone to take yard waste like leaves and grass cuttings and turn it into useful nutritious organic compost to use on your garden, flowers or plants. For a compost pile to work properly in an active-compost system, also called hot-composting, four things are required: Nitrogen Carbon Oxygen Water To allow proper airflow to the compost I am using 36"x36"x30" green powder coated wire cages that I purchased on Amazon and have installed side by side in my back yard. Each one of these cages come with 4 side panels and 4 anchor pins to attach the side panels in the corners. By setting the three cage

#112 - NEVER USE MANURE IN YOUR GARDEN! - I'm Serious.

I know I am going to make a lot of people very unhappy, and specifically I am speaking about those good people over at Dow AgroSciences. I may even tick off a few gardeners, but those will just be the gardeners who are not keeping informed with what is going on in the gardening world, and how people's gardens are being completely ruined all around the world. By the way, if anything happens to me in the near future, you might want to have a look at Dow Chemical Company as I know this posting is going to ruffle a lot of feathers over there. The billionaires over at Dow AgroSciences and their parent company Dow Chemical Companies have single-handedly destroyed the natural organic practice of us

#111 - Soil or Dirt - What's The Difference?

I just wanted to do a quick post to answer a common question in gardening. I was having a discussion with someone the other day about garden soil, and soil amendments and he asked something that I hear quite a bit. What is the difference between soil and dirt, and aren't they really the same thing? Unless you are a gardener, you probably never though about it before or assumed they were the same thing as I did for years. I just thought it was two names for the same thing like "pop" and "soda". Depending on which part of the country you come from, they use different names for things. Soil and dirt are definitely not the same thing though and are in fact very different. Let's take a closer loo

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