At first glance, this chapter may appear a bit redundant. It's not!
The "working pile" needs frequent monitoring, just as chapter 5 details. It also needs a little imagination on your part to utilize its numerous assets for your gardening a other interests. Do you know, for instance, that the heat your pile produces can be "harvested" in several ways to perform other services?
Look up "using composting to produce heat for water, buildings, plants, and frost protection."
This chapter not only emphasizes the maintenance your pile needs, but adds some of the ways good pile management produces benefits in addition to soil.
In chapter 2 we focused on choosing and gathering the materials for a specific soil goal. Here, let's add focus on other products our pile process can provide. Starting with heat.
Hot Compost Is More Than Hot Compost
I'm not sure where, or if I mentioned that placing seed sprouting containers on top of your compost pile when it is hot makes for one of the very best warm nursery places ever! In the dead of cold Winter, with a little clear or translucent plastic to shelter from cold, snow and rain, this heated, even-temperature 'furnace" makes the ideal sprouting bed!
Another heat application is adding coils of plastic tube as the pile is built. Attach this tube to remote places you want to heat. A greenhouse; your home; a garage; an animal shelter; a fermenter; you can even use it to refrigerate with a heat transfer refrigerator!
This application focus gives reason to select pile raw material according to the heat desired. For longer heating periods, collect and add at least twice the woody material, such as wood chips, larger branches, half-rotted tree trunks and old, partially rotted building wood; and be sure to add more grass or other nitrogen-rich material, such as urea.
For sprouting seed, add just a little more woody material and about 10 days into the heating, add urea over the top - about 1 pound per 3 feet square - and soak it in well down deep in the pile. This will add another 10 to 20 days heating.
For building heating, build with 90% wood chips and small branches, rotting wood debris, and 10% nitrogen material. Monitor the heat and if-when it begins dropping while still saturated with water and good air flow, add more nitrogen soaked far down in the pile. A good build will produce substantial heat for 90 days.
Decomposing organic material emits several gasses. One of the most planet-beneficial is methane. No, it is NOT a green house gas! Well, not the politically correct greenhouse gas! In fact, out little planet is very deficient in a methane related gas, carbon dioxide, THE most important gas plants need! Reducing it further is a death sentence for Planet Earth!
To harvest both methane and CO2, cover the pile with an air tight plastic bag and draw off and use or store these important gases. The CO2 is a perfect addition to your greenhouse! In fact, commercial greenhouses ADD CO2 since our planet is so deficient!
Good management of your pile has more than just soil to benefit from!
Combined with a solar heating water system, compost pile heat can add up to substantial benefit.
Part of the active pile maintenance is making a space to store the finished soil, if it will wait for application. Rather than just dump it in a heap in a corner, where weed seed and rain alter it, make a sheltered place with sides and a water tight cover to keep rain and wind-blown seed off. Try to have a place near the center of the garden.
It can dry out and still contain vital nutrients. But I prefer to keep it wet enough for earth worms to work into it. They add vital nitrogen with their castings, and digest more of the material into root-friendly nutrients. If you have chickens and/or ducks in the garden, I'd keep the pile protected from their invasion, They eat all those helpful worms and spread the soil out where it dries and mixes with native soil with less nutrition. Not bad, just not good!
Instead, give those birds lots of fresh-cut and pulled weeds. They will poop out rich nutrients!
Sometimes, around the edges of a larger pile where it is near a building or other wall, as you build the pile, enough dry material can fall off into the small space between and become a nice, dry and warm shelter for a rodent family.
Speaking of these little critters, they do not pose health issues when living with good nutrition like your garden. But, they can be a nuisance destroying things! One other area of you soil operation they may find shelter in is the collection materials. Keep it close-packed and saturated with water. The pre-decay will speed the pile process.
Interested yet? Well, if not by this point . . . .!!!!
So. How about You going out and searching for ways to put this marvel of your making to new uses?
Yes! You're welcome to share them here! Of course!