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What are your favorite fertilizers and feeding routines/ methods?

Lusi

New Member
Here's another question to help me plan my dream garden.

I'd like to find out what store bought nutrients outdoor/ backyard growers prefer, something good for large containers raised beds and/ or in the ground. It seems your average soil has enough nutrients for a month. Outdoor plants are too darn big to transplant each month... so how to keep that soil fertile? Do you folks prefer liquid fertilizers or dry? Is the kind of dry fertilizers you scratch into the dirt around each plant a better option? Do you feed every third watering or other?

No matter what, these nutes have to be affordable enough to use on my MJ plants, and hopefully all outdoor plants. Originally, I thought feeding with liquid nutes would be the easiest outside. Now, I'm debating on dry fertilizers scratched into the soil. It would be easier to carry a box of dry nutes to each plant rather than a few gallons of nutes in water to each plant. Any opinions here? Man, I can't imagine schlepping water to stealth grows in the deep woods, especially in this hot no rain climate.

The fertilizers I've heard are favorites so far are: Liquid: Dyna Gro, Jack's Classic, Age Old Organics, Earth Juice and Dr. Earth. Dry nutes are: Dr. Earth, Fox Farm, plus Happy Frog. (made by FF?) I've heard MJ is an acid loving plant and does well with tomato food. Is there any truth to this? I'd like to go Organic, but it's not important so far.

So.... Tell me what ya like, why, how much, how often and which products you feel are essential for the outside grower. It's not about the best fertilizer, but easiest to use reliable and most affordable.
 

Lusi

New Member
My Nute list with price per "serving"

I've been collecting nute info for a year now, waiting for my horrid Technaflora nutes to run out. Just based on reviews and prices, i'd likely choose Age Old Organics liquid or Earth Juice Liquid. I already have Earth Juice, but have not opened it. For my dry Nute option, the CA local Dr. Earth is a bit less than Happy Frog, and likely better.

I need feedback on which type of nute is better/ easier/ affordable for outdoors, liquid or dry? I'm leaning toward dry... If you had 50 corn plants and a pile of tomatoes, MJ, flowers and more... what would be your choice, dry or liquid? Can dry be scattered more easily? Too many choices.

Here's the prices of each nute per gallon of water for liquid or gallon of soil for dry: !! are the most promising to me


Liquid or mixed with Water:

Dyna-Gro Liquid Bloom - quart $13.99 ($0.07 per liquid gallon)
1/2 tsp gal every watering or 1 tsp every 2 weeks. (192 servings/ gallons liquid)!
For outdoor plants use 1/2 tsp. every watering.
For feeding once or twice per month use 1 tsp. per gallon

!! Earth Juice Bloom - quart $10.49 (64 2Tbs/gal "servings" $0.16 per gallon water)
Soil & Soilless:
Mild 1/2 Tbsp - Normal 1 Tbsp - Strong 2 Tbsp - Xtra Strong 3 Tbsp.
*** I have this, unopened. they were out of Age Old O qts)

!! Age Old Organics - liquid Quart $11.95
2 Tbs per gal ever 7-14 days (64 "servings") ($0.19 per gallon liquid)
Vegetables & Flowers: Add 1 oz. (2 Tbsp) per 1 gallon of water.
Indoor Plants: Add 1 to 3 teaspoons to 1 gallon of water. Apply directly to soil once a week or spray on leaves. Use a half dosage in the winter season.

Jacks Classic dry 4 lb $25 (mix in water)
1 Tbl per gallon (3tsp) 128 Tbl in 4 pounds (128 servings, $0.20 per gallon)

Fox Farm Grow Big - quart $13.99 ($0.22 per gallon liquid)
2-3tsp gal (1Tbs) (64 "servings")


DRY FERTILIZERS

!!Dr Earth $9.99 4 pounds Dry
1/4cup per (4 Tbs) 5 gallon of soil or pot. 0.8Tbls or 2.4 Tsp 12ml per gallon soil (160 "servings/ gallon soil) ($0.06 per serving)
When to apply: Every 1-2 months year-round
Recommended amounts: Side dress ¾ to 1-½ cups for every 10 sq. ft. of growing area 2Tbs per plant

Happy Frog All Purpose Dry 4 lb $8,95
Directions for Use:
New Container Plants: Add 1 Tbsp. Happy Frog All-Purpose Fertilizer 1 Tbl (15ml) per gallon of soil. (128 "servings" of 1 gallon soil) ($0.07 per serving)
Established Container Plants: Use 1/2 - 3 cups per plant. (8Tbs plus) Feed monthly throughout the growing season. Lightly scratch into the top 1-inch of soil and water.

Age Old Organics Dry - 5 pounds $11.95 1 pound $4.50
Potting Mixes: Add 1/2 pound (8oz) per cubic foot or 1 Tablespoon (15ml) per gallon pot. (160 tbs "servings" of 1 gallon soil) ($0.08 per serving)
( 1 pound per 2 cubic foot?!) this box gives enough nutes for 8 cubic feet or 100sqft??
Gardens: Apply as a top dressing at a rate of 5 pounds per 100 square feet or use 2 tablespoons worked into the soil around the roots of each plant.
 

Captain Kronic

Member of the Month: July 2011
I have used the Age Old (liquid)... great stuff, no probs at all w/it!

This year I am running the EJ line up along w/some teas and other things.

As for feeding routines and such, I find that for me... it's better to give the plant what it needs rather than trying to make it eat according to your schedule... make sense?

Also, not all strains can handle the same feed regimen... just like us humans!

It seems you have the drive to do your homework... that's a great start.
If I may be so bold... it seems that you are learning much, don't make your work any harder than you have to... keep it simple... it'll be easier on you and your babies will love you for it!
 

Lusi

New Member
Hi Captn!

You nailed me down.... I read so much, I can't make a choice and get overwhelmed and often five up on an idea before ever trying it out.

How many plants are you able to grow outside? Do you mix your AOO I a bucket of water and drag it out to feed the ladies, or is there a netter way to go about this? What signs do you look for before choosing to feed the plants? I have a few with yellowing leaves and give them extra with magiCal. Feeding when the plant says you need to makes a TON more sense. I just need to figure out what early signs of nute deficiency plants give. Sounds easy, but itsnt. Lol Do you find similar strains of similar age have the same nute requirements, or is this completely individual with all plants doing different things?

Hmmmm, got more reading to do!
 

Captain Kronic

Member of the Month: July 2011
I do that same thing w/the reading LOL, but at least we can read :thumb:

This year we are only doing 30, we could do more but 30 is plenty!

For the feed, as mentioned, Earth Juice is our choice, I have 3 55 gal. barrels and a pump up hill from the plot down through 3/4 hose, it's a low budget setup, not sure how well it will work yet. There is always the buckets!
I would like to be able to bubble the shit for a while before feeding but... that's a lot of juice and I don't have a proper air pump... so, old school it is!

From what I have learned, spending a lot of time w/the plants lets me (sometimes) anticipate what they will need ahead of time (I spend probably too much time w/them) but I am finding that it is what works for me!

I do treat every one of them differently but the same. Even from cubed, F1 genetics, there will be variations in the plants. Not all of them can handle the same regimen... lots of peeps miss this in practice. IMNSHO!

My main strategy is to give them a complete fert so that they lack for nothing and thus it is easier to keep them in the 90th percentile of growth overall. Also, a healthier plant can stave of pests/disease much better.

To me they are like my kids, they are of the same gene pool but each has their own personality. I am speaking of seeds here, clones are a different story... I don't like to use them but I do when needed :)

I do however try to establish a feed schedule, like right now, mine are about 3x3 ft, I hit them twice a week w/nutes, maybe a seaweed foliage spray.
Towards the middle of veg on, I usually hit them everyday, feed in the morning and H20 in the evening... this is for big plants though.

It is also my thought that sometimes, less is more, you don't always want to max out on the feed, work up to a dose that pushes them, if you go a lil hot, they will let you know... back off a lil and you should be about maxed w/o hurting them. Some strains like God Bud are really hard to overdo, they are nute hogs!

I have to admit, I am still trying to figure it out, honing my craft as I go... you are on the right track... :yummy:

PS... there are many peeps here that are much better at this than I... I am hoping some will chime in here!

Hi Captn!

You nailed me down.... I read so much, I can't make a choice and get overwhelmed and often five up on an idea before ever trying it out.

How many plants are you able to grow outside? Do you mix your AOO I a bucket of water and drag it out to feed the ladies, or is there a netter way to go about this? What signs do you look for before choosing to feed the plants? I have a few with yellowing leaves and give them extra with magiCal. Feeding when the plant says you need to makes a TON more sense. I just need to figure out what early signs of nute deficiency plants give. Sounds easy, but itsnt. Lol Do you find similar strains of similar age have the same nute requirements, or is this completely individual with all plants doing different things?

Hmmmm, got more reading to do!
 

Lusi

New Member
CK, I've been paying more attention to individual plants and now understand what to look for. you're right, every plant needs watered and fed differently, even the same strain. This means less wasted nutes, to me. Since I already have some Earth Juice, this is what I'll go with. I'd still love to hear how people are fertilizing 20-30 outside plants with liquid nutes. Each monster plants needs several gallons of water too! Is there a way to connect Earth Juice to a hose end sprayer? I like your barrel on the hill midea. I have a huge hill too! :0) My gravity drip system works great, but even liquid nutes would clog it up. Do you keep diluted nutes in that barrel, or is it for just watering? I'll play around with this idea this summer. Filling up one barrel with water instead of lugging a hose to each plant is also something worth thinking of.
I hope Earth Juice has all the nutes a plant needs. The Technaflora nutes starter kit I tried were a pain in the ass. I wont do this again! All that mixing of various bottles instead of a complete fertilizer is a waste of time and money. It's almost used up, thank heavens! My plants are thriving on it, compared to my first grow with miracle grow. LOL

I'm a bit surprised that no outside growers are using dry nutes as top dressing. If I get enough plants of same age and size, I'll set up some experiments. Without experiments, my life would horrible boring. :)))

Happy Growing!
 

Captain Kronic

Member of the Month: July 2011
I am old school, I fert by hand w/5 gal buckets... I also sometimes if my pard is around will use a smallish pump inside the barrel and then just pump in out a garden hose... LOL
For the watering, I have full pressure through a seperate hose, just like if I was in the yard watering my grass (lawn)
EJ is formulated for hand feeding... not the easiest stuff to use but very very good stuff for being bottled organics IMNSHO!
You are correct, a 6 wide plant will use about 25 gals of H20 a day give or take... toward the end, I will be feeding pretty much daily and also watering too. I usually feed in the morning and water in the evening.

I do use some dry nutes to supplement if I think one or more needs it, I just side dress whatever it is I am adding.
I will get into more of that but since this is my first year all organic, I wanted to keep it simple.

Glad you are doing well and so stoked on your grow, the difference between a rut and a groove is attitude!

CK, I've been paying more attention to individual plants and now understand what to look for. you're right, every plant needs watered and fed differently, even the same strain. This means less wasted nutes, to me. Since I already have some Earth Juice, this is what I'll go with. I'd still love to hear how people are fertilizing 20-30 outside plants with liquid nutes. Each monster plants needs several gallons of water too! Is there a way to connect Earth Juice to a hose end sprayer? I like your barrel on the hill midea. I have a huge hill too! :0) My gravity drip system works great, but even liquid nutes would clog it up. Do you keep diluted nutes in that barrel, or is it for just watering? I'll play around with this idea this summer. Filling up one barrel with water instead of lugging a hose to each plant is also something worth thinking of.
I hope Earth Juice has all the nutes a plant needs. The Technaflora nutes starter kit I tried were a pain in the ass. I wont do this again! All that mixing of various bottles instead of a complete fertilizer is a waste of time and money. It's almost used up, thank heavens! My plants are thriving on it, compared to my first grow with miracle grow. LOL

I'm a bit surprised that no outside growers are using dry nutes as top dressing. If I get enough plants of same age and size, I'll set up some experiments. Without experiments, my life would horrible boring. :)))

Happy Growing!
 

ggriffi

Member
I grow in 5 gal. buckets and use EJ for my nutes. I usually keep to the "water,water,feed" schedule and do that when the bucket the plants are in feel "dry". I do bubble mine since I am a backyard grower it is easy for me to hand water. There is a thread here that someone posted with results using various nutes and he really got some really good results using EJ. I started using them last year during flower and they really did a good job. This will be the first time that I will be using them thru out the whole grow. I wanted to go organic too and they fit the bill.
 

Lusi

New Member
EJ sounds like a keeper! It will take me a year or 2 to use it up. LOL

Is there anyone else out there with plants in outdoor containers? Every time I transplant, the roots are crowed 2-3 weeks later.

GG, Are you on hydro outside? I'm not sure what"bubble": means. Sorry! Are you growing in containers? LMK if you see that thread. Just about any nute is better than miracle grow. LOL My Technaflora starter kit is about used up. The plants liked the stuff, but i have enough of mixing all this crap together each time. EJ and AOO at least are more complete. What kind of additives do you keep in hand for when EJ isn't enough? I was debating on a CAL MAg food and wondering which to keep around Super Thrive or Thrive Alive. All these foods seem overkill...

Let's say you have a plant in a 10 gallon container, it's 4' high, thirsty and time for nutes. How many gallons of mixed EJ would you give it at once? Is there a rule of thumb for how many mixed gallons of EJ a plant needs per gallon of soil? This would be for a water water feed schedule, or as they need it.

I've gotten a bit confused over the soil issue... All the quality soils, and even crappy ones, all seem to contain nutes! Happy Frog, Roots Organic, Pro Mix... all have nutes. OK, so these nutes in the soil last for one month, then I either transplant or start the EJ?

At most, my backyard 20gal potted plant needs 2 gallons of water every 3 days... is my soil too heavy or too wet? The leaves are sticking up on several, though the soil feels dry. I do have a guy babysitting them while I move, one of the painters. He over waters each day, but I'm grateful to have a plant sitter and hope the roots don't boil in the sun. I put them in the shade, but it's so hot plastic pots literally melt. It's so frickin hot out here! :0( I hope the plants will survive 2 more weeks while I try to get a permanent place for them.

CK, you said you have a pump and barrel set up. Even a 2.5 gaallon water can is a bit much to carry far, let alone 20 times. What size barrel and pump do you have? Like a rain barrel full of nutes? Got any pics of this? The more I think about it, the more appealing a large rain barrel on my porch would be. The port is 2 feet above the ground level. Or, pressurize the tank with a pump. The goal, water with nutes gets to the plants with a hose or drip and no schlepping around with buckets of nute water. CK, I'd like to hear more about your set up. What size barrel? How many gallons of mixed nutes do you end up using per what size plant? I hope this makes sense at 4 am. LOL Ohhh, my head!
 

ggriffi

Member
EJ sounds like a keeper! It will take me a year or 2 to use it up. LOL

Is there anyone else out there with plants in outdoor containers? Every time I transplant, the roots are crowed 2-3 weeks later.

GG, Are you on hydro outside? I'm not sure what"bubble": means. Sorry! Are you growing in containers? LMK if you see that thread. Just about any nute is better than miracle grow. LOL My Technaflora starter kit is about used up. The plants liked the stuff, but i have enough of mixing all this crap together each time. EJ and AOO at least are more complete. What kind of additives do you keep in hand for when EJ isn't enough? I was debating on a CAL MAg food and wondering which to keep around Super Thrive or Thrive Alive. All these foods seem overkill...

Let's say you have a plant in a 10 gallon container, it's 4' high, thirsty and time for nutes. How many gallons of mixed EJ would you give it at once? Is there a rule of thumb for how many mixed gallons of EJ a plant needs per gallon of soil? This would be for a water water feed schedule, or as they need it.

I've gotten a bit confused over the soil issue... All the quality soils, and even crappy ones, all seem to contain nutes! Happy Frog, Roots Organic, Pro Mix... all have nutes. OK, so these nutes in the soil last for one month, then I either transplant or start the EJ?

At most, my backyard 20gal potted plant needs 2 gallons of water every 3 days... is my soil too heavy or too wet? The leaves are sticking up on several, though the soil feels dry. I do have a guy babysitting them while I move, one of the painters. He over waters each day, but I'm grateful to have a plant sitter and hope the roots don't boil in the sun. I put them in the shade, but it's so hot plastic pots literally melt. It's so frickin hot out here! :0( I hope the plants will survive 2 more weeks while I try to get a permanent place for them.

CK, you said you have a pump and barrel set up. Even a 2.5 gaallon water can is a bit much to carry far, let alone 20 times. What size barrel and pump do you have? Like a rain barrel full of nutes? Got any pics of this? The more I think about it, the more appealing a large rain barrel on my porch would be. The port is 2 feet above the ground level. Or, pressurize the tank with a pump. The goal, water with nutes gets to the plants with a hose or drip and no schlepping around with buckets of nute water. CK, I'd like to hear more about your set up. What size barrel? How many gallons of mixed nutes do you end up using per what size plant? I hope this makes sense at 4 am. LOL Ohhh, my head!

Lusi,

I grow outdoors only no hydro. My plants are in 5 gal. buckets now but were started in those 16 oz.
 

ggriffi

Member
EJ sounds like a keeper! It will take me a year or 2 to use it up. LOL

Is there anyone else out there with plants in outdoor containers? Every time I transplant, the roots are crowed 2-3 weeks later.

GG, Are you on hydro outside? I'm not sure what"bubble": means. Sorry! Are you growing in containers? LMK if you see that thread. Just about any nute is better than miracle grow. LOL My Technaflora starter kit is about used up. The plants liked the stuff, but i have enough of mixing all this crap together each time. EJ and AOO at least are more complete. What kind of additives do you keep in hand for when EJ isn't enough? I was debating on a CAL MAg food and wondering which to keep around Super Thrive or Thrive Alive. All these foods seem overkill...

Let's say you have a plant in a 10 gallon container, it's 4' high, thirsty and time for nutes. How many gallons of mixed EJ would you give it at once? Is there a rule of thumb for how many mixed gallons of EJ a plant needs per gallon of soil? This would be for a water water feed schedule, or as they need it.

I've gotten a bit confused over the soil issue... All the quality soils, and even crappy ones, all seem to contain nutes! Happy Frog, Roots Organic, Pro Mix... all have nutes. OK, so these nutes in the soil last for one month, then I either transplant or start the EJ?

At most, my backyard 20gal potted plant needs 2 gallons of water every 3 days... is my soil too heavy or too wet? The leaves are sticking up on several, though the soil feels dry. I do have a guy babysitting them while I move, one of the painters. He over waters each day, but I'm grateful to have a plant sitter and hope the roots don't boil in the sun. I put them in the shade, but it's so hot plastic pots literally melt. It's so frickin hot out here! :0( I hope the plants will survive 2 more weeks while I try to get a permanent place for them.

CK, you said you have a pump and barrel set up. Even a 2.5 gaallon water can is a bit much to carry far, let alone 20 times. What size barrel and pump do you have? Like a rain barrel full of nutes? Got any pics of this? The more I think about it, the more appealing a large rain barrel on my porch would be. The port is 2 feet above the ground level. Or, pressurize the tank with a pump. The goal, water with nutes gets to the plants with a hose or drip and no schlepping around with buckets of nute water. CK, I'd like to hear more about your set up. What size barrel? How many gallons of mixed nutes do you end up using per what size plant? I hope this makes sense at 4 am. LOL Ohhh, my head!

Lusi,

I grow outdoors only no hydro. My plants are in 5 gal. buckets now but were started in those 16 oz. cups that you can buy at any store. When I talk about "bubbling" I have two 5G buckets that are filled with water and I add EJ and then use a small aquarium pump with the little "airstone bubblers" attached to pump air into the nutes and keep them in the water for anywhere from 24-48 hours before I feed them. Search bubbling and you can find a lot of info about this too. If it wasn't raining here I would get a picture of the setup so you could see it. Maybe tomorrow

As far as how much water and water/nutes they get I set a pan underneath the bucket and water until it starts to come out the bottom and then I stop. For me last year, it would take approx. 5 quarts to get there.

The only other thing I use are superthrive and I use molasses instead EJ Hi-Brix which was the only EJ product they didn't have.

And lastly here is that thread about the various nutes you can use:

A top nutrient study - Which is the best? Produces most?


Hope this helps you out and good luck with your grow! :thumb:
 

Lusi

New Member
Ty GG, that makes more sense now. LOL ------------, bubble hash, bubble bags, etc. :hmmmm: I'll look that up. I take you wouldn't be doing this if you weren't impressed with the results. :-

My poor plants are still in pots and getting badly burned in the heat. The guy working on my house used to grow as did his father and so on. He swears all the old growers in my area did nothing whatsoever other than plant each plant in the ground on top of a dead fish. I hope to get mine in the ground this week and told him to keep a fish or two next catch. LOL Of all the people to hire to repair and firebreak the land and design a garden... Has anyone heard of the dead fish thing before? It sounds familiar... That would certainly be easy!

I hope I have this right.... Since I transplanted all my plants into new pots 3 weeks again to Happy Frog, I don't have to feed them until 4 weeks have passed? They look healthy, but not growing, or flipping out of blooming into veg. Only 2 look like they need fed. I can't wait to get these in the ground and be done with potting soil. It seems so much easier that way, using EJ when needed without worries of what's in the soil. TY for all the good advice!
 

Ganja Munky

New Member
when does everyone switch nutes from veg to bloom? I live in florida and my plants are 2 months old and have been showing preflowers for about two weeks but I'm not sure when to change the feeding schedule over to bloom. any of you outdoor guru have any advice sure a young grasshoppa?(pic in my gallery)
 

Lusi

New Member
I'm in CA, but have lived in FL briefly. (and fled) you need to switch nutesmto bloom when you are under 12 hours of light per day. My move screwed up my plants and they all bloomed in June, then started re veg a week agao... Finally. I've been out there pruning sticky bugs off thing it such a waste, but mother nature is the boss.

I found a website showing US light and climates. The daylight hours seem accurate where I live, but impossible when I looked up FL... Never reaching even 10 hours and it said thensame for most of the US. I've lived in 8 states and these numbers don't line up... In my opinion. Don't know what the author is smoking, or perhaps it's me that is doing the smoking. Lol I hate computers and can't search worth a damn. See if you can search for average daylight hours for when you really hit below 12. I'm curious what you find!

Scroll to the bottom and pick your area, then scroll to the bottom again as the top is all metric.
USA Climate Information - ClimateTemp.info, Making Sense of Average Monthly Temperature & Weather Data with Detailed Climate Graphs That Portray Average Rainfall & Sunshine Hours

I think this one is a winner. A 5 yr old can search on a comuter better than me, but try this out. The middle blue line looks like what we need, not just sunrise and sunset. Both of us should be in bloom in September, which is where mine bloomed last year. Mine didn't even pre flower until late Sept, which seemed late!
Sunrise, sunset, daylight in a graph

The 8 2 month old plants that I planted late are not pre flowering yet. Are you using clones or seedlings? On my seedlings, I look for when the branches start to alternate instead of being opposite each other. Someone told me this, and it's in my Cervantes book, plus so far it's been true. Right now, my seedlings are still opposite, no where near bloom. Most of the clones I bought were already alternating when cut and any clone from them does the same. Hope that helps and is true for others besides me. just about anyone else in this forum knows more than I do. :)

Worse come to worse, your plants will let you know. I tried to look at your gallery, but come up with zilch. Stick a link or photo on here and i'll see it next time the computer gets turned on... Or smashed to pieces with a brick. :peace:
 

Lusi

New Member
BTW, GG, I forgot to you for the photo! I tried this in my outdoor experimental aquarium clone tank. The water went green and stiiiinky! Guess I'll give a normal bucket a shot instead. Those mesh pot inserts are pretty neat and make it look easier. tY!
 

Lusi

New Member
GM, being a curious person, I asked a person living in a climate similar to yours, but a bit cooler. Of course, I forgot the actual question about changing nutes... His plants are in pre flower now, and with a lot of searching, I found one single pre flower on one tiny plant. The why is more interesting. He says the plants don't respond to the amount of daylight, it's the amount of darkness. They only know the nights are getting longer and the sun spectrum changing to more amber and lowerwhich signals them to put their energy into flowering more than growing. Indoors changing from Floros to HIDs and flipping from 18 to 12 hours of light mimics this, so it all makes sense. Any other outdoor growers who want to pitch in, cool. This is interesting. The plants know what they are doing.

The nute thing, I will ask around too. I've met a few people who don't change them outdoors. I didn't last year and used tomato food the whole time. I was reading that the changingnof nitrogen levels is artificial and doesn't mimic nature. I haven't heard this from enough sources to judge myself it true or false and my books with answers are in moving boxes. When I find this out, i'll include it here...it's a good question. I have grow and bloom nutes this round, but have given little thought as to when to change. Lol
 

HigherDrifter

On Vacation
Hello Lusi,

This dream garden of yours - I am assuming you're wanting to have it outside...?

If that's the case then...have you given any thought to starting a compost/mulch heap/bins/buckets OR perhaps extending the compost/mulch method with making "teas"? Any plant waste debris (grass clippings, leaves, tree trimmings, weeds, etc.,) that's given time to decompose make great soil amenities without having to purchase any nutes. Same goes for fruit/vegetable trimmings from the kitchen AND egg shells, coffee grounds, bean-water (if you're into changing the water when you cook beans)...numerous other things. If you really wanna get trick with composting/mulching you could always obtain blood and bone meals that work great in composting/mulching as "accelerators" (speeds up the decomposition rate and adds nutrients).

Takes some effort, some time, and some experimentation to get that "ideal" compost/mulch that you're looking for. Plus, once you've got a good compost/mulch to use you don't have to be all that concerned with how much of this or that nute since it's already in the soil and the plants know what to do with it.

;)
 

Lusi

New Member
Hi HD!!

Glad you popped in! My soil test results just came back. I only have 12" of soil, on top of sandstone, for my entire property. I hope the house won't just slide down the hill... My soil is dense sandy clay and desperately needs hummus and compost! I've been hunting for a good locations for a compost pile or two, and have questions. :)

Is a hot pile or cold pile better? How many years before the results are usable? I won't have barnyard manure for a few more years, which I think is needed for a hot pile, but am not sure. Then there is the size of both type, though I have a lot of space, but there will be no grass clippings as the land will be let to grow wild outside of the gardens. How large an area and bin is ideal? Is it better to have smaller multiple metal bins next to each other? I'm debating between a spot with 3 dirt walls that have been dug out for a shed, long ago, and which is open on one side. Or, out in the open, in a wood, wire or concrete cage of some sort. Which do you think would be the best? Dirt holds heat, a fenced pile lets in air...

Since you also grow outside... Do you put yard clippings that might have seeds, fungus, or insects in them? I don't know how hot the pile must get to kill these and how large to get hot enough. I've considered keeping a large pile for yard trimmings and twigs of the thistles full of seeds and the small plastic bin I have for used soil, kitchen trimmings, and old pot trimmings with no bugs or seeds. It would be good to use it to revive the old soil in with kitchen scraps. Is it enough to give the soil new life? All my other yard waste and bush could go somewhere else in a larger pile.

There's lots of info on the perfect compost pile around, but nothing about what's actually practical for your average hobby gardener who needs to toss scrap in as they get them. Any little tidbit of advice is welcome. :) TY!
 

HigherDrifter

On Vacation
Is a hot pile or cold pile better?
To be honest - I never knew there was a distinction between a hot and cold pile until you brought it up. However, I did some quick research on the subject and I reckon I have been using something akin to the "hot pile" method all these years. As to which method is best - who's to say? "Hot piles" tend to decompose plant matter much quicker and therefore usable quicker. Personally, I've obtained usable compost/mulch in as little as 2~3 weeks. "Hot piles", however, do require a bit more effort, diversity, and ingenuity compared to "cold piles" - which basically is like a "leave it alone and let nature do all the work" kinda thing (takes much more time, at least a year, maybe even two years to have some decent compost.

It wouldn't be fair for me to suggest what method you use, how and where you have your pile or piles. How you go about making your piles will largely depend on what resources (specifically financial) you have available. I have very limited purchasing power so I tend to keep with what existing resources available to me.

Just so happens that I have an old outdoor, kidney-bean shaped, concrete fish pond in my backyard. The pond itself isn't all that deep to begin with - maybe 12 inches deep at the most. I made it at least a good 12 inches deeper by stacking chunks of broken concrete around the border. It holds quite a large amount of matter - I would estimate in the neighborhood of 8~10 cu. yards. The pond is right under a old, but large Juniper tree; it's shaded, but plenty of sunlight gets through (not good to have it exposed to direct sunlight anyways - dries too quickly, and it's good to keep the piles moist). So, there you have my compost/mulching "pit" in a nutshell.

Here's a couple of pics of it:






Got a chipper/shredder for grinding up whatever plant debris I can get my hands on. My buddy's got a Lawn Service/Tree Trimming/Landscaping bid'ness so we get's plenty of plant debris when needed to replenish the pit.

Also have a steel tumbler (got a hand crank and electric motor for turning it) and we tend to put all our organic kitchen debris in there (fruit and veggie clippings, egg shells, my buddy drinks coffee - so the coffee grounds go in there too). We leave everything in the tumbler till everything turns mostly black and then toss it all in the pit.

Since you also grow outside... Do you put yard clippings that might have seeds, fungus, or insects in them? I don't know how hot the pile must get to kill these and how large to get hot enough.
We put just about everything in there, except for meat and dairy (not big on dairy products anyways) AND any grass clippings that might have insecticides or herbicides in them. Fungi, bacteria, and what not, aren't really too much of a concern - they're more of a benefit for they do aid in the decomposition. Insects...well, not too much of a problem - unless you've got a lot of Fig Beetles in your area like we do. They like to lay their eggs in soil rich in organic matter. As far as seeds (of undesirable plants - weeds), not to much of a problem there either. The heat from the decomp process usually takes care of (sterilizing) the vast majority of the seeds. If weeds, and what not, appear I simple throw a piece of heavy duty (6mm) black plastic sheet over the pit and it eliminates the weeds plus any remaining seeds at the surface.

Last, but not least, I'd suggest keeping your piles comfortably manageable.

What I've got here is really neat. It's in the shade so if I need to get in there with a pitchfork to give it a good tossing from time to time...no problem.

The concrete bottom keeps it more of the water I stick in there rather than letting it soak into the ground.

Is it enough to give the soil new life?
If you've got some diversity in the types of plant matter that you're using, plus, if you keep it moist - trust me, it will attract life. Too many people put too much emphasis on the bacterial/insect thing in the soils when it a sign of life and nutrition for all kinds of plants. Diverse companion planting will help with harmful bacterias, fungi, and insects when you grow your fruits and veggies.

I know I started out with talking 'bout compost/mulching, but here's something else: cover crops, green manure crops, compost crops. Growing leguminous plants like Alfalfa, Clover, Buckwheat, Broad Beans (like Fava Beans), etc., are great for soil amendment and composting and mulching - many of which can be grown in colder seasons (winter) when most food crops cannot.
 
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