Monthly Archives: May 2015

Composting – take two

Time to put some of the learning from the last time into practice, with thanks to Polly for help with wrangling the materials –

Raw materials

Raw materials

The clover which it the high-nitrogen component because it fixes N from the air is on the black plastic. Loads of wood chip is in the bin and the wheelbarrow. First we put sticks in the bottom to improve airflow because the whole point of thermal compost is to keep things aerobic

base of sticks to improve airflow

base of sticks to improve airflow

We needed to wet the material. In the video tutorials Ingham recommends standing the material in water overnight. We wetted is using a fine spray on the hose

Lucia and Polly soaking the woodchip

Lucia and Polly soaking the woodchip

A heck of a lot of material goes into a compost pile – thanks to Polly and Lucia who helped at the working party Continue reading

Nitrogen Fixing Clover Nodules

We have a lot of clover, which as Cotswold Seeds describe, are plants that fix nitrogen from the air in combination with Rhizobium bacteria living in root nodules. Since I’m going to use this for the high Nitrogen component instead of chicken crap I wanted to see if there were any active root nodules – after all if there were no bacteria or we had used nitrogen fertiliser there would be no nodules.

Clover root nodules

Clover root nodules

The good news is there are root nodules – so the clover is ready to fix nitrogen. The first  sample nodules have no red in them, even when dissected, which seems to mean they weren’t actually fixing nitrogen. This only starts when the soil temperature is above 8C. However, taking a second sample from the same patch showed better results.

opened nitrogen fixing root nodule

opened nitrogen fixing root nodule shows a distinct red colour

Looks like with these you have to open the nodules to see the red colour of leghemoglobin , they’re not particularly pink from the outside. Leghemoglobin transports the nitrogen to the plant from the nitrogen fixing bacteria.

Composting fail – what went wrong

Getting ready to have another go at composting the Elaine Ingham way after the first couple of attempts at thermal compost didn’t go right, I dissected the old material to find out why.

the heap dropped to about a quarter the original size

the heap dropped to about a quarter the original size

On the plus side, the material reduced in volume to 25% of the original volume. That in itself might be telling me something, in that perhaps i hadn’t packed down the original pile enough – the composting bugs are small, and they need to be in contact with the compost to munch it, there is such a thing as too much air gap 😉

looks particularly dry, except in the very middle

looks particularly dry, except in the very middle

Only the very middle was wet, and did not smell, so it looks like this pile largely dried out from the outside, it probably didn’t go anaerobic, and indeed was active enough to nut the smell of the chicken crap used as the high N part.

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Composting – the Elaine Ingham way

Compost isn’t something I’d even given much thought to, I got it in bags from B&Q and job done.

Compost

Compost. On a farm scale you get it wholesale, not from B&Q 🙂

A long time ago I never bothered and used garden soil, perhaps an instinctive predilection towards natural farming – as exemplified in shumei.

I visited the guys doing Shumei farming in Wiltshire - being Japanese they had this image of Mount Fuji on the site, though the December rain doesn't do it justice

I visited the guys doing Shumei farming in Wiltshire – being Japanese they had this image of Mount Fuji on the site, though the December rain doesn’t do it justice

At school I learned that soil has micro-orgnaisms that somehow worked symbiotically with the plants, but pretty much everything in the decades that passed seemed to run counter to that – perhaps my schoolbooks were from an earlier era.

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