Questions Submitted in
January 9, 2020
Greetings! I mentioned this idea to the teacher the other day at a Master Gardeners class, and she suggested I send this inquiry along to you...What does the ABQ zoo do with their zoo poo? Would it be suitable as a soil amendment in home gardens? I live right next to the zoo, and enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells of zoo animals on a daily basis. I am also an avid composter and gardener, and wonder if there might be untapped synergy between the animals and gardeners in the community...I would love to hear your thoughts on this!
Building a Bin at Little Cost
January 27, 2020
I'm very interested in building a compost bin on my property in ABQ, NM . I'm a senior on limited income (SS) and was wondering if you may know of anyone that might have materials to donate for building of a compost bin in my yard? I would really appreciate any help I could get.
I will also try to attend one of the seminars offered this spring.
February 3, 2020
We attended the sheet composting class at the Huble House. We have several beds that we duplicated the learned process. Wondering what to do with all of the straw. It doesn’t seem to be breaking down. Spring is fast approaching and it will be time to plant. What should we do? Thanks for any insight. zip code 87109
February 4, 2020
I live in Albuquerque. I have heard that there is a commercial service in Albuquerque which will bring one a container for compostable materials, pick it up when it is full, and supply a new container to fill up. Since I live in an apartment, I cannot have a compost heap of my own. Do you know anything about this service, or do you know anyone with a compost heap in the NE Heights who would like me to bring them my compost? I composted for 18 years, before I had to move to an apartment. Thank you.
March 11, 2020
I live in an area with stables nearby. We have access to horse, mule, donkey, chicken and/or rabbit manure. (I think these are provided separately, not all mixed together). None of this is composted; we can just arrange to get it directly from the animal owners at the stables. My understanding is that it is just too high in acid to use directly in the gardening beds, and should be composted. What is the best way to do this, or should we do this? Which types of manure are best? We have a straw bale composting system already set up. We also have an enclosed, heavy-duty plastic drum-style composter. We live in Eldorado, in an area that is roughly 8 miles south of Santa Fe.
We would appreciate any recommendations/direction you can provide us. Thank you for your time and attention to this.
Turning and Harvesting Hot Compost
March 21, 2020
I live in the North Valley and started a hot compost pile last August. It is fully enclosed with a lid and I keep a black plastic bag on the top to help keep the moisture in - I keep it plenty moist and add to it every few days - the pile keeps going down so I assume things are breaking down. My question to you - I have never turned the pile - I do add sticks and wood chips to create air pockets but most places I’ve read including the ABQ city website suggests turning the pile 3 times a month. I’ve also read since we live in the desert you don’t have to turn it because it will lose moisture. Any thoughts? I’m hoping to harvest in May. Also, do you have to wait two weeks before using the humis? Hoping to add to my fruit trees. Thanks for any info you might have.
Three-Bin Compost System
March 24, 2020
My husband and I are looking to build the New Zealand Box Style Three-Bin system in our backyard for composting. We first saw this when we were taking the Master Gardeners class in Spring of 2019. I found the link on your website, but I was wondering if you happen to have a building design and materials list by change? Thanks so much!
Soil Test, Mulch, Manure
April 14, 2020
Soil Testing: Could you please tell me where I can get my garden soil tested? I am starting a fairly ambitious vegetable garden, and have been working a lot of amendments into some raised beds. I am wondering if I am using the right stuff, and would like to make sure I’m not wasting time, energy and money!!
Mulch: My tree trimmer gave me an enormous amount of freshly-chipped wood (mostly Doug Fir and fruit trees). Does it need to be composted, or at least aged? If so, how? I thought I could use it as mulch immediately, but then read (online) that it will rob the soil of nitrogen, and potentially kill my trees and/or lilacs. Bob Pennington at Agua Fria Nursery agrees that it is an iffy proposition. I have a small mountain of wood chips!! I would like to use them as mulch around my pinon trees, if it would be safe, and helpful. What do you suggest?
Fresh manure for fertilizer?: We live in Eldorado, and the stables offer a ready, and abundant amount of manure - horse, rabbit, chicken, donkey (?). How would I use fresh manure? Does it need to be composted? If so, how?
Composting in an Apartment
April 15, 2020
Zip code: 87124 Brief description: At this time I have no setup at all. I want to start a compost to help reduce and reuse kitchen waste. However I live in an apartment with only a small porch. I have been researching tumblers and wanted to know a few things.
1. Are there any brand's you recommend? Our climate is unique and I have a south facing porch.
2. Are there any restrictions I should be aware of? I live in Sandoval county, I am on the second floor, and my porch is made of wood slats with 1 inch holes between each slat. Thank you,
Composting with Worms Around My Tomatoes
April 23, 2020
I wonder if you can help me. Here's what I am planning. I'm planting tomatoes in a large bin set for wicking to maintain constant moisture and drainage in case of rain. I'll add a layer of shredded newspaper and some amount of red wigglers. The top will be covered with wood slats for shade and I will top feed the worms for the season.
Have you ever heard of an idea similar to this? It seems to me that it would be beneficial to the tomatoes.and I'd have a thriving colony of wigglers.
I live in the middle of Albuquerque 87106 zip code.
I so appreciate your knowledge and willingness to share.
Cold Composting Setup
April 28, 2020
Hi there! I am wondering what kind of structure I should build to protect my compost pile. I don't have plans to buy a plastic bin at the moment. Just was planning to throw cut up scraps on a pile that will be safe from my dogs. I could build some sort of barrier frame with wood, but does it need a top to keep the moisture in? Also, do I need to turn the pile periodically? Thanks!
Composting with Worms
May 6, 2020
We are just moving from Nob Hill to Silver Hill (87106), and are wanting to set up an easy compost system. I was looking at this one:
It looks like this is a worm composter, and I'm wondering if red worms do well here, or if it gets too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter for them to survive. I've never done worm composting before.
Also wondering if you think this type of setup would work without worms, or if there is a similar, above ground system that you would recommend? I want something that would keep the smell down, and keep animals out. Thanks for any advice or recommendations!
How to Line Bin
May 26, 2020
Zipcode 87114. Homemade 6feet x 4feet wooden pallet frame “bin”, lined and covered with old plastic tarp/sheet. After taking a class from you guys last year, we made this and this set up works great! However the plastic is breaking down and our compost is getting dry. I don’t love buying or using plastic that breaks down easily. Is there another material that will work better? Not break down so easily? Thanks!
Roaches in My Pile
June 1, 2020
I recently started a compost pile, but I find I'm having trouble with cockroaches in the pile. I've tried adding more straw and leaves, turning more frequently and even sprinkling diatomaceous earth on top of the pile. The diatomaceous earth doesn't do much good because of the moisture in the pile. It really needs to be used on dry surfaces, but I was desperate! Any suggestions?
Turning Large Bins
June 22, 2020
I have a few compost questions I was hoping the master composters could help with. I was recently charged with managing the compost bins for the community gardens at the Rio Grande Community Farm (at 87107). We currently have a three bin hot compost setup. There are more details about the setup below, but my questions are:
1) the bins are quite large — around 6’ x 6’. How do you turn hot compost piles this big? I was working with a master composter before she moved out of state, and she said you just rebuild the entire pile. But how would that work exactly? Do you try to maintain the layers with the bulking in between? Do you add anything? Is there a better way than rebuilding the piles?
2) If a pile gets cold because we were unable to turn it while it was still warm, is there any sense in still turning it? Or should we just sift it and add anything that didn’t break down into a new pile?
Our set up is three wire bins, each around 6’ x 6’. Currently they are lined with cardboard, though I’m going to experiment with lining them with plastic tarps instead. They are in the shade in the morning, but in the sun for the afternoons. All piles are covered on top with cardboard and a plastic tarp. For each bin, I’ve dug about a foot underground to help with runoff. We end up needing to water the piles once a week or so due to the afternoon sun. I am also new to hot composting, though I have a handle on the basics (and attended the basic home composting class before the pandemic).
Thanks so much for any help you can provide! We have a lot of organic waste and go through compost really quickly. Plus a lot of the gardeners are really fascinated with the compost process!
Roly Polys in the Compost
July 6, 2020
Hi, my compost is breaking down well. However; I am noticing an exceptionally large number of roly polys in the bin this year. Is this anything to be concerned about? I’ve heard this is because the pile is too dry? I am guilty of not always keeping it damp. Maybe they are just breaking everything down at warp speed!
Compost from Sewage, Is it Safe for a Vegetable Garden?
July 15, 2020
I need a lot of compost for my vegetable gardens, and I am actively composting, using grass cuttings, kitchen scraps, and sawdust. I know that I will not be able to make enough compost for my whole garden.
I found out that the cities of Artesia and Carlsbad, NM have free compost. They make it from their sewage treatment plant. Is this kind of compost safe and effective for vegetable gardens? The employee I spoke with said that their customers like it a lot.
Thank you for your help.
Snake in My Pile
July 24, 2020
I have a 3’x3’x3’ worm compost bin. It’s mostly a lot of straw bedding as I’ve been conservative in adding scraps since just starred it up in early May. Today I went to turn some of the top layer to see how it was doing after we had been away for a few days - then I saw something squiggle away. I dug a little more and it came squiggling toward me! It was a small black snake. Maybe the length of a pencil. I worry there are more, that a bunch of eggs got laid in spring and are now hatching, and that it’s no longer safe for me to dig around with my hands, or safe for my worms.
I wondered if there were mice which would have attracted the snake, but I have seen no sign of them and have done well at keeping it all moist I think.
Are these concerns founded or bananas, and do you have suggestions for how to move it along or handle things?
Thank you very much.
Where Can I Get Browns for My Pile?
July 26, 2020
I've just arrived in Albuquerque (zip 87106) and I'm anxious to start a compost pile. I've got lots of kitchen scraps, but no brown material to go with them. I made a half-hearted attempt using paper, but quickly drew a herd of roaches. Do I have to trench compost until the fall when there'll be plenty of dry leaves? Thanks for any suggestions you may have!
July 29, 2020
I have a question regarding locating a compost bin next to a shared chain link fence. My neighbor is currently building a large compost up against the fence we share. I am very supportive of composting - however I am concerned about the location. If the compost is not correctly cared for I may experience smell and rodents etc. They have a very large lot and there are areas where it could be located. Are there any state or county regulations or codes regarding this situation that could help? Do you know where else I might need to contact? Thank you for your reply.
New to Composting in the Desert
September 17, 2020
We live in Old Town and we built a backyard composting bin this spring and it is not working. We are piling vegetable scraps, leaves, and shredded paper into a pile confined by 3 wooden pallets. The pile doesn't seem to be doing anything but drying out. Can you give us some tips? I moved here from Hawaii last year and composting in the desert is much different. Thanks for your help
Grubs in My Humanure Compost Pile
November 8, 2020
I finally got around to dumping 5 full buckets into my humanure compost pile today. (I started humanure composting in February of this year.) The pile temp had dropped down to ambient temp because it went about 6 weeks before getting "fed". When I was digging in the center of the pile to make room for the new 'contribution', I ran across at least 2 dozen LARGE grubs. (See attached photo.)
I found some information online that nematodes can be very helpful to control grubs, and in fact one writer specifically stated that adding nematodes to his/her compost pile completely got rid of the grubs in their pile. https://www.gardendesign.com/advice/grub-worms.html#:~:text=Answer%201%3A%20Earth%2Dfriendly%20beneficial,and%20continue%20to%20kill%20grubs.
I'm hopeful that now the pile has been 'fed', the temp will go up to around 120 degrees F again, but there are bound to be places, especially in the corners, that don't get hot enough to kill the grubs and they will continue to thrive there undisturbed. What experience do you have re: controlling grubs in a compost pile? Thanks
Hot Compost Not Getting Hot; Is It the High Altitude?
November 8, 2020
I’m glad to have found your site and hope you have some ideas. I’ve been hot composting in Northern California for over 20 years, taken Elaine Ingham’s course, and yet I’m stumped by composting here. Never before coming here has a one of my compost piles reached less than 150, most reach 160 and stay for about 3 days. My concern was keeping it from getting too hot.
I’m in Trinidad, Co 81082, and have built about 10 piles now, ~4’x4’x4′ using different materials, being careful to manage proper moisture, etc, and the hottest i can get us 140°F for two days. I got to wondering if thermophilic bacteria don’t exist at higher altitudes, or very dry naturally climates. I’ve wondered about buying a thermophilic inoculant, but always chuckled at them before given hot composting has always been easy for me. Ideas??