Questions Submitted in
January 23, 2021
Do you have any resources for composting humanure? We just bought a forested Pinon property at altitude in NM in the Pinehill/Candy Kitchen area in the Zuni mountains, and are gradually making it a sustainable home with compost, gardens, and eventually chickens and a horse or two. We want to use a composting toilet and, for now, an outhouse. Do you have any resources to help us organize and properly use human waste? Thanks!
January 23, 2021
I have about 10 pails worth of vermicomposting going, and I’m running out of room in the pails, so I need to harvest much of that now/soon. But the target veggie-garden won’t be up for 2-3-4 months yet. Do you have any suggestions on how to store the casting product, so it’s still useable after several months?
Adding Manure to Compost, How Much Is Too Much?
January 28, 2021
My set up: a 4×4 ground box, with cinder block wall in back, and sides made of wood boards with air space between, and open front for hot composting (actively turned over, moisture and kitchen scraps added).
We also have a similar cold composting area against a wood fence instead of cinder block (for larger yard waste)
My question is, sometimes I get good clean goat manure (droppings and some hay/straw scrap) to add to either compost box. Is it ever possible to add too much of this to my compost?
Using a Food Recycler
January 28, 2021
Hi I am using a food recycler that takes my food scraps and houseplant clippings and dries them and shreds everything. What should I add to this prior to mixing it in with the soil in my outside raised beds. A lot of the original material is coffee grounds, banana peels, etc. Thanks.
New Zealand Box in High Dry Climate
February 4, 2021
Hi. About to dive into composting and really finding your information very helpful. I’m up in Las Vegas (NM, not NV), so the heat of the desert won’t be as serious a factor. But the near steady dry winds of April-June will be, and Temps the last few summers have been unusually hot as well. I’m planning on using old pallets to create a New Zealand-style 3-bin system and am wondering if I need to have an air gap at the bottom of each upright pallet to encourage convective air flow? The info refers to minimizing air flow to reduce evaporation, and so I figured I would join the slats of the pallets together except to perhaps leave a small gap (an inch maybe?) between the two slats at what would be the bottom of each upright pallet. Would this be ok or should I not have any gaps at all (or less than an inch)?
Hope that makes sense. Thank you!
Herbicides in Horse Manure
February 8, 2021
Hi. I am in zip code 87048. My question is not specific to my zip code but rather has to do with the herbicidal safety of horse manure used in compost or as a soil additive. I do have two compost barrels that are mounted horizontally and are relatively easy to hydrate with a hose.
I have been told that using horse manure from horses not fed an organic, herbicide free type of hay may be hazardous to the plants upon which the mature compost is spread. Is this true? I used to have horses on my property and regularly used the manure to feed the grasses without any problem. If herbicides are a problem, is there a way to decompose the active chemicals so that the manure can be safely used?
I would appreciate your help.
Composting Egg Shells
February 9, 2021
Hello, I have a typical tall plastic composting tower made by FreeGarden Earth with big lid on top and a small door at the bottom to remove the finished compost from. I’m cold composting with layers of kitchen scraps and then layers of old leaves and other browns. I only put kitchen scraps from vegetables and things like coffee grounds in it. I would also put crunched up egg shells but someone told me that for Cold composting that introduced biological or animal scraps that were only good in hot composting. Is this correct or is there not enough animal material on the eggshells to be a source of bad bacteria? I am here in Albuquerque at zip code 87110, just north of Lomas and west of Carlisle, and I’m really enjoying turning part of our household waste into something useful for my garden. Thank you very much for your help and I look forward to hearing from y’all.
Spontaneous Combustion in Cold Weather
February 17, 2021
Hi, My compost pile caught on fire this evening. I don’t know how this happened. I did know that I’m in Texas where we are having prolonged record breaking low temps. It has never been this cold here in my whole life of 41 years. We did get some snow a few days ago that has only gotten to melt very little since temps aren’t getting high enough. There hasn’t been any more precipitation except a small snow flurry for 30 minutes last night. I haven’t been able to give any moisture to it since before this storm because of frozen water pump for the water well for our neighborhood, which, thank God, they came and fixed today and we had water to help with this new unexpected crisis event in the worst year ever. Just wondering if maybe the combination of dry cold and patches of snow on the pile with little moisture could have caused dry pockets, because I’ve had my pile for a few years now with no issues at all.
Getting Started Composting
February 21, 2021
I’m looking to set up some form of composting in my yard. I have a small outdoor area as part of a duplex (that I own) on the north side between the house and a wall. Which is to say it seldom or never gets direct sunlight. The area is only about 6’ wide and considerably longer than that. A spigot is nearby. I need to be able to walk around the piles. I don’t really want to spend several hundred dollars on a tumbler, though that would be ideal, probably. I have yard waste (piles of mulched leaves) and kitchen scraps (1 person). Lots of questions:
1. It would be most convenient to put the piles against my house, but I wonder about bugs and smells entering the house. I have an old wooden gate that I could possibly lay down against the house to protect the house wall. Any thoughts?
2. It seems I should have at least two areas, side by side, so I can turn compost from one pile into another. I’m not particularly handy with woodworking—building a box is probably beyond my skills, but I’ve heard there are other options. Your suggestions? I had a compost pile at my old place, but nowhere to turn it, so it didn’t break down very quickly. In fact, I never harvested any soil!
3. I also have a 30 gal trash can with a lid, but right now it’s full of soil from potted plants—could be added to the compost pile. Or would using the trash for the composting be the way to go? How does it work to turn compost in a trash can?
4. The recommendation is to build the pile in layers—woody stuff, green stuff, and soil. I have extra soil and leaves, but the green stuff builds up very slowly so it seems like I would have to work it into the leaves as I get it rather than creating a pile all at once. How well does this work?
5. Is it a good idea to dig a foot or so into the ground and start the pile there? (I’ve read that somewhere)
6. Is it important to put branches on the ground and build the pile on top of it or is this optional? Can cardboard be used instead of branches?
7. I hear about adding worms to the pile . . . how much does that help? Where do I get the right kind locally?
Thanks in advance.
Composted Sewage Sludge in a Vegetable Garden
February 28, 2021
Do you have a strong opinion about the use of composted sewage sludge in a vegetable garden? The city of Las Cruces has such compost available and I wanted to use it in my garden here in Las Cruces. I read something recently that the use of such compost can cause the soil to become hydrophobic but I don’t know if this claim is credible. Thank you.
Composting in a Sack; When is it Finished?
March 8, 2021
Zipcode: 87144. It’s my first time composting and have a couple questions. I’m using a compost sack 100 gallon by Smartpots which I started late August last year.
I started with a bag of organic compost, added leaves, kitchen scraps mostly fruits and vegetables glass clippings, shredded paper.
I have been just adding each weekend and still halfway full. I guess this is cold composting?
1. Should I continue adding materials until it reaches to 100 gallon?
2. When can I expect for it to be all ready to use in my garden.
3. I have been folding the sack to close it. Should I leave it open?
Composting at High Elevation
March 21, 2021
We just moved here and will be living at ~6800 ft elevation in high rolls at zip 88325. I recently started doing some vermicomposting indoors but have little experience in any other types of composting. Do you know of any resources that are specific to this elevation/area? Or is composting about the same wherever one resides. I appreciate any insight you can provide.
Composting Pet Waste, Again
April 13, 2021
I’m so glad a resource like this exists. Thank you for your time. I just have a couple of questions.
I’m in ABQ old town area, 87104. I have a rolling plastic compost bin that I put kitchen and yard waste in and have had some pretty good success (other than the downfalls of a rolling composter with it all clumping together). In a small backyard, I have ornamental in-ground gardens and a raised garden bed for vegetables.
My questions all revolve around what to do with my 3 cat’s feces. I know it can’t go in the compost, be flushed, or just go into the ground.
I know there’s products and DIY options for in ground pet waste composters. That could be an option, but I wonder: Are those a good option in NM with our underground water sources?
It seems like the essential function is a container in the ground and you add waste on top… but what’s the endgame? If it’s buried, are you every getting composted things out of it? What do you do when it fills?
I asked the Green Bucket if they take pet waste and the person who answered was very helpful and told me about Bokashi composting (as an option since they don’t take pet waste). So I was looking at something like this: https://store.bokashicycle.com/bpcfs Does this method effectively take care of the toxoplasma?
Is the end result of this able to be added into my other compost? Into just the ornamental garden or into the vegetable garden too?
Again, thank you so much for your valuable time
Lining for Wooden Bins. Also Snakes!
April 14, 2021
I am a Master Gardener (and a long time composter) and am assisting an Eagle Scout in Tucson who is building compost bins for a few community gardens in town.
I found your page with the bin with the wooden sides and plastic lining. I am curious about the plastic lining – how does it hold up? Also what do you think of plastic over hardware cloth (on the inside)? I noticed a suggestion of cardboard but I do not think that is a good long term suggestion.
Are there any other suggestions for successful bins in the desert? Or any other publications you can point me to?
Finally – snakes! One of the reasons I’m hoping to use hardware cloth is to keep these out. I had lots in my compost bin in NH but – no rattlers there. Thoughts?
June 9, 2021
Do you know any folks doing large-scale vermicomposting in the area? I recently started volunteering at Reunity Resources in Santa Fe, and they are trying to step-up their vermicompost production. This is something I’m very interested in supporting, and would love any thoughts you have on where I might visit/learn more about large-scale vermicomposting.
August 2, 2021
Sara of the Extension office suggested I contact you with my concern/request.
I am currently a member of the Saw Mill Community Land Trust community garden. When the garden began we had a Master Composter who started a system. He has not been here for two years. He set up two rather large bins. At present, one of the bins is about 1/4 to 1/3 full which contains what I believe compost which is ready to harvest. The other bin is quite full and filled with accumulated scraps and dry matter over the past couple of years.
My request is for help in harvesting the ready compost and I really don’t know what to do with the rest. I would appreciate hearing from you.
Bin from Plastic Trash Can
August 15, 2021
Greetings. I took a home composting class with the NM Recycling coalition and they had mentioned a really cool composting bin made from a repurposed plastic trash bin. They said they got the directions from your extension office/website. I can’t seem to find them. Maybe I have me wires crossed. Can you help me?
Composting Pet Waste
October 2, 2021
My zip code is 91219. We are in San Diego, CA. We are situated on the side of a hill. The ground is rocky and dry and the weather oscillates between hot and cool. I want to compost my pet waste. I have been looking and reading about several in-ground set ups, but I am concerned that I won’t be able to keep the moisture at 50%. I don’t have a lot of shade options around our yard either. The final concern is simply digging a hole deep enough. There are many drainage and irrigation lines running through the ground.
My questions are- 1) Do you think the in-ground composting is an option with some modifications? 2) Is there an above ground composting method that would be better?
I would appreciate any input you may have!
Composting Acidic Cottonwood Leaves
October 6, 2021
I think I am writing to JZ. I have been on the Zooms you have given on composting in the past year, and have really gotten a lot out of them.
I am answering questions for Ask A Master Gardener online and I got this one, so verbatim:
“I have a composting pile where I put mostly cottonwood dry and yellow leaves as the brown. Does the tannin present in the green leaves affect the ph of my compost?”
In researching this on the web, I have found that Cottonwood leaves are high in tannins which are acidic, so it will raise the pH (make it more acidic?) of the humus you are creating in the compost. Since our soils in NM tend toward the alkaline, is that problem mitigated? I see it is recommended to break the leaves up, so they decompose faster. I think what she wants to know is how to put her resource of Cottonwood leaves to optimal use. I don’t know what she is using for her greens.
A Master Gardener intern in Santa Fe
Chop and Drop
October 10, 2021
Hi there – I’ve enjoyed reading your web page and articles about composting, and wonder if you’ve posted anything about chop and drop? (your sheet composting instructions come close, but sound like too much work for us!) We have a very small garden with not much room for a compost pile or bin, although we do have a large garbage can that we do use. For years We’ve been practicing chop and drop to add organic matter to our soil. During the growing season, if we do any pruning, we simply chop and drop the material throughout the garden. After fall frost, we chop and drop the balance of the residue on our bed, sprinkle in cover crop seeds, then add Back to Earth composted cotton hulls and/or mushroom compost over the top. By spring, we have an enormous amount of material that either gets chopped and dropped, or put into the compost can. We practice “no dig” exclusively. My husband and I are in our 70’s so always looking for ways to grow more food with less effort. We’ve also had good success dealing with garden pests/problems without the use of any pesticides.
I try to keep track of our successes and failures with monthly video updates. Here’s my update for September: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0VII5UwBxY
I send this just in case this might be interesting to your organization. Perhaps you could post something for small spaces people with dwindling energy who still want to grow food!! 😎 Any questions, please let us know.
Too Many Worms in Compost to Harvest
October 14, 2021
I have 2 large tubs of compost I’ve been composting for a couple of years. I would like to harvest my compost, but I have too many worms. The soil is moist, spongey, and not dry enough to go through a screen. It does not smell bad. What is your recommendation for how to harvest it?
Anaerobic Composting in a Bucket with an Inoculant
October 18, 2021
I read an article on anaerobic composting household organic waste. It involved adding inoculant to the the 1 gal waste bin and then that waste goes into a larger (5gal) bucket with a lid. Inoculant is added to that container as well. When full, composted waste can go directly into garden. Does this sound like a good approach for household waste composting? What would you recommend for the inoculant? Sorry, I can’t find the original article now. Thanks for any help.
What To Do with Bokashi When the Bucket Gets Full and I Have No Place to Bury It
November 10, 2021
I recently attended two composting classes: a basic home composting class and a composting class using the Bokashi Method. I selected this method because I live in a condo with a small patio that has been covered 90% with tiles. (There remains a small patch of dirt measuring 10 feet long by 16 inches in width, super hard, and covered in a lot of gravel.) Therefore, I was hoping to put a raised bed at the front of the condo since I’m in a remote section. However, I was informed that condo rules don’t allow for raised beds to be placed on the front entrances of the apartments. My dilemma is this: I now have a full bucket using the Bokashi method, which I have sealed and will remain unopened for another two to three weeks, but I don’t have a place to bury it. Is there a place where I can drop it off? Or, can I get a small tumbler and put the “pickled” Bokashi compost in it? I that’s an option, do I have to mix it with soil and how do I keep the moisture from evaporating? I would appreciate your help in this process.
Composting Pecan Tree Leaves and Juglone
November 20, 2021
I live in Las Cruces in the valley. I zoomed with you through the Desert Blooms composting meeting on Wednesday. Excellent presentation. (I began composting for the first time a little over a year ago with decent results. I did however follow the general guidelines on the YouTube channels. You gave a different perspective for our climate. Thank you. This fall I have began trying to set up for making leaf mold in cages as well as plastic bags.)
I have 36 pecan trees as well as a very large mulberry, a couple ash trees and a few fruit trees. I plan to continue to compost using dried leaves as one of the brown items as well as make leaf mold. My question is should I be concerned of using pecan tree leaves in my compost and leaf mold piles with it’s juglone. I realize it is not like a walnut tree but I do want to grow tomatoes and other vegetables that might be affected by juglone. The pecan trees just this week have began to significantly lose their leaves and the mulberry will do the same soon a it comes a good freeze. I notice that the leaves are beginning to mix in the wind and it will be difficult to keep the leaves totally separated. Thank you for your advice in advance.
Purchased Bin, Bokashi, Worms
December 4, 2021
Hi nmmastercomposters! I just purchased a compost bin and assembled it. It’s a Juwel AeroQuick 77 Gallon Stationary Composter. It has seven 2”x 1/4” holes close to the bottom of two sides, so 14 of them. Also the slide in-and-out doors on the other 2 side have spaces that let in air. The top latch is not catching/locking as I think it was designed to, either by my error in assembling it or manufacturer defect, so I’m going to need to secure it down with tape or a piece of flagstone.
Several years ago I started composting in an uninformed way. I live in a rural area and I had unwanted consequences, and I really want to get it right now. I have heard that mice can get in to 1/4 holes from pest management professionals. It does seem that some air is desirable, not a totally anaerobic composting. My questions are:
1) Should I modify the bin, such as taping up the 1/4” holes half way lengthwise and one of the sliding doors, or does it seem like it will be OK as is?
2) Should I create a floor for the bin, as it is bottomless, with heavy black plastic or cardboard or something else?
Also I got a Bokashi system which came with Bokashi mix. Is there a recipe for making your own Bokashi mix?
And I got a worm composter, which arrived yesterday and I haven’t even pulled it out of the box yet. Is it a strictly indoor proposition in the winter, or is it according to a temperature they need? I got a Worm Factory from Uncle Jim’s. I don’t have worms yet, but I did see the resources on the nmcomposters.org site.
So I’m going all in on composting. Trash to treasure and putting things to their best use resonates with me, and I’m actually excited about it, looking forward to getting going. I’ve learned a lot on the webinars for composting with JZ , but now it’s actually putting it to the test.
Standing Composter Bin
December 14, 2021
Zip code 87110. Hello! We recently completed the basic composting class and are interested in purchasing a standing composter bin. We’ve been looking online and all the ones we’ve found either have too many holes, or, the reviews say that rodents rip open the air vents, or the material is flimsily and falls apart after months in the sun. We were curious as to what tower composters y’all would recommend for our area. Thank you!
Bokashi, Adding Meat and Bones
December 21, 2021
I have been researching Bokashi composting to support my home sustainable composting for kitchen scraps, etc. My question is whether meat and bones should be added to the bucket and bran layers to ferment. I was reading that this is okay but wonder how meat and bones would break down and how this would impact smell and rotting materials. Also, when adding to the garden soil, would animals be attracted to the area with the bones. Thoughts on Bokashi method? Thanks for any suggestions you may have.