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Testing My Soil

January 13, 2022

I was on the NMSU site today and saw that soil test kits are available free at the Bernalillo County Extension Office, 1510 Menaul Blvd Ext NW, Albuquerque, NM 87107. I would be interested in picking some up and I understand that I have to mail them to have the soil analyzed. My question is how many will I need? I have two separate raised garden beds about 8’ x 3’ each with drip lines. The top of the beds reach about 3’ high.  I use them for vegetable gardening. I originally had them filled with organic soil (in 2017) and I enrich with compost and fertilizer. I also have three raised flower garden beds. They are quite large (put in by prior owner) – each is probably twice as big as one of my vegetable garden beds. However, the soil in them seems really rocky and hard to dig into. An a lot of the flowers have not been sustained. I am contemplating using part of each for certain vegetables, if the soil is OK. With that information, how many test kits would I need? Could I pick them up next week, if they are available? Thank you.

Cold Composting in a Bucket

January 13, 2022

Three months ago I started cold composting in a 5 gallon bucket  (a blue Lowe's bucket) with appropriate aeration holes. My initial fill ratio likely had more green/nitro (kitchen green waste) than brown/carbon ( autumn leaves ). Questioning that, one of your staff suggested I add shredded paper:  So I obtained some and added paper. When I mixed in the paper shreds, I also noticed that my kitchen green waste had clotted into big globs -- dark brown with toothpaste consistency.  I pulled the globs apart and mixed in the shredded paper.  Please comment on my assumptions, that --

  • big globs of brownish kitchen waste are not ideal

  • more appropriate after 3 months is having a consistency like a wet mass of assorted 'hay waste' or assorted 'yard waste'.

Thank you!

Composting in Urban Albuquerque

January 21, 2022

I have some composting questions for you. My husband and I recently started composting our household food waste (vegetable/fruit peels and scraps, coffee grounds, egg shells, etc.) and backyard leaves/grass/twig clippings. Once we started gathering this material, I was shocked by now much compostable waste our family of 4 produces. We probably fill 2-3 paper shopping bags a week with food waste alone. We are having some problems managing the food waste part of the compost:

  • We had been putting the compost in a pile in the backyard, but it started to draw all manner of critters and insects. Our house is near the State Fair Grounds animal areas, so flies of all sorts would gather and bother the dogs and kids.

  • After this experience, my husband started shallow burial of the material. This was also dug up by critters, including a skunk (who knew there was so much wildlife in the middle of ABQ).

  • My husband then began to deep bury the material in various areas of our yard. While this has solved the critter problem, we really can’t use anything we compost. It also seems like we are unnecessarily inverting and disturbing the soil layers.

  • My husband does not bury compost nearly frequently enough (maybe 2-3 times a month), so we end up with a bunch of food waste bags hanging out in plastic bins on the side of the house. This has been a problem with critters, flies, and odors.

Because of these issues, I am actually wanting to throw in the towel on all this composting business. We are drawing too many critters and insects to our yard. My husband wants to keep at it though and is dismayed about filling the landfill with compostable materials. How can we avoid bags of stinky compost piling up outside our house and causing all these problems? How can we avoid huge piles of brush, cut grass, and branches hanging out on various areas of our yard, creating a fire hazard and habitat for cockroaches?

We are novices with composting, so any classes/methods you can recommend would be very helpful. Online is preferred for us vs. large in-person classes. I am particularly interested in how people keep up with the volume of food waste that piles up; do they just throw a portion of it in the trash can

Thanks for any help you can give.

I Have a Small Worm Farm and Want to Learn More

February 3, 2022

I have spent several hours with Mary Green and have learned a lot about composting I have a small worm farm and want to learn a lot more.

Hugelkultur and Compost

March 1, 2022

Hi, we just moved to the North Valley, 87114.  Making some raised beds and am going to probably go with the hugelkultur method.  Do you know if we can just toss our kitchen scraps in or if they need to be already composted? I'd like to start composting in general, would the online class I just found on the site be a good start?

Building a Large Worm Farm

March 20, 2022

Five years ago my garden was in the Placitas garden tour. I would like to do an exhibition worm farm, I have been thinking about some thing that’s 24 x 6 x 4‘. It can definitely be smaller. Space I have no idea how to build such a large farm. Is there anyone in your organization that either has a large production like this Or even larger here in New Mexico? I have been asked to have my garden in the tour in September as a legacy garden. Is there someone who can give me some advice. Looking forward to talking to someone from your organization

My Aerobin 400 is a Nightmare!

May 3, 2022

This bin was an experiment gone bad. Lined the bottom with hardy cuttings from one of my xeriscape grasses. They never decomposed. I have used pine pellets and dry leaves in between the organic greens but my bin is supposed to be impenetrable to pests. It is not. So, I have tried using diatomaceous earth around the bin and inside it too. I also used pet friendly pesticides and it is out of control. This batch of debris is useless and was a waste of time and energy. Any suggestions on how to kill the pests and dispose of the contents?

I would rather get a tumbler type or take my organic material to and just use my garbage disposal for small biological batches of food waste to then be composted by the Albuq. Wastewater Department. I hope we will eventually have the organic recycling bins like other cities.

Thanks for any advice.

Composting Vitex, Chaste Tree Trimmings

June 1, 2022

I have a concern about composting my Vitex trimmings here in Albuquerque (87019). Because of the supposed medieval use for it's chemical effect on amorous young females {Ha! :) } I did not want to adversely affect my composting efforts. Should I throw those trimmings right in to the pile? Or, abstain? So happy to have found your website!!!

Can I Compost Rain Barrel Sludge

June 15, 2022

I have a rain barrel that has a couple of inches of sludge at the bottom. It is mostly algae.  Probably dust washed off the roof as well. Could I add it to my compost?

Getting Started Composting. Do You Recommend a Tumbler Bin?

July 22, 2022

I am interested in setting up a small composting operation on our tiny home lot in ABQ.  We are 3 people living in a small house in area code 87113.  My main purpose in starting a compost bin is to help the environment by not putting food waste into our garbage.  Obtaining soil for my garden would be nice but is secondary.   I am also looking for a relatively easy system to maintain.   I have never composted in the desert before.  I believe the tumbler composter might be one of the easiest to operate (I expect to add small amounts of food scraps daily).   

 If you agree that a tumbler bin would be a good choice for me, do you have any recommendations for a type or make of tumbler composter?  Alternatively, if a tumbler system is not recommended, do you have any other recommendations for a relatively easy composting system that would meet my purposes described above?

Thank you for any advice that you might have.

Mold on My Kitchen Scraps

August 2, 2022

Dear folks, I have a question about a mold or fungus that now appears quickly in the kitchen scraps I am saving for my composting bin.   It constantly returns in the can and I think because of its frothy powdery appearance I am concerned about it as possibly even unhealthy to have in my house.  I have attached a picture.  Can you tell me if you know that I might be overreacting and that it's common and not dangerous or are my concerns reasonable.  Cleaning out the container for scraps doesn't seem to stop it from reappearing. Thank you very much for your time,

Giving Away Grass Clippings

August 2, 2022

Just wondering if there is anyone who would like free grass clippings or if there is a place to donate them?

I'd Like to Donate My Grass Clippings

August 2, 2022

Just wondering if there is anyone who would like free grass clippings or if there is a place to donate them?

Harvesting Compost and Roaches

September 11, 2022

I am cold composting in a 30 gallon plastic trash can.  I have been adding material for about 6 months and I keep the materials covered and I keep the lid on the trash can.  I am seeing a lot of cockroaches in the trash can now.  Is that OK?  When should I harvest compost?

Storing Compost and Bugs in Compost

October 4, 2022

I live in Las Cruces in the valley. I took your 101 composting online class several months ago. I have a few questions: My set up is three wooden bins a little larger than 3x3x3', with solid sides on three sides, a shorter side on the front. I cover the compost with tarps. So far it has worked fairly well for me. I harvest a decent amount of compost about every 6 months or so. I don't have enough greens to make a hot compost pile; just use primarily kitchen scraps. I have a finished pile now that I would like to store until the spring to use in my pots for vegetables. (I don't have an inground garden. A few raised beds, but mostly garden in pots.) I am about to sift it to remove twigs but I need to know where is the best place to store it. I don't want to leave it where it is because I want to use that space for new compost. What would be convenient for me is a large (32 gallon or so) plastic container with a lid. Is an air tight container good or does the finished compost need air between now and the spring? Does it need moisture during storing?

My compost this past several months has been FULL of bugs of various kinds. They do most of the breaking down it seems. No worms. The bugs are in the finished compost also. Are they just living in the finished compost? Do they continue to break it down even though it appears to be finished? (The compost does have a different texture since the bugs have appeared. More of a gummy? texture.) There is no evidence of any original material (other than a few twigs)  in the finished compost, very fine and earthy smell.

These two questions (how to store finished compost and what is the roll of the numerous bugs) I haven't been able to find on YouTube or google.

Thank you so much.

Roaches in My Compost

October 12, 2022

I took the composting 101 back in May and started my compost bin around the same time. I just added worms. I check on it about once a week and just noticed that I have cockroaches in there. Is this bad? How do I get rid of them or prevent them or is this good and they won’t hurt or infest?

Red Wigglers and Rabbit Poop

November 22, 2022

A neighbor offered her rabbit poop for my worm bin. The poop comes with rabbit bedding and food mixed in with the poop. I think the food is alfalfa. I leave it outside and spray it down with water for a week or two in hope of removing salts, then mix it with dead leaves, and use it as needed to cover kitchen scraps or start a new layer on the worm bin. I have red wigglers in my bin, but lately noticed a few random earthworms which are not red wigglers. I’m assuming they got into the rabbit poop outside and I didn’t notice. I’m always worried that perhaps I didn’t get all the salts of the rabbit poop (just one prolific rabbit) but so far, my worms seem to love the stuff. If earthworms are in it, is that an indication it’s safe for my red wigglers? Also, will the random earthworm harm my bin of red wigglers in any way? I take any earthworm I see to the garden but am concerned I’ve overlooked some since I wasn’t looking for them. Thank you!

Is Compost Bad for Pets to Eat?

December 2, 2022

Someone posted this on Nextdoor.  I was wondering what you all think about this.  What would you say in response??  Thanks, WR.  Post on Nextdoor:  Hi everyone. If you are composting in an effort to decrease methane emissions into the atmosphere or improving ur soil etc; I wanted to warn you that compost can be dangerous or fatal if consumed by ur pets!  I found out the hard way while puppy sitting a neighbors pup. He decided to eat some compost for some reason?  Several hours later he began violently shaking with horrible tremors and lost bowel control… when I arrived at VCA they were the ones to ask if we composted! I was shocked and said,” how did you know!”  Apparently it’s pretty common. Microbes in the food create mycotoxins that cause them to loose neurological control of their muscles. Depending on how much they consume and how quickly u catch it they can progress to seizures and death. Even after getting him to the vet on time they weren’t sure if he’d make it! Fortunately he did unfortunately it cost me over 3000.00!  So be sure to keep it away from ur puppy’s , kids, etc!

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