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Adding Manure to Compost, How Much Is Too Much?

bulking material, manure (from any animal)

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?

Answer by JZ: Your question will be received by a few of my colleagues who may also respond.
Great that you are composting.   Here are my thoughts.

Goat manure would be a green (nitrogen). Straw bedding would be a brown (carbon). So they are a fine combination to add.  A suggested guideline:  for every 2 parts brown combine with 1 part green. By using this guideline you will not add too much of either to your pile and you will provide a balanced “diet” for the  decomposing microorganisms, both hot process and cold process.

You did not provide your zip code, but I’ll assume you are composting in the desert where low porosity bins are useful. That is, not a lot of cracks, spaces or holes as that will allow for too much evaporation of moisture especially in the summer. We compensate for low porosity by using coarse bulking material as the pile is built up, as this decreases compaction of moist organics and provides for convective airflow.  This is described on page 6 of our brochure:  ‎docs.nmcomposters.org/composting-in-the-desert-2018.pdf

Might I also suggest that you cover drape the top of your pile as this will help decrease evaporation of moisture, see pic. below

Let us know if this is helpful.   All the best.  Keep up.

Adding Worms to the Garden

worms/vermicomposting

February 24, 2014

Is it ok to put red wigglers in a regular garden or are they just for composting. What is the best worm for a garden in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque?

Answer by WR: Red worms do best in very rich organic matter with plenty of moisture and microbes. I.e., they do best in the compost. They don’t do so well in the garden, at least here in our climate. (I’m not sure about other places.) You’ve probably noticed the earthworms you dig up in your garden / lawn are different than the red worms that you might see in your compost. I ended up with lots of red worms in my compost (not a hot compost pile) and I didn’t put them there. They just showed up and were happy there and reproduced (and reproduced!). But I’ve not seen red worms in the garden itself. Just those brownish earthworms. As you build up your garden with compost, then the right type of earthworms will come, the kind that like to live in the garden. I don’t know about adding earthworms to the garden explicitly. Happy gardening in this crazy, challenging but fun place to garden, Albuquerque.


Answer by PB: I put earthworms in my raised bed when it was built in 2007. They have multiplied nicely. Red wriggles / compost worms like to live in damp decaying environments. They can be found in nature under rotting tree stumps and piles of leaves. WR is correct, they will come to your compost pile if the conditions are right.

Alpaca Poo and Worm Composting

manure (from any animal), worms/vermicomposting

December 4, 2019

I have a lbunch of alpaca poop from my pacas, more than I need, I have a scoop on my tractor to load pick up or other such. I would like some ideas on worms although the poop is pretty good on its own no harm in making it better. I see you have classes.

Answer by JZ: Other master composters may respond to your question.  Here are my thoughts.

You have a fine idea. If you practice with red wigglers in alpaca manure, I think that you will be pleased. Yes, I would encourage you to attend any one of our future worm classes. It is a fine idea to decompose (compost) any manure to its end product which is humus. Then the end product is ready to be added to your garden soil. Humus is a beneficial soil nutrient package.


Worm manure (castings) is / are humus. Worm castings are a few percentages higher in many nutrient categories, than regular compost. Perhaps what you might consider starting stating a small worm composting setup, then see how it goes. If it meets your expectations, then you could expand to a larger operation. With a bit of attention to detail you could let that be an outdoor worm setup of any size you wish it to be. A straw bale bin setup outdoors may be a useful consideration.


I could recommend the book “The Worm Farmers Handbook” by Rhonda Sherman, available from Amazon.com.


From original questioner: Thanks John, Is it too cold now to put some worms to work?


Answer by JZ: You may put worms to work now, in central NM.  As i mentioned, a bale composting bin setup would help to insulate the worms from ambient air temp.  The decomposition of organic material - manure will create some internal heat in the pile.  Importantly, the setup should be maintained at 50% moisture - similar to the moisture content of brewed coffee grounds - moist but not dripping. Once you have chosen a method for containing the manure, then the top of the pile should be covered with a tarp to contain the moisture. A variety of homemade composting bins are described and pictured on our website.  See Homemade Bins under Composting Info.


We list local composting worm sources on the website under Resources.


Amazon also has red worms for sale.


To see variety of composting bin styles, search “composting bins”   “straw bale composting bins”. Look at the pictures of each.

Anaerobic Composting in a Bucket with an Inoculant

bokashi, bins/buckets, 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.

Answer by JZ: I think what you are referring to is the Bokashi bucket method.  This is a useful composting method.  It is basically anaerobic fermentation in a closed bucket with an added inoculant which contains about 10 microorganisms which “control” the fermentation process in the bucket.  The inoculant is called EM-1.  I especially appreciate this method in the winter months as it can be kept indoors.


See Bokashi in Compost Info in our site menu.  It describes the method, step by step.


Kits are available on Amazon or at https://www.teraganix.com/collections/bokashi-1

Apartment Living

bokashi, commercial/municipal compost

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.

Answer by WR: The service you have probably heard about is Little Green Bucket:  https://littlegreenbucket.com/


I live near in the "Near NE Heights", near Lomas and Washington. You are welcome to bring me your food scraps.


You might want to consider doing Bokashi composting which is composting in a bucket.  It's a nice odor-free way to keep a bucket of composting organics inside.  It also allows you to compost some foods we don't normally put in compost, such as oily foods. When the bucket is finished, the contents needs to be buried.  You are welcome to bring that to me if you don't have a place to bury it.


We offer classes in Bokashi composting.  See Classes under Activities in our website menu.  Also see Bokashi under Composting Info on our website.


Hope you find something that works for you.  Thanks for composting!

Are Coffee Grounds Good for my Garden?

can i compost this?

May 3, 2014

We own a coffee shop and produce lots of grounds. Are they good for gardens or not? And if so, in what proportion? Thanks.

Answer by JZ: Here’s my opinion – others may respond to your questions. If your garden soil is in the high desert with high percentage of sand then (or any type of soil) adding organic material such as coffee grounds would be beneficial – copious amounts are OK. Then you need to provide moisture in the soil for decomposition to occur. As the soil bacteria and possibly worms (if you have them) will decompose the grounds to humus, which acts like a sponge to absorb water and then release it along with plant nutrients. This is very helpful in our drought condition. Decomposition of organics added to your garden soil will progress well with moisture present. You could spread the grounds on top of the soil and / or use a garden fork or spade to poke holes in the bed, then spread out the grounds, then rake over the holes, then water. Keep the bed well mulched with other organic material (shredded leaves, paper, cardboard, straw, etc.) to a depth of 3 inches. This will help keep moisture in the soil, thus decomposition of the grounds will occur over time. You could also add some the grounds to any composting operation, that you may have set up. Mix them with moisturized shredded (brown) leaves or shredded paper products. You have a valuable resource for your garden soil! Let us know, if we can be of further help.

Bin from Plastic Trash Can

bins/buckets

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?

Answer by JZ: Please see Homemade Bins under Composting Information in our website menu.

Bokashi Smell

bokashi, odors

July 3, 2014

I’ve recently started Bokashi composting to supplement my vermicomposting. I know that I need to reduce the amount of water / moisture. I need your help to eliminate/reduce the nasty smell of the liquid that drains from the bottom of my bucket. Any ideas? Will reducing the water help? Or do I need to use more Bokashi mix? Or??

Answer by JZ: Here are some thoughts on your problem. Other colleagues may also respond.


* Avoid any liquid build up in a Bokashi setup! My thinking is that the liquid becomes a medium for anaerobic microorganisms to proliferate, thus producing methane & hydrogen sulfide gases >> odor.  Any time you add moist organics to your bucket, add something dry, e.g. shredded dry leaves, paper towel, tissue, cardboard, etc. These will absorb the moisture so that you maintain it at no more than 50%. Then no standing / draining liquid will develop.


* Be sure to mix in the Bokashi EM’s completely with each addition. A generous, heaping tablespoon per cup of organics or more should work.


* With each addition push down the top to compact the ingredients and eliminate air from it. A potato masher works well for this. Then cover the last addition with with a piece of plastic, then cover that with a stiff piece of cardboard cut to cover the whole addition. Then put a weight on top of the cardboard, for example a palm size river rock. All of this helps to eliminate air in the system.


* Save up your organics over a few days, then add them. Not a good idea to be adding stuff daily, unless you have no other choice. This overexposes the contents to more air.
Hopefully this provides some useful info to help solve your problem. Let us know if we can be of help.


Answer by RR: It sounds like you do Bokashi similar to the way I do it. Your Bokashi bucket has holes drilled in the bottom and sits in another bucket that collects the liquid. While the Bokashi system is touted as having little to no smell, this manner of doing it creates some pretty nasty odors that you do not want in your house. I keep mine in my greenhouse. The reason it smells so bad is because when the moisture drains out of the top bucket, it collects in a virtually airtight environment, which perfect for the methane and hydrogen sulfide to flourish. One way to prevent this is, as JZ does, put materials in your top bucket to absorb the moisture. Another way to minimize the smell would be to empty the bottom bucket daily, so the moisture doesn’t have as much time to ferment. As long as you are not opening the top bucket on a daily basis, separating the buckets will not introduce more air into the closed system. Lastly, you could go to a single bucket system by burying your top bucket in a few inches into well-drained soil. That way the liquid simply drains into ground.

Bokashi, Adding Meat and Bones

bokashi, can i compost this?

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.

Answer by RR: Thanks for your question. Others may also respond.


Meat and bones were once living material, so they will decompose, though maybe not in our lifetimes for part of the bones. The Bokashi bran and the fact that the bucket is sealed eliminates the smell of the meat while it is in the first stage of fermenting. Once the first stage is complete, and you bury it in the ground, the fermentation stops and decomposition begins. This is where the smell could begin, but by burying it 12-18″ deep, as we recommend, and covering it with soil and mulch, you’ll never smell it, and it should prevent varmints from being a problem – I’ve never had a problem. The meat will decompose, and while most of the bone will stick around for a long time, it creates airspaces in the soil, which facilitates movement for moisture and aerobic microbes.


Something to consider: I am a big believer in the “Everything in Moderation” mantra. That is what I follow when I add meat, bones, cheese, oils, dairy to my Bokashi. And because they are harder to break down than other organic materials, you should add additional Bokashi bran in any batch you add to your bucket. The recommended amount is 1 Tbsp per cup of organic matter, which also translates to 1 cup of bran per gallon of organic matter. When you add meat and bones, sprinkle some additional bran in there – more is better than less. If it has a foul smell when you open it to make an addition, that’s an indication that you didn’t use enough bran.


Lastly, if you have a little time on your hands, I’ve found Adam Footer’s Bokashi Composting the absolute best reference for this process. It’s a quick and easy read, and I find myself going back to look things up regularly.


Answer by MR: I support all of RR’s advice and cautions. I would simply add that I’ve found putting bones through a second round of fermenting will often accelerate the softening process, which then results in a much faster decomposition when they are finally incorporated into the soil. I’ve also never had animals dig up my bucket contents–even those with meat–when I’ve buried them. And I live in a fairly wild part of the South Valley, with lots of coyotes, raccoons, skunks, and smaller burrowing wildlife.  Just be sure to let the contents finish the fermenting process thoroughly. The worms will love you for it. Thanks for good questions.


Answer by JZ: Nifty answers from my colleagues.   FYI.  We have a Bokashi class coming up. You would be welcome to register, attend and share your experiences with the Bokashi method. This and all of our classes are listed on our website.

Building a Bin at Little Cost

bins/buckets, hot/cold composting

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.

Answer by JZ:  Good for you.  Other colleagues may also have ideas and answer your questions too.

You may make your own compost bin from a plastic trash can of any size. A 30 gallon trash can works well. You will find directions for making such a bin on our website.  Go to Composting Info/Homemade Bins. Yes, I would encourage you to attend one of our home composting basics classes in the future.

I do not know of anyone who has materials to donate to you. Best.


From original questioner: Well--OK.  I'm surprised Home Depot or Lowes etc...would not have materials to donate to needy folks.   I'm wanting to build a much larger bin than a 30 gallon plastic trash can.

I will visit a few of the box stores and speak with a manager to see if they might have materials to donate.   Seems like that would be a great community service/outreach for them. Even though I have built bins in the past I will plan on attending one of the seminars.


Answer from WR: Brian, I hope you are able to build the bin you have in mind, but I wanted to let you know that I have made excellent compost for years without any bin.  I am lucky to have a remote shady corner of my back yard where two concrete block fences come together. I throw my food scraps and leaves and yard clippings, etc. into the pile.  Keep it more or less moist (if I'm around to do it) and stir it around occasionally with a garden fork.  I call it lazy composting.  It's the cold composting you hear about.  It takes a little longer to get finished compost than it would in a hot pile in an enclosed bin, but it works great and costs nothing to build. It's biggest drawback is that it probably takes more water to keep it moist since a lot of it is exposed to evaporation.  However, I really don't use a whole lot of water on the pile.  And you can always keep it covered with an old tarp or rug or blanket to help keep the moisture in. I've had lots of red worms show up in my compost and it seems to be a great environment for them.


 I know JZ and others aren't as crazy about this method since it does take more water, not a good thing here in our desert.  It would be important not to do a pile like this in full sun unless you keep it well covered.  Also you can cover it with straw or a thick pile of leaves to help keep in moisture, something I often do  I've become more careful about that after talking to JZ about this. Usually these days you see all my fresh stuff mixed in better with leaves and other "browns" with a thick pile of leaves on top.)


Also, people have had good luck using hay bales to enclose their compost.  Not sure how much those would cost and, of course, they do take up a bit more room.  Best luck to you.


From original questioner: Thanks SO much for the great info.   I also had a similar compost pile to yours at one of my previous houses.  Amazing how simple it can be sometimes.  I do have a shady spot to locate a compost pile at my current house but the issue in this neighborhood would be with all the stray cats adding "material" to the open compost pile...haha   I have enough to do keeping them away from the bird nests and families in my yard.


I just took a drive around the neighborhood and saw some landscaping timbers strown about one of the lots so will ask the owner if they are available.  When I was younger (in the 70s-80s) one could go to the landfills around ABQ and find a lot of great lumber and  other material to repurpose.  But of course that is not allowed any longer.


I was just curious on a limited income if there were places who donate material for compost bins...If I am successful in finding a source I will let everyone know.

Building a Large Worm Farm

worms/vermicomposting

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

Answer by JZ: Great idea! A resource for you would be Sam McCarthy, Santa Fe, NM:  doitwithworms.net Also see  Worm Sources under Resources in our website menu.


Is the bin you are considering outdoors in the soil ?  If so, you could build a wood raised bed frame,

then partially sink it into the soil.  The soil would provide some insulation / protection from

temperature extremes.  All of my worms are in outdoor containers in Rio Rancho. If you would do a Google search for “outdoor worm bins” then you’ll get some ideas. A phone conversation, if you like might be helpful. Just text me your name / number then I’ll call you back.

Burying My Vegetable Scraps

sheet/trench/pit composting

April 14, 2020

If I bury my vegetable scraps a few inches into the soil will that amend the red soil?

Answer by JZ: Your question will be received by a few master composter colleagues, so they may also respond. You did not give us your zip code, so I lack information on your location in order to respond to your question.

Gardeners have been doing what you are doing, burying organic material in the soil for centuries. Yes, this practice will help amend any desert soil as the organics will decompose in the soil to humus and help amend that spot.

Best if you keep moisture in that spot by adding water to the hole before you add (bury) scraps, then cover that spot with 4 “ of organic mulch, for example leaves.  Mulching the area will help keep moisture in the soil thereby improving the decomposition rate of scraps. Another soil amendment which is very useful for our high desert soils is compost.

You could add a cup of compost to the hole whenever you bury scraps. This will add useful decomposing microorganisms to the hole which will improve the rate of decomposition.

Hope that this is helpful.  Best.


From original questioner: Super helpful. I forgot to tell u I live in north valley very close to nature center. I’ve been her 3 years and now am trying to cultivate plants that seem to love this rich clay-sometimes sandy-wormy and rooty soil!!  Even if you had said no. I’d probably keep doing this cause it seems to work. My eldest son however thinks it’s crazy.  Thank you again for such a quick response.


Answer by JZ: Excellent.  Thanks!   Compost on.

C:N Ratio and Keeping Compost Moist in Our Climate

bins/buckets, browns and greens, moisture

June 16, 2012

We are just starting to compost and I was wondering if in the southwest do we still use a 20/1 ratio of brown to green? And should we have an enclosed composter or will a fenced area work? My concern is the pile drying out.

Answer by WR: I think most recommend 25:1 or 30:1. But 20:1 or 40:1 also work. It’s hard to be exact anyway. I don’t think the C:N numbers in the southwest are particularly different than other parts of the country. 


Of course, keeping compost moist is a big issue here in the southwest and an enclosed composter helps with that. But most of the composters I know here in Albuquerque use fence-type bins and often keep them covered with a lid or blanket or tarp. Check out Homemade Bins under Composting Info in our website main menu.  If you can put your bin in the shade that really helps.


Also see our information about Desert Composting under Composting Info.


Answer by WR, Addendum: I just reread your question and see you asked about ratio of browns to greens (vs carbon to nitrogen). The ratio of browns to greens would depend on how much carbon or nitrogen are in the actual material you are using. Be sure to check out [Omar’s slides](http://docs.nmcomposters.org/carbon-nitrogen-ratio-simplified.pdf). The 9th slide talks about mixing greens and browns. But please don’t worry too much about these ratios. If it starts smelling bad, you probably have too many greens (or need to turn the pile). If it’s just sitting there not changing into compost, you probably have too many browns (or are not watering and turning often enough). I find that if I just throw in what I have available it works well nearly all the time.

Can I Compost Rain Barrel Sludge

can i compost this?

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?

Answer from MR: My only serious concern might be if cats or raccoons have been pooping on your roof, but you would probably be able to distinguish that from algae and dust. And birds poop everywhere all the time, including in and on our gardens, without generally causing problems. My suggestion would be to trust your hunches, include it in your compost, and wash your food well if you're eating from your garden. Thanks for your question. I'm sure others will offer their opinions.

Can Worms Decontaminate the Soil?

worms/vermicomposting

October 15, 2012

I’m a 12 year old girl in the 7th grade. for my Science Fair I am going to conduct a science experiment on composting with red wiggler worms. I am going to see if they will decontaminate soil that has been soaked with a contaminant. Please tell me if the following would harm the worms; used motor oil, used canola oil.

Answer by JZ: You have selected an interesting project! I’ll suggest that it might be OK to use used canola oil, but not motor oil with worms. That said, in the interest of science you might try the motor oil with a very small batch of worms and see if they survive the environment, then proceed from that result. For motor oil you might consider using fungal and/or bacterial cultures for decontamination.


Answer by PB: You might want to rethink your idea of using worms. Worms have no lungs and breathe through their skin. Oil clogs their pores and they will suffocate. We never advise putting oil cooked foods in a worm compost bin for this reason – even potato chips can be deadly to them. Therefore, trying to use them to decontaminate oil would not give her the result she is looking for as they would not survive long enough to prove or disprove her hypothesis.

Chop and Drop

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.

Answer by JZ: Thanks for sharing your experiences.  I have been teaching “chop before you drop” in my classes for many years. This simple maneuver creates more surface area for the organics, which allows for better water absorption and surface exposure to decomposing microorganisms. Smaller decomposes better / faster. This maneuver is also mentioned for both cold / hot process, (sheet composting and worm composting) composting methods in our brochure: docs.nmcomposters.org/composting-in-the-desert-2018.pdf


In my basic composting classes I do  present composting options for small spaces. Worm bins and / or a Bokashi bucket method, bucket in a hole.  See Bokashi under Composting Topics in our menu.

My basic class is posted on YouTube:  Home Composting Basics – YouTube


I do use several bins made from a trash can, which can be sized to fit a (small) location. See Homemade Bins under Composting Info.


We recently set up a straw bale bin composter at the Family Practice garden in Corrales.


Watched your YouTube presentation. You have a fine garden !


Great to hear from you and thanks for sharing your successes.   I live in Rio Rancho.   All the best.

Citrus Peels in Bokashi

bokashi

January 21, 2020

We are just starting with this method of composting.  At a class I took I thought one of the instructors said that citrus peels were sometimes difficult to compost by this method.  Can you give me more information on this topic.  Very much appreciated.

Answer by JZ: Your question will be received by a few master composters, so you may receive other responses. Here are my thoughts.

The Bokashi method is an anaerobic fermentation of organic material.  Some describe it as pre-compsting, because the stored material in the bucket will eventually be turned into garden soil where aerobic microorganisms will complete the decomposition process to humus. Decomposition is not completed in the bucket, but in the soil.

Citrus peal is organic material which may be chopped, then added to a bokashi bucket setup. Citrus peel contains natural oils. It is the oils which may slow decomposition a bit as they may be somewhat
resistant to microbial enzymes, but peel will eventually decompose.  Microbes will overcome.

Some, I think, incorrectly say that the peel is acidic. It is the citrus juice which is acidic, the peel less so.

As the Bokashi method is anaerobic, acids naturally occur in the fermentation process in the bucket.

So my suggestion is to chop citrus peel, then add to the bucket and the fermentation process will move forward. The decomposition process will only go to completion when the contents are added to soil, not in the bucket. Hope that this is useful.

City Compost

commercial/municipal compost

May 28, 2014

I am in a new house, so no finished compost yet. I have heard that the. City makes compost available to residents that we can pick up. Is that still available this year? Love compost!

Answer by JZ: Note: the BCEMC does not endorse nor promote any service, product or vender. The following may be of interest.


You may contact the ABCWUA Soil Amendment Facility, located on the far West Mesa: 505.205.5721, http://www.abcwua.org/content/view/87/75


And also: Montessa Park Convenience Center, 3512 Los Picaros Rd. SE, ABQ, 505.873.6607.


A commercial vender: Soilutions, 9800 Bates Rd. SE, ABQ, 505.873.6607, http://www.soilutions.net.

Cold Composting Setup

bins/buckets, desert composting, hot/cold compost, moisture, turning compost

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!

Answer by RR: Other Master Composters may also reply, but here is my response. First of all, thanks for composting instead of just throwing away your scraps. You may have already our desert composting handout on our website (see Desert Composting under Composting Info in our website menu) but on the last page, the diagram shows why we should cover our compost piles with an impermeable cover (tarp, trash bags, or whatever). First, it will prevent the nutrients from leaching into the ground when it rains. But more importantly, since it doesn’t rain much here, there is still a significant amount of condensation generated from inside the pile itself. Without a cover, this will just evaporate; with a cover, you can hold that moisture in your pile and reduce the frequency of adding water to maintain a 50% moisture level. In addition, if you are going to build a structure, don’t build one like you see in most places that tell you how to compost.  Our website is the only one I’ve ever seen that talks about composting in the desert. All others show you how to make a composting structure with a lot of air infiltration all around. This will just require you to regularly moisten your pile even if you do cover it. We recommend eliminating these air holes and using course bulking materials to hasten air flow in your pile.


Turning your pile is optional. Just realize it will take longer to decompose if you don’t turn it. The end result will be just as good; it’ll just require more time. One time you definitely want to turn it, however, is if it starts to smell. That likely means it has gotten too moist and has started to go anaerobic. So then add some carbonaceous material (browns) and turn it.


I recommend reading the handout material on our website about hot and cold composting in the desert. Hope this helps.  Happy composting.


From original questioner:  That’s great, thank you! So it sounds like I don’t really need a structure of any sort, rather just a pile covered with a tarp is optimal. I’ll read the handout after work today!


Answer by JH:  Correct, tossing feedstock on the ground in a pile with the cover RR describes is perfectly suitable. And if you don't intend to harvest the finished product for use elsewhere in the yard, you could just bury the scraps which would prevent the need to ever turn, water or cover other than soil on top to keep your dogs and other critters away.


Have fun and after you get started, if you are interested in taking a class we'll have the schedule posted when it is possible to again hold classes.


Answer by RR: A structure just helps to keep the contents consolidated, add some aesthetics, and maybe discourage some critters.  Also, if you are building a hot pile, it needs to be at least a cubic yard, and that is much easier to contain with a structure. But it sounds like you just want to be able to, as we call it, “dump and run,” which is a cold composting process, and there are no size requirements for that method. Good luck.  

Cold Composting in a Bucket

bins/buckets, hot/cold comost

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!

Answer by JZ: Nice to hear about you composting efforts. Other colleagues may also respond to your question. My sense from what you have described is that your green / brown blend became compacted in the bucket.  So you can improve the situation by adding coarse bulking material to the setup: for example, finger size sticks, twigs, corncobs, small pine cones, small wood chips. So when your bucket is empty, then the first thing to do is add about six inches of bulking to the bottom of bucket, then add two inches of bulking after every five inches of organic material as you continue to build in the bucket, that is bulk as you build.  This method reduces compaction of organic materials and provides for convective airflow as shown in the picture you'll find on our website under Convective Airflow under Composting Info in our main menu.


Be sure that you have patent drainage holes at the bottom of bucket as shown under Homemade Bins under Composting Info as well.


In the future you may balance your green kitchen scraps with many shredded paper products, cardboard and shredded brown leaves. What goes in the bucket first, will decompose first.  So after a few months look for finished compost at the bottom of bucket.  Fished product looks like dark chocolate cake crumbs.  When you collect your finished product, remove the coarse bulking material, then use it all over again. Sifting will provide a fine product which easily blend into in your garden soil.


You may enjoy some of our online classes.  See a link to those under Resources in our main menu. Let us know if you have questions.  Compost on !

Community Compost, Donating Food Scraps

bokashi

May 3, 2021

I am moving to Las Cruces and am looking for a way to compost food scraps. I have an apartment with no outdoor space. Is there a community pile somewhere in the city?

Answer by JZ: Great to hear that you would compost food scraps.  We are located in ABQ, NM.


You would have to check for a local community garden in Las Cruces as many of them have a composting setup on site.


You might consider a closed container Bokashi composting method, which could be done in an apartment. See Bokashi under Composting Info in our website menu.

Compost from Sewage, Is it Safe for a Vegetable Garden?

cover crop/green manure, sewage sludge

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.

Answer from RR: Your question will be received by a few master composters who also may
comment. Here are my thoughts.


Great to hear that you are home composting. Compost made from sewage has to reach a temperature greater than 130 degrees F for about a week in order to kill the pathogens potentially harmful to humans which live in the sewage.  My guess is that if Artesia and Carlsbadproduce this compost to distribute to the public, they probably meet this requirement. However, you never know unless the proper tests are conducted to ascertain so.  That is why our organization does not advise home composters to use sewage for compost whose use is intended for vegetable gardens.  We recommend using this compost on ornamentals because, as you've heard, it's really good stuff. That said, the decision on what to put in your compost or what type of compost to use for any particular purpose is yours.

Happy composting!


Answer from JZ:  Agree with all that RR has sent you.  The ABCWUA has been composting biosolids for many years, the compost is sold to the public. See: Compost


Any manure is best composted with a hot process as Rod has mentioned.


Another consideration for your garden soil fertility is cover / green manure cropping.  You could plant a winter crop in late August, early September, eg. winter wheat / rye.  This crop will be photosynthesizing thru the season, thus eventually feeding the soil microorganisms with carbohydrates (sugar). Then in the early spring you could gently till the crop into the soil where it will decompose (compost) adding residual nutrients and organic material to your soil. This article may be helpful: https://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_a/A150.pdf


All the best.  Compost on….

Composted Sewage Sludge in a Vegetable Garden

sewage sludge

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.

Answer by JZ: Here are my thoughts: I have no experience in using sludge compost in my garden. Perhaps the best thing to do is ask the composting outfit that produces the compost if it may be used in a vegetable garden. If you are “fretful” about using that product, then don’t and continue your research.


Surely you could use this product around your ornamental plants.


A fine thing would be for you to make your own compost, then you know what went into it.


I cannot come up with a reason why sludge compost would cause garden soil to become hydrophobic. My opinion is that compost acts / absorbs water like a “sponge”.


Perhaps my colleagues will have opinions.


From original questioner: Thanks for your quick reply. I’m not really too fretful about using sewage compost in my garden and I do already compost. I was just looking for more organic material to put into my garden beds. There is a local guy who grows micro greens here in Las Cruces (Jay Valencia) that posted something claiming that the Las Cruces city compost will cause your soil to become hydrophobic. I didn’t know how much credence to give his assertion. Just  for general information I’ve forwarded you an article about the Las Cruces sewage compost. Thanks for your help.


Answer by JZ: Thanks for the article.  It’s great that organic leftovers are being recycled in LC. Hopefully this will occur in more of our municipalities as citizens request, suggest and support the concept.


As the drought continues and temperatures rise in the growing season, it will be useful to drought-proof our soil with generous amounts of organic materials and matter. Deep topical mulching with organics and some form of shading will be helpful.


Some thoughts about more organics for your garden:


I have an agreement with a small local coffee shop. I provide the buckets. I pick up about 15 gallons of coffee grounds per week.


In ABQ there is a juice squeezing company which gives away copious amounts of pulp. Both are fine sources of nitrogen in the high desert.


I live near Corrales, NM, so there are many sources for horse manure. One must be aware as there may be residual persistent herbicides in manures, but it’s workable.


Two years ago I presented a basic composting class for a few students who were composting on the NMSU campus. Enjoyed it.

Composting Acidic Cottonwood Leaves

acidic/alkaline/ph scale, can i compost this?

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

Answer by JZ: I will answer to the best of my ability.  To be clear about the pH scale: “raising“ the pH scale would make it more alkaline, not acidic. (See https://www.reagent.co.uk/what-is-ph-scale/)


The decomposition (composting) is a neutralizing process over time, so adding an organic which is a bit acidic will not inhibit the process. That assumes that one is diluting that which is acidic with other organics which are not, eg. used paper products, vegetable scraps, yard & garden clippings and leaves from a variety of trees. So mixing a variety of ingredients into the leaves with tannins would “dilute” the acidity and composting process itself will neutralize the end product (finished compost) to a pH of about 7. So I would use the cottonwood leaves, shred them if possible, blend them with other organic materials, maintain moisture in the setup at all times, then compost (decomposition) happens.


Hope that this is useful.  Get back to me if you need more info..   All the best.

Composting Bin for My Son

bins/buckets

December 3, 2020

My son wants a composter for Christmas, and we are not thrilled by what’s available.  Perhaps you have a recommendation?  To either buy, or maybe you know someone who makes them? Thanks so very much!

Answer by JZ: Great that your son is interested in composting. Perhaps he could help choose a bin which he likes. There are so many manufactured bins on the market. Most are not specifically designed for desert composting. Many are too porous – too many holes, allowing for too much evaporation.  So if you purchased one of those then you could block the holes with duct tape or a caulk.


Some of the tumbler bins are quite snug, if they appeal to him. Small ones are easy to move around, which is useful. Using /buying a tumbler info is on our website: see Tumbler Bins under Composting Information in our main menu.


You / he might want to start out simply and inexpensively with a homemade bin. There are 4 described under Homemade Bins under Composting Info on our website. 


One of them is a container in the soil, which is quite simple to do.  The trash can bin is super easy to make quite inexpensively.


My personal preference is the tower bin, which has an opening at the top for additions and a slider door at the bottom to collect finished compost. There are many choices/sizes just above $100.00. These are very easy to use, in my opinion. I have a few of them myself.


I do not know anyone locally who makes bins.  I hope that this is helpful.  Get back to us with further questions.


Answer by WR: It’s probably too late for you to do this for your son’s Christmas but I just came across someone on NextDoor who builds compost bins.  His name is Aaron L. and he’s a freshman student at UNM, looking to make some extra money.  Here is what he posted on NextDoor: (link expired)


From Original Questioner: Hi!  Thanks for reaching out with this information.  I ended up getting my son Lifetime’s 50gal tumbling composter.  It took 3 of us (one with a PhD in electrical eng!) to put it together.  It is very well made, so we are all happy with it.


Happy composting in 2021!


Reply by WR: Great, I’m glad you found something you like.  Hope your son and your family have fun composting.  I’ve found it to be very rewarding. We are always glad to answer any questions that may arise.


Answer by JZ: You / your son may find Tumbler Bin info on our website useful. 


I applaud this young man’s contribution.


 If you check some of his wooden bins you’ll see gaps in the sides.  This type of bin is what is often pictured in many composting books written for non-desert climates.


Increasing summer temps. and intense UVR will increase evaporation for any composting setup. So, in my opinion his design could be modified, that is –  no gaps, so that it would be a bin appropriate for the desert. Snug, low porosity bins will be better performers in a desert environment, in my opinion.

Composting Bio-bags: Do They Decompose?

can i compost this?

December 19, 2020

I live in ABQ, 87110 and am getting green bio-bags from the coop to put my veggies and fruit in when I purchase. It says they are certified compostable. Has anyone tried it? I am a mostly one person household and only harvest about 2 x a year.

Answer by J Z: I have not yet added bio bags to my composting setup, so I do not have experience with them. I did have a friend who put a tied up bag of kitchen scrap in a biobag in her bin. She did not empty the bag just left it tied up. Then the contents went anaerobic (low oxygen) became smelly. So my suggestion would be to empty the contents of the bag in your bin then tear up the bag itself, then add to your setup.  From time to time notice how the bag biodegrades in the bin, then you’ll have an answer to your question.   You might also contact the bag manufacturer for their suggestions.


Hope that this is helpful.


Answer by JH: Not knowing the brand of your bags, it is hard to say how easily they will break down. Generally speaking these bags are typically made of potato or corn starch and should break down rather easily, though depending on the exact compost operation, perhaps not quickly. Give ’em a try and let us know of your experience.


Answer by WR: I tried composting some biobags that came with a countertop compost container. (Emptied of their contents.)  It seemed to take a long time for them to break down in my cold composting setup.  I wonder if it would help to cut them up and then soak them in hot or boiling water before putting into the compost?  I don’t have any anymore. Would be curious to know what happens to them in boiling water.

Composting Cactus

can i compost this?, sheet/trench/pit composting

November 24, 2021

I live in in 87108 area. Any tips on composting nopales? I have lots in yard I want to get rid of, thanks.

Answer by JZ: Here are my thoughts. Yes, cactus pads and fruits (tunas) may be added to your composing setup. They would be a source of nitrogen (greens) so you could mix in some dry leaves or paper leftovers, which are browns, with them.  Then decomposition will proceed nicely. You could twist off the fruit and pads with tongs.


You may, with gloved hands, using tongs to hold the pads,  chop them with a hatchet into small pieces about 1” pieces. This not necessary to do, but would speed the decomposition process.  Smaller organics decompose well / quicker.


Important caution – the moist pads and moist fruits will decompose fairly quickly, but the thorns will take longer, so always use a gloved hand when working with this compost blend until it is fully decomposed.


Answer by MR: Before you undertake composting all of them, you might want to offer some to folks who would be interested in either growing or eating them, because they are quite nutritious, both the leaf/stem pads and the fruit. The Master Growers and neighborhood association bulletin boards might be ways to get the word out. I’m not especially tech savvy, but I’m sure some of the other folks could recommend places to post that information.


However, if you just want to recycle them back to the earth from which they have come, the biggest challenge is how to handle them without becoming a pincushion yourself. What I’ve done is to rake them into a pile, rake or scoop the pile onto newspaper–double or triple layers–and either bury them in a shallow hole or trench, still covered with newspaper, or cover the entire pile with newspaper and then add other seasonal cleanup material and good soil, wetting everything as you go. It helps them to break down more quickly if you add some leaf mold to the whole batch. The pads that are still alive when covered with earth will have quite a lot of moisture in them and decompose surprisingly quickly. The needles and glochids, which are the little teeny guys clustered around each bunch of needles (the ones that are so hard to get out–hence the newspaper for protection) are pretty much pure silica, which is one of the fundamental minerals that all growing things need. So they break down very quickly also, and the fungi present in the leaf mold are especially good at decomposing them.


I’ve never tried putting them into a regular batch of hot compost because I like to handle my compost when I’m turning it to see how well things are proceeding, and I don’t want any surprises. And I’ve never used a tumbler, so that’s for someone else to tackle. But the earth will take them all back, free of charge, with just a bit of digging.


If you have a manufactured plastic compost bin you could consider moving it to a sunny location now for the winter months. You may enjoy reading our suggestions for composting in the desert.  See link in our menu.


Hope that this is helpful.   Get back if you have further questions.

Composting Diseased Wood

can i compost this?

August 5, 2019

Years ago I had a fruitless plum tree in my yard that died.  It had borers. I saved the wood to use in the fireplace but never did use it.  Im wondering if I can use it as bulking material in the cold pile I'm trying to get started.  Somewhere it said not to use diseased organic material.  Would that be considered diseased?  Thank you!

Answer from JZ: Great to hear that you are getting started with your composting setup. Other colleagues may also respond to your question.  Here are my thoughts.

Old dead wood provides no useful nutrition for boring insects, those which may have been in your plum wood are most likely dead. My opinion is that you could safely use the plum twigs as bulking material.

If you are still concerned about the issue, then use the wood in your fireplace.

 There are many bulking sources in the desert: pine needles & cones, sticks and twigs in abundance.

Perhaps others may a have different information / opinion.


Answer by JH: If the borer attack was on an otherwise healthy tree and that caused the tree to die, then the wood can be composted. But pests tend to take advantage of stressed trees. If the borer attack occurred because the tree was already stressed (and possibly dying) from a fungal or other disease, be careful about composting the wood if your compost pile will not heat up to kill the pathogen which can lay dormant.

Composting Disposable Diapers

can i compost this?, commercial/municipal compost, humanure

May 29, 2019

We use a type of disposable diaper that claims it’s compostable, but only in a commercial facility.   Do you have any insight into where such things could be taken in ABQ? Thanks!

Answer by JZ: You might contact Walter Dods at Soilutions in So.Valley with your question: walter@soilutions.net. He might be able to take the diapers.  Other colleagues may also respond to your question.  Hope that this is helpful.


From original questioner: I did talk with Walter at Soilutions, thanks for the suggestion.  They are unable to take compostable diapers, not because they don’t compost well (he says they do) but that state regulations prohibit them from taking human waste. Thanks again for the tip though, and if anyone else has any suggestions I’d appreciate them!


Answer by JZ:  Great.  If you wanted to set up your own hot composting operation, then you might be able to add them  in your backyard. A well managed hot process will destroy pathogens. See “ hot composting” description  in our composting in the desert brochure.  You can find via our website menu under Composting Info/Desert Composting.

Composting Egg Shells

can i compost this?, hot/cold composting, pathogens

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.

Answer by JZ: Good for you.  Excellent that you are recycling your organic materials. What we put in any composting operation is organic material, that which was once alive.  Homestead composting need not be a “nit picking” or “hair splitting” exercise, as some people would make it.


You may add the same organics to a hot or cold process setup. Meat / dairy are often listed as leave outs, because their scent may attract critters, but as they are organic, they will decompose.  What goes in, what gets left out of your bin is your personal choice.


Crushed egg shells are mostly calcium which is inorganic, but as they disintegrate, then the calcium is added  / blended in the bin and eventually  will be added to your garden soil. Egg shell may contain salmonella bacteria, which is already present in most amended soils. If you are concerned about that you may boil your egg shells for three minutes, then dry, then crush, then add. If there is salmonella in any compost it won’t be of harm to you as long as you do not ingest the compost or get it in / on a skin wound. Common sense !


Let us know if this is helpful and if you have further questions.  Compost on !

Composting Fruit Pits

finished compost, can i compost this?

July 5, 2012

Can apricot and cherry pits be composted? I bought a compost bin and have been saving vegetable and fruit scraps along with coffee and tea grinds, but wasn’t sure whether to throw in the pits of fruit. I’ll hold off on throwing the pits into my pile until I hear from you.


Answer by WR: I throw my apricot and cherry pits into my compost. They do take quite a while to decompose, but they will eventually break down, especially in compost that doesn’t get hot (like mine). What I do is, after the compost is finished, I put it through a screen (with about 1/4 inch mesh). This will take out the pits, twigs, avocado peels, etc. that haven’t broken down completely. Just throw those back in to the next batch of working compost. If you don’t want to bother to screen your compost, you might want to avoid putting the pits into the compost or hand-pick-out the worst offenders. They won’t really hurt anything but will end up in your garden or wherever you use the compost. Or, I guess you can soak/boil your pits and grind them. I’ve never tried this but, hmm, might be interesting: http://www.gardenguides.com/111612-compost-cherry-seeds.html. You might want to do a Google search for “screening compost” (without the quotes) to see some pictures, etc. about that. I liked this page: http://www.composterconnection.com/site/finished-pile.html.
Your compost is “finished” when it smells good, the original stuff is unrecognizable (except the big woody things you’ll be removing), is completely cool, and looks like rich crumbly earth. If it still has any sliminess, smells, etc. it should work a little longer.
It sounds like your compost is rich in nitrogen-rich things: food scraps, coffee, tea. If it starts smelling bad or is slimy you might want to balance it with carbon-rich things such as dry leaves. I think the seed pits are carbon rich, but they might not be enough to balance it, especially since they take so long. I’ll attach a flyer that lists nitrogen vs. carbon things to compost.

Composting Huge Amounts of Manure and Composting With Worms

herbicides, manure (from any animal), worms/vermicomposting

September 13, 2013

We are starting a project in a Mexican border village where we work. Local stockyards generate 400 to 500 cubic yards of manure per year. We want to compost the manure for use on gardens and orchards. We want to feed some of the manure to red worms to produce castings to further improve the soil. The local soil is an ancient sea bed and is a salty mix of clay and sand. My questions: (1) What is the best way to compost large amounts of cow manure? (2) How do I know when it is safe to put on gardens? (3) Worm castings, I want to produce about 50 to 75 cubic yards per year. How do I do that? A final note on biochar made from pecan shells. We add it to our gardens at a rate of about 1 pound per square foot. It seems to have good results with the 50 or so gardens we have put it on.

Answer by JZ: It’s good to learn of your excellent project!
1. CAFO manure and mixed-in urine would be a high nitrogen material, you could add an equal volume / weight of a carbon eg. wood chips, straw, shredded cardboard / paper, saw dust, dried leaves. There might be a local municipality which has wood chips easily available(?). If this is a big operation you may need a front-end loader. You could set up wind rows and do a “hot” composting process.
2. You need to find out what (all) medications are being given to the animals. Metabolites may end up in the urine and manure. Once determined, you would need to research how these particular meds are biodegraded. There are a few broad leaf herbicides eg. Picrolam and Aminopyralid that may get into the food stream of the animals, if the hay / alfalfa have been sprayed by the farmers that grow them. All that you can do is inquire if the farmer used them. They persist thru the animals gut and the composting process, then may contaminate the compost. This is a long shot, but you should be aware of the possibility.
3. CAFO animals may be fed salt, which may end up in the manure and in the compost end product. Our desert soil is already “salty”, so you would have to test the end product for percentage salt before adding to garden soil.
4. Organic material that has gone thru a hot composting process should be screened and set aside to cure for at least one month. This is the cold phase of the process which finalizes the production of humus. Then you could take samples of the finished product for lab testing for salt, residual meds, etc. There are labs that do this type of testing.
5. I do not have expertise in large scale worm composting, but I think that in your area a requirement will be be a set up that protects the worm bedding from temperatures that exceed 80F. Your set up would need to designed for easy harvesting of the castings. There is expertise out there on large red worm harvesting. You will eventually find it.
6. Some local worms farmers are listed under Worm Sources in our website menu under Resources. You might contact them and then do a site visit.
7. The magazine “BioCycle” (BioCycle.net) is a publication which has articles that would be of help to you.
8. Yes, biochar is an excellent bacterial growth stimulator.
9. You could take the compost facility operators course coming up in Oct.:
http://www.recyclenewmexico.com/cert_compost_october.htm
This course is repeated a few times per year. You would meet a many people who are involved in large scale composting in NM. Good place to network.


Please let me know if this has been of help to you. You are welcome to phone me after 7PM. This is a long discussion. There are many variables that could be discussed. You have an excellent idea. Keep up.

Composting Manure

acidic/alkaline/ph, /cold composting, manure (from any animal)

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.

Answer from JZ: Your question will be received by a few master composter colleagues, who may also respond to your question. Great that you have access to a variety of vegetarian animal manures. Fresh manures are high in nitrogen, they are not necessarily acidic.  You are correct it is useful to compost any manure before adding it to garden soil, so that it is decomposed to dark colored humus, which looks similar coffee grounds when the decomposition process is complete.


A good suggestion is to compost any manure using hot process composting, which is described in our desert composting brochure available via our website menu, Desert Composting under Composting Info.  The hot process will decompose any residual weed seeds and reduce any pathogens.  Your straw bale bin setup would work well for composting manures and the drum would be fine too.


You would be welcome to attend any of our free to public basic composting classes which are listed under Activities in the website menu.


Hope that this is helpful.   Let us know if you have further questions.

Composting Meat and Dairy

bokashi, can i compost this?

November 10, 2019

How does meat and dairy get composted?

Answer by JZ: Other colleagues may also answer your question.  Here are my thoughts. Animal products including dairy, meat and vegetarian animal manures are all organic, so they will  ecompose in a composting setup. They do not interfere with the decomposition process. Note that both are often included on "do not add" lists,  mostly because they may have (temporary) odors which might attract scavengers (animals) to the setup. The choice to add these products is up to the individual home composter.


So meat, dairy and manures may be added to a setup in the same manner as other organics.  Chop, cut, shred any organics before adding to setup. Add coarse bulking material as you build, then maintain 50% moisture at all times - similar to the moisture content of freshly brewed coffee grounds.


Alternatively meat and dairy products may be added to a Bokashi bucket - closed setup.  See Bokashi under Composting Info in our website menu.


Hope that this is helpful.  Let us know if you have further questions.  Best.

Composting Moth-Infested Oatmeal

can i compost this?

October 15, 2020

I have some oatmeal that is old and has some moths in it, is it ok to put it in my compost tumbler. Thanks.

Answer by JH: Food in any state of freshness or decomposition is suitable for composting. We do not recommend animal flesh, dairy products, nuts, oils and such due to high fat content and/or because they attract unwanted scavengers. Lists of what to use or to avoid are two of the posters that can be downloaded via our Handouts page available under Resources in our website main menu.

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