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Composting & Cover Cropping

Renee Vandenberg


Cover crops, crop rotations and compost are cornerstones to good framing practices. After losing sight of this for decades, these methods are becoming much more mainstream. We are relearning the benefits and many applications on the farm and in the market and home garden. Whatever your scale, there are practical ways to help restore the soil in your corner of the world — even as the earth “waxes old” Ps. 102:26


  • February 19, 2020
    4:00 PM
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So I guess what we say is it's a complex community of microbrewers organisms fed on these feed on these imports breaking them down and releasing valuable plant nutrition as a microorganisms feed the temperature of the power rises compost typically reaches about $130.00 degrees or higher during the peak composition so composting itself is a very extremely technical process if you are going to sell compost you have to take temperature measurements you have to turn it so often you have to add water you have to take out water you have to open it up you have to cover it up there's a 1000000 things that you have to do before you can actually sell what's called compost Ok it's very fussy they have regulations about it and it's really hard to do like in your garden it's even hard for us to do on a farm we do follow the rules when we do our large scale compass composition but in the garden that's where all that stuff away and I just put the stuff in my bin and I let God take care of it because that's I figure he's the only one that knows how the stuff really works and he's going to make it work for me. Ok so more as more material breaks down the temperature the composition power will decrease and ambient air temperatures at this point the pile cures and is ready for use as a soil amendment you need to turn your compost and if you have a small compost bin you need to put a fork in it pick it up flip it over you need to get air through there Ok you might have if you have a very dry spell you might need to add a little bit of oil or oil I'm sorry water. Out of I would just think I'm still thinking of. The. Rest of it. I don't know where they found me. For uses so Amendment when we grow stuff in our garden one of my favorite ways to use the compost that we make is to start a new role in my garden and we've all tried to start a new role and you sit there you have tons and tons of grass and quack grass and everything and how do you get rid of that stuff it's really really hard so what I would do is I'd start a brand new role on my right down to the ground scalp it as close as I can get and I'll put a pile of compost right on top of my dirt and then I'll take my potatoes because that's one of my favorite things to grow and I'll just put them out there in the order of wherever I want them to be spaced a foot or 2 foot apart and with variety I'm trying to grow and then I'll take a wheelbarrow and just cover the potatoes with compost and as if any grass comes up I just pull it up by hand and cover it again so by the end of the year I have a brand new bed I have a ton of potatoes and I can put something else in there next years I'm doing my crop rotation and I didn't have to put down newspaper cardboard or anything else and I didn't have to use any kind of chemicals to kill the grass underneath I try to do we do do everything without chemicals if I do ever have a spot though this really talk to. Just a tip darkness is the thing that kills the weeds and the grass is better than anything if you have a rubber tar or something you can put down for the better part of a year that's black or that's dark that won't let the light through that will help you the most as far as getting rid of the grasses and stuff. The benefits of compost it increases the nutrient content of soils in a home garden how many of you guys do a soil test. That's a fair amount how many of you are a little bit intimidated by doing a soil test Ok And how many of you know how to read a soil test. Ok in their ego so I'm a farmer's wife and I don't know how to read a soil test my husband knows how to read a salt house and he kind of tells me what it all means but there's a couple of basis basic things like n p k nitrogen phosphorus and potassium you want Those are the major nutrients you want and then the other one that's even more important I believe in them is organic matter the biome has to have something to eat there has to be something in there that can break down now I was asking you guys before about sawdust if you have too much sawdust in your pile and you put your compost out too soon all of you know I'm told and all of your bugs are going to be busy breaking down that that would product and they're not going to release the nitrogen out into the soil that's why you have to have it fully compost in the ready to go before you actually put it out there and even Would adding even leaf we've to a garden is not exactly the same as adding it should be broken down really well and that's one of the things that will help promote the higher yields in your crops your plant needs food and if it starved for food it won't grow you food. The whole premise behind organic is to feed the soil that will feed your plants if we have healthy soil. It brings and feeds diverse life in the soil we look before the nematodes and all the different bugs in there when we put compost in cover crops and compost work and in and they don't do exactly the same thing a cover crop will not bring in more bio diversity in your underground life but the compost will. It makes the soil a lot easier to work with Ok I live in Wisconsin and we live on the high side and we got glaciated like 3 times and so we are red clay in Wisconsin which is that's might sound strange but it's very hard red clay we have had to add a lot of compost to our ground and even on a large scale we do this on our farm in order to make the dirt more. Palatable for our plants. When you get into Iowa when you get into Illinois your ground is just like you can stick your hand right into it and go up to your wrist where we are we can't even get a shovel in an August because it's so hard so we want to change the composition of its soil if we can by adding more matter in the plains like Illinois. Years ago before people came they would wonder why in the have Aren't there any trees there there was fire after fire after fire in the trees never grew in the plains they never got big trees and the settlers originally thought that it wasn't good soil but it turned out to be very black very rich very good so because all the plants would continually get their roots going down that 5 feet when your roots go down you're going to have some more organic matter get down into the soil as well on the Prairie you might have as much as 4 feet of goods good good topsoil to be able to use and that's how come everything that comes out of and Illinois they might be for $2250.00 bushel an acre whereas where we're at we're more like $150.00. So that can in crude improve how much your soil is easy to work with it also improves soil prosody. How many of you guys all probably got an awful lot of rain last year was a dry anywhere in the country a lot of wet so when you get that much rain it has to have some place to go compost can help your soil hold moisture If it's too wet it holds it so it doesn't drown out few plants and if it's too dry you can hold it for your plants to use later it's just a miracle thing for you. If you don't have it in there like us with Clay will get it in a pool on the top the water a pool in the top of it rains too much and if it doesn't rain enough it hard it hardens and bakes just like clay. It suppresses plant diseases and pests if the plant is healthy it's not going to be affected as much by when you get past the come in like if there are bugs that are going to come in nature plants they're going to look for an unhealthy plant and that never really made sense to me and so I started thinking about what is in that plant that is going to track the bug if you have a plant that is sick if you have a plant that has abrasions on it if you have a plant that has little holes anywhere then the fungus mold whatever wants to come past they're going to say hey there's a weak spot I'm going to go in there and that's how come the plants need to be healthy they have like a waxy cover over most of the parts of their body of their body of their plant. So that will help protect against pass and. We want to increase that as much as we can it can reduce the need for fertilizer and pesticides and healthy road systems the root systems we grew some plants a summer and it was a totally different kind of plant for us and we started with about a happening there and we actually dug holes in the ground and planted them all orchard style if you will call it and we watered them and we fertilized them and we gave these plants everything they needed right in their own little hole and those roots never went out they never left so if we feed the plant too much right inside right where it's at or if we don't encourage the roots to grow they don't get a strong enough word system to hold themselves up when there are storms coming or when it gets dry later on in the years so when you work in your garden and you're doing watering you have to make sure that you don't water in real often and real light you have to water very deeply to make the roads go down and look for the water and then water as much and the compost can help hold that so you plant as a 2 years later. It can help regenerate poor soils I was talking about that around their house and it can prevent and manage soil erosion problems. One of our gardens is on a hill and when it rains it pours down through and it used to just wash all the dirt down now we have a kind of stacked in stage and we did that a lot with the mulch as well to make it so the water goes down gets caught goes down gets caught and if it doesn't flow through you don't have as much of an erosion problem. And it reduces the water demands of plants and trees meaning you don't have to water as much if you have compost in there that will hold the water from last week when you watered it. If you feed your soil. It will have more nutrients to give your food Ok that's what we want to Glor own instead of buying it at the store by the time you get a plant or pepper that was picked in California and it goes and it was picked green goes on a truck 2 weeks later it's hardly alive anymore you want to be able to get the stuff out of your own garden you need to increase the minerals the organic matter in the microbes so that your plant has a good way of getting the nutrients into itself. This is kind of a picture of the soil Web It's pretty simplified but there's Because when you think about what is in the soil and how it works to me it's just mind boggling and I can tell you that I'm I'm not an expert at this kind of stuff I'm not a schoolbook expert on what the microbes do in the soil what I am as a person who goes and looks in my garden and I say when I put this compost on it does this and really and truly God does the rest but you have organic matter that's needed for bacteria and for protozoa and for fun guy number toads all these things that live down there there's a whole food chain and as things get bigger and come up out of the soil then it feeds ultimately birds and animals. What can you put in compost you can put in grass clippings you can put in tree leaves we get approximately 100 dump truck loads of leaves from our city every year. That's a lot of leaves and that's a lot of compost it started out and you guys can go to your own city and find the have leaf compost and they're just dying to give it away because what happens when they go through the cities and they pick up all the leaves in the sticks they run them through a chipper and then put them on a truck well then they take them to an area where they're going to storm and our city happens to have what's called the top grinder so they run it through the leaves of the twigs in the sticks that run into the top grinder and then they pile it they don't turn it is often as you would normal compost but they turn it maybe once when they move the pile and then it's turned again when it comes by us and we put it in a pile for about 6 months we turn it again and by that time it's compost it really well if you guys have ever gone out to a woods or forest in your area and looked at that dirt that's in the woods you know how black it is and how soft and you just want to I used to tell my husband just bring it back to skid steer scoop it that I'll put that on my garden but that's what you can make by composting it in the woods nobody's farm that nobody's taken out nutrients it's just putting nutrients back in and that beautiful black dirt is what really really really can make our plants grow nicely so tree leaves is a wonderful thing vegetable. Food scraps coffee grounds lettuce potato peels banana peels avocados anything that you eat in your kitchen and I'm going to say this now that's vegetarian can go into your compost pile Ok if suggested that you don't use meat and meat scraps and if you're doing it personally in your own yard I would suggest against that as well because when you're talking about composting meat you actually need to know what you're doing as far as the heat and the length of time and you need to make sure that. Printer paper disease free are waste Ok you don't want to take your tomato plant that had blight and put it in your compost pile if you come close to the 100 percent perfect. And went through all the list of things you have to do and you got it up to 130 degrees and you turned it every 2 days you could probably kill the blight that was in there but if you leave it or you make a mistake you're just going to end up adding back into your garden so you don't want to do that if possible. Cardboard vegetarian animal manure you don't want to put your dog to do out there but you're a vegetarian animal house horses rabbits on our farm we have 15 horses they generate a lot of compost and it works really well with those with the sod as long as we let it break down long enough so compost is partially broken down organic matter. What not compost and think I may decide that disease yard waste meat and fat butter and oil dairy and bones pure meat fat and bones not only carry the risk for disease it's also very attractive to a wild right wide variety of undesirable animals in the next couple sides here you're going to see how we compost at our firm on a very large scale we do occasionally have issues with animals it's not as big a deal on a large farm when you're away from your house as it would be right up by your house if you would put fish in your compost pile you're going to get a raccoon that's going to come in and try and dig it up. I don't know I didn't make it real big but if you guys can see on the corner here this is our yard where we compost fish. If you guys can see this boat here we live by Green Bay and carp is an invasive species in the Great Lakes and they're trying to get rid of as many of them as they can so the guys go out and they do both fishing I don't know if anyone has ever heard of that nobody eats car but they take the bows and arrows and they shoot the fish and they have a rope on them and they pull the fish in and they have tournaments and they're trying to clean up the lake and so the Kurds having these tournaments but they have some I truckloads of fish when they're all done and they really had nowhere to go with it they would make some would make fish fertilizer out of it it was kind of expensive so we started saying yes we'll take it and we'll take a dump truck load after dump truck load of leaves and bury the fish in the leaves and that we turn and that we measure the temperature and we do real good job but by the time we're done we end up with this black dirt this got more nitrogen in it than what you get from the leaves alone this over here is where we compost our horse manure behind the horse barn we compost it on concrete as well so it doesn't get too too much rain going through it and we're not losing the nutrients like that something I don't have a slide on is compost have you guys all heard of compost how many of you have you have used it. And do you like do you like using the compost tea or do you find it's more trouble than it's worth on your web farm worm farm so you use compost tea in your worm farm. Oh from your worm farm Ok cool and then you put that on your plants you find it that works better we we've used compost tea as a foliar feed before have any of you guys ever used it that way where you just spray it right on your leaves the plant does have ways most plants have ways that they can pull in nutrients from their leaves as well and compost tea is a great way. To get the nutrients in and in fast like you have have we want time at a corn crop that was really doing poorly I don't remember exactly what the problem was but there was some there was some deficiency that year and they were just brown and small and we ended up using a fish and. And this was to be fed to cattle so it wasn't going to be fed to people we never would use fish if it was to be fed cattle or to home to people but it worked really well and the Green did up within about a day and a half the nitrogen gets in the plant and they can use it immediately. This is how people compost that stuff that they sell you like purple cow they have these huge piles and they have compost turners that get in there and actually turn it so that every single piece of compost can be exposed to air and it can be changed they might run down that it depends upon the temperature but they might write down run down at a couple times in a week and then as it gets more and more companies to they're going to back off until they only have to do it maybe once a month until it's finished but it's really a huge undertaking and it's a very inexact science. We have piles of wood spent we have them in different places on our farm with you we actually have had that is another income for our farm because as everyone knows farming isn't exactly the easiest way to make a living so we've been looking for different ways to do it and when we compost we have the finished compost we do sell it to people who have gardens you can pound compost in different ways it's your own farm at your own house you can build actually anything you want to make a compost bin and if you go on Pinterest or you go on anything on the Internet you can find just a 1000000 pictures of how you can make a compost bin and some of them are pretty and that's great for people who want their garden to look pretty and some of them are functional and some of them are just piles Ok with sciences compost that. You can really do it any way you want the whole the main basics of it if I remember right. Lots of different ways. You can use wood you don't want to use green treated what though that's one thing that if you think about it people might want to say I'm going to use green treated because I don't want my wood to rot but a lot of that green treated has called copper sulphate in it and the old green treated has arsenic in it and you don't want that to be pulled out into your compost and then into your food Ok so I always make sure that you use just plain lumber or Cedar Seed it will work better rather as much as pine there's a list I'm not going to read it off of everything you can compost. There's browns and greens now you can have a lot I'm like I said I'm not an expert on this but there are a lot of people who have a lot of different ways of compost and they're going to tell you make it like your lives on the garden you put in a layer of this and a layer of that you have to do it like this and you have to do it like that and I don't think that boxing yourself in that way is a real good use of God's way to make the compost he's the one that does all the work. The bugs in there are the ones that do all the work you don't want to put things in there like chemicals or order or lead to drowned out you can't let it get completely wet or it won't work but you just have to let the animals the little bugs in there do their thing find all the different things that you can compost pick a place to do it and then let nature take its course. Are there questions Ok the question is can you put citrus and lemon in there and the answer is you can and I'm not exactly sure why some people don't. Know that it is something about the way it breaks down and I know like I said before we actually have a centrist spray that we use as a herbicide and it's it's all natural it's just a cleaner and it strips off the waxes so I was going and then the sun actually hits the leaves and that's what kills the plant that's what we use as a herbicide. There's possibly something that has to do with that what we put searchers in our compost from the house as well and we've never had any trouble now maybe you can't compost an entire. Pile of citrus but a little bit isn't going to hurt it Ok the question is about cover crops in the home garden when you're doing a home garden it is a little difficult to use cover crops and that small of a scale that's something that you're going to have to spend a lot of time thinking about because one crop that follows the next crop that follows the next crop there's usually a progression that walk help your fields we use a lot of interceding if we're planting corn will plant clover in between it if I'm planting potatoes I'm going to plant flax seed along with my potatoes now you can consider that a cover because what it does is it's going to kind of Smush out the weaves at the if a cover crop takes off really well Ok so we use come across to suppress plants from other prints from growing they're going to compete for light water for nutrients and if we get the crop that we want. To grow that we either usually can kill later on or that doesn't hurt our plant and that's the one that we want growing there we'll put again the example with. The flax inside of the potatoes the flax has a smell that will make the potato bugs go away Ok hopefully it doesn't hold with weren't that great but we'll find a lot less potato bugs on the potatoes when we plant flags in between them and that's a companion. That can also be used as a cover Cup because the fax is growing there it's going to shade out the we. That's exactly what I used I bought some flax at the store or gan across you can't buy it you can't buy just organic as they might have done something to it like eat it up but you buy organic reflexive and I just threw them out there and it grew and it did work fairly well I wish you would have gotten every potato bug gone but most of them are it was much better as far as cover crops and restoring the soil if you're doing a lot of people do raise beds and cover crabs are the purpose of the cover of crap a lot of times is to help with the Rosing or to feed your biome if you have a raised bed this wide and then you have grass here you're going to always have life in that soil you're going to have places for those animals those little animals underground to grow but you can plant different ones like buckwheat. Ryegrass in all right grass on the top of a tennis suppress the weeds over the winter and then those crops will come up like a buckwheat if you cut it when it's this tall it won't come back again if you wait till it goes to seed you're going to have Buckwheat in your garden forever. Ok the question was is using mulch to cover your food your garden bed at home the same as using a cover crop the answer is so that not quite the same but again it depends a lot about how you make your garden if you have a garden that is the size of this room and you plow it under every year and you don't put anything on it then you don't have enough buy enough to feed your biome if you have rolls I think and this against my opinion as a farmer's wife I'm no expert on any of this stuff but I think that it's enough when you have just the roles is is good mulch is growing and you are your compost will have a lot of bio into your life and lead to your garden so compost is a great way to put it on there cover crops if you control annual drive grass or book we or. You know there's a lot of kinds for where you live particular That's the other part it has a little bit hard because everyone's from a different part of the country where you live you are going to specifically have ones that work better for you and what you are specifically trying to do in your ground you might need a different kind of cover crop than I might need or someone in Texas or someone in Florida and a great resource is the n r c s. F your Farm Service Agency your extension office and Wisconsin we have a very very active extension office that will answer questions about anything we have Master Gardeners that you can call and though the. Question though have the answers for your area. The question was about nitrogen fixing cover ups you can use different cover crops like alfalfa is a wonderful nitrogen fix or it will take nitrogen out of the air and through the plant put it into the roots Ok and then it stays there for your next crop like if you grow for one year the next you where you go corn because there's so much nitrogen in the corn can use. A garden scale. Well I'm not sure that you could grow it depends upon again your size of the garden myself I'm thinking about gardens with grasses in between would be a little difficult if you have a large area to plant alfalfa or hearing or different ones that actually are pieces actually pieces are great nitrogen fixtures and that's kind of cool because in the spring if you plant he's a fixed nitrogen and you can go pick. The question was about a barrel that would spin to compost and if you don't put some kind of starter in there it's not going to work as well but you wouldn't want to do this in your kitchen but you can do this in your garden you want to put a starter into your compost dig some dirt get a handful of worms from your garden get a handful of dirt from your garden put it into your barrels so that you put in some life in there then you can get Ok so it's going to touch the ground and get the worms and everything that way or else you can put it in. Ok the question is about expansion into a new area what is the size of the area 11 acres of all weeds Ok. To mostly. Be fun we've done that before. Used to pasture Ok if I had 5 acres that I was trying to get rid of the weeds and so that someday I could maybe make a garden or or grow some kind of crap on that and I didn't want to use herbicides. You can't cover that and you can't turn that much into the dark you can't do that so if you don't want to do a section a time what I would do is model no matter what you do you're going to have those weed seeds in there and some of those weed seeds like velvet leaf will live we don't even know how long 2030 years so you're going to have scenes and every time you tell you're going to bring new seeds up but one of the best ways to get rid of of the weeds is to mold them because most of the weeds will come up a lot of them are annuals and they're done some of them have tap roots and they come up year after year after year but if you Mo and you don't let them go to seed you'll get rid of the ones you have then you can add in there clover. Either. Rye would also be a good one for that anything that's going to grow up big and healthy and shade out the we. But we use when we're on the farm and we're trying to do a new field when we were becoming certified organic that's what we did is we planted hay because we had 4 times a year and the weeds would be cut off before they went to seed and that alfalfa fix nitrogen and it shaded out the other weeds that were coming up so that's about the only way you can fix something that I know of that you can fix something that large mole and plants something that will compete with yes. Ok so when you become certified organic on a farm in the rule is 36 months from the time when you use any kind of pesticide So in your home garden it's going to be pretty much about the same that would be about how long it takes to leach it out of the soil to. Break it down until the pesticide that are beside is not there anymore you're never going to be perfect once it once the ground has and it has it on there our soil remediating crops that you can you can plant. One talk about those a but you can you can do different different things but the best thing is to to wait I mean you can start but you if you know that someone dumped around up on there you know but honestly if you buy something at the store it was grown on soil that have that on it and what you do in your home if you're 6 months away from that chemical or you're months away from that comfort chemical you're still better but if you want to know for sure that there's no chemicals in there you really need to wait but again it's not going to be anything worse than what you buy the store it's going to be better. The question the answer was about raised beds that is better than planting into the ground that you know has been used for with chemicals Unfortunately if you haven't lived there we've lived on our farm my husband's grandfather bought it so we know everything that went into the soil but we also know that in the sixty's they used actually so you know that and we used to go out and eat corn from the fields from the fields corn and that event sprayed with actual Zenon were it's crazy but again like you said the world is waxing old gods in control of all of this we can scare the bejesus out of our kids and make them worry about every single thing that goes in their mouth or we can kind of trust God to take care of us in the parts that we can't always do ourselves and I think that's really important because kids get too worried and then they're Fraidy this and afraid that I mean yes we don't need the junk food we don't need stuff that we know was bad but we have to let We have to realize that God really is in control of this just like he's in control of everything and that's for the organic part of it that's what made you so worried about being certified organic anymore and versus like what we have again is going to fix the world then and Adventists and started being like you guys and you know them. At all take. So that's a stand with prayer thank you very much for being patient with all my stuff Dear Lord I want to thank you so much for. Giving me enough to talk about for an hour and worried about that I want to put a hand on all these people that are here bless their endeavors whatever it is that they need give it to them in their gardens as they strive to make a better life for themselves and their families please let us not worry our children let's just do the best job that we can for them and we know the job last of our endeavors and our most precious thing we thank you for every part of the garden you've given us in this media was brought to you by audio verse a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio verse if you would like to listen to more sermons lead to visit w w w audio verse or.


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