Notes from the Meeting of November the 20th

At this meeting we continued to build compost piles, and did some preliminary layout work on the greenhouse. A piece of metal pipe inserted into the compost pile came out hot to the touch, so the pile is working well, probably due to all the coffee grounds we added. We will turn it at least once to heat up the outside, and speed up its progress.

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Notes from the meeting of November the 14th/ Greenhouse Design

The weather is still fairly pleasant, so we have continued working on our Lakewood Farm. At this meeting we continued turning our abundant supply of leaves into compost piles.

We also discussed plans for our greenhouse. It will be a simple hoop house, which has the advantages of low cost and ease of construction/removal. However, it will be less sturdy and harder to heat.

We will thread twenty foot lengths of rebar into pvc pipes, and bend the composite rods into hoops. These will be buried in the ground, and connected along the top by another rod. Then greenhouse film will be draped over the structure, and buried along the edges. Rope will be used to tie down the plastic and keep it from flapping in the wind.

Hopefully, we will be able to construct the greenhouse at the meeting after next. I will post pictures of the construction, and then record its performance. This is an Eliot Coleman style greenhouse, and part of it will be used for early plantings of cool weather crops. It will also house a hot bed for starting seedlings in the spring.  These will be for sale, for member’s gardens, and for our farm site.

Notes from the meeting of November 7th

At this meeting, we got a hot compost pile started. We are layering leaves, manure, and coffee grounds in an eight by eight foot wire mesh bin. We also added a little blood meal. Sufficient nitrogen causes a compost pile to heat up. However, the manure we are using may not have enough nitrogen in it; the manure pile had not heated up. And we did not have enough blood meal and coffee grounds to heat up the pile by themselves.  If, by next week, the pile shows no signs of heating, we will add some more nitrogen.

We had some lawn care companies dump leaves. In fact, we got too many leaves (if that can be possible.) And the truck drivers dumped leaves right on top of our sheet mulch garden beds, where it may prove difficult to rake them up without raking up the sheet mulch. These leaves will be hot composted, since we do not know where they came from or what they might contain. We have already picked out some trash. A hot compost pile will break down almost all chemicals, and kill pathogens. The only common contaminants which a hot compost pile can’t get rid of are heavy metals and certain extremely long lasting herbicides. Heavy metals should not be a problem in leaves. People don’t spray herbicides on their trees. By the time the leaves land on the lawn, there should be very little herbicide present on the surface, and even less would end up in raked leaves. To insure that this reasoning is correct, we will be testing all finished compost before adding it to the garden beds. Compost can be tested simply for quality by planting a few radishes or other inexpensive seeds in it.
We got our first set of professional soil tests back. The cheap home soil test had rather inaccurate results. We will not need to add any nutrients to the soil except nitrogen, since we actually have overabundant levels of many nutrients. The pH is 7.8, which has an advantage. It will bind with any heavy metals which might be present, keeping them from being taken up by plants. The only common heavy metal for which this will not work is arsenic. In a few weeks we should have our heavy metal soil test results back. The high nutrient levels may have been caused by a chemical fertilizer overdose by the previous owner.