Permaculture Literacy – HHA

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34 Comments

  • Kristy says:

    Thanks Bret – so much information in this one I had to watch it twice!

    Reply
  • Ashley Hall says:

    SOooo this might be a horrible idea! But it popped into my head, so why not ask: could you stick a small amount of cold compost into the oven at 140-160 degrees to kill off weeds etc and achieve similar results to a hot pile? And is it really 30:1 ratio or 3:1? Was the 30 a typo?

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    • Jesscy says:

      {HHA Coach} The ration is correct! And if done correctly, there would be no need to place your compost in the oven. 😉

      Reply
  • Holly Purdy says:

    Is there a danger of spontaneous combustion with some of these piles if left unattended for too long without fluffing? I think of hay, when its wet and bailed and put in barns..

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    • Jesscy says:

      {HHA Coach} YES! There is absolutely a danger of combustion within compost piles. But if done correctly this isn’t an issue. Spontaneous combust is very rare even in piles that grow hot. So while it’s good to be aware, it’s not something that occurs commonly. Great question, Holly!

      Reply
  • Diana Furlong says:

    I was astounded at the ratio of C:N. I have been cold composting for a couple of years now and have been much closer to 50:50. The resulting compost has been fabulous. This year I managed to produce four dustbins full just from my waste and recycling. I am currently only growing veg so would need a more bacterial based compost which means more nitrogen so I’m hoping you’ll allow me a few more ratio points in my favour!

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  • Colleen Pushor says:

    Hi Brett, Im building a compost bin for my urban setting. Is it best i stay away from using pressure treated wood for the construction of it? or does that really matter?

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    • Jesscy says:

      {HHA Coach} It’s ultimately up to you, but certain woods especially leach their chemicals into the soil. Railroad ties come to mind. I personally have had comfrey in a bed built with ties & could taste the treatment in my herbs! If you’re going all organic, this is something to be mindful of. Also some plants don’t like the oils in certain woods like cedar.

      Reply
  • Laci says:

    I’ve been sporatically cold composting for the last couple of years but was unaware of the ratios. I followed a video on compost planters where you use buckets with holes in the sides, about and inch or so from the bottom to drain excess fluid. Once you put your layers in, make a hole in the middle and add potting soil. Planting into the potting soil and then the compost feeds the plant as material starts to break down. This is what i’ve been following with the exception that i no longer use them as planters. But i was never sure on amounts or ratios. Now that i’m seeing the thirty to one ratio i need to adjust that in my compost. i think the ratios i was doing were probably closer to 3-4:1
    Thank you for all the information, I will be adjusting my cold compost greatly for the next round

    Reply
  • Lorraine Ciccarelli says:

    is adding citrus peels not good for compost? I was told they’re okay as they’re broken up properly.

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  • Valeria Rocha says:

    Great lesson, I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. I now understand why my compost is not actually decomposting.

    Reply
  • Todd Barber says:

    Hey Bret – I am really digging the course – thank you for sharing your knowledge! A couple things I am still unclear on regarding composting: During the cold composting process when would the humus or soil be obtained/removed if C:N is constantly being added to the small mix? Also – I am unclear on the timing for this process, I assume it would be different each time depending on the material and environment but can you provide any info on a general time frame for cold and/or hot compost to decompose into usable material? Would there be a situation requiring both hot and cold compost happening at the same time in two areas?

    Reply
    • Bret James says:

      Hey Todd!

      Great question – to be most accurate, one one need to stop adding materials to a cold composting system, start a second pile, and let the first sit for 6 months to a year (depending on climate) to be fully composted.

      That said, one can use the compost quicker than that IF using as a top dressing, where you are adding on top of existing soil away from plant roots (undecomposed material next to plant roots is not desirable BUT on the soil surface is okay).

      I do both hot and cold at the same time – the cold compost pile is near the Yurt and sees all the kitchen scraps and humanure from the composting toilet. This pile is cold simply because of the lack of enough new material at any one time.

      Then next to the garden is a hot pile – massive amounts of organic matter and manure. This pile is hot simply because of the large quantity of materials that are added.

      Reply
      • Kim Glinka says:

        Todd thanks for asking the question – I wondered the same! Brett thanks for a thorough response and great lesson.

        Reply
  • Rowan Zeinu says:

    Hi Bret, I’ve been trying out a compost system called bokashi for the last 6 months. At the moment I’ve just been using kitchen waste (it’s a small scale project), but with a long term plan to use human waste. After doing some research it seemed to me this was the best way to compost human waste safely. In the process you leave your waste to ferment with bokashi bran for a 2 week period and then mix it into your general compost heap. I was wondering, as you said in this video not to use human waste but to do it separately, whether this also applies to this system. In all the research I’ve done into bokashi composting it suggests it is safe to use after the 2 week fermenting period and that you should mix it with your general compost.
    Thanks for all the fabulous content in this course, I’m really enjoying it!

    Reply
    • Carol Yip says:

      I have just started a Bakoshi compost myself for my kitchen. I love the convenience for the small stuff. I plan to feed it to my worm compost soon.

      I didn’t think to consider it for human waste. Interesting thought. Have you considered the process of closing the loop with regards to getting the bran mixture? I was curious about that but haven’t looked into how close a loop that can be.

      Reply
      • Rowan Zeinu says:

        Hi Carol,

        So I’m currently looking into closing the loop, my first step has been to buy EM1 to inoculate bran. This is a much cheaper method as you an buy plain bran more cheaply, you can also use other materials which I’m going to start as I can then source from onsite. I’m going to experiment with not buying the EM1 and trying to create a starter (like with sourdough or ginger beer), not sure how this will turn out but trying to close the loops. Here’s the link to a website I’ve just found, hope it helps. https://thecompostess.com/2015/04/22/how-to-make-bokashi/

        Reply
    • Bret James says:

      Hey Rowan!

      So it depends on where the compost is used – if on garden food crops it should not have any humanure in it regardless of how it was composted.

      Some use compost with humanure on fruit trees since the fruit does not come into contact with the soil.

      Reply
  • Sean Clatterbuck says:

    Excellent compact lesson on composting. I’ve been practicing back yard composting for a while, but had largely forgotten about the differences between hot and cold composting. This lesson has helped remind me of some ways to start a hot composting system and help facilitate my soil regeneration process.

    Thanks Bret!

    Reply
  • Loren Vansant says:

    This lesson was truly amazing! I was unaware of so much about composting and now have a much better understanding. I did not know about the C:N ratio. When I have talked to people and mentioned I plan to have a large compost pile (since we will be farming on almost 2 acres), I’ve always been met with the response of, “don’t do it! it stinks!” Now I know why theirs has stunk and I look forward to using this new knowledge to help them with their compost piles.

    Reply
  • Heather Watson says:

    I think I need to make a binder of resources from this specific course, because these are things that I need all in one place, instead of in books scattered around my house, bookmarks far and wide, etc. These are really great resources, really helps make things click together!

    Reply
    • Heather Watson says:

      (and by course I mean the whole PDC, not just this one lesson, heh) Time to go at it the with good old school supplies!

      Reply
  • Emily Pitre says:

    Hello,
    I read the book Humanure over the summer and Bret I was wondering if you’ve read it as well. Since that was the first composting knowledge I really got and it stuck with me. You mentioned a few different ways to compost but I noticed you focused on the aeration for a bit. That confuses me because of your “no tilling” rule. Why is compost
    different from soil with all the bugs and worms to create natural aeration. Would it not have the same disruptive nature as it does to normal soil? And the multiple studies he did with his Humanure proved it was safe to use in the garden.

    Reply
    • Bret James says:

      Such a great question Emily and an important distinction – the question is does the compost or soil become anaerobic?

      In the garden, no-till soils do not typically become anaerobic with such small amounts of organic matter decomposing on the surface, nor in a small 5 gallon humaure bucket. It’s just too small.

      But a large compost pile, say 6 feet tall, that likely will become anaerobic!

      As a reminder an anaerobic state lacks oxygen (think of a stinky stagnant pond) and these bacteria are not the beneficial aerobic bacteria that promote the soil life we want to see. The large compost piles are not natural, and therefore nature can not naturally aerate them (just like a stinky anaerobic pond).

      So, the question really is less of the need to turn the pile and more is the pile aerobic? If my piles don’t stink, and I don’t need the compost that season, I often won’t turn them, doing more of a cold composting approach.

      Another distinction is in the composting process, when doing hot composting, there is a brief period when the pile reaches maximum temps that there isn’s much soil life – BUT once the pile cools, soil life returns.

      With tilling – soil life doesn’t come back, unless compost or organic matter is added and soil is left undisturbed. The compost, organic matter basically acts as a magnet for soil life.

      The Humanure Handbook is a great book by the way!

      Reply
      • Emily Pitre says:

        Thank you so much for your thorough answer! That definitely helps my thought process and understanding of the composting process.

        Reply
  • Aurélie Dolbeau says:

    Hello ! What about vermicomposting (with worms) ? as we’ve seen that with the bioturbation, it is even quicker, and I’ve read that for smaller spaces, like urban composting, on balconies or the like, it’s an even better solution as it limits the smells and provides compost more quickly. Will it be covered later on on the course ? This is interesting stuffs !

    Reply
  • Oakley Biesanz says:

    Great lesson! wow, I am especially interested in this list of micronutrients of weeds, I mean “Dynamic Acumulators”. Example- dandelion and lambs quarters have lots of different nutrients that I didn’t know about- and they are prolific in my yard and garden, so I REALLY need to get them in my compost. Right now I am hauling them to the local compost site because they have already gone to seed, but clearly that loop needs to be closed. I wonder if I could make a hot compost once a year for this seed issue, OR make sure I get them before they go to seed. Thanks for that info!

    Reply
  • Lee Raynor says:

    A great lesson Bret! I’ll probably be need to listen to it a few more times as so much interesting information. Thanks for the additional resources, they will be helpful.

    Reply
  • susan tupper says:

    the ratios of carbon to nitrogen was new to me. As much as I gardened growing up, the compost was just a pile of organic stuff thrown together. No real attention given to content and in suburbia, I just bought compost from home depot! Now I am excited to start a real compost from scratch!

    Reply

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