The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

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The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Well!
Several members have expressed interest in a "Definitive" thread on gardening!

Some topics have too much gravity to be "spread out" across the forums, and because no two peoples' experience with gardening and agriculture will be the same, we could all benefit from learning from one another.

Hopefully, with the creation of this thread, we can all bring our knoweldge and experience on the topics of Botany, Agriculture; both livestock and edible fruits and veggies, land development and how to naturally process the fruits of your labor.

This said, I am not an experienced farm owner, or agriculturalist. My experience has been with small gardens, herbs and trees, so we'll all have to rely on one another to "fill in the blanks".

So, lets get a format up and running - feel free to add to this if necessary:
I like the "three sided, three Tier" system - so here is how I'm breaking it down in my mind:

FLORA

Crop Plants:
Type of Crop (Veggies, Legumes, Tubers etc)
Sow Time
Reap Time
Yield
How to Preserve (or Recipes!)
Experiences on what worked or didn't work while growing them.

Fruit/Nut Trees:
Type of Fruit
When to Prune
When to Collect
Yield
Ways or Preserving
Experiences

Flowers or Pollination Plants:
Type (Perinnial/Annual)
Care and maintanance
Complimentrary to...?
What types of insects do they draw?
Experiences

FAUNA

Domestic Livestock:
Type
Ways of feeding without relying on Stores
What they produce
Care and Maintanance
Culling and reproduction
Time Frames

Migratory Critters:
Type (Varmit, Waterfowl etc)
What they produce/Consume
How to work with, get rid of

Animal Companions:
Type
Ways of feeding without relying on Stores
What they offer
How to train

LAND

How to Cultivate/Plan your Garden and Graze
Site selection
Things to be cautious of (Mole hills vs cattle, etc)
How to Develop it and maximize use of space (Permaculture!)

Improvement
Continual improvements you've made that make life easier
How they can improve quality of life for you and your animals?
How to optimize water consumption
Ways to heat or power your home

Maintanance
What routine tasks do you do to keep your garden/farm in good shape?
What can be done to improve the existing site or structures?

Anyway - These are the issues I have been trying to tackle over the last couple months.
Let me know if there are any things you'd add, remove or edit and we'll try and form this thread.

I'm looking forward to reading your experiences, and sharing mine as they continue!
Cheers!

Aaron

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Thanks Aaron!

Cat

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Good idea, Aaron! 

I haven't done this and there may be better sites but I'd rather try this than rubber tires. Uh,  under crop plants..tubers? Anyone try this? 

http://www.weidners.com/spud_Barrel.htm

SG

 

 

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

SG,

The link doesn't work.

Cat

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Sorry, redid.

 

SG

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

http://davesgarden.com/products/gwd/

This site has a search function.  Search by zipcode and find local seeds.  Also lots of ratings on the various companies.  I put this in my bookmarks and hope to use it if/when I get a place where I can grow things.  Hope someone finds this helpful. 

 Lucas

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

All,

Thanks for the replies!
I've got a few links that have been helpful for me as well:
http://www.small-farm-permaculture-and-sustainable-living.com/

http://www.peakprosperity.com/forum/permaculture/10112

http://finallylivingdeliberately.blogspot.com/

Also, feel free to post pictures.
Before and Afters have been particularly inspiring for me.
Cheers!

Aaron

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

  Thanks for starting this thread, looking forward to all the great information.  Excited to plant potatoes for the first time, usually just plant tomatoes and peppers each spring.  Experimenting with lettuce now!  Teresa

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

E (the wife) and I are in the process of expanding our garden to a larger space and instead of just cultivating kitchen herbs we're doing veggies for the table.  Our land is hilly so we're having to terrace (just getting started on that).  I'll post some pics of work-in-progress asap.

Great idea for a thread!  Thanks Aaron.

Viva -- Sager 

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Regarding potatoes growing in a stack of tires, I love the concept too, but I didn't really want a big pile of tires in my backyard. Here's an alternative I found on the net (scroll down slightly to find a video on the left hand column):

http://smelllikedirt.wordpress.com/2008/05/

 Unfortunately, it's not warm enough here to start that sort of unprotected growing process.

In fact, after a weirdly warm winter that I've been planting out seeds and transplanting thinnings through since early February, we got a big dumping of snow yesterday and my cold frame and hoop house and (plastic-draped) strawberry beds are covered with about a foot of snow. I'm anxiously awaiting my chance to peek inside and see how everything is doing. (I'm more worried about the 16 degree lows last night than the snow, and it's supposed to get back down in the teens tonight, so I'm going to leave their blanket of snow on, if it doesn't melt, for another night.)

 We moved here about 16 months ago, from SoCal, and I've been fretting on and off since finding this site and the info it contains about whether we're in the wrong place to be more self-sufficient, foodwise. Firejack worried in a thread the other day that Americans might flood Canada in a SHTF scenario, and cautioned would-be migrants that it's hard to grow much of your own food when you can't grow 7 months out of the year, and I started counting up my growing season here in Northern Colorado. Sigh. Four months long. Maybe five with the warming that local gardeners have been seeing here in recent years.

I was much heartened, then, to read in Steve Solomon's book, Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times, that my climate actually has strong advantages -- freezing the ground to 18 inches each winter kills pathogens that would otherwise take over soil life and reduce crop yields, and being dry is actually a benefit, to some degree at least, to soil quality. He claims a study in the 40s of WWII inductees, done when most people ate food that grew within a small radius of their homes, found that Missouri  inductees were rejected from military service based on health in an increasing percentage running from NW Missouri, which is prairie grasslands that gets barely sufficient rainfall to grow yet historically supported vast herds of giant herbivores, to the SE, which is a forested, wet region where the soil is much less fertile and much less balanced. 200 per 1,000 men were rejected in the NW, compared to 400 per 1,000 in the SE.

So, colder and drier is better, at least to a degree. I've also embraced Eliot Coleman's Four Seasons Harvest since moving here. We haven't implemented huge amounts of protected growing, just a cold frame or two last winter when we moved in, and this year we erected a long, low hoop-house over a 5x36 bed that I started planting out in mid-Feb. Sprouts are small but thriving there. The strawberries I covered in February too, just to wake them up early and hopefully get an early crop out of them. We'll see if that was a mistake shortly! A 4x8 coldframe houses more cool-season greens that we like to eat. Oh, and I have some spuds on one end of the hoop house that I just planted a week or so ago.

I'm really trying to incorporate more perennials in the garden, as they seem to make more sense from a permaculture standpoint. We have about 30 raspberry bushes in, 20 more on the way, and a couple of currants and serviceberries to plant out front and convince the neighbors that we actually care about how our yard looks. Five fruit trees that should do well here (the late spring freezes are hard on fruiting crops, apparently) and I'd like to get a hazelnut/filbert bush or two for the front yard, in hopes it'll provide nuts for us.

Oh, and we have seven chickens in various degrees of maturity. I moved the older hens into the garage yesterday with the pullets because the wind was blowing so hard and I was worried the molting ones wouldn't be warm enough. When I went out last night, they were trying to roost amongst some wine bottles my folks brought from Trader Joes (the one store in California I miss!) on their last visit and had knocked one over, but thankfully not off the workbench.

That's all we're doing on-property, but we do have some interesting ventures going on off-property. Through a stroke of luck, I heard about a friend of a friend of mine who had bought a small homestead (maybe 5 acres? I'm not sure how large it is. Could be more) a couple miles away from us, more of a horse property with barns and arenas and such, but she's wanting to do community gardening. She has a group of families sharing the cost of a flock of chickens there, another group, including us, will help her cultivate and harvest a large garden plot (somewhere between 1/2 and an acre), and she is planning to get a litter of piglets with a group of interested folks. We'll take a piglet and see how we feel about eating an animal we know and love. Either it will push us into vegetarianism, or I'll come to healthy terms with my own carnivorality, so to speak. She'd like us to buy a milk goat and board it at her place, but I'm leery of the amount of work it would tie us too. I may yet do it though, it's very tempting, especially as I think we could keep the goat(s -- mamma and baby, at times) at our place a night or two a week without our neighbors complaining.

 And we're helping out with a backyard gardening mentor group, facilitating no-dig bed workshops and doing publicity for them.

I would *love* to be on acreage with enough room for wildspace and lots of cultivated gardens, but for whatever reason, this quarter-acre house on the edge of this cool town is where we felt moved to move. It could be that we won't have a chance to relocate, but maybe we will, when the kids are bigger and more resilient about that sort of change.

fwiw,

sue

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

capesurvivor wrote:

Good idea, Aaron! 

I haven't done this and there may be better sites but I'd rather try this than rubber tires. Uh,  under crop plants..tubers? Anyone try this? 

http://www.weidners.com/spud_Barrel.htm

SG

Yep .. I planted mine on the 17th

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Thanks,

That's just a week ago; still time for me. Looks like you did some nice work on the barrel.

SG

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Has anyone considered raising rabbits for meat? In my experience they a easy to raise, and delicious to boot. Their diet is less grain based than a chickens and can easily be supplied with only a scythe on fallow land. Although they only lay eggs on Easter, their reproduction is amazing. The meat is tender and doesn't require much water for processing. I think they are an excellent choice for sustainable homestead meat production.

 My two cents.From the peanut gallery.

 Spencer

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

I planted my peas on the 17th also

the fence for the peas to climb on
is green plastic fence .. $22 for 50 ft, Home Depot (you're looking at 40 ft) ..

(4) 10 ft lengths of 3/4" PVC tubing cut in half at 45 deg. angle ..
driven in 1 ft. over top of 4 ft reinforcement rod ..
reinforcement rod was driven 2 ft into the ground

the fluffy balls you see on the line are clumps of dog hair tie-wrapped to 18 gauge coated wire
that I had in the barn .. dog hair is the best thing I have found for keeping deer away, I have used
it for many years in my apple trees .. the dog hair must be unwashed.

plastic stakes holding the fence down

Tie-Wraps placed through a drilled hole keeping the fence from sliding down

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Tom,

Is there an "expiration date" on the dog hair trick?
We get a lot of rain up here, and I'm wondering how long it'd keep scent.

Thanks for the great post, as usual,

Aaron

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

I made this composter that cost me $22.00 in hardware (Home Depot) + $15 for the barrel (ebay)
works as good as the commercial ones that cost $300 with half the capacity.

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Aaron Moyer wrote:

Tom,

Is there an "expiration date" on the dog hair trick?
We get a lot of rain up here, and I'm wondering how long it'd keep scent.

Thanks for the great post, as usual,

Aaron

Aaron, go to a pet groomer .. they will load you up with a trash bag full for free .. keep it sealed & replenish as necessary, I only had to replenish once last year .. but no way do we get rain in PA like you do in the NW.

just keep sniffin  Laughing

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Nicely done also!

Here's  a question from an amateur farmer-would sweet potatoes work in that barrel? Different vegetable family? Genus? Species, LOL?

 I like the added nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes/yams. Will check out Home Depot for those clasps.

What part of country are you growing in?

SG

I

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Tom Loftus wrote:

I made this composter that cost me $22.00 in hardware (Home Depot) + $15 for the barrel (ebay)
works as good as the commercial ones that cost $300 with half the capacity.

Tom -

Did you use any bushings where the PVC runs through the center of the barrel or is it just a cutout?  Wondering if wear and tear would be a concern.

 

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

I'm sure everyone has their own organic fertilizer mix, but I wanted to share one that is working unbelievably for me.

-4 parts Seed-meal ( I use a mix of Cottonseed meal and Alfalfa seed-meal. You can buy 50lb bags at a farm and ranch feed store very cheaply)

-1/2 to 1 part Kelp meal (Can be difficult to find and rather expensive, but provides important micronutrients. You may also use basalt dust for this component)

-1 part rock phosphate or bonemeal

-1 part Lime mix (1/3 Agriculture Lime, 1/3 Dolomite, and 1/3 Gypsum)

And of course you need to throw some good compost into the mix as well.

So far the only crops that I have harvested with this mix have been a few tomatoes, but these are the best tomatoes my wife and I have ever eaten. We are very excited about this growing season. We have liked the results of this organic fertilizer mix so much, that I bought enough mix components for about 5 years worth of this mix (about $500 in cost).

I should mention that I derived this mix from Steve Solomon's book Gardening When It Counts: Growing Food in Hard Times (Mother Earth News Wiser Living Series). He has a fantastic FREE online library at www.soilandhealth.org . Check it out.

 Jeff 

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

capesurvivor wrote:

Nicely done also!

Here's  a question from an amateur farmer-would sweet potatoes work in that barrel? Different vegetable family? Genus? Species, LOL?

I like the added nutritional benefits of sweet potatoes/yams. Will check out Home Depot for those clasps.

What part of country are you growing in?

SG

 

I don't know about sweet potatoes, I might give them a try .. we're in Southeastern PA  near DEL & MD state lines

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Will be finishing up the square foot garden forms and vertical frames this weekend.

We got the idea - okay Mrs. Dogs got the idea and told me what to do - from Mel Bartholomew's book and website on square foot gardening.

http://www.squarefootgardening.com/

We put together 8 4' x 4' boxes made out of 2" x 12" untreated pine.  We went with 2" x 12" to create vertical space, the soil in southeastern Virginia is mostly clay and a pain to till.  By using the 2" x 12" I'll only have to use the posthole digger for a few plants. 

Still working out the veggie mix but will be planting at least the following (until Mrs. Dogs changes my mind):

Tomatoes, green peppers, red peppers, cukes, beans, zucchini, yellow squash, potatoes, yams.  May also do pumpkins and eggplant if we have room.

We already have blueberries and strawberries established and are putting in mature raspberries.  Mrs. Dogs has a killer herb garden scattered all over the back patio in various sized pots and planters.  We had a frost two nights ago and I'm hoping we are about done with that so we can get things in the ground soon.

If I could ever figure out how to get pictures on the site I could post them.

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Dogs_In_A_Pile wrote:

Tom -

Did you use any bushings where the PVC runs through the center of the barrel or is it just a cutout?  Wondering if wear and tear would be a concern.

Nope, I thought about it but only for about 10 seconds .. the barrel only gets rotated 3 times per week .. I figured many years before I would even see any wear .. anything sooner I would probably add a thick plastic buttress or support.

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Tom Loftus wrote:

I don't know about sweet potatoes, I might give them a try .. we're in Southeastern PA  near DEL & MD state lines

Tom -

My old stomping grounds.  I grew up in NW Wilmington not far from Chadd's Ford/Kennett Square.

I do miss a good cheesesteak........................

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Awesome thread and exactly what I was waiting for! Thanks.

I just thought I might mention that for those who don't have any space or experience with farming there is a great hands-on approach to learning. Community gardens have been mentioned a few times around here but there is also something called WWOOFing. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

http://www.wwoof.org/

Most places you do volunteer work (or get some help if you have the land) for a few hours a day in exchange for room/board and a great learning experience. Also a great way to travel, see the world and meet great people.

A friend just spent their March Break doing this and said they had a blast and learned sooo much. My gf and I take possession of our property end of April and are pretty much totally inexperienced 'in the field'. We hope to have some time to do some WWOOFing because we've got a lot of learning to do and couldn't live without travel.

Thanks again for starting this Aaron.

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Dogs_In_A_Pile wrote:

Tom -

My old stomping grounds.  I grew up in NW Wilmington not far from Chadd's Ford/Kennett Square.

I do miss a good cheesesteak........................

Oh heck yeah, you couldn't have lived very far off route 52 .. Centerville/Mendenhall area .. I am up around Painters Crossroads.

Dogs, you cant get a good cheesesteak any more until you get close to Philly Frown 

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Hi all

Great idea for a thread, Aaron (and I like the new pic!).

I've been able to keep our family 75% self sufficient in veg and 50% in fruit for the last 15 years or so and have three main guides that I still swear by.

The first is the writings of John Seymour (1914 to 2004) and in particular his book 'The New Complete Guide to Self Sufficiency' (ISBN 0 7513 6442 8). This covers everything you need to know, from integrating crops with the natural cycles of nature to raising rabbits as a protein source. I feel you could have nothing else but this book and your land and still make it through!

The second is a book called 'Month by Month Organic Gardening' by Lawrence D Hills (ISBN 0 722518633). This looks at what to grow to provide food in each month of the year, how to rotate crops by the orders of vegetables and what to do in each month. For instance, this month its telling me about using 8 ozs of wood ash per square yard in order to provide sufficient potash for broad beans.

The third book is a permaculture title by Patrick Whitefield called 'How to make a Forest Garden' (ISBN 1 85623 008 2). This is a completely detailed explanation as to establishing a highly productive system based on a natural woodland structure - with three layers of vegetation: threes, shrubs and herbaceous plants. In addition to this book, I have examined this method and concluded that is the most efficient and low energy means of providing a balanced diet for humans.

As for specific tips, I currently have 8 beds that are around 20 metres long by 1.5 metres wide. I dig these as little as possible to help maintain a healthy soil structure and ecology. This year's rotation plan is:

Bed 1 - leguminosae - broad beans, runner beans, french beans and peas

Beds 2, 5 & 6 - Solanaceae - potatoes

Bed 3 -  Umbelliferae - carrots, celeriac, Liliaceae - onions, leeks, garlic

Bed 4 -  Cruciferae - cauliflowers, broccoli, calabrese, swede

Bed 7 -  Other - lettuces, chards, spinnach, rocket

Bed 8 - Cucurbitacaea - squash, pumpkin, courgette

Finally, I have perenial crops of rhubarb, raspberry, black current and gooseberry and use the greenhouse for sweet peppers, melons, cucumbers and tomatoes.

For compost I have five one metre cubes. I have 4 chickens (variety Black Rock) with a scratching pen as well as free range. Any garden refuse is first given to them to pick over and fertilise before I put it into one of my compost bins. I usually have one filling, one cooking, one finished and two ready for use.

Last autumn I collected all leaf litter and hedge trimmings and filled builders sacks with it (these are the disposable woven polyproplyene sacks that sand etc from the builders yard is delivered in. This stuff will slow compost over 18 months and be ready this time next year for mulching or as a base for potting compost. 

I could go on but I've got to go and light the stove - we've a frost forecast tonight!

Peace to all

Bill

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Tom, I love that compost barrel! We just moved our compost pile from one side of the yard, turning it in the process, and I was disappointed by how slowly it was composting and how horrible the top two-thirds smelled.

How much do you worry about the carbon to nitrogen ratio in the materials you put in there? Or is it all just kitchen scraps?

eta: and how on earth do you order a barrel on Ebay? do they ship it to you? how much does that cost?

 

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

suesullivan wrote:

Tom, I love that compost barrel! We just moved our compost pile from one side of the yard, turning it in the process, and I was disappointed by how slowly it was composting and how horrible the top two-thirds smelled.

How much do you worry about the carbon to nitrogen ratio in the materials you put in there? Or is it all just kitchen scraps?

eta: and how on earth do you order a barrel on Ebay? do they ship it to you? how much does that cost?

Hey Sue, here is a Carbon-Nitrogen composting chart, if you don't already have one .. well, it's been pretty cold, your pile should really start heating up very soon, I wouldn't worry about it .. I add wood shavings to kitchen scraps, although I do have a small worm farm with about 8K of red wrigglers that actually get most of my scraps .. but I get garbage from a local produce stand & am starting a larger compost area for next year .. you really need a whole year for a good compost. Now's the time to start it.

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Bill, do you get just one crop per year out of your beds? Do you need to rotate them into a cover crop ever? How many years have you been gardening with the 8 beds? How  big is your property and what climate zone do you live in? Are you forest gardening on it (I'm trying to set that up in our shadier front yard, thanks for that book recc and the others!)

How big is your greenhouse? Do you have supplemental heat for it? Do you grow the  melons, peppers and tomatoes to  fruition in there are do you transplant them out at some point?

I love how organized and productive your gardens sound!

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Re: The Definitive Agriculture/Permaculture Thread

Bill MacGregor wrote:

For compost I have five one metre cubes. I have 4 chickens (variety Black Rock) with a scratching pen as well as free range. Any garden refuse is first given to them to pick over and fertilise before I put it into one of my compost bins. I usually have one filling, one cooking, one finished and two ready for use.

Last autumn I collected all leaf litter and hedge trimmings and filled builders sacks with it (these are the disposable woven polyproplyene sacks that sand etc from the builders yard is delivered in. This stuff will slow compost over 18 months and be ready this time next year for mulching or as a base for potting compost.

Bill

Hi Bill, Everything you said makes perfect sense .. I like your composting setup the best, I just started two bins but I can see more on the way now Laughing

Tom

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