Compost | Archives | Aggie Horticulture

Q: Is it ok to use old tomato and okra plants for compost?

A: Yes, do not use roots if they have been infested with nematodes. Diseased plants should not be used in compost pile unless the pile is kept actively working and generating temperatures of at least 140 degrees.

Q: Is it ok to use pecan leaves in compost? Black walnut leaves?

A: Yes, in both cases. The root system of walnut trees contain certain toxins that can contaminate vegetables.

Q: Can you use vegetable scrap for mulching?

A: No, not as a mulch. Could be added to compost bin; however. Cover with about 12 inches depth of leaves or grass clippings.

Q: Do you need to add extra nitrogen to compost for grass clippings?

A: No. Should consider adding some dry material such as leaves straw or hay in a layering manner with fresh (green) grass clippings. Green grass clippings are high in nitrogen content.

Q: Can you use pecan leaves for compost that have been infested with webworms?

A: Yes. Compost temperatures should, in most instances, be high enough to kill the worms. Put any identifiable worms or webs in middle of pile.

Q: Can pine bark mulch from last year's garden be worked into soil?

A: Yes, excellent source of organic matter. However, a high nitrogen fertilizer such as cottonseed meal or ammonium sulfate should be added at the same time to prevent nitrogen deficiency in soil.

Q: Can you use newspapers for mulch. How do newspapers compare with other type of mulches?

A: Yes. Three or more layers are needed. Paper must be kept moist to keep from blowing away. Any type of mulch is excellent.

Q: Can rabbit manure be used for fertilizer or should it be composted first?

A: Yes, but should be composted first or at least one year old.

Q: Can leaves be used as a mulch?

A: Yes, excellent source of organic matter. More gardeners prefer to use shredded leaves.

Q: Can composted bark mulch be used to loosen clay soil?

A: Yes, any kind of mulch or organic matter will open up clay soils. Never add sand or sandy loam.

Q: Can cotton seed hulls be used in a daylily bed or will they defoliate the daylilies?

A: If the cotton had been sprayed with a defoliant which contains arsenic the hulls should not be used as a soil amendment. Most cotton in this area has been treated with a defoliant.

Q: Can you use fresh wood chips for mulch and compost?

A: For mulch but not for compost. To be used in compost, chips should be shredded. They are slow to break down. Additional nitrogen source such as fresh grass clippings or fertilizer will help speed decomposition.

Q: What is the phosphorous content of leaves?

A: Max 1 to 2 percent

Q: Can grass clippings be used for compost?

A: Yes, dried clippings can be added directly to the garden. Green clippings should be added to the compost pile and allowed to decompose. Mix with equal amounts of shredded leaves, straw or hay in a layering manner. Q: How do you compost in a black plastic bag?

A: Use only dried leaves and garden waste. Don't use greasy house scraps. Add moisture and 21-0-0 fertilizer or cottonseed meal or blood meal mixed throughout the bag. Place bags in full sun and turn bags every few days. Would help to add some garden soil to provide organisms to promote breakdown and cut some holes for oxygen supply into bag. This is not the best way to prepare compost.

Q: What is the difference between hay and straw when used for mulch?

A: Hay is harvested grass crops that contain seed or at least most hay is. Peanut hay is an exception. Straw results from threshing such as a grain crop. Better to use straw to avoid all the seeds in hay but it depends on the type of hay.

Q: Can you use 'used' cat litter in a compost pile?

A: It is not recommended. The litter may be chemically treated and may not decompose. The odor would be offensive. There is also concern about parasitic worms in meow dung.

Q: Can you use sawdust in composting?

A: Yes. Best to mix with other products being composted and it would be better if sawdust was aged. Sawdust has a very high carbon-to-nitrogen ratio, so additional nitrogenous materials will be needed.

Q: How do you get rid of worms in a compost pile?

A: Worms help decompose organic matter in compost piles and in soils. It isn't necessary to get rid of worms in completed compost. Heat will rid the pile while it is being composted.

Q. I would like to know the nutrient content of the following organic fertilizers and how to use them in my garden: cottonseed meal, dried blood, fish emulsion, manure.

A, Cottonseed meal is a by-product of cotton processing. As a fertilizer it is slightly acid in reaction. Formulas vary slightly, but generally contain 6 percent nitrogen, 3 percent phosphorus, and 2 percent potash. Nutrients in cottonseed meal are more readily available to plants in warm soils, and there is little danger of burn. Cottonseed meal is frequently used for fertilizing acid loving plants such as azaleas and gardenias.

Blood meal is dried, powdered blood collected from cattle slaughter houses. It is a rich source of nitrogen (approximately 12 percent). So rich, in fact, that it may do harm if used in> excess. The gardener must be careful not to exceed the recommended amount suggested on the label. In addition to nitrogen, blood meal supplies some of the essential trace elements, including iron.

Fish emulsion is a partially decomposed blend of finely pulverized fish. No matter how little is used, the odor is intense, but it dissipates within a day or two. Fish emulsion is high in nitrogen and is a source of several trace elements. In late spring, when garden plants have sprouted, an application of fish emulsion followed by a deep watering will boost the plants' early growth spurt. Contrary to popular belief, too strong a solution of fish emulsion can cause plants to burn, particularly containerized plants.

Manure is a complete fertilizer, but low in nutrients. Manures vary in nutrient content according to the animal source and what the animal has been eating, but a fertilizer ratio of 1-1-1 is typical. Manures are best used as soil conditioners instead of nutrient suppliers. Commonly available manures include horse, cow, pig, chicken, and sheep. The actual nutrient content varies widely with the highest concentration found when manures are fresh. As manure is aged, leached, or composted, nutrient content is reduced.

Even though fresh manures have the highest amount of nutrients, most gardeners prefer to use composted forms of manure to ensure lower amounts of salts, thereby reducing the chance of burning plants. Fresh manure should not be used where it will contact tender plant roots. Typical rates of manure applications vary from a moderate 70 pounds per 1000 square feet to as much as one ton per 1000 square feet if bedding or straw are mixed in.

In the following table showing the approximate nutrient content of manures and suggested yearly rates of application per 1000 square feet of garden area, rates given are for materials used singly. If combinations of two or more materials are used, the rate should be reduced accordingly.

Manure type	%N	%P	%K	Pounds/1000sq.ft.

Cow .55 .15 .50 232
Chicken 1.10 .90 .50 125
Hog .55 .30 .45 255
Horse .65 .25 .50 210
Sheep 1.00 .75 .40 140

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