A Note from Farmer Al: Compost Season

 Chipping Wood

Chipping Wood

Dear CSA members,

This is the time of year work on compost intensifies. That's partly because now is when we have the time to really focus on it: both productions and applications.

Production:

Massive amounts of woody materials have been accumulating in big piles all around our compost area, which comprises about 1/2 acre of land. These last two weeks my "Ground Team" has been busy shredding. This provides the small woody particles which make up the "carbon'" portion of our compost of 70% by volume. The nitrogen portion, 30%, comes from horse manure, brought to us by neighboring horse stable operators. We enhance the nitrogen by adding tons of coffee grounds and tons of fruit residues from our kitchen and packing shed operations. 

Spreading:

Spreading is done either by hand or by machine. Last week we were hand spreading compost around young trees using 5 gallon buckets, workers applied about 25 lbs per tree. This spreading is done carefully so as to create a thick layer of compost around each young tree. (This year alone we planted of 10,000 trees). This does at least three things to enhance growth:

1. Creates a mulch to suppress weed growth.

2. Creates a mulch to retain moisture in root zone. 

3. Deposits (inoculates) microbes into soil of root zone.

This hand spreading is very labor intensive but we feel it's well worth the cost to have a healthier more vigorous orchard. 

Machine spreading is done in the older, established orchards. We have a compost spreader, pulled by a tractor. Typically we'll spread the compost at a rate of 5 tons/acre. 

We have and spread compost year-round, but fall is when we double and triple our efforts. As I said, partially because we have the time to do so. But it's mainly because the winter rains play an important role in moving those microbes from the compost down into the soil where they can do their work of nurturing the trees.