Living Homegrown Podcast Episode 68 Composting 101. Show Notes are at:

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1 Living Homegrown Podcast Episode 68 Composting 101 Show Notes are at: This is the Living Homegrown Podcast, episode number 68. Announcer: Welcome to the Living Homegrown Podcast, where it's all about how to live farm fresh without the farm. To help guide the way to a more flavorful and sustainable lifestyle is your host, National PBS TV producer and canning expert, Theresa Loe. Hey there, everybody. Welcome to the Living Homegrown Podcast. I'm your host, Theresa Loe, and this podcast is where we talk about living farm fresh without the farm. That can mean preserving, fermenting, small space food growing, and just taking simple steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle. If you'd like to learn more about any of these topics, just visit my website, livinghomegrown.com. Last week's episode, I talked about making infused gifts, things like homemade vanilla extract, and homemade liqueurs. This week, were shifting back outside, and we're going to talk about something in the garden. I'm calling this episode, Composting 101. Many of you have been asking about composting, and I know that it can be a little bit intimidating. If you go any kind of research on composting, you'll find that a lot of people get very sciency about it right off the bat. It can make it sound like there's all these rules, and it has to be done perfectly or it won't work. You end up not even wanting to start. I knew the perfect person to have on the show to talk about composting, and that's my friend, Joe Lamp'l. He's going to come on and dive deep into composting, and dispel all of the myths and make it so that you are not intimidated anymore. Now, if you're a regular listener to this podcast, you know that I'm the co-executive producer of the PBS television show, Growing A Greener World. Joe Lamp'l is the creator of that show. He's the host, and he's the executive producer.

2 I work with Joe to tell all those organic gardening stories that we tell on television all across the country. Joe has been the host of many different gardening shows, and he is one of the country's most recognized and trusted personalities when it comes to gardening and sustainability. What I love about Joe is that he's able to combine his horticulture background with his passion for greener living, and then translate that into really easy-to-consume information both on television and in print, and he loves to geek out on compost. Now, I know this because we're really good friends, and we've been working together for over seven years, but I also have footage of him diving into a big giant pile of compost when we were on a shoot at a commercial composting facility. I will see if I can dig up that footage. If I can, I will have it in the show notes for this episode. He loves compost. Now, in today's episode, I'm going to have Joe give you the full scoop on how composting works, how you can do it, and I think you will pleasantly surprised at how easy it really is. Now, at the beginning of the interview, I have Joe talk about our TV show a little bit because we're in the process of changing the format. If you like the show before, then I think you're really going to enjoy it next season. I'll let Joe tell you all about that. Lastly, remember that all of the links and anything that Joe mentions will be in the show notes for this episode. I also have a PDF download for you, a free PDF download that is a listing of all the things that you can add to your compost at home. It lists out examples of green nitrogen items, and brown carbon items that you can add to your compost when you're making this. I'll have the free PDF download, and any links that are mentioned will all be in the show notes, and you can get that at livinghomegrown.com/68. Without further ado, here is my interview with Joe Lamp'l of Growing A Greener World. Hey there, Joe. Thanks so much for joining me here today. Hey, Theresa. Good to be here. Well, I'm really excited about this topic because I get a lot of request for it. Before we dive in to it, I really would love for you to explain to the listeners exactly how you got into gardening and what it is you do for a living.

3 Okay. I know for a fact I got into gardening by accident when I was eight years old. That was when I being my little rumbustious self in the backyard, and my dad had spent all Saturday cleaning up his shrubs and lawn, and making everything look all tidy. I came across there in a crazy way and broke a branch off of one of the shrubs that he had just finished grooming. I'm like, "Oh, my God! Now what do I do? I don't want to get caught." Not knowing anything else to do, I just covered my tracks by sticking the branch into the ground, covering it up with the dirt, I would call a dirt at the time, of course. Now, I say soil or compost. Anyway, covered it up, and went about my business and freaking out that this wasn't going to work long term. About 10 weeks later, I went back by there, forgot about it, but I looked and I said, "Isn't that the shrub branch that I broke?" It looked like it wasn't dead. I looked at it closer, and it was sprouting leaves, and it was growing roots. I'm like, "This is crazy." Honest to goodness, Theresa, that was literally the moment that I said, "I got to know more." Truly, I had not looked back. I mean, I've just been a sponge for information ever since. The more I learn, the more I become fascinated with what's going on below ground, the things that you can't see, and how important everything is in the soil, and all those microbes that live down there. There's so much to know that can make us better gardeners if we just take a little bit of time. I learned. That's where the composting came in. What I do now, I always struggle with this answer because I mainly produce a television show about gardening, and I host it, and I created it, so 90% of my time is wrapped in creating content about gardening in a way that people can understand and get. I mean, gardening is pretty heady science if you really think about everything behind it, but it doesn't need to be, and it shouldn't be for anybody. This is really trying to get their arms around it. My role is trying to be that person that can communicate the science of gardening in a way that's just common sense and down to earth. I do that through television, and podcast, and articles, and you name it.

4 One of the questions that people always ask us is how did you get from being enthusiastic about gardening into television? How did you make that leap? Well, I wanted to make that... No, I'll take that back. I was going to say, "I wanted to make that leap a long time ago," but I'd really never thought about television in a role of gardening. I just love horticulture. I just want to really get my hands in the dirt and grow stuff, to be honest with you, and make a living at it. The problem is it's hard to make a living truthfully doing that. I mean, it's not easy. Thankfully, I had an opportunity come my way via an e- mail broadcast where HGTV was looking for a host of a show that they had created. Everything was in place except the host. Now, they're doing this broadcast all around the country looking for this person that in the description sounded like me according to the person that sent me the because that's what the said, "Hey, Joe. This sounds like you. HGTV is looking for a host of a new show. You should call the producer and try to make this happen," which is what I did. Long story short, after about three months or so, I was the one that was picked to host that show, and that was called Fresh From The Garden. It ended up on DIY Network, and it was all about growing food from seed to harvest. Every episode was a different crop. One episode would be tomatoes, everything you want to know about tomatoes, from the time you put the seed in the ground, all the way through the day you harvest it, and even after that. The one show that you would watch, which is a 30-minute show, tracked the growth of that plant from the time I put the seed in the ground through the maintenance, just the whole cycle of life of that plant, all the challenges and how you deal with the fertilization and disease issues that come up, and the pest problems. It was a fantastic concept. It was only supposed to be a one-year series with 26 episodes, but it was going so well, they turned it into a three-year series, and 52 episodes. Then they wanted to keep it going if we could do it without repeating any of the things we had already grown. After 52 crops, you can't do that. We grew everything we could grow in the southeast, and then some. We actually pushed the limits and still had success, but the show had to retire just because we were out of

5 things to grow. That's how it started with my media life in horticulture. That's really taken off. I've developed a few brand since then, and had some ideas, and saw awesome opportunities that weren't being addressed in television or otherwise as it relates to gardening and education for that. It keeps me 110% busy all the time now, and I love it. It definitely keeps you busy. I can attest to that. That first show was awesome, and you went on to the other shows. Then you created Growing A Greener World. Explain to the listeners, I talk about Growing A Greener World all the time, but explain to the listeners what that show is. I love talking to you about this because you were the one that shared a bus ride with me at a Garden Writers Conference in Raleigh, in We barely knew each other, but you were stuck sitting next to me on the bus, on a rainy night, and somehow, one conversation led to another. I was telling you about this idea I had for Growing A Greener World. The more I talk to you about it, the more interested you were, and interesting you became to me. I go like, "Oh! She's actually kind of cool." Thanks. If you remember, we really got into some deep conversation about the show, but it was an idea that I'd had to create a gardening show that wasn't just gardening, although that was clearly the focus of it, that it was a way to attract an audience that maybe wasn't thinking about wanting to watch a gardening show. It was more about green living, healthy lifestyles, lightening your environmental footprint, and how to grow food from seed to harvest, and what to do with it once you got it inside. It was a lot of things wrapped up in one show, but I was full of ideas, and you jumped on board to end up helping me produce that. From day one, I mean, you've been with me the longest, and here we are going into our eighth season, and over 100, I lost count. I should know exactly, but it's well over 150 episodes. We travel the country, and we tell those stories of people doing great things for the planet through organic gardening, and farming, and sustainable living, and preserving the harvest. You had a huge contribution there, as well as

6 all the help with the writing and the editing, and so forth. Anyway, we're off to a good start. I think we got a lot of years left. We're all over the country, like 96% of the country. I'm feeling very full. It's been a great ride. It's so, so rewarding to do these stories of people. I really, really enjoy telling those stories. Right now, we're revamping and changing things up. I'd love for you just before we even get into our topic, I'd love for you to tell everybody what's coming up for season eight. After seven seasons, one of the biggest frustrations we've always had was we would start filming our episodes for that current season in let's say, March or April, once growing season began, and then we would be racing to create all these episodes because we always had to do 26 episodes, but we would have to go out wherever it was in the country to film the episode, then come back, then edit it, get it ready for delivery to PBS, and then we would be working on writing the next shows, and lining every... All the logistics is crazy. We would be racing the clock. I mean, picture that hamster on the treadmill. That was us for seven years. The first show of the season would always debut in the middle of the summer, which would be okay if you were watching a cooking show or something like that, but we're a gardening show. It seems to me that those shows should be debuting in April, the start of gardening season, when everybody is just chomping at the bit to get some great TV information. That never was able to happen for us just because the timing, we couldn't pull it off in that narrow window of time. This year, I finally said, "We're going to bite the bullet, and we're going to submit some best off shows, mix in with some new shows, to buy us some time," but the best thing that happened this year, Theresa, as you know was we filmed all of season eight, which is next year shows this year. We've never done that before. What that's done for us is given us the flexibility to go out and find the best shows that we can in the best time of year that we can, and then be able to dial in when we think those shows should air next year, so they come in at the most appropriate time of the year. We are so excited about that. Plus, it buys us forever into the future a lot more time as we produce the next season shows because they'll always now

7 be a year in advance, and I cannot tell you how much that's going to do for the show. Back to your question, I did a survey to our audience of Growing A Greener World subscribers. Do you know, we had over 4,000 people write in responses. I mean, I guess, I don't do this enough, and they were just ready to provide information because the subject line of the was, "Help us create future content for Growing A Greener World". Then I asked them 10 questions, and I gave them an opportunity to respond in each question other than just the bubble fill in. They ran with it. The ideas I got back from some of those viewers was invaluable. It took us four days I think to read through every, and we did. We read through every response, but took about four day. From that, we got some great ideas. One of the things people wanted to know was, "We love that you go to these nice gardens and these big fancy places and all that, and they're beautiful to watch, but what we really want is more applicable information. We want to see gardeners in their own gardens. We want to see you, Joe, in your own garden more. I mean, you got a great garden, and we want to see you in that garden more teaching us what you do," and other ideas like that. Ironically, nobody wanted to do anything with canning or preserving over that. No. Truth is... No, that was a big eye-opener. I mean, it confirmed what we knew, but a lot of people wanted a lot more of that, which is really cool. That's coming too. Anyway, season eight is 13 episodes, and it's storytelling format. It's not so structured in the field. It's very capture the moment, and it's given us license to be much more creative in the field because we didn't have to adhere to the structure that we were always so tied to in the past. Although our shows were good, and I've always been happy with them, I had never been more excited about what's coming because it's more fluid, and it's just going to be amazing what we were capturing. Let me tell you what. I can tell you, having been there for all those shows, I think they're going to be the best shows we've ever done. I'm really excited about this too because there were so many times when we would be out in the field, and someone would say some golden nugget. We were always looking for those golden nuggets, but

8 we could always capture those. Many times, they would start to go down a different path in their storytelling, during the interview, and we always had to bring them back in to stay on track. I always worry about we were missing from doing that. Sometimes we just let it go, and we would capture something, and then in the field, we were trying to rearrange everything. It was very frantic because we were under a time constraint, but to be able to have that freedom now, to just let the story unfold when we go film is amazing. I'm excited about it too. I am too. It's been incredible. I mean, some of the most memorable times I've ever been in the field have happened this year. I mean, I've had goosebumps, I've cried a lot. I mean, just you draw out of them what's in their heart, and what's in their soul when you let them go. You know where you want to take them, but you let them get there their way, and that's a huge difference. That's what we got. I mean, I cannot wait. I cannot wait. April 15th or so is when we'll premier season eight, first episode in 13 weeks in a row. It will be crazy good. That's awesome. Very excited about this. Great. Now, I would love to transition into the composting topic. We did get a lot of response from everybody, and we always get a lot of questions about composting. I get a lot of questions about how to compost for the podcast. First of all, I just want to know if you know any experts that I could have on the show to talk about composting. Let me check into that. I'll get back to you. No. You have to be my biggest compost geek friend that I know because you love composting, and you can get really geeky and sciency about it. You also are very, very good at explaining the big picture, so that it's not scary or overwhelming. You're the perfect person to talk about this. First, let's have you just start at the beginning. Why should people want to do composting? What are the benefits of composting? The biggest benefit is it's the single best soil amendment you can add to your garden. The best part is you can make it at home for free. If you can make it for free, and it's the best thing you can put into your garden soil, I mean, why wouldn't you want to do that? I think pretty much everybody wants to do that. I'm not sure I've met anybody that didn't want to do that, but I have met a lot of people that have never

9 gotten around to it. The reason for that is that they tend to get overwhelmed. When they start doing their research on it, and somehow they got my information, they get a little intimidated by the ratios, and you got to get it to a certain temperature, what you can add, and what you can't add. It gets probably a little overwhelming for them. The truth is, it's just so much easier than any of that information that's out there. People just have to do it. The way that I always help them feel comfortable about doing it is that in nature, compost happens all by itself. We have no interaction with it, but you go out there in the forest, and that whole floor is basically compost. It's decomposed organic matter. It's the leaves fall from the trees, and the bugs die, and the organisms in the soil. Break that down and decompose it, they're making compost. We're not out there helping them. It's happening on its own. The beauty of it for us is that we can basically replicate that entire process, and speed it up at the same time. It can take as quick as two months or as long as two years if we don't do anything. For the average homeowner, they can create usable compost in a matter of, let's just say, six to eight months. From the time that their inputs, those things that they're starting their compost pile with becomes what they can take into their garden soil, that's a six to eight-month, maybe a year, if they're not keeping up with everything, process. Still, that's pretty good. The other thing is a little bit goes a long way. If you're making it at home, even if you have a small yard, and you don't think you have all this inputs that you need, and I'll tell you what you need in a second, the good news is you don't really need a lot. Compost will break down into much smaller pieces, basically soil-like in the look of it, from things like kitchen scraps, your salads leftovers, and your veggies, and paper towel rolls, and shredded paper from inside the house, and from outside, just basically your lawn clippings or your leaves in the winter or the fall when you're raking up those leaves. You want to grind them up. All this material that I'm talking about originally came from the earth. If you can think about, "What can I put into my compost pile?" If it started from the earth at one point, it's probably safe to go into your

10 compost pile with the exception of meat, dairy, grease and cheese, which is basically dairy, but to break it out, just so you understand. Those are the things that you don't want to put in because they can be pathogenic, and they can also attract certain pest that you may not want there. Other than that, it's pretty much sky's the limit. One of the reasons people just don't get out there and get started is they just are little overwhelmed with wondering what they can put into it. The fact of the matter is, if you go take those dinner leftovers, and your shredded paper from inside the house, all those things I already mentioned, and the yard debris, and just mix it in to a pile. Literally, just dump it into a pile. For the longest time, that's literally what I had at my house was a pile. I didn't have a fancy bin or a container or even a palette wall that I have now that controls my compost. It was just a pile. It would get up to 150 degrees. The reason for that, it wasn't in full sun, but it's all that matter that you're putting into that pile as it's breaking down the organisms, the microorganisms there already are consuming that matter, and they're breaking it down. The activity of that process generates this heat, which basically kills the bad biological matter, and creates the compost at the same time. That's when you hear about a compost getting hot or cooking. It's not because it's sitting under the sun, it's because of all the good things happening in that heap to break it down. People should not, if they're reading information, and they're thinking, "Oh, I'm so confused on what to add and what ratios of green things and brown things." The brown things, by the way, you'll often heard referred to is carbon. The green things are nitrogen. You need nitrogen, and you need carbon, and you need two other things. If you have just these four things, you're going to make compost. We've got the green stuff, which is nitrogen, the brown stuff, which is carbon, and then you need air and water, four things. If you heat that stuff up into a pile, ultimately, as big as four feet tall by four feet wide, that's the optimal mature size. Those four things, once a week you go to your pile, you take a pitch fork or a shovel or anything that you can just turn it over and mix it up, that is introducing more oxygen or more air, and you take your little hose, sprayer, and you miss it, so it's the moisture level of a damp sponge. You turn it over, you mix it up. You've added air by just the process of turning it, and you've sprayed it

11 water. Now, you got the moisture that it needs, and you're done for the week, except for the inputs that you would add through the week. Everyday, I try to look around my house and we have designated areas where we know that we're going to collect things from inside the house to take to the compost pile. Of course, anything from the garden goes into the compost pile. That's how it happens for me, and that's how it can happen for anybody. Anything beyond that, Theresa, is just gravy. You don't need that fancy system. You don't need a closed bin. Now, I will say for anybody out there that's thinking, "Well, the reason I don't compost is because I don't want that smell," or "I'm afraid my neighbors won't like it," to that I say, don't not compost because of that because all you need to do is spend 100 bucks or 50 bucks or whatever it takes and buy what's called a closed system. A closed system is basically, picture a barrel with a lid on it, and it's got some way to spin it. By having that thing, you put a lid on it... First of all, compost piles don't smell. I will tell you that right now, but if you think it does, fine. Get a closed system if you feel that's what it takes, and then just cover it up. That way, there won't be any critters that get in there if you're worried that. I never worry about that, and I've never had a problem, but it's a simple solution. Basically, all of this to say there's no reason not to compost don't not do it because you think it's too hard or too complicated. It's simply not. Green, brown, air and water, just a heap. You don't need anything beyond that, and then once a week, turn it over, and you'll have compost in probably about six to eight months. I think that the thing about the smell is that it's usually there's something out of balance if you do have a smell, and we can talk about that in a second. Absolutely, I think this is great advice that anybody can do this. You're right. You go and you look at the articles, and they get very scientific right off the bat. What basically you're saying is, we can do it without any forethought, just mixing some brown and some green, some water and some air. Where it gets scientific is if you want to speed up the process. You can just do all of this and throw it in a corner, and it will compost on its own. It just may take a while, but then where people are getting sciency on it is where they're making it go faster. You can actually

12 geek out on it and just say, "How fast can I make my compost? How hot can I get it?" and all of that. We'll talk about some of those things that we can do, but that is really where it goes from being very simple to where you can do a few things, and maybe speed it up just a little bit, and then you can do a lot of things to speed it up even more. Absolutely, mine never smelled unless I added too much wet or too much green. Then I would get an odor, and all I had to do was just add some more of the brown, some more dried leaves or some more torn out paper, and then the smell would go away. Then maybe turn it over some, just let some of that moisture evaporate to the outside, and you're done. As far as the speed of the composting process, the professionals, the commercial composters, they're breaking down organic matter from raw material inputs to finished compost in about eight weeks. That's great, and that's what they need to do because they bring in a lot, and they get rid of a lot. That's good for them. As nice as it would be for us to have an eight-week turnaround or a composting cycle, we don't need to do that. The other thing is we don't have to have just one heap. We can have multiple piles working, so that there are certain stages always in process. You may have four heaps going at different levels of the decomposition process. It may be that every two months you got a fresh, new supply of finished compost. Before I forget, Theresa, a lot of people ask me, how do I know when it's finished. My answer to that is once you can look at that soil, basically when it's broken down to what looks like soil, and you can't recognize any of the raw inputs. You can't see the coffee filters or the old broccoli or any of that. It just all looks the same. Literally, it smells earthy because honest to goodness, the smell of compost to me is like heaven. I mean, it's just this good, rich, earthy goodness. That's what compost smells like when it's finished. It doesn't smell bad at all, but that's it, and it's ready for your garden. I don't know that I really adequately answered the what is it about compost that makes it such a good input in your garden. The fact of the matter is it's got humic acid, which helps soil particles bind together. It's got the ability to help break up sticky soil. It's got beneficial microbes in it that go and basically attack diseases and

13 pathogens in the existing soil. The consistency allows it to make your soil friable. It also has the nutrients, all the nutrients that your plants need in a way that it makes it accessible to the roots of the plants as it's needed. In other words, the chemistry in compost allows all those good things to bind to soil particles, and then be released as it's broken down in the soil as the plants need it versus synthetic fertilizers, which are basically water-soluble. Water-soluble means once water hits that nutrient particle, it dissolves. If it's not taken up at the moment, it's going to continue to wash through the soil into the groundwater, and it's gone forever versus organic nutrients such as compost, those nutrients are bound to soil particles chemically, and they become available as the decomposition process in the soil breaks it down, and it's there ready for the plants when they're needed. Big difference. There's nothing better. It's like a smörgåsbord for the plant. It's everything that they need right there. We're just waiting for when they need it. It's perfect. Well said. I've never heard it put that way. I think I might steal that for a future talk. That's okay. You steal everything else from me. It's okay. You got me. The idea is that we're just mixing those four items. Now, I know there is a percentage that people are always told to do if we wanted to go a little bit faster. What is that percentage? If we were mixing this, and we do want to give ourselves a little bit of an advantage, what is the percentage of carbon to nitrogen or brown to green? Brown, it basically in the simplest terms I can put it, it's about seven parts brown to three parts green. Then again, you look at different articles, and you'll be totally confused by that because it will get into these. They'll break down every input, every brown input there is and every green input there is because each of those inputs has a different level of carbon or different level of nitrogen. The real geeks are out there assessing each of the inputs. That's where people get so overwhelmed, they never get started. That's why I try to desway them from going too deep into that. I just say, "Take what you got, put it in

14 the pile, mix it up, spray a little water, and you're going to have compost." To your question, it's basically three parts green to seven parts brown. Give us some examples of the browns. Leaves, cardboard, paper, small twigs or sticks. You don't want anything that's too big or too thick. Although it will break down, it just breaks down more slowly. You want things that... If it's big to start with, just break it down before you put it into the pile to help it break down faster. Those would be the biggies on the browns or the carbon side. Then on the green side, we're talking about leaves and food scraps for the most part, grass clippings, for example. If it looks green, it is green, but there are also brown things that are green too, and green things that are brown, but again, I can get people confused there. If it's a paper product or brown product from the garden, that's probably a carbon. If it's green at one point, it's probably nitrogen. That's good enough. One of the questions I know people always ask is, what about when we have weed seeds? What about weed seeds and the heating up? When we're thinking about what we're putting into the compost pile, one of those things that we never have a shorter job are weeds. The weeds can either go in the trash or they can go in the compost pile if you're removing them from where you pulled them. You could put them in the compost pile. Most people, including me, would probably advise you not to do that, especially if the weeds have started to form their seed heads. The reason for that is that if your compost doesn't get hot enough to cook the seeds and make them unviable, they can actually overwinter. In the next season when you're actually using your compost, what you've ended up doing is transferring those viable weed seeds back into your garden, and you haven't helped yourself at all there, at least from a weed standpoint. If you really want to play it safe or conservative, take the weeds and don't add them to your compost, at least if you see that they started to flower or form seed heads. I'm 50/50 on that. If I'm pulling weeds and I know for sure I don't have seed heads on them, I'll put it into the compost. Otherwise, I'll throw them away.

15 Same thing with diseases. If you're pruning your plants, for example, and you have, and tomatoes would be a classic example of this. If you're growing tomatoes, they're very susceptible to diseases, but they're not the only thing. As you're cleaning up your plants, if you're removing diseased parts of the plant, and you're thinking, "Well, this will be good for the compost pile." That's where I'm more conservative. I definitely don't add diseased items into the compost pile. Even though my compost I know gets pretty hot, you really need it to get to 160 degrees for it to kill off those disease pathogens. Even mine gets to about 150, but that's 10 degrees shy where it needs to be to kill off everything. To play it safe, I can deal with weeds, but I just don't want to deal with introducing more diseases into my soil. I don't put clippings that have diseases on them into my compost. I actually literally throw them away, so they're taken off my property. I advise that for everyone. I do the same thing, especially with tomatoes. It's one of my biggest fears if I see anything. I won't put that in my compost. One thing I do try to do if I notice that my compost has gotten cold or it doesn't seem warm, but it's not broken down enough is I'll add more chicken manure from the chicken coop in there or grass clippings. Are there any other things that we can add in that will heat it back up because heating it makes everything break down a little bit faster. Anything nitrogen-based will help with that. Your smart to do it with the chicken manure because that's high nitrogen content, grass clippings as well. Something that you can feed the compost pile with, it's got some good nitrogen source, some blood meal. A lot of people will add or buy blood meal, and that's a nitrogen-based additive that will help. In fact, there are some products that you can buy off the shelf that are, I think they're basically called compost stimulators or I don't know. It's got some name to it that makes you think it's going to help speed up the process. If you look at the ingredients of that product, it's probably going to have a pretty generous portion of nitrogen in it, which is what's causing the product or the compost to heat up some more. Got it. I wondered about those different things of products that you see at the nursery. Now, one of the other questions that I get a lot is people may be turning their compost and they'll see that there's a lot of earthworms in there, which is great, but then they start to worry

16 because their compost is heating up that all the earthworms are going to be killed off and they're worried about it getting hot. Can you explain what happens with the earthworms? First of all, you probably aren't going to see your earthworms until the compost has, at least a portion of it has mellowed out because the earthworms don't like the heat either. They're not going to get there or they're not going to survive in the hottest part of the compost. They're not going to like it, and they're going to not want to be there. They love what's in the compost. Once it becomes to a tolerable temperature, which means your compost is basically becoming finished, you're going to see more earthworms than you did when it was very hot. If people are worried that they're going to hurt their worms, I would suggest that they just start another pile because the thing about just having one pile, I will say this, this is a little bit, it's awkward to only have one pile because as you're building your compost and it's breaking down, that's great, but then what do you do with all the new inputs that you're bringing in everyday? Do you add that to the existing pile? If you do, when does it all ever finish? You always have some that's finished and some that's not. It's not a perpetual cycle of never really being able to use it as all pure compost. My advice to people is have at least two different heaps or two different compost bins, so that one had started, and it's gotten to the point where it's to the right height, and then you can allow that to continue to cook and break down, but then go ahead and move over next to it or another bin and start all over again. Now you have two different processes working at the same time. One is going to be finished before the other one. That's to your worm question. If people are worried about the worms, then let the worms do what they do in the pile that's cooked down and mellowed, and then just take those worms with the compost into your garden, and then start the other one, and let it get hot, and cook, and the worms won't be there until it's mellowed out too. By that time, you've probably used up the first pile's compost, and now you're starting all over again with that. At least two piles, and I actually like to do three, and sometimes four, but I think that might be overkill. If anybody's thinking about doing this, don't just do one. I mean, definitely get started with one, but once you get it to a certain height

17 and width, go ahead and start another pile next to it or another bin, and you'll be very glad that you did that, and so are the worms. Good advice. Good advice. I have two. I have two going for the same reason because I would keep adding, and then it's like I can't add because I want to use it. Let's talk about that. How do we use this compost after we've made it, and we know it's ready? As I said early in the conversation, a little bit goes a long way. That's really important because we never seem to be able to make enough. I mean, I have four bins going. I use it all the time in all of my growing systems, and I'm always looking for more. The good news is if you can get 5% of the soil mass in that growing area, let's say it's a raised bed, if you could make 5% of that raised bed soil compost, and mix it in just in the root zone, you don't have to turn it all the way down to the bottom of the bed, just where the roots are. I mean, that's really where you want it. You're wasting it if you have it below where the roots are ever going to be. For me, when I'm creating a bed, I'll put all my good inputs in, but I'll save about 5% section of the top, and add that compost, and then just lightly mix it in to where I know the roots are going to be mostly concentrated. That's it. Then I'll come back twice a year. I'll come back at the end of the spring, at the end of the summer, and I will add more compost. Again, I'll add about an inch of depth to the top, and then I'll lightly scratch it in. I continue to do that, and I have the most amazing soil. I have to brag on my soil. I don't know that I've ever seen anybody that has soil that looks better than mine, but it's not that they couldn't. It's just that I'm vigilant about this ritual of adding compost about twice a year, and good, healthy organic matter, shredded leaves, and other good things. I'm very particular about what I put in my beds, but compost is the most important thing. To my point about never having enough, I even will buy bulk compost because I do want more than I can make. I can get that at the gardens or the nurseries or I can go to a landscape supply company that sells it in bulk. I would say that to play it safe, I mean, there is a designation for compost that goes through a vetting process through the US Composting Council. Full disclosure, I am the spokesperson for the US Composting Council, but this is a fact, and this is what I think is important for people to know.

18 When these wholesale or these landscape companies are building big, massive piles that are becoming compost, they're accepting all these inputs from all these different sources potentially. How are they able to vet all these different trucks and landscaping crews bringing in stuff. You can't unless you have a set of criteria that watches over what's coming into it. Through the US Composting Council, they do have a certification called Certified Compost. If you can go to a landscape yard or a wholesaler or a bulk facility that offer certified compost, what that's getting you is assurances that that compost is literally tested at universities testing sites around the country for multiple things, including viability of the soil because one of the biggest fears that we have, if we buy compost offsite, in other words, we didn't make it ourselves, we truly don't know what were the inputs going into it. Some of those inputs could literally damage your soil. They could have persistent herbicides and things that could prevent your plants from growing. That's why you look for these certifications like the Certified Compost that gives you some reassurances that what that compost is doing for your garden is going to be safe, and it's not going to have any of those dangerous things in it. Just a word to the wise, a little bit of a caveat there. For me and for anybody that I had the opportunity to recommend, if they're buying it in bulk, look for certifications. Literally, it's called Certified Compost by the US Composting Council. Then you can know that what you're bringing home is going to be good and safe for your garden. Anyway, you can buy them bulk or by the bag. You can buy at the garden centers too. If you had the opportunity, I would still look for that designation. It doesn't mean that if it doesn't have it, it's not good. It's just if it has it, you know it's good. Exactly. I'm so glad you brought that up because I had never learned about certified compost until I met you. It's huge because I never have enough either, and I'm always looking to add more. If you need to, that is absolutely the way to go. You brought up something about herbicides. We should talk about that because we did an episode on it. Your soil is the most amazing soil I've ever seen, and you're very diligent about it. We had something happened with working with horse manure. Horse manure is a great thing to add, and I know rabbit

19 manure and chicken manure are great too, but we should talk about what goes on sometimes with the horse manure, and what people should look for because it was so important. I'm so glad you brought that up because this is a huge issue, and people just don't know about it until it happens to them, and then they wonder what happens, and they don't know unless people like us are talking about it. What you're getting at, Theresa, is this issue that happens a lot of times with people that are using horse manure, and they're adding it to their compost pile or they're just letting it break down on its own, and become composted, and then they're adding that to their garden soil. The fact of the matter is it is nutrient-rich, and it really does improve your soil. That's a good thing. The bad thing happens when the manure that you're using passed through a horse that ate hay that came from a field that was sprayed with a persistent herbicide. Now, in the farmers' defense, they're out there trying to kill off the broadleaf weeds, so that when they harvest their hay, they're delivering a clean product to the people that buy the hay. That hay was also sprayed with that persistent herbicide that is so persistent that as the horse eats the hay, the herbicide does not break down in the body of the horse. It passes out the horse, then we collect the manure. The manure breaks down. That herbicide does not break down. It's still totally viable. We think we've got this great input for our garden soil. I have horses and I have a lot of manure, and I'm a victim of my own advice. I tell people all the time to be careful of this because it can kill your plants if you put herbicide-tainted manure into your soil. I still did it myself because I was so anxious to get some of that into my own garden beds. I immediately noticed about two days after my plants hit the soil and the roots started spreading out into the soil around, it hit some of that persistent herbicide manure. My plants immediately, especially the tomatoes just started curling up, and basically looking like they have been hit with an herbicide. That's what happened. People will add this manure to their garden soil, and they'll put their plants in, and they'll suddenly realize their plants don't look right, but they don't know why. I'll always ask, I'll say, "Well, did you use any horse manure and they're in your garden soil?" Then you'll hear this long pause, and you know that they did, but they didn't know. What

20 they didn't know is that there's this persistent herbicide that can literally take about three to four years to naturally break down. People out there listening to this are going, "What do I do? I mean, if I did that, what do I do>" You have two choices. You can either wait it out or you can dig it out, and start over. I waited it out, but I also sped up the process. It's not easy to do because these herbicides are so tough, you can't really do anything to break them down. They have to break down through time, through ultraviolet light and air and water. It just takes a long time. Anyway, or you can start over. Now, here's the good news. People can find out before they add it to their garden soil if the manure that they want to put into their soil is tainted or not. The way you do that is what's called a Bioassay test. It's not complicated. You take some of that manure in question, mix it with some clean soil, and put it in to about three different pots, like clay pots where you would have a container. Then you get maybe three other containers. An equal amount of containers that have just clean soil, no manure or whatsoever. In each of the containers, you designate which ones you know have the 50/50 mix of the potential manure in question, and you put some bean seeds in those pots. Then you have your three pots that are completely certified clean soil, that you know that there's no risk of any of that manure on that, and you put your bean seeds in those. Then you just go ahead and water them and grow them out. Within a couple of weeks, you will know if the pots that had the questionable manure start sprouting beansprouts and they look weird or they look deformed or whatever, you know that that manure should not go into your garden because it's tainted. If those sprouts look the same as the clean pots over a period of about a month, you do have to plant ahead, but it's worth it, you know that it's safe to use that manure. Now, don't assume that the next batch is going to be just as good if you get another delivery, but it's likely that that pile that you drew it from is probably clean as well. That's called a Bioassay test. It's super easy to do, and I would highly recommend that for anybody that finds himself in this situation. I hope that just all made sense. It made total sense. I love the test idea. That's awesome because it's so easy to do. You can do it yourself. You don't have to go pay a lab to check it. In your defense, I know you had just moved. You had your

21 horses. You had just moved, and you had just changed the source for their feed, and that's why that happened to you, but you were so brave to go out and let everybody know that you'd been preaching to always check that, and here you moved and had a new source for your horses and didn't think about it, and used it before you had checked it, and there you go. That happens. The thing is, I did think about it. I was just so anxious to... I just built my new garden. I was so anxious to get my garden going, and I've been eyeing this pile of manure, this mountain of manure by my barn for about a year, really, and this was the first year I was going to have my garden. I knew I wanted to use it, but I was also concerned about it. Here's how I tricked myself into thinking it was okay. I would look at that manure pile, and I would see stuff growing out of it. I thought, "Well, there we go. It's good. It's safe. I don't have to worry about it because stuff is growing out of that manure pile. It's good to go." What was growing out of it were grass-like plants. The herbicide kills broadleaf weeds. What wasn't growing out of that manure was broadleaf weeds because they were all being killed from the herbicide that was in the manure. What I didn't make was the connection that, "Hey, you know what? Even though there's grass-like thing coming out of the manure, I don't see any broadleaf weeds coming out of the manure." Had I made that association, which I should have done because I knew better, I tricked myself into wanting to believe that I didn't have the problem. I used it, and I just missed that very important link, which caused me three years of setbacks in the productivity of my garden. Now, I think four or five years in, I'm 100% back, but it's taken that long even being proactive with doing things that I knew to do to try to speed up the process. Be careful, people. That's the lesson right there is just don't do it, don't do it, and you'll be good. That's great. I really appreciate this, Joe. I think this was fantastic information, and things that people can really just dive in and get started, and not worry too much about the ratios or the science behind it, just to dive in and to make compost. Before we go, I just want you to tell everybody where can they find you. What are some of the places that they can go to to find more about you?

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