2 newbie gardening questions

Two questions, your help would be greatly appreciated.
1. What ways are there to deal with pillbugs (aka roly polies) without using pesticides? We have some mallard ducks and they love snails, but refuse to eat these little pests!
2. This question is actually a combo question. There are some materials we are curious about with regard to mulching/composting properties that aren't found in our composting tome. Could you give any info on their properties, their vices and virtues in a compost pit? The materials are: 2a. soap 2b. feathers 2c. shells (snailshells, seashells) 2d. rabbit fur 2e. human hair 2f. paper 2g. partical board 2h. plastic/rubber 2i. rust (detached.. not associated with a metal object) 2j. glass 2k. roof tiles
Thanks very much in advance! Sniz Pilbor
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On Fri, 10 Oct 2003 18:10:25 -0400, Sniz Pilbor wrote:

They're harmless no need to do anything really.

Never heard of using that, I'd say no.

Never heard of using those, guess they'd work.

Not sure of their breakdown properties, I'd guess they'd take a long time to breakdown.

I'd say yes.

Yes.

Yes, black & white sredded up small.

Not sure.

NOPE!

Nope.

Nope.

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Nope - contains glue

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wrote:

[snip]
A neighbor, whose gardens are uglier'n hell, gathers up sea shells on every beach journey, or goes clamming & ends up with more shells that way, & by now has an increasingly thick collection of them tossed in her gardens, some of the gardens thickly mulched with shells. A couple years ago I asked her why so many shells & she said the shells "feed" the shrubs. Which I doubted, though I didn't comment further.
I've since noticed very occasionally in other yards, there'll be lots of seashells tossed under shrubs or in flower beds. I've even found in my own yard, while turning soil, evidence that some past owner of this house was tossing whole shells in flower beds.
If shells are really to be a useful soil ammendment, they'd need to be crunched up rather than tossed about entire. Crunched up shells can also be severely alkalinizing, as their composition is identical to limestone, & should be used with all the plusses & minuses in mind for using lime. Under my zone's native shrubbery lime would be a bad idea, nearly everything that grows here wants acidic soil, & the greater majority of gardened cultivars prefer neutral to acidic soil if not specifically chosen for regions with inescapably alkaline soils. So using too much of anything that is a source of lime could be counterproductive.
I have seen recommendations that crushed oyster & clam shells can be used as a compost additive to help retard the possibility of souring, but I can't recall reading any actual study that this is so, & remembering to stir the pile regularly would be a better way to keep it from smelling bad.
Farm supplies sell big bags of crushed oyster shells for poultry diet (necessary for chickens to have good eggshell density) & this stuff is super cheap. There is also a pricier product called "horticultural grit" which is crushed shells, but very likely the same farm-grade poultry grit put in a different package.
Many desert plants do like alkaline soil & also like their soil gritty so it drains instantly, so crushed sea shells might also be a good additive for a desert garden, though anyone trying it should research beforehand so as not to accidentally overdo it.
Lime is most often used in lawns, & I'm not sure such a gritty grade would be quite the thing for lawns, but I don't know. I do not use lime in my gardens except what's in low-nitrogen slow-release fertilizers, and even those I use only less often than would most people. A few plants that are not appropriate to our soils & need alkalinity, I feed them an annual piece of chalkboard chalk shoved in their roots, as I don't want to alter the soil pH anywhere else. Even if I were offered a lot of free crushed shells, I doubt I'd use them in compost or garden, though when offered free rabbit poo or llama doo, I'm right there with my shovel. But I'm sure crushed shells do have their place in some gardens, though I still seriously doubt my neighbor was doing anything useful when mulching with whole clam shells.
-paghat the ratgirl
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Are shell's not also made up of calcium? Perhaps that is what the reason is for using them? although crunching them up might help them break down (if they actually would do that in my lifetime?), would it not make for sharp things to step on when they get pitched out of the flowerbed (by small creatures)onto the path you walk on? Just a thought and not guaranteed to be acurate....(grin) Jenny

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paghat wrote:

Crushing shells increases their surface area and therefore soil reactions will take place faster. Any pH changes that the shells will force will occur more quickly. By the same token, the effect of the shells will be shorter-lived in the soil, so you will have to apply them on a regular basis.
If your soil does not need much lime, you might consider using the whole shells, since they will react slowly and will last longer.
If your soil does not need any lime, the whole shells will not produce much of an impact.
If your soil is alkaline, the shells will not help and may be a detriment.
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. There are some

Soap is fat plus salts. No real benefit, probably undesirable.
Feathers, fur, hair are all about the same. They will take a long time to degrade and contribute little. Animal products are not usually recommended for compost heaps.
Shells, plastic/rubber, glass will not decompose and add no value. Using them would be like adding rocks to your garden, and why would you want to do that?
Particle board and roof tiles have too many unknown chemicals in them to be recommended.
Rust is already decomposed. If you want to add it to your garden just throw it on. It might contribute iron.
Why do you say compost pit? For fast composting your materials need access to oxygen, which they will not get if they are in a pit.
Andrew
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This link may help you out. http://www.mastercomposter.com/ref/orgmat3.html
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Reduce the conditions that they thrive in.. Eg dampish dark corners with sufficent organic matter for them to live.. Practice good Horticultural hygiene. Eg clear up dead plant material >

Not really applicable.. ususally extremley alkaline and used as a 'homemade' pest deterrent

High in slow release Nitrogen..

See feathers

Can create Nitrogen lock up if overused.. mix with feathers or another N containing material to prevent this.

Not advisable.. The substances used to make this aren't very nice.

Plastic is manmade, rubber is not (pure latex is a sappy substance.)
Plastic sheeting is sometimes used as a non biodegradable groundcover or mulch.

lot of this so unknown of high dose effects, probably not good for a lot of species.

An inert silica substance.. Silica is needed in tiny quantities by most plants.. OK.. Glass beads (smooth) can be bought for mulching.

Of what kind? Generally inert.. can be long lasting.. Concrete ones would be high in lime.. Slate would be expensive to buy as a mulch material in some areas. See also glass...
You mention a compost pit.. The only applications of pit composting I can think of are in biodynamic methods (eg burying quantities of nettles or Comfrey etc) or when trench composting during the winter for beans and other legumes the following year.... Or for 'sheet' composting/mulching. which combines layers of green waste with more aesthetic mulches and cardboard.
Mulching is carried out on the surface.. Of the materials you mention only fur, hair and paper would be suitable pit and/or heap materials.. All those mentioned are suitable for surface mulching with the exception of the particle board which is best avoided all together IMO!-) // Jim
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