Dedicated Composting Pile versus Tossing Scraps Into the Garden

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First of all, this is my first year doing any type of serious gardening. That said:
I was cutting the tops off strawberries this morning while thinking about something I heard on a gardening show that plays on the radio here. A lady called in, said she cut up banana peels into dime-sized pieces, worked them into the soil around her roses, and the rose bushes took off and made roses like crazy. So my question is: why can't I just take the fresh strawberry scraps, chop them up a bit, then sprinkle them around the tomatoes, the bell peppers, corn, and whatever else I have growing out there? I'm not trying to re-invent the wheel here. I know why people compost in a pile, but it seems like a lot of the nutrients from composting would also wash directly into the soil where the compost pile is located. Why not put a few things directly in the garden so the growing plants get more of the nutrients?
Damaeus
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On Sat, 02 Jun 2012 21:48:19 -0500, Damaeus
Welcome.

Because bananas are high in potassium, and roses like potassium. Got a 'nana that's gone to mush, and you don't feel up to making a batch of 'nana muffins? Lob that sucker at the base of your roses.

You could. Chances are, the strawberry cuttings aren't abundant in any particular element enough to be particularly beneficial. There's also the amount of effort, compared to placing them into a compost bin, along with other vegetable waste, and letting things run their course that way.
There is "trench composting" or similar - dig a trench, drop your compostables into it and when full enough, backfill with soil. It'll eventually break down, though not as fast as a properly set up compost heap.

Which is why, if you've got a PILE, it's not a bad idea to alternate where it's located. If I mound up manure compost to let it finish composting, then doze it into the garden to till it in, the spot where it had been mounded is very fertile, tills very easily, and has retained a lot of moisture.

Well, in part because the process of composting a balanced compost (the typical 30:1 C:N ratio) in a pile or bin is intended to help the compost "light off" with maximum aerobic levels, raising the temperature, which helps to kill off weed seed and pathogens, and also to break down the material into its component nutrients. Scatter a few misc cuttings here and there, and more likely, you'll just be inviting the worms to eat, which is fine, but won't kill seed or pathogens (or bug eggs) in your food waste, unless a worm consumes that part.
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In posted on Sat, 02 Jun 2012 21:11:13 -0700 the following:

Thanks for the response. So far I haven't done anything for the plants I have growing except water them, and aside from a few bugs munching on the leaves of some red cabbage an jalapeno plants, so far everything appears to be disease-free, but the plants are all still young since I was almost too late planting. :)
Damaeus
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Damaeus wrote:

You can do that. It would be more sensible to accumulate your vege scraps for a day or two and then dispose of them together. It is not very uncommon for people to not have a dedicated heap but to just bury vege scaps (and othe useful material) in beds under preparation or next to existing plants. Just leaving the scraps on the surface will be messy.
I'm not trying to re-invent

Happens all the time. The grass downhill from the heap will be the best in the yard.
Why not put a few

People use heaps because it is less work in many cases, it gives them greater control of the product and where it is applied, because the breakdown is quicker (especially in hot heap) and it concentrates the mess in one place. If none of these are important to you then don't have a heap.
D
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In posted on Sun, 3 Jun 2012 14:31:00 +1000 the following:

Ah, yes. Well, I did intend to work them into the soil a bit. Maybe I'll stick it all in the food processor while it's still fresh so it'll spread around more easily.

If I decide to do a compost pile, perhaps I'll do it under the pear tree.
Damaeus
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That's quite legitimate and can be done as either trench composting or as I do it in a number of spots in the garden. I've cut the bottom out of very large plastic pots, drilled very large holes around the sides of the pots, (so worms can go in and out at will) submerged the pots almost to the rim in the garden and put a lid on them with either upside down pot plant saucer or old chrome hub caps. I've started seom fo them off with mature compost and compost worms and then thrown in kitchen scraps and I've also started others off with soild and a mix of compost worms and earth worms.
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In posted on Sun, 3 Jun 2012 16:47:22 +1000 the following:

That sounds like a nice idea... The pot would act as a partial barrier (except where the holes are) so you get a "slow-release" fertilizer.
Damaeus
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Damaeus wrote:

it is better to compost them in a bin with worms or to use a heap or trench. i've been worm composting (using both the red wrigglers and other species of worms) for several years now. very fun, educational and makes people laugh. see my other posts on the topic (for more verbiage :) ).
some people don't want strawberry plants sprouting in their rosegarden beds.
they can attract bugs/pests or increase populations of bugs/pests already around.
consider the case where you have the innards of a squash or melon. there are a lot of seeds in there. most of them will sprout if not composted in a hot pile. worm composting only consumes some of them and takes quite some time (so far i have seeds viable in the worm bins even after a year and a half).
banana peels are great, worms love 'em. same with melon peels, no pretreatment needed for them.
for potato peels, carrots, beets, lettuce, celery, brocolli, and other hard vegetables or stalks it helps to chop and dry them first before adding them to the bins. this helps soften/destroy the cell structure and then when added back to something moist they plump back up and it is much softer and the worms go through them quickly (as compared to months and months -- i have bins now that still contain beet tops from last fall's processing that i didn't bother to chop and dry as a comparison test case).
oops, actually, i don't have bins witd these any longer as i put them all out in the gardens a few days ago...
dehydrating also gives you more control over moisture levels in the bins. the worms don't mind it if it gets pretty wet, but the bins may go into fermentation if you put too much wet soggy stuff in all at once. which is why i like to spread the melon rinds and innards out over a few bins.
i avoid putting in a lot of raw onions, garlic or citrus peels in all at once, if i have a lot of these i bury them outside where they won't be disturbed. too smelly or the worms don't seem to like them. we don't eat a ton of citrus here so i haven't yet experimented with drying and crumbling them gradually into the bins. probably would make some difference. next time i have enough to make a good experiment of it i will give it a run...
your comment about the juices and good stuff leaching out of a pile are fair. that is why i use bins/buckets and worms, then all the nutrients are consumed or retained until i put the worms/worm poo out in the gardens and i put them down in the ground where the roots are, not up on the surface. buried deeply enough this will also help keep any seeds from sprouting and also give the worms a cooler environment.
i do not separate the worms out from the poo as once you get enough bins going you'll have plenty of worms to use to start a new bin when you need one. a few scoops and a bin is up and running. when i put worms out in the gardens i take about 1/5-1/4 of a bin of soil from the garden to refurbish. this is for the bins that have regular earthworms and not all composting worms. this way i'm building up my population of worms in all layers of the soil and not just the composters of organic stuff near the surface.
songbird
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wrote:

The 95% solution: feed such scraps to chickens, who will ravenously consume them. out of the MANY squash seeds (from the "guts" I've fed my chickens), I've had just four volunteers crop up this year in prior locations of my chicken tractor. Of course, if the chickens were still situated where they'd been fed the seeds, they'd have consumed the sprout as it emerged, so survivors are merely a function of my own process. I just dig 'em up with a post hole digger and transplant them anyway...

Also, both are excellent sources of moisture, which the worm bin needs (in balance).

taking some partially composted material and sending it through a chipper-shreader with straw (from a straw bale) works wonders. Small bits = more surface area, and therefore more surface for bacteria to break them down.
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Sean Straw wrote:

some of us don't want to keep other animals (or can't because of limited space or abilities). for me keeping worms is enough.
right now i'm snipping them off when they sprout in a garden where i don't want them to grow. instant green manure.

heh, i just put out many lbs of very soggy worms and they were very healthy. short of swimming they are fine. heavier to move though. and not recommended until there are enough worms to keep it oxygenated. a bin with only a few worms and a lot of veggie scraps will likely ferment or get into other kinds of rot that don't smell good. a wet soggy bin on the good side of things smells like the bottom of a ditch or swamp.

we wouldn't get enough use out of a chipper/shredder to make it worth owning one. i did get a medium duty paper shredder as that freed up more space than it took up. that was my concession last year to gadgetry. it has turned out very well as all the cardboard, cardstock and paper now gets recycled for garden use (via the worm bins or used as mulch). the worms really like shredded cardboard (the secret is the glue and all those spaces it has in it, plus it holds moisture well).
any pieces of wood that we have that we don't use as an edge gets buried, the critters and fungi break them down eventually.
songbird
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Damaeus Landfill Punk wrote:

I'm sure glad you're not my neighbor. You've worse than the lowest of the low trailer trash mentalities... I bet you never bathe. Sounds like a case of chronic laziness and cheap bastard disease. Placing uncomposted foods/GARBAGE directly into your garden soil is a great way to attract pests/vermin and introduce plant diseases. Farmers till in silage but only at the onset of fallow periods so that there's time for composting to occur before planting... what you're suggesting is simply back asswards wrong. Start a compost bin and save yourself a lot of grief. And plants don't need nor do they take much nutrition from the soil (most people over fertilize), plants receive like 98% of their energy from sunlight. Compost is primarilly a soil conditioner, not a fertilizer. And very few plants have digestive systems... plants don't absorb nutrients directly from organic matter, not until the microbes have at it first.
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In news:rec.gardens, Brooklyn1 <Gravesend1> posted on Sun, 03 Jun 2012 09:25:57 -0400 the following:

I see you're not satisfied just trolling rec.food.cooking.
And I shower at least twice a day, plus as needed, thank you.
Damaeus
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Don't ever add strawberry plant parts to the tomato garden and vice versa. They share some of the same diseases.
I'm not trying to re-invent the wheel here. I know why people

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Out of curiosity, what diseases? mildew?

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Verticillium wilt, most notably.
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It also infects basil plants, potatoes, eggplants, peppers, and over 300 species of eudicot plants. Once infected, the ground takes 3 - 8 years to become verticillium wilt free again.
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In article

Green beans too.
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Mine too. In the past, I've only grown Habenero peppers. This year it's Habeneros, Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Lettuce, Zuchine, and Rosemary.

How much stock can be put into this instant reaction rose bush scenario?
Are there any vegetables that thrive on peels or rinds?
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Dick Adams wrote:

I don't see where anybody said the result would be instant.

As such no. As a means of composting and re-cycling nutrients that would otherwise be wasted yes it is beneficial. Take into account that a bucket (thimble, cup whatever) of made compost does not have the same content as the same amount of vegetable peelings and rinds.
David
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In posted on Wed, 6 Jun 2012 15:31:48 +1000 the following:

I'm thinking that genetically modified food that tends to make people sick might also be the cause of plant diseases.
Damaeus
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