let it rot

after nosing through the book the other day the only thing that struck me as different/interesting from what i've read elsewhere was that the author recommended not using charcoal in the compost pile saying that it did not decompose.
ok, this is true and fine, but what other substrate would you like to use for the bacteria/fungi/etc. to have a happy home for when it gets spread or used elsewhere?
i would think that using charcoal in a pile would help keep some of those nutrients in the pile and not as many leached out...
so gardening gurus what do you think? does it have to be activated charcoal instead of the stuff i would get from an enclosed fire?
songbird
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On 8/7/2010 12:48 PM, songbird wrote:

Waste of effort. Charcoal likes to hold onto polar organic compounds and water would elute low molecular weight nutrients. Burnt charcoal is OK otherwise you're wasting your time.
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What Frank is saying is never use unburnt charcoal. Yeah, I know ;O)
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On 8/7/10 9:48 AM, songbird wrote:

The purpose of compost is to improve the structure of the soil, not to provide nutrients. Since compost is often applied only to the top inches of the soil, you should want any nutrients -- as few as there might be -- to leach down into the root zone. Inhibiting the leaching of nutrients would thus be counter-productive.
If you are instead concerned about making sure new matter for composting gets the necessary micro-organisms, that is easily handled by mixing some existing compost into the new matter. Then you should also top the new matter with a layer of compost. The required watering of the composting matter will then move the micro-organisms to where they are needed.
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David E. Ross wrote:

Compost supplies (directly or indirectly) organic colloids eg humus, that have a role in binding ionic nutrients It also improves drainage and tilth. All that is part of improving structure, that is improve the way the soil acts to allow nutrients, air and water to be available to plants. Also compost does supply some nutrients for the plants and some for the micro-organisms as well as directly supplying some useful microbes.
So isn't it fair to say compost supplies nutrients and improves structure?
Excessive leaching is a real PITA. I worked on a sand-based garden for 20 years and unless you were constantly replenishing organic matter and nutrients it had very poor productivity except for the natives that were adapted for poor soil. I will bet that most of the soluble nutrient ended up in drains and then waterways soon after it was applied.
Now I have a clay-silt based garden and it is extremely productive after only a couple of years. Having that clay colloid there (as well as organic matter and compost) greatly reduces nutrient leaching so that I can grow intensive crops with good productivity and only add manure once or twice a year.
I think the way that it works is during rain events or deep watering the colloids on top (near where the manure is applied) becomes saturated with bound ions and so the excess is carried down to the root zone and then to the subsoil which ultimately gives those regions a chance to bind ionic nutrients too. Despite the difficulties with drainage sometimes, I will take the low leaching silt before the high leaching sand every time.
David
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David Hare-Scott wrote:

i think so, that is why i'm considering doing it and adding it to my pile, because i want my top layer of added mulch/compost to contain beneficial microbes to help counteract the negatives i already have established. in effect i'm trying to cure fungal troubles that are already established by getting some competing bacteria back into the mix. i think they've gotten baked out because there is so little organic matter in there as it is right now. i want to give them more surface area to colonize and have more nooks and crannies to hide in when the hot weather comes along. considering what i've already got it really isn't going to hurt.

i'd have amended with clay. i keep trying to trade clay for sand to people around here but they seem to prefer to water instead. :)

our productivity here is great too. i have two cherry tomato plants that are about 6 ft across and 5ft high each. we really should not have planted them at the ends of the regular tomato garden as they have made it almost impossible to get in there to harvest and have blocked most of the light and air...
we don't add manure but we do bury all debris and rotate beans through. added sand and organic matter helps if i have any handy, but i usually don't unless i've been thinning or trimming.

after hearing what some people around here go through in the hot summers having to water every day or every other day, i'd agree. it's a bugger to weed when it's dry though and i was tilling concrete the other day (9hrs in 90degree weather, but we'd finally had some rain so it was time to get that job done so we could force the next round of weeds to sprout and then have it ready to plant for the spiral garden).
songbird
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