Soil amendments

I started my first compost pile last fall, mostly leaves mulched with my mower. I turned it several times, but given the limited time, it's not yet compost - mostly just leaves.
Anyway, I'm planning to use raised beds this season, and I was hoping to use this "compost" in the raised beds. I was planning to rototill this compost into the first several inches of soil, then install the raised beds, add some more of this compost, and finish off with some local topsoil from the local nursury.
Am I missing something? Will this leaf-compost be problematic? Should I swap the topsoil planned for the raised beds for something else.
Any guidance for a newby would be greatly appreciated.
DB
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On 3/7/10 7:30 AM, DirtBag wrote:

Toss some good garden soil on top of the pile and rinse it into the pile. This will provide some of the soil micro organisms that promote composting. Also add some high nitrogen fertilizer since composting leaves requires nitrogen. Make sure the pile remains moist.
DO NOT add to your raised bed. The composting leaves will deplete nutrients from the soil until they are fully composted.
Like yours, my compost pile is also almost entirely leaves, especially oak and ash. When I have my back lawn mowed (ornamental red fescue, mowed only once a year) I add some of the clippings to the pile. It took about 18 months to start from scratch. It works well now, taking about 4-5 months to produce a great leaf mold from autumn leaves. When I sift the pile, I always leave some fine compost to ensure that the new leaves in the pile are "inoculated" with the necessary organisms.
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Climate: California Mediterranean
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David E. Ross said

I added blood meal last fall. I had quite a hot pile till this miserable winter took over. Spring is almost here!

My present compost pile is on top of my garden, I planned to turn it in to the soil. I think I'll set up a dedicated compost pile and continue this process. So, I am I to understand your mature pile processes all you leaves in 4-5 months? This would be ideal.
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On 3/7/10 10:28 AM, DirtBag wrote:

The major additions to my pile is in the autumn. I turn the pile as I add more leaves. I generally count on the winter rains to keep it moist.
I wait until late spring to sift it. By then, excess moisture is gone, making it easier to sift. I get a generous amount of compost (mostly leaf mold). When I see that I have enough for my needs, I just stir the pile. If I remember, I stir and water it during the summer.
My major use is in making my own potting mix. I also stir some into the soil when planting in the ground. No, I don't use it to top any beds. Instead, I use fallen leaves as a mulch in my beds. They soon become compost, too.
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DirtBag wrote:

The time varies considerably from 6 weeks to a year or more dependent on the air temperature, moisture, size and content of the pile and how well it is aerated. Look up "hot composting" and "cold composting" for details.
David
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beds on? If not clay, you probably don't need to turn the ground. The decomposers ( ameba, fungi, bacteria) have already enter the compost, so blending the compost into the soil is no problem. Compost shouldn't be more than 10%- 15% by volume of you soil. Since you will need to fertilize the bed anyway, add chicken manure at the rate of 18 lbs/100 sq. ft., which will also address the nitrogen demands of the brown organic material that you add, and add the microbes that the soil may be deficient in. You could always use the bottom portion of you compost pile to make a compost tea to increase the population of soil microbes. The other possibility would be to spray a dilute mixture of molasses or sugar on the bed, once it is preped, which will set off a population explosion among the mirobes.

the soil may be contaminated with herbicides or heavy metals. If you have soil that you can use, top or not, just blend it with organic material. If your soil is mostly clay, you may want to blend in some sand as well. Ideal soil composition should be 30%-40% sand, 30%-40% silt, and 20%-30% clay. As I wrote, 10%- 15%, by volume, of you soil (the above) should be organic material.

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Billy said

My soil is good old Indiana clay. I think I'll add a bit of the leaf matter to help break up the soil and get a mess of chicken manure as you suggest.

Thanks for your guidance. I'll try to achieve this ratio
mmmm, I can almost taste the tomatoes already....
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On Sun, 7 Mar 2010 15:30:00 +0000 (UTC), DirtBag

Use the parts that have composted. I have three wire compost bins, each at varying decomposition stages. Leaves alone will take much longer to compost, turning into leaf mold (a valuable organic material but maybe not typical "compost"). Maybe your leaf pile is cold--try mixing in some green material until you see some steam coming off of it. When that happens the pile will decrease in volume, turn dark, and break into finer pieces. A live compost pile works like magic.
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Phisherman said

I did have a fair amount of greens in the pile, I also added some bone meal, the pile did get hot last fall, but I think it cooled over the winter. I turned it again, hopefully it'll fire back up. I'm going to put in some more bloodmeal too. I clearly need a dedicated compost pile.
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One year my mother actually spaced wire compost bins out in the beds and planted the tomatoes around them. stuff continued to be added to the bins and they were well watered the idea being that the "green tea" would leach out to the plants. Well it sure did. most tomatoes end up with the lower leaves drying up a bit after midsummer just when the tomatoes start to color up, but not in those plants planted next to the compost bins!!! which continued with robust green leaves straight thru till frost.
I have composted in plastic bags. made a hole in the top middle to add water and left them out in the sun and the stuff fell apart. a lot of flat area and work (and leftover non degradable black plastic bags).
as Phisherman says compost NEEDS water for the microbes and worms to do their magic. BTW, are you the same Phisherman used to be on the goldfish list?
Ingrid

Somewhere between zone 5 and 6 tucked along the shore of Lake Michigan on the council grounds of the Fox, Mascouten, Potawatomi, and Winnebago
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If you are making new raised beds, that will be permanent or in place for a few years, you can use the partly composted material. Google up lasanga gardening. This is the process of building gardens using whatever organic matters comes to hand. You could bung the leaf mulch on the bottom of the garden and build up over it. You need to have several inchs of gorwing medium (soil or finished compost) at the top of the bed. Plant in to this growing medium & over your spring and summer the leaf mulch will break down and be available for the plants to take up. This way you get to use the organic matter in your garden but don't have to worry that it is only partially broken down. I built a raised garden and chucked any old stuff in it, leaves - used coffee grounds - grass clippings - manure - and topped it off with some soil and mushroom compost. The garden was good to go in the first season and has been productive ever since. Savs you time and energy of tilling the soil and digging it over. Do it a little smart & the soil biology does the rest for you.
have a squiz at these, notice how they use any old organic rubbish http://www.fbga.net/Lasagna%20gardening%202004.htm http://www.ourgardengang.com/lasagna_gardening.htm
rob
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ooohhh I forgot about lasagna gardening.....
I used the dirt from digging our pond to create the raised beds. So find a place to dig the clay, rent a big cement mixer and toss the DRY clay in with all the amendments and then begin to fill your raised beds over the compost and hay and whatever else you can find that will break down nicely over time. anybody recommend rotten granite or green sand? Ingrid
Google up lasagna >gardening. This is the process of building gardens using whatever organic

Somewhere between zone 5 and 6 tucked along the shore of Lake Michigan on the council grounds of the Fox, Mascouten, Potawatomi, and Winnebago
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