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:
2c. shells (snailshells, seashells)
2d. rabbit fur
2e. human hair
2g. partical board
2i. rust (detached.. not associated with a metal object)
2k. roof tiles
Thanks very much in advance!
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
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
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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)
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
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
Particle board and roof tiles have too many unknown chemicals in them to be
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.
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..
Full of calcium so suitable for lime loving plants.
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
It will have been. High in iron but little else.. Plants do not need a
lot of this so unknown of high dose effects, probably not good for a lot
Assuming its chipped
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!-)
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