Hardiness Zone: 10b
Brigitte from Israel
Here is some more input on your questions regarding composting grapes by adding them directly on top of your garden soil. First of all, grape's skins, pulp and seeds make wonderful compost. Several vineyards here in the U.S. compost their winery waste (or pumice), because it makes a great soil amendment by adding valuable organic nutrients to the soil as well as improving its texture. It's okay to add the grapes directly to your garden, but you'll want to turn them under so they mix in well with the soil. This should also be done at least two months prior to planting anything in your garden. This is because the fungi, bacteria and soil microbes responsible for breaking down the compost will also attack the roots of any seedlings the compost happens to come into contact with while it's breaking the waste down. You might find it more convenient just to set aside about a 3 ft. by 3 ft. area in the corner of the garden to start your pile. Here are some answers to your additional questions.
I compost and have done it for years, but I am not a traditionalist. Books tell you to alternate between green and brown matter, to turn it every so often, and all kinds of stuff that I do not have time for. Don't let the books scare you off!
I have my compost bin in a corner of my garden, which is not too far from my house. I dig a hole in the garden, then set the bin on blocks so its bottom is level with the soil. I throw everything in. No, I do not crush, chop, or grind anything. It'll take a little longer to break down, but time I have. After the pile gets so high, I'll throw some soil on it, then keep adding scraps to it. I water it every now and then, and let nature do the work. The next spring, I'll dig another hole at another corner of my garden, place the bin on blocks (I've lifted it from the original pile), and put anything that hasn't decomposed in the bottom of my new pile. I use the rich black dirt from the old pile where ever I want/need it. Sometimes, I just toss the enriched soil around my garden to amend its soil. I've done this for years, and have never needed fertilizer. Compost is ready to use when the material is broken down into rich, black earth. I use a pitch fork in the spring; the material that gets caught needs to breakdown further, the dirt that falls through is ready to use. Find a method that works for you.
You can put just about anything in a compost pile, as long as it doesn't have any fat in it. So, don't pour grease on it, use dairy, meats, soups, eggs, or stuff like that. Fats will inhibit things from breaking down as easily, start the pile smelling, and may cause a problem with rodents. Small twigs, leaves, weeds pulled from the garden (make sure they don't have seeds, or the seeds will germinate in the garden next summer), vegetable and fruit scraps, eggshells, animal manure, sawdust, even old shredded newspaper and lint from the dryer. I keep a container by my sink that I throw everything in, and take it out after dinner, then wash the container to keep smells and fruit flies at bay. Some people put theirs in the fridge for that reason, but I don't have room in ine either. Yes, you can use the old grapes, flowers, and garden plants. Worms, which you want to attract to your garden, love bananas and banana peels. That's why we compost--to turn waste into a usable form. Don't worry about bugs, they help break down the matter (but you won't want to attract flies by putting the bin next to your back door. And remember, whenever you add a big layer, throw a little dirt on the pile and water it to help the fibers break down. Good Luck!
Brigette--I forgot to say that your pile does not need to be made of anything special. You can simply bend some fencing for the sides. My grandfather, on his farm, just threw everything onto a big pile. Since I live in the city, my husband made me a wooden bin so it would look neat. Again, use what ever is available to you. I've even seen people take an old trach can whose bottom is rusted out use that, or buy cheap plastic ones, drill holes in the sides and use those. Just make sure the material has air available to it so it is able to break down.
I've avoided using anything that has seeds in the compost, although grapes MIGHT decompose successfully.
In response to other feedback here, living in the suburbs of a large city, our homeowners' assoc. is picky about having an "open" compost, wouldn't you know? So, I FOUND someone tossing one of the black heavy plastic ones with "access doors" on each of two sides at the bottom. Compost needs a small amount of air flow through it to "make". This one feeds from the top like a trash can and each and every layer of scrap item I add, I add a layer of grass clippings/leaves/coffee grounds/twigs/shredded paper/dirt, watering each thing to dampen(not soak), THEN....I dig from the bottom access doors a few large scoops of finished compost to add back onto itself, to borrow from the decomposed organisms themselves. I learned that the more bugs in the compost, the better it turns out.
I NEVER add anything greasy, too sugary, bones, seeds, or waxy, and now have a 3' x3' bail of wonderful compost to use for the winter gardens. I have a large wooden shipping crate I found next to a local dumpster being tossed, which is clean white pine. I hope to convert it to a three compartment compost lined in plastic wire fencing/trellis, should I be able to find someone tossing that, as well. I have friends watching curbs for me, hoping to find what I need before all the leaves drop so I can begin early composting them along with all the other things.
My favorite things to add to a compost are egg shells, banana peelings, plain spaghetti sauce, and watersoaked leaves/dirt blown into my curb by the neighborhood lawn service men.
I ALWAYS chop larger things with a meat cleaver into thin pieces, ALWAYS add/break only TINY twigs, for faster decompostion, and I LOVE to add a mixture
of Compost Booster, homemade from Jerry Baker's formula, of Molasses, Baby Shampoo, instant tea, and a few things of my own like, Ketchup/old coffee/
mouthwash/garlic water/and Lemon Balm concentrate.
(I have a broken earth fork I keep near the compost bin to turn the top 1 foot should it become heavy with new added materials. I will add dried Monkey Grass soon, and am waiting for more
paper shreddings from offices nearby, provided they
are fine and not heavy glossy papers. I also watch for tiny leafed trees in the Fall, and fine "leaves" from Cyprus trees. I avoid all pet droppings except from our house bunny who's droppings never smell bad, and who is NEVER ill. I also avoid canned veggies because they are too high in added salt, unless salt-free. When cleaning the fridge, all but greasy/waxy/bones go to the compost. It took a while to get into the routine/rhythm of collecting/dumping into the compost, but once I caught on it began to "make"
which then encouraged me to continue. I plant to ALWAYS have one. Stories I've heard/read range
from open piles full of everything possible, to
wholes dug all around the garden with garbage tossed into them. I chose to just use what I have
in a somewhat orderly, certainly compliant manner,
which has paid off, EXCEPT for a single neighborhood/visiting rat I should probably set a trap for, especially since it has been seen on the
phone lines running from pole to pole, and on our
fence twice. It also climbs trees. We used to have a family of Opossum's but they were eaten by Cyotes
allowed to roam the streets here! Another terrible
story, but "off subject". )
It seems wise to use anything we have in abundance, right? But should it be from say, a meat
packing house nearby, or from a dairy, it's best to
not draw animials to the pile, unless you are in the country and it doesn't matter so much.
Good luck with your decision and God bless you. : )
Wow! Thanks for all the info!
I now have a clearer picture. We have 4 kids (age 6, 3 year old twins, and a baby) that means that we go through a lot of food, and unfortunately have unfinished tablefood, but also I don't have much time to take on a complicated project. This seems not too much more than sorting garbages. I love the fact that it is reducing the amount we put into landfill.
At this point I don't have a recycling bin, so I lined a cardboard box with a plastic garbage bag. The top is open, so I hope that is enough for air. I am trying to put in a blend of "greens" (produce scraps) and "brown" (twigs, earth, etc) I still have a few questions:
1) Any paper which is not glossy or coloured can be used? Can I throw in my kids old drawings? How about newspaper that was mentioned above, do I need to ascertain that there are no coloured ads?
2) If I pluck weeds and let them dry out, can I assume the seeds also die? How can I tell if they have seeds or not, so that I can use them?
Thanks again for all the info,
I'm a master composter, trained by Denver Recycles. Our Community Garden here in Salida has been approached by a local who makes his own wine. Next year, he expects to generate 400 gallons of grape waste: skins, stems and seeds, and wants to compost it for our use. We're trying to prepare for the onslaught, planning to collect grass clippings and autumn leaves and many varieties of manure so that we can make a decent pile when the time comes.
How can we estimate the C:N ration of the grape waste? And what about PH? I've made many successful compost piles, but 400 gallons of grape waste is a new animal to me!
Hardiness Zone: 5b
Trish from Salida, CO
If you can't get enough, why don't you plan to cold compost the grape waste in a separate pile? It may take longer to break down, but will be an easy way to take care of the overload. You can use the compost directly or, if you like, you can add the composted grape waste in layers with your regular compost pile at a later time to mix nutrients. Does your town mulch tree branches? If so, it may be a good source to add to your mixture too. I personally wouldn't worry too much about the C:N ratio. Nothing in real-life is ideal. I'd just make the compost and amend it later if need be.
Try talking to the wineries in Napa,Ca. or elsewhere to see who takes their waste and how its handled. Maybe they can be emailed? Good Luck!
I had Master Composter training, too (E. SF. Bay Area) but wonder if the winery knows how valuable the discards are? The grape seeds might be used to make oil, and grape skins have a chemical/property that repels Canadian geese. Maybe you could find an after-market for your waste instead of composting it.
You might also consider seeing if you can make some compost tumblers for some of the waste. www.instructables.com has some tutorials for using the plastic drums you can usually get very inexpensively locally, then you need some wood and some piping--all which (if you couldn't scavenge,) you could easily get from the local home center.
You might try doing this with some of the gardeners in the area; and let everyone try their own "recipe" in the tumbler, and see whose turns out best. You could do a workshop on making the tumblers and then divide out the grape waste among them.
Cold composting also sounds good. Maybe, since this is the first (of hopefully many) opportunities for this waste, trying several methods experimentally and seeing which is the most efficient and workable is the best thing!
What an interesting opportunity!