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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.
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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
Correct me if I'm mistaken, but isn't balsamic vinegar made from the grape sludge? And isn't balsamic vinegar VERY expensive? I'd look into making the grape waste into something salable. PS. You can send me the first bottle if this works out.
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!
I know that this is an old post, but I just want to inform people that grapes are toxic and potentially lethal to dogs. Here is a link to some additional info> http://dog-care _raisins_in_dogs
Adding grape skins can also raise the PH of your soil if I'm not mistaken, which will make nutrients more available but may take nutrients away as well?
I am in the Paso area and am a viticulture manager, not many people around here use the grape skins as compost because the soil is slightly acidic in most places. However it all depends on the structure of your soil and what you're trying to get out of your plants, most wineries here simply let the squirrels eat them.