We’re lucky enough to have Southern Compost
Solutions close by to where we live. They make a quality compost. And we’re visiting
with them today out here with Stacy, and we’re going to get an idea of what goes into making
a good quality compost. And also what it is and to show the difference between what good
compost looks like versus some of the stuff you may buy at the big box stores that they
call compost, but it may just be ground up pine bark. So Stacy, give us an idea of what
it takes to make good compost, the process you go through, and what you use to make that.
Well Greg we use all natural, recyclable farm products. We use cotton gin waste, which is
the burrs, the bad lint, some stalks and all from the cotton gin plant. We use peanut hulls
that come out of the cleaners that would just otherwise be thrown away, and we use wheat
straw. In some of our compost, we do add chicken manure, some we don’t. It’s just according
to what we’re trying to make at the time. Of course the whole process, you start with
raw materials and we have a recipe. Then we start with those materials and it takes 10
to 12 weeks of checking temperatures daily and turning this stuff and keeping the moisture
correct on it to make this compost which in the end will turn up looking more like good,
black, rich topsoil than what most folks think compost is. So the recipe on making compost
is 1/3 nitrogen source and 2/3 carbon source. That’s correct. Your carbon sources come from
your wheat straw, corn foddage — used corn stalks. And the gin trash is real rich in
a lot of carbon, but it has nitrogen too. So we can use it kind of as a buffer from
each. Most of your manures is where you pick up your nitrogren from, or vegetables. We’re
in a real populated vegetable growing area and the culls and stuff that we can pick up
there, we can pick up moisture and nitrogen from culled vegetables. So if the home gardener
was wanting to make a really good compost, he needs to keep in mind that he’s got to
have a nitrogen source besides just using leaves and crop residue that he gets out of
his garden. He’s also got to incorporate some type of nitrogen there to make the whole process
work. Right, most home gardeners to pick up their nitrogen would use used food scarps
out of their kitchen or something, or fresh cut green grass has a lot of nitrogen in it.
Now when it dries down there’s still some nitrogen but it’s not as good as it is when
it’s green. It has more at that time — usable nitrogen. The key to growing a garden or crops
or anything is in the soil. Now we all know that. Now adding this right here to your soil
can make you look like a superstar. We used your compost last year at the Expo in our
trial gardens down there and that’s the only thing we added as far as an additive. And
this thing had laid out for years, so it didn’t have much value in the soil. But we added
this compost in and we were blown away with the results we got. And we’ll take a look
at what the finished product looks like and we’ll explain what it should look like when
they buy good compost. That’s correct. Of course we have a test garden ourselves. Mostly
raised beds is what we do. We’ll plant some things. And we planted 16 squash seed last
year, put them on drip strictly on that compost, and we would pick — we had blooms in 21 days,
picking in 26 and at 36 days we were picking a 5 gallon bucket of yellow crookneck squash
every day off of 16 plants. Wow, yeah it can really make a difference. It does — all the
difference in the world. Let’s take a look around. Now the stages that you have to go
through with this compost is what, how many weeks? Usually 10 to 12 weeks to grow off
what we call “grow-off compost.” This stack here is getting in its final weeks. We have
three rows right here close that we’re fixing to combine each of these side rows with this
row to make one row larger to where it can be worked simpler. Instead of having to run
three rows, you’re back to one row running. We check the temperatures daily. We’ll get
it to 150, 160 degrees for two days and then it’s time to turn it. Because it will keep
getting hotter and it will kill all the good pathogens and microbes that we have growing
in it. It gets so hot it will kill those, plus we have to turn it to put oxygen back
into it because they’re emitting so much carbon dioxide. So this process right here — what
did you say, three weeks this will be ready? Yeah probably three weeks. We’re fixing to
be in the seventh week of this. And at this point here it really doesn’t have any smell
anymore and it’s in pretty good shape as far as consistency goes. But you will take this
when it gets finished and screen it before you sell that product. Correct. We’ll take
it, we’ll carry it to the barn, unload it there and run it through a screener where
everything will pass — it will run through a 3/8″ screen. So everything 3/8″ and smaller
would be what we would sell now. Anything larger than that comes out of the back side
of the screen and either put it on some of our own farms in washes or stuff, or we’ll
bring it back actually and keep composting it in other piles. Now this product here,
when it gets to that 150 degrees — that’s what kills those unwanted weed seed. Right,
and the bad pathogens. It’s just part of mother nature doing her thing to break it down. All
we’re doing is what happens naturally but we’re speeding up the process. So this is
where all the screening takes place, cleaning up the compost here. We’ve got a big machine.
And the trash and the bigger stuff comes out here, and this is where the good stuff comes
out of this shoot right here. Give us an idea of what goes on in there. Well when we get
through with the rows up at the compost site, we’ll bring it and stick it under the barn,
dump it, and then we’ll run it through this screener. Our screener has a conveyor that
comes and brings it to the screen up here. It has a beater bar partially up in there
to help make sure there’s not any big clods and stuff. The screens here are 3/8″. Anything
3/8″ or smaller will pass through — it’s what is called the “fines” and goes in here
for the finished product of compost. Anything bigger than 3/8″ comes back to either be put
back in the piles or composted further out. All your trash and all rides out the screens
to the back here to where you don’t buy trash to put in your garden. So this right here
is the black gold, this is what ends up being the finished product. Now this doesn’t have
a smell. And that’s what good compost is supposed to look like. Now if you go to the big box
store and you buy a bag, you could very well be buying a bag of ground up pine bark. Exactly.
But this right here has a lot of nutrient value to it and it works great for gardens
or even lawns — for thin areas in lawns or anything like that. So you sell in bulk and
in bags? We sell bulk and bag, by the yard. We have bagged product that we have 25 lbs
to a bag where they’re easier to handle and bulk products that we can ship semi loads,
dump truck loads. Whatever we can help you with is what we’ll send. Alright, check them
out on Facebook — Southern Compost Solutions.