[Market-farming] Conversion factors for weight of compost

Matt Cheselka cheselka at theriver.com
Thu Jul 1 17:04:29 EDT 2004

On Thu, 1 Jul 2004, Steve Diver wrote:

> I'm curious to learn the typical rates of  compost that farmers
> use -- e.g., Matt Cheselka, Bob Schuler, David Inglis -- on
> vegetable ground, and if different rates of compost are applied
> to light and heavy feeding crops.

Steve, first thanks so much for the useful info on weights vs volumes for 
compost, manure, etc.

Second, I can't let you get away with putting me in same category as Bob
and David.  :)  This is my first year with market gardening and I don't
know enough about any of this to make any kind of authoritative 
statements.  As Liz Pike pointed out to me several months ago (I believed 
her then, and I believe her now!) that it's gonna take me YEARS to get to 
the level where I can start noticing things like yields (or what I'd call 
"plant happiness") vs various input rates.  That being said, I do have a 
very strong urge to "experiement", even in these early stages.

In one of my first experiments, I did the following.  In 12 beds I put a
3-inch layer of compost only.  This compost I got at the local dump where
they take yard and landscaping waste (lots of trees), shred it up, and put
it into hedgerows for about 8 weeks.  Temps in the piles get up to 140F
they say, so I'm satisfied that the thing is cookin' well (it's a pretty
cool operation they have!!).  Anyhow, in another 12 beds, I put 2-3 inches
of this compost, about 2 inches of peat, and about 1/2" of composted
manure.  Looking at these beds and watching how the plants behave, I'd say
that the beds in the compost+peat+manure are MUCH happier than those in
the compost only.  The plants in the compost only are growing well, but as
seedlings they took much longer to "turn on" and start growing.  Some of
my lettuce seedlings (planted when they're about 1" high) put in the
compost+peat+manure beds were full-size in 28 days (these are 55+ day
lettuces according to the package).  And wow do they taste GREAT!  The
soil I have out there is 50% sand, 45% clay, and a little silt.  Very
little organic matter if any at all.  I planted a small (20ft by 10ft)
alfalfa patch in the bare soil (no ammendments) just to see what would
happen.  They got to about 3 inches and stopped growing.  Pretty wimpy
little things, too.  So the soil is great except for the OM, which I'm
adding to it in the forms and amounts I described above.

Anyhow, I'll continue to experiement with stuff like this to keep trying 
to figure out how to grow happy plants.  Maybe someday I'll "get it".  Of 
course I'll document as much as I can.  Good management = good records.


Matt Cheselka
Cosmic Lettuce

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