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Funkthulhu

Composting in the pot?

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Funkthulhu

Is anybody augmenting their pot soils with kitchen scraps?

I make a lot of french press coffee and lately I've been dumping the ground right into the top of pots.  While I seem to have put the final nail in the marsh-gnat problem, and the plants seem to like it, I'm wondering if there is overkill potential?  Do I need to worry about acidifying my soil if I do this too much?  What about fungus?  I had one palm who's soil completely bloomed over with some sort of white mycelium, but it seems fine with it and has started bumping out extra spears. 

I've been thinking about doing the same with tea-leaves as well.  And if this goes well I'm also planning to get a counter-top compost bin for other non-meat kitchen scraps.  Think I should keep going?  Are there plant types that won't appreciate this kind of soil addition?  Should I continue this experiment as is, or expand?

Questions?  Comments?  Short Stories?

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Kai

I've done this with my coffee grounds too. Every morning I got a fresh bit of "fertilizer". The coffee grounds took care of any kind of insect, so no wooly bugs, mites or bugs like that. Once I noticed the fungus bloom, I got scared and stopped my experiment. I'm very interrested in how the plants keep doing even with the top soil fungus. Maybe I'll start giving a little grounds again too. For now my cherry tree and Butia in the garden get all the grounds.

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Funkthulhu

Maybe it's a bad idea, but I had actual mushrooms come up out of the big pot I have the Pygmy Date Palm in, which I let mature.  I have since used those mushrooms to "innoculate" the other pots last year.  The idea being that the mycelium would benefit the plants by helping to break down additional organic matter.  The pygmy date palm had another bloom of mushrooms this last summer and the plant seems to be rather happy, so I let them be. 

One of those innoculated pots is the one that currently has a fuzzy white carpet.  I'm keen to keep up the experiment, even if just to see what that one does.  

Any luck with Tea Leaves?  What about other compostable bits?  (Veggies, eggshells, etc.?)

Edited by Funkthulhu

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PalmatierMeg

I was told that used tea leaves enrich the soil. I had a shamrock (Oxalis) at the office I augmented with tea leaves and it grew like crazy. I now use decaffeinated tea but still save the leaves and add to my used coffee grounds. I used a box of that last month to spread among the potted palms on my back lanai to help ward off pests and enrich potting mix.

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knell

Proper composting takes place when temperatures reach a certain degree (hot : 50C-70C).

I have not researched at all but my gut feeling tells me its not a good idea to turn your pot into a compost pile, and anything less than that sounds like youre just growing fungus with your palms (which might not be bad, depending on how it balances out I suppose).

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Danilopez89

I added coffee grounds to alot of my potted palms last year. The palms seem to really like the stuff. It's like they get a little boost from the coffee. But I wish I wouldn't have done so now. Especially to the palms that need fast draining soil. With all the coffee grounds inside the pots the soil takes too long to dry up a bit. I almost lost a few palms to root rot during the winter because of this.

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DoomsDave

This is a fascinating thread!

Generally, any food that's "gone bad" in the fridge or freezer ends up in the garden. Orange peels, bad beans (wheweee!), get dumped under the wood chips. Meat, fish, etc., gets buried in the ground under a heavy stone (dog/coyote proof).

Pots, a little different, at least for me.

Coffee grounds and tea leaves are great, because there's not much to cause harm, unless you go totally ape and dump say 20 teabags into a small pot.

I'm not so sure about things like eggshells.

I suppose you cold bury a bit (about an ounce) of "bad" fish or meat in a pot, though I'm curious to hear from others who have tried that. When you bury stuff like that in the ground, it vanishes quickly. The ground eats it!

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Funkthulhu
22 hours ago, DoomsDave said:

This is a fascinating thread!

Generally, any food that's "gone bad" in the fridge or freezer ends up in the garden. Orange peels, bad beans (wheweee!), get dumped under the wood chips. Meat, fish, etc., gets buried in the ground under a heavy stone (dog/coyote proof).

Pots, a little different, at least for me.

Coffee grounds and tea leaves are great, because there's not much to cause harm, unless you go totally ape and dump say 20 teabags into a small pot.

I'm not so sure about things like eggshells.

I suppose you cold bury a bit (about an ounce) of "bad" fish or meat in a pot, though I'm curious to hear from others who have tried that. When you bury stuff like that in the ground, it vanishes quickly. The ground eats it!

I'm keen to keep up this experiment, but I've always been told to never add protein to a compost pile.  And considering my apartment situation, I don't think I would want to risk the smell.  

That being said, I'm still putting spent loose tea-leaves and coffee grounds in all my pots and they seem to be a lot happier for it.  (certainly fewer fungus gnats!)  I may even try the counter-top compost bin in the near future to try my luck with vegetable scraps, eggshells and the like (but no meat!).

Cheers,

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Funkthulhu

Actually, this brings up another thought that bounces around in my head a lot lately.

Why do we re-pot?  

I have seen so many threads with palms in pots so much smaller than the ones some of mine are in, they all seem happy as is.  I've also seen "horror shows" of large mature palms squeezed into ridiculously small pots and still chugging along fine.  Obviously, we're talking about adaptable organisms that will try to accommodate any situation they are put in.  So long as they get the water and nutrients they need, most will just keep on trucking.

I think we re-pot any plant not to give it more room to grow so much as to provide it with more and/or fresh and new soil.  Any plant that is too long in a pot will eventually become root-bound and over time it seems that they "eat" the soil away almost completely.  Re-potting helps to revitalize those plants by giving them something new to munch on. 

Truth be told, I turned to this process of "Composting in Pot" because I wanted to prolong the time some of my palms could spend in the pots they have and still stay healthy.  There's one or two of my palms that are already in pots as big as they're likely to ever get, so I need to keep them happy where they are.  I think that adding "compost" or at least more organic material in the form of tea and coffee (or more) to the top is going to work its way in and provide more nutrients to the plant.  

To that end I have inoculated each of my pots with common fungus and added worms to the larger pots.  I'm trying to give them a working ecosystem to keep them healthy, and it seems to be working.  

Thoughts?

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DoomsDave

Here are my top two reasons to repot:

1.  The plant gets too big for the pot it's in. Roots poke out the drain holes, or worst of all, overflow the sides, looking for more space. Or, bust out of the pot, especially if it's outside in a wet spot.

2.  The potting soil's humus decays, and disappears, leaving nothing but sand, perlite, vermiculite, etc. that won't decay. Water shoots right out the bottom of the pot because there's nothing to catch it. Many will also develop nutrient deficiencies because there are no more nutrients left. The soil volume falls on the order of 80%, leaving this pot full of sand and roots.

For 1., give the plant a bigger pot, or plant it in the ground, if you can.

For 2., pull the plant out, pack in nice fresh new potting soil with plenty of humus in it, and give it a big, huge drink of water. Ahh . . . Make sure to really pack the soil into the roots. If it bubbles from air pockets, try to poke some more soil into them.

These are sins I've committed many many times. And, palms will generally forgive them, much more than dicot trees, which, potbound, develop subterranean wooden gordian knots of tangled roots.

Worms increase the speed with which humus decays. They eat it, then poop it out, making worm castings. I've had many a worm end up in my container ranch pots on the soil. When that happens, the soil deteriorates much faster.

On the other hand, if you take the time (like you, Erik) to keep recharging the system, that should be best of all.

I'm not sure what the reason is for the prohibition against protein in a compost pile. Dead critters rot very fast, and provide plenty of bacteria in their intestines that also chew up the plant material. (The bones do get a bit disconcerting, though.)

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Funkthulhu

I'm going to keep avoiding meaty bits in the compost for now, if for no other reason than I don't want to give the cats any reason to go digging.

:D 

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Hammer
53 minutes ago, DoomsDave said:

 

I'm not sure what the reason is for the prohibition against protein in a compost pile. Dead critters rot very fast, and provide plenty of bacteria in their intestines that also chew up the plant material. (The bones do get a bit disconcerting, though.)

Most compost piles do not heat up enough to properly decompose the mammalian material.  So when you apply to the ground, you can end up with rotting flesh that can introduce unwanted pathogens.  Afterall, dead bodies are not known for their cleanliness.  Plus the potential smell factor and the attraction of other unwanted scavengers.  

If you do want to compost meat scraps, be sure to buy a high end composer that will generate a high level of heat and have a fairly large heat core.

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DoomsDave

Hmm.

Given the prevalence of anti-biotic fed meats, and particularly the presence of resistant bacteria, it might indeed be better to have a "hot" composter or to burn the bad meat in the fireplace.

As for decomposition, the soil eats all the meat. I mean, skeletons come out clean as a whistle, like that young skunk that turned out to be (abortive) coyote fodder behind my house about a month ago. :sick: The odor still lingers. :sick: Meat is the very very first thing to disappear, both from people's intestines in digestion and from the earth when buried.

 

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Funkthulhu

A high heat compost pile will also break down the bones!

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Hammer
1 hour ago, Funkthulhu said:

A high heat compost pile will also break down the bones!

Exactly!  I am checking into getting a Jora composter from a place over in Mission Viejo.  

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DoomsDave
3 hours ago, Funkthulhu said:

A high heat compost pile will also break down the bones!

I think that's called a fire . . .

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