Saturday, January 10, 2009

Composting for Your Pumpkin Patch

The best stuff that I believe you can put into your pumpkin patch is compost. I'm no expert on composting but there really isn't to much too it. Basically I like to take manure, alfalfa pellets, leaves and build them up into a nicely layered pile. I then spread some organic fertilizer in the pile (I used some leftover Happy Frog brand fertilizer that has some bacteria in the mix) and then poured 5 gallons of compost tea over it to help heat it up quickly (this step isn't necessary, but I think it might help the process go faster). The heat in the compost pile is generated by mesophilic microorganisms which rapidly break down the soluble, readily degradable compounds. The heat they produce causes the compost temperature to rapidly rise.

As the temperature rises above about 103°F, the mesophilic microorganisms become less competitive and are replaced by others that are thermophilic, or heat-loving. During the thermophilic phase, high temperatures accelerate the breakdown of proteins, fats, and complex carbohydrates like cellulose and hemicellulose, the major structural molecules in plants. As the supply of these high-energy compounds becomes exhausted, the compost temperature gradually decreases and mesophilic microorganisms once again take over for the final phase of "curing" or maturation of the remaining organic matter.

You should turn or lightly mix the compost about once every two weeks to keep this process going so the available nitorgen becomes available to the bacteria. Adding a little water to the pile during dry periods can also help with the breakdown of the materials in the pile. After about 6 months the compost is usually ready to be tilled into the soil if you don't plan on eating your pumpkin. If you are planning on eating it you may want to wait up to a year.

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