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Compost Tea: A Remedy for What Injures Your Crops

A compost heap with kitchen food waste, animal manure, vegetables, fruit peel and green refuse.

Compost tea can serve multiple functions to develop healthy and fertile soil.

Combating disease on fruits and vegetables can be a frustrating experience, even for the most committed organic grower. A brief spell of adverse weather at just the wrong time can reduce peaches to unappetizing brown mush, apples to hard scabby nuggets, and cucumber vines to wilting, mildew-covered disasters. Organically approved disease control materials that are effective and do not demand too rigorous an application schedule are hard to find. So, what can you do when your grapevine gazes at you imploringly, begging for relief from yet another battle with botrytis?

Perhaps a spot of compost tea would be just what the doctor ordered!

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Fertile Soil: Understanding Fertility Levels and Inputs

A farmer tosses a handful of soil.

Fertile soil is a goal of every farmer, gardener and orchardist, but achieving fertile soil and maintaining fertile soil takes some understanding of the soil ecosystem, including minerals, microbials and other inputs will affect your soil fertility.

There are those in agriculture who insist that if you will only use the program they recommend, regardless of your farm’s condition, there will be no need to purchase phosphate and potassium and perhaps any other fertilizers anymore. Names of actual farmers successfully using such programs can be provided by the salesman. Some of these farmers have actually been able to maintain yields without the use of fertilizer for several years. Keep in mind that it is possible, under the proper conditions, to achieve excellent results without adding more fertilizer. But on most farms the proper conditions do not exist, and hardship would ultimately result for those involved in such a program.

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From Coffee Grounds to Gourmet Mushrooms

oyster mushroom

Kansas State University researchers are taking used coffee grounds from a campus coffee shop and using them as compost to cultivate gourmet mushrooms at the K-State Student Farm. By composting alone, 50 pounds a week — or about 30 percent of the coffee shop’s total waste — has been diverted from landfills. “The goal of the project is to demonstrate our potential at Kansas State University to initiate a successful closed-loop recycling and composting program that diverts waste from landfills and produce a beneficial product,” Natalie Mladenov, assistant professor of civil engineering said. While developing the compost program, the researchers made an important discovery: coffee grounds make excellent compost for cultivating mushrooms, particularly gourmet mushrooms, such as oyster, shiitake and reishi. The United States gets nearly 45 percent of its mushrooms from China, and there is a need for more local suppliers of gourmet mushrooms, said Kaley Oldani, student leader for the project.

This article appears in the September 2014 issue of Acres U.S.A.