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NFERENCE O C • Rison, Arkansas AprilPioneer 5, 2014Village • Pioneer Village • Rison, Ark.

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South Arkansas Homesteading Conference Pioneer Village • Rison, Arkansas

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E O C April 5, 2014 • Pioneer Village • Rison, Ark. Session Schedule

As sessions will take place at the stage area inside the main exhibit building

10am - Solar Power on the Small Farm/Homestead Dr. Kate Shoulders Asistant professor at the Dept. of Agricultural & Extension Education, University of Arkansas at Fayetteville

Dr. Shoulders will speak on using solar energy on the small farm/homestead. Shoulders oversees the Solar Energy Analysis Station at the university’s farm in Fayetteville. Part of her duties are to experiment with ways to use solar and other alternative energy sources on the farm.

11am - Plant Propagation/Seed Saving

John Gavin Staff Chair, Bradley County Cooperative Extension Service

Gavin will speak on plant propagation and saving seeds. Gavin is considered one of the top experts in Arkansas on growing tomatoes and is currently experimenting with grafting heirloom tomato varieties onto commercial root stock.

Noon - Demonstrations

Various how-to demonstrations, including building your own pea sheller and learning how to make seed-starting pods out of newspaper.

Raised Bed/Square Foot Gardening (1pm)

Les Walz Staff Chair, Cleveland County Cooperative Extension Service

Walz helped establish the Rison Community Garden, a series of raised beds located here at the Pioneer Village. His session will cover every aspect of raised bed gardening, from bed construction to soil composition to irrigation. In addition, there will also be a demonstration how to build a quick, inexpensive tunnel system that can protect your garden against pests and extend your growing season.

Practical Reasons for Homesteading (2pm) Gary “Pa Mac” McWilliams

McWilliams will give some practical reasons on why people should homestead. McWilliams is a true modern-day homesteader, using many of the same skills and techniques that were passed down to him by his father and grandfather to carve his own homestead near Glenwood. His website and accompanying YouTube channel were launched only about a year ago, yet her already has more than 4,000 subscribers and more 67,000 views of his videos.

Herbal Preparations (3pm)

Debbie Tripp, Rosemary Hill Herb Farm at Royal Cindy Faulk, Herb-N-League at Hot Springs

This duo will lead a session on converting herbs into tinctures, lotions, salves and other forms suitable for practical uses. Tripp and Faulk are popular speakers on the Master Gardener circuit throughout Arkansas, speaking on nearly every aspect of growing and using herbs.

Presented by:

Cleveland County Herald Your County Newspaper Since 1888

A scene from an Extension Service “Tomato Club” demonstration

Smith-Lever Act Helped Agri Improve Across Arkansas 100 Years Ago One-hundred years ago, America was still three years away from entering The Great War; Ty Cobb was hitting .368 and Charlie Chaplin’s first movie, “Making a Living,” was released. At the time, Arkansas was home to about 1.5 million people, most of them involved in farming. “Like most of the United States, agriculture was a part of everyday life, whether it was subsistence farming or farming to sell commodities to a growing nation,” said Tony Windham, associate vice president-extension for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. The year 1914 was an important year for agriculture in the United States. That year, the Smith-Lever Act went into effect, creating an educational force that would change agriculture forever. The idea behind extension was simple. Agents would collect the latest research on farming and household issues and teach these innovations to their neighbors. “Having the ability to transfer research discoveries to the people who could use them was a key moment in our history,” he said. “It provided the ability to raise the level of farm production from near subsistence to a level where it could support a nation that was growing in population, economy and technology.” The result was a steady rise in the standard of living across the state. Although Arkansas had been assigned its first extension agent nine years earlier, SmithLever would lead to bigger things for Arkansas. State government became involved. The University of Arkansas joined the effort and the Cooperative Extension Service as we know it was born. Extension then, and now: • In 1914, extension agents promoted the mechanization of farms, introduced pest control and fertilization techniques and encouraged crop diversification and farm coopera-

tives. Today, extension agents and specialists promote resource conservation, precision agricultural techniques and development of phoneand tablet-based tools for farming. • In the decades following1914, home demonstration agents taught techniques for safe food preservation, clothing construction, mattress-making and led efforts for childhood immunizations. Today, Family and Consumer Science faculty teach money management, nutrition and family relations skills. • Extension also helped build communities, selling war bonds and leading the effort for rural electrification. Today, our Community and Economic Development faculty not only helps businesses get their start but also grow. They give communities the tools to reawaken dormant economies and help voters make the best possible decisions about their futures. Today, with offices in all 75 counties, the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service works to help improve the quality of life for all Arkansans. To learn more, visit or contact your county extension office. The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture and offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, national origin, religion, gender, age, disability, marital or veteran status, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/ Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Not All Renewable Energy Is Created Equal Not all renewable energies are created equal, and that’s a message that Dr. Kate Shoulders with the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville wants the public to understand. Shoulders is a professor in the university’s Agriculture Education, Communications and Technology Department. Her primary duties are to find ways to help the public learn about sources of renewable energy like solar, wind and hydro, and then convince them to actually put those applications to use. To accomplish that goal, she recently started what she calls a Solar Energy Analysis Station at the university’s farm in Fayetteville. Shoulders uses the station to test practical ways renewable energy can be used in agriculture. Shoulders is quick to say that renewable energy is not for everyone in every application, and on top of that, not all renewable alternatives work the same. What may work well in one part of the country may not be practical or even economically feasible in another location. Solar is Better for Arkansas When it comes to renewable energy options in Arkansas, Shoulders said solar is the best all-around source, especially in terms of efficiency. While Arkansas is home to some companies that manufacture the gigantic wind turbines used for commercial wind power generation, Shoulders said wind is not a practical option in the Natural State. There is a wind turbine set up at the analysis station in Fayetteville, but Shoulders said the primary reason it’s there is to show how “inefficient” wind-power is for Arkansas. Shoulders said there are three primary reasons why wind power is not a very efficient option for renewable energy in Arkansas: • First, turbine systems are designed primarily for constant West Coast winds that often blow close to the ground. In Arkansas, she said the turbine has to be elevated, which adds to the expense, and the wind is not very consistent here at all. • Second, she said turbine systems have several moving parts, which require more maintenance and expense, especially over the long term. • Third, Shoulders said there are some un-

Dr. Kate Shoulders expected regulations that can influence where you can put wind turbines. For example, she explained that wind turbines have proven to be very detrimental to the bat population. As a result, the Environmental Protection Agency has placed restrictions on using wind turbines in the flight patterns of bats. “Wind is not as useful for Arkansas as solar,” Shoulders said. Solar is Best Option in Arkansas Shoulders said they are using solar energy in both “on grid” and “off grid” applications at the university farm. “On grid” refers to using a form of renewable energy as a secondary source of power in addition to the electricity provided by a public utility. “Off grid” refers to using renewable energy as the sole source of power for a structure. In on-grid applications at the Energy Analysis Station in Fayetteville, Shoulders said they have a 1 kilowatt solar generator to support power for a shop/classroom at the university

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farm. That on-grid system also helps power a micro-invertor that measures how much energy each cell in a solar panel is producing over any five-minute time frame. Shoulders said that data allows them and the public to see how well the solar panels are working under varying conditions. To demonstration an off-grid application for solar power, Shoulders said they set up set up two water troughs in the middle of a pasture equipped with a water pump that operates solely off a couple for solar panels connected to the pump. She noted that the system does not have a battery storage system - all the power to operate the water pump comes strictly from the solar panels themselves. Shoulders said the intent of the solar-powered water trough demonstration is to show ranchers that they can deliver water to remote parts of their pasture without having to haul it. The pumps are using a 250-watt solar panel without any battery back-up. She said any time you can avoid having a battery back-up system, it makes the overall system much more cost efficient. Shoulders said other practical off-grid applications for solar power without having to have a battery back-up system would include solar panels that could be used for portable charging stations for rechargeable tools at remote locations, solar water heaters, electronic gates and recreational uses for RVs, boats or camping. She also noted that not all solar panels are created equal. While the price of the panels have come down in recent years, she said the power-generating silicon in some panels is superior to the silicon in others. Shoulders recommended checking out the efficiency of a panel before buying it.

Micro-Hydro System Shoulders said the most efficient and affordable source of renewable energy is also the least available: micro-hydro. She described the micro-hydro system as simply a miniature version of a hydro-electric power plant where a constant flow of water helps turn a generator that produces electricity. Since that stream flows constantly, Shoulders said the hydro generator can produce power around the clock regardless of the weather conditions. That makes it much more efficient than solar or wind power because both of those can be affected by the elements. She said micro-hydro systems can be produce electricity with as little as 100 gallons of water going over a five-foot dropoff or five gallons of water going over a 100-foot dropoff. While it is the most efficient and affordable system, Shoulders said not everyone has a stream that meets the flow requirements. However, if a person does have a flowing stream on their property, it would be the best option for a renewable energy source.

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Want to Go Off-Grid?

Start By Making Your Home As Energy Efficient as Possible Think you’re ready to start using a form of renewable energy to power your home? If so, Dr. Kate Shoulders of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville said the first step to achieving energy independence is to assess how much energy your home is already using. By making your home as energy efficient as possible on the front end, Shoulders said you can save a lot of money on the back end since the system you install won’t have to be as big. “You need to consciously go throughout your house and look at how you’re using energy,” she said. Here are some things to consider as you begin to make the move toward energy independence: • Reduce “phantom power” loads. Even though the picture on your big screen television might be turned off, Shoulders said it’s still using energy because the TV is constantly searching for the remote. That’s a classic example of what Shoulders calls “phantom power,” also called “vampire power” or “standby power.” Phantom power refers to the power that electronic devices continue to use power even though they are turned off. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory website state that almost any product with an external power supply, remote control, continuous display (including an LED), or charges batteries will draw power continuously, even when the device itself is turned off. The Discovery Channel once measured how much power a flat screen TV was using while it was turned off. The total came to about $60 per year! Shoulders said one of the best ways to reduce the phantom loads in your home is put devices on a power strip so the power to the device can be completely cut off . • Utilize passive solar energy. “Passive solar” refers to taking advantage of heat from the sun without using any devices. This can be achieved by simply having south-facing windows in your home. As the sun takes a lower trek across the sky during the winter months, that bright sunshine coming through a south-facing window can have the same effect on the inside of your home as it does on the inside of your car during the summer. Since its not practical to change the orientation of your home, Shoulders said this option is usually for those who are building a home. She said she knows of some people who have placed solar panels over their south-facing windows to serve as a awning during the summer. Since the sun crosses the sky at a higher angle during the summer, the solar panel captures the sunlight and shades the window below to help cool the inside of the house. • Insulation and weatherproofing. The “tighter” your house is, the more energy efficient it will be. Shoulders said this means adding insulation where you can and sealing up any leaks you might find in your home. • Be wise with the way you use energy. Simply consider ways to save energy during your regular routine. For example, don’t turn on the oven during the hottest part of the day only to have to crank up the air conditioner to keep the house cool. Instead of putting the clothes in the dryer every time, put them on a clothes line instead. • Use solar-powered devices to help cut down on your power use. Shoulders said there are ways you can use solar power around your home without having to invest in a whole-house system. For example, she said installing a solar-powered fan in your attic can removed hot air and make your house to easier to cool. She said some people also use solar-powered water heaters to reduce their power bills.

Gary “Pa Mac” Williams of website and YouTube channel

Online Homesteading Resources When it comes to practical information on homesteading, here are a few websites we’ve found to be very useful:

University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service

The Cooperative Extension Service recently overhauled its website making it even easier to navigate. It’s loaded with information tailored specifically to farming and ranching in Arkansas. You can find most any Extension Service fact sheet available as a pdf download.

Mother Earth News

With more than a half million subscribers, Mother Earth News has become the recognized authority when it comes to sustainable living. Much like the magazine, the website is loaded with articles and even videos on gardening, homesteading, renewable energy and much more. Mother Earth News also started some state-specific Facebook pages this year to give people with similar interest a place to exchange ideas. You can find it by searching for “Arkansas Community - Mother Earth News” on Facebook.

Farm Hands Companion

An Arkansas-based website created by Gary “Pa Mac” McWilliams, one of the guest speakers at the South Arkansas Homesteading Conference. McWilliams said his website “is dedicated to preserving, celebrating, and developing old-fashioned skills of the traditional farm.” After taking 20 years to complete his first homestead in rural western Tennessee, McWilliams returned to his native southwest Arkansas to start anew. This time, however, he’s shooting video of each step of the process. You’ll find some very informative videos on making your own lumber (with a chainsaw!), building a pole barn, planting an apple orchard and more. Be sure to check out his “Links” tab on the website for more great websites created by individual homesteaders. bills itself as “The Homesteader’s Free Library,” and it certainly lives up to its billing. You’ll find articles by various authors on just about any homesteading topic you can image. Once you get to the front page, be sure to click on the “Index of Articles” button at the top of the page. That will take you to a page that provides a listing of subject areas on the left or gives you an option to “Search by Topic” or “Search by Author.”

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Going Above Ground for Gardening Raised Beds Offer Easy-to-Use, Productive Alternative to Traditional Gardens

RISON - Raised bed gardening has become one of the most popular trends in home gardening over the past few years. That’s one of the reasons why Les Walz, staff chair for the Cleveland County Cooperative Extension Office, wanted to include a session about it in the South Arkansas Homesteading Conference that will be held next Saturday, April 5, at the Pioneer Village in Rison. Walz said raised bed gardens have some advantages over traditional gardens because that they don’t require a lot of space, it’s much easier to improve and control the soil, and the beds don’t require as much work once they are completed. One other factor behind the explosive interest in raised bed gardening is the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. His philosophy is to raise vegetables in small raised beds filled with a super-charged soil mixture that can nourish several plants in a small space, hence the name “square foot gardening.” Bartholomew’s concept is based on using 4 foot by 4 foot wood-framed boxes that are 6 to 8 inches deep. The boxes are placed in a sunny area on top of landscape fabric to protect the garden bed from grass, weeds and other vegetation beneath it. Once the frames for the raised bed boxes are complete, they are then filled with “Mel’s Mix,” a special soil mixture that Bartholomew promotes in his book. The recipe is rather simple: 1/3rd compost mixture, 1/3rd peat moss and 1/3rd coarse vermiculite. The kicker to his recipe is the compost component - Bartholomew recommends the compost contain at least four or five types of compost mixed together. The reason, he contends, is that each type of compost has it owns strengths as far as mineral content is concerned, and by having a variety of composts, the soil will have a better balance of all the minerals needed for most types of plant. Walz is implementing the Square Foot strategy in the Rison Community Garden, which is located at the Pioneer Village in Rison. While the soil being used in the beds at the community garden is not made using “Mel’s Mixture,” it is a “super soil” that consists of a mixture of top soil and compost. The community garden started off with 10 raised beds, each measuring 4 foot wide and 8 foot long and 10 inches deep. The bed frames are built from cypress lumber. Another 10 beds will be added to the garden bringing the overall total to 20 beds.

John and Colene Fulmer of Rison check out their crops before harvesting at the Rison Community Garden. After the initial investment in bed construction and soil preparation, raised beds can be easier to maintain and work than traditional gardens. Walz has kept four of the beds to use as “experiment stations” of sorts to test different growing strategies using raised beds. One experiment Walz currently has underway is growing the same variety of strawberries in raised beds using two different methods: one bed is open to the elements while the other is covered by a low tunnel. The strawberries were planted late last fall and have survived through single digit temperatures this winter. Walz said the covered strawberries appear to be about a week ahead of the uncovered berries. Another experiment he just started is growing potatoes in tires. With this method, an old tire is filled with the soil and the potatoes are placed inside. As the potatoes begin to grow, a second tire is added and more soil is added. That process continues until the potatoes are

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ready to harvest. Walz is experimenting with different types of soils as well as different placement of the seed potatoes inside the tires. He is using red potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes in the experiment. Irrigation Systems In addition to the crop experiments, Walz is also experimenting with different irrigation systems for raised beds. Last summer, he installed a do-it-yourself irrigation system built from 3/4-inch PVC pipe. In essence, the system consists of two parts: a trunk line and irrigation or water lines. The trunk line has a fitting that allows it to be connected to a water hose. The trunk line then supplies water to the irrigation lines, which are simply pieces of PVC pipe with holes drilled in them.

Walz said one of the benefits of building your own system is that you can drill the holes exactly where you want the water to go. For instance, if your plants are 18 inches apart, you can drills the watering holes 18 inches apart so the water goes directly to each plant. He recommended that the holes be no larger than about 3/8ths of an inch in diameter. The holes should be drilled on both sides of the pipe so one piece of pipe can be placed between two rows to provide irrigation for both sides. Some people drill the holes at a slight angle so the pipe can be turned up for a sprinkler system or turned down for a soaker system. Walz noted that he does not glue any of the pieces together - they are simply joined together. By leaving them dry fitted, he said the water lines can be easily moved or adjusted. (continued on next page)

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‘Low Tunnels’ Over Raised Beds Can Protect Your Crops, Extend Growing Season (continued from previous page) Another new irrigation system that is being tried this year is a “wicking bed.” This method works on the same principle as those plant pots that have the water trough attached to the bottom. Wicking beds are most popular in dry, arid regions of the world where water is a precious resource and they want to get as much use of their water as the can. The system that is being tried at the Rison Community Garden uses a box frame built from 2x6’s lined with a water proof barrier. That box is then filled with gravel to provide a holding cavity for the water and a piece of PVC pipe with holes drilled in it is placed on top the gravel bed. An an elbow joint is attached to one end of the pipe and another piece of PVC is attached to it. This piece will be pointed up and will protrude through the top of the soil as a means for filling the gravel bed beneath the soil.An overflow outlet is put at the top of the gravel bed to make sure the garden bed is not flooded. Once the gravel, watering line are overflow outlet are in place, all of it is then covered with a landscape fabric and the garden soil is put on top of that. This barrier is put in place to prevent the bedding soil from washing down and filling the gravel bed. Tunnel Construction Raised beds are lends themselves as easy-toconstruct “low tunnel” systems. This tunnel system can serve as a frame work for a cold frame and/or help protect your crops from pests. The system being used at the Rison Community Garden uses 10-foot sticks of 1/2-inch PVC that are arched over and the ends are put on pieces of rebar that have been driven into the ground. The “ribs” of the frame a placed about four feet apart. For added strength and protection, a 10-foot length of four-foot 2x4 welded wire fencing is draped over the PVC framework. The ends of the tunnel can then be covered with a plastic bird or animal needing to help keep the deer, rabbits and other pests out of the garden. The welded wire also provides a great support sys-

tem when a clear plastic barrier is put over the bed for a cold frame or for a shade cloth to raise lettuce, spinach and other shade-loving crops. The fencing system being used at the Rison Community Garden is not attached directly to the PVC ribs that support it. Instead, a piece of PVC pipe is threaded through the bottom row of fence openings to create a handle of sorts. This process is completed on each side. The handle makes it easy to slide the protective fencing up and down so you can have access to your garden. The handle can then be secured to the ground or the side of the raised bed to make sure it doesn’t blow off.

(TOP PHOTO) This shot shows how the do-it-yourself PVC irrigation system was set up in the raised bed. Notice that the watering (irrigation) line runs between to rows of plants. Holes are drilled on both side of the pipe to provide water to both rows. (LOWER PHOTO) These two “wicking beds” are covered by “low tunnels” using 10-foot PVC pipe arched over a 4-foot wide bed and covered wth 2x4 welded wire fencing. The PVC pipe running along the side of the bed is woven through the bottom holes of the fencing to create a “handle” so the fencing can be easily lifted for easy access to the garden.


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Arkansas Homesteader - 7

Compost Happens

Turning Trash Into Garden Gold

By the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Composting is controlling the natural decay of organic matter by providing the right conditions for composting critters to convert yard trimmings into a product that can be returned to your landscape and garden. Tiny organisms (mainly bacteria, fungi and protozoa) break down garden and landscape trimmings in a moist, aerobic (oxygen-demanding) environment. The final product is a dark, crumbly form of decomposed organic matter. Compost improves your soil. When added to soil, compost breaks up heavy clay soils, helps sandy soils retain water and nutrients, and releases essential nutrients. Compost also contains beneficial microscopic organisms that build up the soil and make nutrients available to plants. Improving your soil is the first step towards growing healthy plants. What Can Be Composted Any natural organic material can be composted. Organic trimmings in your landscape, such as grass clippings, weeds, fallen leaves, pine needles, hedge clippings, straw, livestock manures, flowers and remains of garden plants make excellent compost. Also, many manufactured organic materials that are not waxed or plastic-coated, such as newspapers, paper boxes, clothing scraps and wood shavings are compostable and may be used. Compost made from grass clippings treated with herbicides or any other pesticides is not recommended for use in vegetable gardens. Kitchen scraps, such as fruit and vegetable peels and trimmings, crushed eggshells, tea bags, and coffee grounds and filters can also be composted. Woody yard trimmings can be run through a shredder before adding to the compost pile. Sawdust may be added in moderate amounts if additional nitrogen is applied. Add a pound of actual nitrogen per 100 pounds of dry sawdust. What Materials Should I Avoid Adding to my Compost Pile? Organic materials that should not be added to your compost pile include meat, bones and fatty foods (such as cheese, salad dressing and leftover cooking oil). Do not add pet or human wastes to a compost pile. Weeds that have not gone to seed can be added to the compost pile. Weeds with large storage roots like nutsedge, Florida betony or greenbriar should be left out and dried in the sun before composting to reduce their chances of survival. The high levels of heat produced in the center of the compost pile can kill many pests, such as weeds with seeds and diseased or insect-infested plants. However, it is very difficult to

mix the contents thoroughly enough to bring all the wastes to the center, so some disease organisms may be returned to the garden with the compost. “Essentials” of Composting Organic materials for composting all contain nutrients that provide energy and growth for microorganisms. These organic materials each have their own ratio of carbon to nitrogen (C: N) in their tissues (Table 1). These C:N ratios are important because the tiny decomposers need about 1 part of nitrogen for every 30 parts of carbon in the organic material. If the ratio is greater than 30:1, nitrogen will be lacking and materials will decompose more slowly. Leaves, straw and sawdust are high in carbon, while grass clippings, manure and vegetable scraps are higher in nitrogen. It helps to think of these materials as greens and browns. Greens, such as grass clippings, are high in nitrogen. Browns, such as leaves or sawdust, contain high amounts of carbon. Be aware that anything organic will decay (as long as it is organic, the critters will eat it); however, it may take a long time to make compost when the C:N ratio is too high. For example, a pile made solely of sawdust will take years to decay. Adding more greens, such as grass clippings or vegetable scraps, will speed up decay and produce compost in less time. Experiment to find the right combination of materials for your compost pile. Air and Moisture are Important The composting process is an aerobic process; decomposition needs air or oxygen to occur. When the compost pile is lacking in oxygen, decomposition slows and odors occur. Add air to the pile by mixing, turning, stirring, fluffing or using air stacks (pipes with holes) in the pile. Adequate moisture is essential for microbial activity that is responsible for decomposition. A dry compost pile will decompose slowly. Proper moisture encourages the growth of microorganisms that break down the organic matter into humus. If rainfall is limited, water the pile periodically to maintain a steady decomposition rate. Add enough water so the pile is damp but not soggy. A rule of thumb is “about as wet as a wrung out sponge.” Avoid over watering. During rainy periods, you may need to cover the pile. Excess water can lead to an anaerobic (lack of oxygen) condition which slows the decomposition process and causes to odors. If the pile should become too wet, turn it to dry it out, or add dry carbon materials to the pile. What is the C:N Ratio? The carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N ratio) is

the relative percentage of carbon to that of nitrogen in various organic materials. Decomposing microbes are the most active and efficient when the C:N ratio is 30:1. The more carbon in the pile relative to nitrogen, the longer the decomposition process takes. Excess nitrogen causes the pile to lose nitrogen to the atmosphere as ammonia gas. Carbon materials are usually dry and brown (examples: straw, paper, fall leaves, & hay). Nitrogen materials are usually green and wet (examples: grass clippings, freshly pulled plants, fruit & vegetable kitchen scraps, and coffee grounds.) When no nitrogen materials are available, fertilizer can be used to provide the nitrogen if desired. Apply one cup of fertilizer, such as 13-13-13, for every 10 square feet of pile surface area. This could be applied again each time you add another 6 inches of high carbon material. A rule of thumb on C:N ratio is about ¼ - ½ of the pile volume nitrogen materials and ½ - ¾ carbon materials. Benefits of Composting Compost improves the structure of the soil by adding organic matter. In sandy soil, compost holds moisture and helps to hold soil together. In heavy clay soil, compost particles bind with clay particles to form larger particles. Compost attracts earthworms. Worm tunnels aerate the soil, improve drainage and bring up minerals from the subsoil. Earthworm activity

contributes to good soil structure. Compost is a soil conditioner. It releases small amounts of plant nutrients and essential trace elements slowly throughout the growing season. It also helps latch onto nutrients added in the form of fertilizer and prevents them from leaching out of the soil. Some chemical fertilizers release elements so quickly that rain can leach them away before plants derive much benefit. Compost improves soil health. Compost has been shown in some research trials to reduce plant diseases; suppressing or controlling some soil-borne plant pathogens. Avoid Using Compost Before It Is Ready How do I know when the compost is ready to use? Compost is finished when the original organic materials are no longer recognizable and it is no longer generating a significant amount of heat. Finished compost should have a dark, crumbly appearance and an earthy odor. You may be tempted to use compost as a soil conditioner before it is ready. If the organic materials have not completely decomposed, plants growing in the amended soil may turn yellow and appear stressed. As the decomposition process continues near plant roots, soil micro-organisms compete with plants for nitrogen. Organic acids in immature compost may also be harmful to plant roots.

A composting bin made from cinder block dry-stacked together. Note the covering across the top to prevent the compost pile from becoming too damp.

Arkansas Homesteader - 8

.com A new website dedicated to news and information for people interested in a simpler, sustainable lifestyle Be Sure to Sign-Up to Receive A FREE Subscription to the

Arkansas Homesteader digital magazine!

To subscribe, simply sign-up when you complete a conference feedback form at the Arkansas Homesteader Registration table or send us an email at

If you missed some of the sessions from today’s conference, you can find much of that information on the new website. This site is being developed to create a meeting place for Arkansans interested in small-scale farming and sustainable living - a place where you can exchange ideas, discuss issues and learn more from your neighbors about how to grow vegetables, raise livestock, build things or learn more just about anything else you need know. is a digital publication of the Cleveland County Herald P.O. Box 657, Rison, AR 71665 • (870) 325-6412 • Fax (870)

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