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Compost Loves Rain

Irene and Lee enriched your piles

Have you noticed how quickly your compost pile has shrunk now that the rain has stopped? The umpteen inches of rain between Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee provided uniform watering to exposed compost piles. This surplus water promoted rapid decomposition by microorganisms and encouraged earthworms to invade the piles.
    The microorganisms accounted for the shrinkage. They need at least 50 percent moisture to function properly. Sixty percent is even better. So the deluge gave them optimal working conditions.
    The earthworms are another story. We generally do not see earthworms in an active compost pile. That’s because of the heat generated by microorganisms. The constant supply of rain cooled the pile, encouraging worms to enter and multiply. Since the microorganisms had already partially digested some of the organic waste, the earthworms had easy access to the residue.
    I make it a point to water down my compost pile every week, but I do not add sufficient water to cool the pile because I want the microorganisms to generate enough heat to kill disease-causing organisms, insects and weed seeds. So I normally don’t have worms in my compost. Once the piles heat up again, the earthworms will die and we again won’t have them.
    If you want worms, try vermiculture. Vermiculture is very different from composting. Vermiculture piles are smaller, and the organic waste is kept wet so the piles don’t generate heat. In vermiculture, the waste is left undisturbed so the worms reproduce faster. The worms digest the waste, forming worm castings, which — like heat-produced compost — are free of weed seeds, insects and plant-causing disease.

Finding Wye Oak Clones

Q    You’ve written in Bay Weekly that Wye Oak clones can be purchased from Maryland Department of Natural Resources. I tried calling the nursery but got no response. Also could not find info online. How can I purchase a seedling?

     –Lee Tilton, Tracys Landing

A    Call the Ayton State Forest Nursery in Preston at 410-673-7285 or 410-673-2467.

Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at [email protected]. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.