Cotton Burr Compost IN Raised Bed Gardens

Warrington, FL

I recently had 8 yards of Cotton Compost delivered to my driveway , and I am using it to amend my current IN-ground Vegetable Garden , but I also built 5 LARGE raised beds for this Summer season ... my question is , can I use this in my raised beds directly or should I add some Soil and till it together ?? ... it was A LOT of work to fill these beds , just want to do it right ;) ... thanks in advance

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

I would mix in some soil, but unless the beds are very tall I wouldn't be too worried about it. Plants need soil (and you need the minerals), but they will send roots down to get it.

Warrington, FL

My Raised beds are 18 inches tall , 4' x 6' (3) and 4' x 8'(2) , the Main garden is 20' x 40' ... I have filled the raised beds a little more than halfway with the Compost , the Main garden I spread a few inches on top of the existing Soil , and tilled in ... is there TOO much Compost IN the raised beds , or is it fine with some Soil mixed in ?? ... thanks again :)

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

At 18" deep, I would mix in native soil. How much depends on what you've got. I know most of Florida is sandy; if you've got very sandy soil 50/50 is probably a good mix.

I have decent loam, and 50% compost still sounds pretty good to me, too!

Enterprise, AL(Zone 8b)

I don't know anything about cotton compost, but if you are using it in your raised beds I just read at another site to consider the amount of shrinkage the compost will have. One person was complaining about having to dig out her well established perennials after several years because the organic matter had shrank down so much. So in beds filled with annuals that you will work once or twice a year you could use more compost and in the perennial beds where the plants will stay for years you would want to use less. Just add a light amount each year on top as mulch. It seems most people there thought 10 per cent organic mater and 90 per cent soil was a good perennial bed mix. I just made some beds recently out of 100 per cent compost, but I plan on adding more as it shrinks each year, it is only a temporary location for my excess plants. Tell us more about the cotton compost (got any pictures) what is the texture like, how about the color? What is the cost?
How do you like it, have you used it before?( I just have a few questions as you can see). Do it have any odor to it?

Madison, AL(Zone 7b)

Yeah, it's true about compost shrinkage. It seems I am always hauling something.

Seedfork, the gins up here sell compost for $25 per "load" which I assume is a scoop. I don't use it though -- too many salts, herbicides and pesticides in it for my comfort. They don't use arsenic anymore, and the stuff they use CAN be broken down completely in a properly tended pile within 2 years, but that's not what the gins do -- they just pile it up. Granted, those piles get really hot (and catch fire!), but it isn't consistent.

So you may want to do a little investigating and see if what your local suppliers are actually doing in in your comfort zone.

Enterprise, AL(Zone 8b)

Oh I have no need for it myself, I have tons of my own homemade. I am just always curious and I know not everyone is so fortunate as I to be able to do all the physical labor involved in making their on compost. Who knows, someday I may have a need for it or something similar. We do have a cotton gin here, but I am not aware of them selling any compost, I may just drive out there one day and see what is going on.

Warrington, FL

It IS very Hot , STILL steaming every time I turn it over with a Shovel ( Still decomposing ) , gonna add Soil TO it tomorrow ... it does have an odor , but I don't mind it ( I've smelled worse ) ... it is very light and airy ( NOT screened ) , and there is Cotton mixed in with it as well as the husks / burrs , should be good for aeration to the Root system ... I will post some pictures as I go along , still getting it ready for Summer ... thanks again :)

Enterprise, AL(Zone 8b)

I would suggest letting the compost stay hot for a while before adding the soil. That would allow more time to kill any weeds and seeds left in it. I guess if you are in a big hurry you have no choice, but if at all possible I would wait on adding the soil.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> there is Cotton mixed in with it

That should be good for water retention and capillary wicking!

>> it does have an odor

Is it slimy? Poor aeration?

If the smell comes from "too much nitrogen", maybe mixing in some "browns" like paper, brown leaves, hay or sawdust would decrease the smell. If cotton bolls have a "22:1" ratio of C:N, they are "richer" than coffee grounds, which are pretty "green" (high-N).

If it is not very well aerated, you probably wnat to turn it or fluff it up as soon as it has been hot long enough to kill weed seeds. 3-4 days? If the smell menas "anaerobic fermentation", don't let it go on too long.

>> I would suggest letting the compost stay hot for a while before adding the soil. That would allow more time to kill any weeds and seeds left in it.

I would agree with you if you mean "before spreading the compost, or before mixing compost 1:1 with soil".

But if Pourman meant he was going to sprinkle a little soil on the heap and mix it in, to be sure the heap has plenty of aerobic soil microbes, and not just "gin trash organisms" or anaerobic bacteria, I say more power to him!

It might be a waste of time to "innoculate" most heaps that have lots of plant clippings and root balls, , but if a heap is made of almost 100% one product, who knows what the primary bacterial population was when it was trucked in?

Maybe it makes sense to let whatever bugs are in there now to keep on cooking for a few days, since they obviously are working hard and know how to live in rotting gin waste, even if it is somewhat anearobic.

But remember that anerboic fermentation CAN get hot enough to catch fire. That might be what you have going on. After 2-4 days of elevated temperatures, it will probably be desirable to make sure it has aerobic condiditons, and aerobic bacteria predominate.

Anerobic femrntation can build up alchols, organic acids, and maybe even ketones and aldehydes. All those are bad for root hairs. Good little aerobic bacteria will detoxify that if conditions favor them. And they should produce almost as much heat as the anaerobes.

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