Re:Composting cow manure-soil mix

>From: Stephen.Pushak at saudan_HAC.COM
>Date: Wed, 22 Nov 95 13:31:02 PST
>Subject: Soil & gravel treatments for algae
>> From: krombhol at felix_TECLink.Net (Paul Krombholz)
>> Date: Sat, 18 Nov 1995 20:05:16 -0600
>> Subject: Re: "floating on hellish spores"
>> This notion that hair algae comes in on spores has not been substantiated
>> in my experience.  Ever since I got rid of it about 20 years ago with the
>> bleach treatment, I have had almost no problems.  I got some once from some
>> soil, but I am pretty sure it came from surface soil that got enough light
>> to support the alga.  It didn't grow very well under water, and it was no
>> problem to eliminate.   Now, I scrape off the top half inch of soil before
>> I collect any.  I got some once from some rain water.  Apparently some can
>> grow in the eavestrough of my house.  [snip]
>> Just try setting up a hair algae-free tank. Give a few plants the two or
>> three minute 5% bleach treatment, and set them up in the tank with topsoil,
>> snails and Daphnia.   Once you have a 'haven' set up, you will want to
>> bleach more of your plants and set them up free of hair algae.  With snails
>> to control soft attached algae and Daphnia to control green water, you will
>> be able to give all the nutrients, light and CO2 you want, and you won't
>> have to worry about hair algae taking over.  You should see growth rates
>> not possible in a hair algae-infested tank.
>The thought of setting up an algae free tank is very interesting.
>One of my tanks is set up with soil and one with gravel and only a few
>Tetra fertilizer tablets and "clay" cones but I'd really like to convert
>this one over to a soil based tank w/o algae. This would enable me to
>really utilize the stronger lights I now have. Some questions:
>Are you recommending a 50:50 mixture of soil and composted manure for
>a kind of general purpose but rich substrate?
Yes.  Crypts love it, and so do most other types of plants.  I would have
less organic matter for the aponogetons, and less for Anubias nana.  (I
don't know about the other species of Anubias.)  I would put in some ground
up egg shells to provide calcium.  They don't have to be ground up very
fine, just enough to pass through window screening or a rice strainer.  I
would put somewhere around 1 level teaspoon per quart of soil.

>The problem of smells while composting manure in my kitchen is really
>a concern. Would it be ok to do this outside with an average temperature
>of about 10C?
Smell should be no problem.  If it is, you have put in 'way too much
manure, or the manure was smelly when you put it in.  The manure should be
dried, and mixed in thoroughly with the soil.  The mix should be watered
until it is damp, but not soggy wet. Decomposition should be aerobic.  The
only smell I have ever detected was an 'earthy' smell, and that only when I
pulled up the cover on the box and sniffed.  At 10 degrees C, the process
would go, but would be slower.  At temperatures below freezing, very little
would happen.  I have composted a lot of stuff, and smells have never been
a problem except once, when I tried composting a hardboiled egg that I made
into crumbs by forcing it through a rice strainer.  With this, I got a
noticable smell, although it was not the rotten egg smell of hydrogen
sulfide.  I probably could have avoided that smell if I hadn't put the
whole egg in all at once in about 2 liters of soil in a plastic sweater
box. I guess I put in a little too much.  You have to find out by trial and
error how much you can get away with.  As a general rule, aerobic
decomposition does not make bad smells.

>What, aside from scraping off a half inch or so of topsoil, would you
>recommend as a treatment for soil to preclude the possibility of algae
>in it? Would keeping it in a sealed dark container for a few weeks do
That might do it, but I don't know.  I have never had any algae show up
from soil I have taken after having scraped off the top half inch.  I also
get soil in a nearby woods, where the ground has a covering of leaves which
would also cut off light.  I compost dried, green leaves and other stuff
and then extract the nutrients from the soil.  I use the extract solutions
to fertilize my plants, and I keep the extract solutions in plastic two
liter soda bottles.  I have never seen any algae of any kind growing in
these solutions even though they are excellent fertilizers.

>Can used gravel be salvaged? Or is it best to turf the old stuff and
>buy fresh (expensive) stuff?
Easily salvaged.  Just pour 10 or 20 percent liquid bleach on it and let it
sit for a day or two.  Then rinse will and dry.  You don't have to worry
about residual bleach, but, if you do, you could try loading up a crock pot
with gravel and cooking it.  I have never done this, but I'm sure it would
kill all forms of algae.

>Have people used those plant fertilizer spikes or other
>solid fertilizer tablets as undergravel supplements?
Yes.  In the Aquatic Plants mailing list, occasionally, I have seen someone
who says he sticks tablets, or spikes under the gravel.  I would not
recommend it.  The nutrients supplied by these tablets are effeciently
removed from the water by aquatic plants, and so there is no reason to put
them under the soil.

Paul Krombholz                  Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, MS  39174