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Compost advice needed.


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#1 Myc

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 11:20 PM

Been using the compost made in this thread:
http://mycotopia.net...ting-101-a.html
Followed directions to the letter,
checked for proper pH,
no traces of ammonia detectable, etc.
Figured it was good to use.
All efforts seem to have stalled or failed.
Pasteurized some yesterday for four hours
Let it cool
Was laying it out and smelled a very strong odor of ammonia??
Any thoughts or advice is appreciated.

#2 jPsHrOoMeR

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Posted 29 July 2008 - 11:29 PM

Been using the compost made in this thread:
http://mycotopia.net...ting-101-a.html
Followed directions to the letter,
checked for proper pH,
no traces of ammonia detectable, etc.
Figured it was good to use.
All efforts seem to have stalled or failed.
Pasteurized some yesterday for four hours
Let it cool
Was laying it out and smelled a very strong odor of ammonia??
Any thoughts or advice is appreciated.



that is never good seeing how these cubes arent very fond of that chemical....

#3 crazy1

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 06:34 AM

Usually the ammonia is a sign the compost wasn't completely done.
I'm working on some as well. But I"m opting for the longer time frame on mine.
Did you add gypsum/dry wall into your mix? This is usually added at the second or third turning.
The strange thing is in my compost I'm not getting the ammonia smell as early in the process as most of what I've read.
But it's still looking good and keeping it's temp.
Sure hope you find out the problem.

#4 Myc

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 10:09 AM

You are correct.
Obviously wasn't finished composting
But I couldn't tell until after hot water bath pasteurization
Followed Stamets' Long Composting method
Supplements, additives, rates, and ratios covered in the thread I linked.

My concern is that by continuing to mess with this batch
I'll render the stuff useless anyway by over-composting

Guess I'll scrap this batch and use it for the garden.
It'll make good potting soil. :)

Ammonia production is initiated by high temps in the compost pile
Will supplement the pile with alfalfa hay next time and see what happens.
Get those temps way up early in the cycle and keep 'em there
To exhaust ammonia production.

#5 Lazlo

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 10:35 AM

Being there's traces of ammonia in the product, a conditioning is needed to convert the ammonia to a useful food source for mushrooms. This can be achieved by bringing the compost temperature up to 120 degrees for 24-30 hours. Ammonia converting microorganisms grow and feed well at this temperature. After that duration is up, the compost temperature can be raised to 145 degrees for 4-6 hours pasteurizing the product. Then a second conditioning at 120 degrees is administered after pasteurization to replenish suitable microorganisms and to allow a finishing of ammonia conversion. If you can still detect ammonia in the air, continue with the second conditioning until there's no trace odor of ammonia. This could very well take up to a couple of days, but is well worth it once you're final product is perfecto.

#6 golly

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 11:39 AM

Then there is plan B, which actually works pretty well in a pinch..
Kill the nitrifying bacteria by boiling/baking..Soon as it's cool ,spawn generously ..
The myc will take over b4 the bacteria has a chance to kick start the composting cycle..
I had to do this with worm poo that wasn't fully digested...

#7 Lazlo

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 12:34 PM

I suppose you could do something like that, or a leaching of some sort. The ammonia is in a salt form, so you better do it well.

This is where the old Ranco comes into play so well.

#8 gsmith1981

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 01:12 PM

just got my ranco today thanks for that info

#9 Myc

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 03:17 PM

Golly and Lazlo,
Thank you both for your advice
I sometimes just need a little help getting the gears turning

Lazlo,
Your advice makes sense.
I suppose I'll have to build a steam pasteurizer like Sandman's

Or just consider composting it all over again
treating the "finished" compost as my manure component in the new compost calculation (your opinions please ?)

The consistency of the compost is beginning to get "muddy" when pasteurized with a hot water bath.
I have probably in excess of 80 lbs of this material
And I've blown my hobby money for awhile on a microscope/ digital USB camera :(
So building a steam pasteurizer is temporarily out of the question

I'm going to try a small oven pasteurization batch and see what happens. This method is somewhat parallel to what Golly was suggesting. I'm kinda nervous about sterilizing a substrate - since that's the purpose of compost is to stimulate beneficial microbes to assist in holding off contams 'til the myc can take over.
Will report back in this thread.

#10 Lazlo

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 03:22 PM

Is the compost sticky?

#11 golly

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 03:32 PM

Well it is plan B..for a situation where you gotta have it..But yes all competitors and beneficials will be waxed...Spawning liberally keeps the odds in your favour ...Remaining ammonia will gas out..

#12 Myc

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 03:59 PM

thought some pics might help
here's a representative compost sample
IMG_1567.JPG

closeup
IMG_1568.JPG

Compressed
IMG_1569.JPG

Broken up
IMG_1570.JPG

IMO, it appears to be the right consistency/ moisture content
No odor of ammonia present
Retains its shape after compression
Breaks apart easily

When used as a bulk substrate (indoors)
It colonizes normally
Even puts on a first pinset
Then the tiny pins abort
And nothing else happens
When spawned outdoors, unpasteurized
Rapid colonization occurs
When the myc reaches the surface
It is taken over and parasitized by trich
End of grow - game over
Go figure - I've NEVER lost an outdoor grow - even with contamed subs
Not in a hurry for mushrooms or anything
Just trying to solve this little mystery

All in all, I'm not hosed
I've got walking-distance, ready access to as much leached, dried, aged cow manure as I can load in a 3/4 ton truck
And a bale of straw to mix 50/50

I'm just concerned that my
Urban Composting 101 Thread
May be flawed and therefore - bad advice!
I want to straighten out where the error is before I put out a warning
Wouldn't want anyone else to follow into my pitfalls

#13 Lazlo

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Posted 30 July 2008 - 06:33 PM

If the compost feels sticky/gummy, the compost isn't suitable for mushroom cultivation. It will bloom bread molds rather quickly as well.

#14 crazy1

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 06:40 AM

Myc I also added hay to the mix at the beggining.
It was about a 10% of mix ratio, dry that is.
The pile did heat up quite fast and it reached 120°F within 2 days.
Then I turned the pile and the temps just don't seem to get back up above 95-100°F. Not to sure why though.
I'm using aged horse poo in the pile though not cow as you are.
Now I did make an attempt to get the temps back up with the addition of Blood Meal (had some laying around).
Not the wisest move this week lol
A dang skunk got in a tore the pile all to hell that night.
I'm happy to say the bugger didn't spray the pile.
But I'll report the actual temp findings here latter.
But all in all your compost looks good, I'm still not sure though why you'd be getting the ammonia smell after pasteurization.
This is a very good learning experience though.
Good Luck

#15 Myc

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Posted 31 July 2008 - 01:58 PM

OK
So I dug into the problem (pun intended)
Took out the whole pile
Measure pH
And found the overall pH to be 6.0
Not acceptable

Upon reading the instruction on the bag of gypsum
it is listed to provide:
Calcium (which should help basify the pH)
Useful in leaching out salts (as in the ammonia)

I added another 5-7 lbs of gypsum
Will continue to turn the pile @ two day intervals
Monitoring pH and ammonia levels
Adding gypsum until pH is @ 7.0-7.4
I think this effort can be salvaged

I just got lazy and quit turning the pile when I felt that it was finished
Will continue reporting results

#16 crazy1

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 07:21 AM

hey any updates on you pile?
Mine finished up very nicely.
Hope the same for you :thumbup:

#17 Lazlo

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 09:50 AM

By the way, what are the ingredients you're using Myc?

#18 Myc

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 10:47 AM

Pile ingredients:
!00 lbs h-poo - no stall litter - woodshavings/ straw/ etc.
20 lbs wheat straw
20 lbs fresh grass clippings
2.25 lbs blood meal
1.25 lbs bone meal
5 lbs gypsum
I've been turning this pile faithfully every other day since I began this thread. The ammonia smell (which wasn't evident prior to pasteurization) is still not evident.
The compost structure/ texture hasn't changed
The addition of 5 lbs more gypsum has altered the pH to acceptable levels.
I haven't tested the compost again yet - gotta build more spawn.
Every effort using this substrate whether pasteurized (for indoor) or not (for outdoor) has gone green. Bread mold or trich - I'm not sure - warrants some microscopic contam investigation methinks. ;)
My guess is that the pile was over-supplemented with nitrogen
Resulting in prolonged ammonia release.
I'm starting another smaller effort to see if I can sort this thing out.

#19 crazy1

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 08:50 PM

hmmm mine has stall litter.
But either way, I've also had the green monster in some grows.
Now I also added bone meal (which I now think is not the best idea) and those were the contamed grows.
I think you're right about the scope for a better view.
But what if anything could we be looking for????
If it's a factor of bone mea how will we know????
Hey man sure glad we both have the same things happening.
But sure hope we figure them out! lol
My second batch is on it's way to a member, 10 lbs of it.
We'll see how it turns out in someone else's hand other than mine.

#20 Myc

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 10:09 PM

New pile is underway.
I'm leaving the bone meal out this time.
Was using it as a nitrogen/ nutrition source but I wonder if it has caused the ill effects.
Added alfalfa at of 20% (of the total dry weight) for nitrogen

I'm also pre-wetting and windrowing this effort opposed to last time.
Won't make up the pile for another 3 days.
Might update and post the method in another thread.




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