Gardening in Kentucky

Not strictly woodgas, but it’s one of my pursuits. This thread is just to share a few of my gardening experiences, from a woodgassers point of view.

As some of you know, I’m currently in town, on about an acre. This could be productive land, although animals are not allowed (well, not useful ones… dogs and cats are OK). However it has been mowed continuously since the 1940s, so the soil is not so fertile. It needs a lot of TLC to get back in good gardening shape.

First up for this year; we got 14 of these plastic barrels, because they were $3 each and it was a long trip to get them.

These should be useful for a lot of things. First project, a compost tumbler.

Another couple will be rain barrels, and some more will be potato planters.

I plan to use a bunch of biochar this year. I’ll try to post results as we go.


That is very cool. We are doing the same thing. I’m going to copy your frame. We get our white barrels for free at car wash places. Check them out in your town. Dana’s dad works at one, he brings home about 6 every month. They have to pay to get rid of them so Frank cuts the top out and gives them to the metal recycling center. He has given them over 25. He told me just drop his name and tell them who you are and they will cut you a really good deal. I haven’t try it yet, but I will.

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That’s really ironic… I just threw together some parts I happened to have. The ends are from a collapsible sawhorse I built several years back. You can use just about anything for a frame… or use no frame, just roll it around on the ground.

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Chris, that’s what we were going to do is just roll them around on the ground. But for dumping them out into a wheel barrel I thought the frame would work better.

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I like it Chris. I have a black plastic barrel with an open top and a clamp to secure it. I plan on using a composting toilet. It needs to be aerated. What do you think, a dozen ½" holes around the perimeter on the ends?

Wuldent holes on the bottom leak out the content out and clog them? Maybe if you put some straw on the bottom and in between the “material” to soak the liquids a bit?

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Are these a fad or do they really work? I thought about trying that too but I compost a lot of stuff every year and one barrel would be just toying with it. I water my piles and turn them regularly after the heat subsides. I heard that the barrels make compost faster but has anyone actually tried it? It makes me wonder every spring when I see a lot of them for sale or even free on Craigslist.

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These are the critical factors I think about for a compost pile:
Location (total area needed and proximity to garden), carefully combining measured ingredients (C:N ratio by dry weight), PH, particle size (shredding), inoculation (microbes from compost or dirt), moisten (add & avoid excess), amass (minimum optimum volume), aerate (in and under—vents, wood chips or turning), control temperature (insulate or climate requirements).
Each of these factors can affect the effectiveness of your composting process. The tolerance for error in most of these factors goes down with the diminishing size of the batch and trying to adjust all this as you go in a small composter can be maddening. I have created good hot quick compost in a small tumbler by being very careful with each of the above. It is much better to do your best with the above in a big pile (>4’ X 4’ X 4’ preferred).
Charcoal does not count as C in your mix since it is not bioavailable to the microbes, although microbes do love living inside of the pores. Remember also that charcoal’s ability to adsorb water and nitrogen can affect your recipe. It may also be possible to use larger pieces of charcoal to provide some aeration assistance. I haven’t got this figured out yet, so am very happy to see this topic.

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Yes, but the holes on top will breathe. Any way you rotate it some holes will be on top. You do need some adsorbent material inside to aid the composting, but leakage is OK too - don’t want it to be too wet.

I have to think they work, I’ve seen a lot of people building and using them. I’ll let you know in a month or two!

At the scale Don makes compost, the barrels don’t make sense. But, for a smaller amount, it will make turning a lot easier, and keeps the pile neater. Eventually I will build a bigger composting bin.

I expect you’re right. However the worst that can happen is, it doesn’t compost. Then I dump it out and try again.

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Bill, I don’t know much about composting human waste. Your big issue there will be odor and sanitation… I’d want to know it was very well done before it comes anywhere near the garden.


The simple solution for quick, safe, odor free reuse of solid “waste” is charcoal and heat. A little charcoal sprinkled in the poop side and pee side of your urine diversion dry toilet UDDT makes it odor free. Take feces up to pasteurization temp >165F for 30 minutes and even the nastiest parasite eggs are toast. If you are making charcoal, in a retort or in a top lit up draft (TLUD) clean cooking stove, there is plenty of heat for this.
If you use a metal container to poop into, you can heat it without getting exposed to pathogens.
Since we excrete much more pee than poo, UDDT separation solves lots of problems. A 5 gallon metal bucket holds a lot of BMs. No need for a fancy UD seat. Clip two metal buckets together with a wide piece of metal or heated plastic. Place a regular enlongated toilet seat on a frame a few inches high resting on your buckets and you have a great camp or boat toilet.

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Regarding compost tumblers; we have one (storebought) and yes they do work. Mom’s the one that knows the most about it, but the trick as I understand is getting the ratio of carbon to nitrogen correct. If you get it perfect you can have a turnaround time of a bit more than 14 days, but getting it perfect is where the trick is. a compost thermometer is nice to know how hot it is how fast, and therefore data on how good your mix is.

The people that say that they don’t work (or work really slow) are usually the ones who don’t have a perfect mix, and they are right; they don’t work if your mix is wrong.

Hope this helps,



I was refering to the composting toilet there Chris. If there is a lot of urine in the barrel might get a bit messy to operate :grin:

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Composting toilets was a well represented topic at the MEN fair last month. Sorry, I didn’t pay any attention as I have no present need for one. Childhood memories include sprinkle lime on everything.

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You might be a little careful collecting rain water. Algae will begin to build up inside there after using it a few years, which is not always a terrible thing, but it does get kind of slimy & can be persistent kind of like mold, it wants to come back.

When my plastic drum is full of rain water, I cap it off to keep the mosquitoes from living in it, also seems to keep the rainwater fresh…longer when capped off. And you might consider making a filter (flannel shirt) for the rain water, there is a lot of pollen (which kind of gives the algae a head start) and if you have a maple or oak tree nearby, those can cast off a lot of debris during the spring rains.

If you use a inlet filter of some type, you might make the filter quickly serviceable during those heavy spring rains, because various debris will accumulate quickly. If you have fire place soot that accumulates on your roof, if it becomes concentrated in the rain barrel that stuff doesn’t help plants grow much.

Hard Freezing could present a problem, but those drums are very tough.

At $3 each you should be able to triple your money, just by bringing them home. Once you have rain in a barrel, you might be surprized how quick 550 gal. can be used especially while working in a new garden place. Mulch & compost not only conserves water, but it improves the dirt.

Charcoal in the dirt is not a bad idea, unless it is fresh…then it still has some caustic properties to it, takes about a 6 mo. for it to mellow out while in the dirt, some people soak their charcoal in various concoctions. If you can pulverize your charcoal to dust, it blends easily with the dirt, that way you won’t be running into the same old pieces of charcoal year after year, the chunky charcoal kind of acts like rocks when raking a row & might end up at the end of the row along with rocks, roots & other debris. Charcoal chunks if you have a lot of it make a ‘different looking’ top dressing type mulch that is reuseable, like around a shrub or tree, won’t prevents grass from growing thru it like leaf mulch does.


A good thing about being in northern Kentucky is there are a lot of horse farms here. A quick look on Craigslist turned up plenty of free horse manure, some places even load it for you… I guess not enough people want it. A lot of people say horse manure is the best kind for your garden.

I know, a Dakota is not a farm truck. However in a pinch, it does a fair job. I got a truck and trailer load today, will be back for more soon!


Hey Chris, Are you going to wood gas that Dakota? Not moving to Va.?

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Yes and maybe. This truck build will wait until I finish the mini-WK. The VA move isn’t settled yet, so I will push ahead on the garden here.


How is the garden coming Chris? I been working on expanding mine but the weather is not here yet. Have some cold weather crops sprouting but not much growth beings we are still having frost more nights than not.

Thanks for the reminder. Here’s some current pics.

Overview. Note the pile of mulch left, and the manure right.

Seedlings, in front are (mostly) brassicas and lettuce, middle is tomatoes, rear is peppers.

Potatoes are looking well.