Salt in kitchen scraps and urine

The International Compost Sanitation Forum and Message Board: Humanure Handbook - A Guide to Composting Human Manure: Salt in kitchen scraps and urine
Author: Knothead (Knothead)
Wednesday, May 16, 2012 - 11:33 am
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I actually had a nice little crop of potatoes this year. They weren't salty though. :-)

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Tuesday, May 15, 2012 - 6:20 pm
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Just had a funny thought, Knothead. Maybe you could grow a packet of potato chips already salted!

But don't tell the competitors, they will want to buy your patent!

Author: Knothead (Knothead)
Monday, May 14, 2012 - 7:13 pm
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I've been composting intensively for about four years. I have always composted my kitchen scraps as well as the scraps from a couple of neighbors.
Like Ken, I also use biochar. Mine is mostly added to the compost through the humanure in that I mix it with my sawdust.
I live on the water on the Gulf coast and have had salt water inundate my entire yard on at least two occasions.
My yard consists pretty much of what it was built of. Dredged Florida bay bottom. I add my compost to the sandy soil mostly by making beds or by digging holes to plant trees. I also use it to fertilize the existing trees.
I really can't imagine that any table salt in the compost would even hold a candle to what the soil has already had to deal with.
I also think that it must dissolve and rinse out of the soil if there is too much of it.
Now I don't know if it's the improved soil or if I'm finally getting the hang of growing stuff, but I've had a pretty nice vegetable garden for the first time this year.

Author: Ken (Ken)
Sunday, May 13, 2012 - 9:57 am
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Oops, sorry for the double post.

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 9:50 pm
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Thank you Ken and Demeter. This is the sort of thread, exchanging information, which helps enormously.

Author: Ken (Ken)
Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 9:43 pm
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Interesting thread going on here.
This is my 11th or 12th year composting humanure. The first year was a test to satisfy myself to see if it really worked. It did and then I built bins and have not stopped since.
I now have six bins in various stages. The curing bins are loaded with red worms, in fact I cannot tell you how many I have given away.
Our crops have never been better and seem to winter over when others around us loose theirs to cold and frost. I also use biochar, have been for four years.
I probably use more salt than one should and I have NEVER had a problem with the compost. Neighbors call it gormet compost.
Don't know if this helps or not, but thought I would chime in.

Author: Ken (Ken)
Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 9:41 pm
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Interesting thread going on here.
This is my 11th or 12th year composting humanure. The first year was a test to satisfy myself to see if it really worked. It did and then I built bins and have not stopped since.
I now have six bins in various stages. The curing bins are loaded with red worms, in fact I cannot tell you how many I have given away.
Our crops have never been better and seem to winter over when others around us loose theirs to cold and frost. I also use biochar, have been for four years.
I probably use more salt than one should and I have NEVER had a problem with the compost. Neighbors call it gormet compost.
Don't know if this helps or not, but thought I would chime in.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 2:24 pm
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The research has been done.
Hundreds of elementary school children do this sort of thing for their science project.
Here's a start for what has been done at the university level:
https://www.fao.org/docrep/R4082E/r4082e08.htm

Author: Ecointerest (Ecointerest)
Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 7:11 am
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Pizza, your points are well taken, thank you for persisting. All that has been written so far is quite valid for the "salts" in urine, but as you point out, sodium chloride could present a different situation.
I suppose the answer will depend upon how much extra sodium chloride is used in the household. I personally don't use much on or in my cooked food, but the soft-spread butter I use has the higher level of salt. (Salt was originally used as the preservative. Maybe we don't need so much now we have a fridge.)
Other sources of sodium would be s.bicarbonate if it is used for an "alternative" cleanser; some dish washing and clothes detergents have s.chloride as a filler, packing out the volume to think you have more of the good stuff; even hand soap I believe is made using caustic soda (s.hydroxide) to saponify the fats.
I expect more research would have to be done by the horticultural faculties to find the answer to your question.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Saturday, May 12, 2012 - 1:31 am
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Pizza,
To directly answer your questions:
1. No
2. Yes
3. Yes and no. Composting builds soil; it doesn't cause erosion. The sustainablity concerns are for people who don't compost.

Why don't you start composting and see the results for yourself?

You are right in that salt in concentrations which are hyperosmotic to plants is certainly not good for them. This is easily shown by putting a tablespoon of salt into a glass of water with a plant cutting in it.

But we are talking about composting, not plants in a vase. The compost pile is a community of organisms which will use what little salt is in urine and kitchen scraps to their benefit. Many of the people on this forum, including myself have been composting in this manner for several years, and we have beautiful gardens to show for it.

Author: Pizza (Pizza)
Friday, May 11, 2012 - 8:11 pm
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One of the reasons why I like this book so much is because it debunks many composting myths, it's thorough and well researched, citing authoritative sources to back up its claims.

The fact that Joe says that you should compost urine and scrap food *implies* that salt is not an issue, which is indeed my working hypothesis, but it doesn't even start to address my point.

Fact: Plants don't like salt
Fact: Sodium intake in the West is way above what would occur in "nature"
Fact: Salt does not rot (although it may certainly take part of chemical reactions in the compost heap that bind the Na+, dunno)

Question: Are the residual levels of salt in our excrements and kitchen waste likely to adversely affect growth of plants, when composted?
Question: Are some plants more salinity-tolerant than others?
Question: Are there any sustainability concerns, e.g. long-term land erosion?

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Friday, May 11, 2012 - 12:15 am
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If you have an online version of the book, do a search for "kitchen scraps" and "urine." Joe says to compost them. End of story.

Author: Pizza (Pizza)
Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 11:16 am
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I have read the book, my apologies if I missed the answer.

Author: Demeter (Demeter)
Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 10:57 am
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Those people haven't really done any composting. Read the book. The problem is addressed.

Author: Pizza (Pizza)
Thursday, May 10, 2012 - 10:09 am
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Hello, I have a question that I did not see answered in the book, yet I hear it come up often.
Is salt in urine and (cooked) kitchen scraps bad for plants? Some people advise to avoid composting kitchen scraps for that reason...

Thanks!

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