Hi Mr. Baldy: I am a little limited right now on time, but I will work on part of your question now and try to add more in the coming days....or perhaps someone else will chime in, too???
I want to know more about doing my own compost; how long do seeds last; and how to make my soil fertile - despite those darn rocks!
This is by far the best thing you can do for natural soil, we commonly refer to as "black gold." There are two ways to compost. One is to make a small pile, wet it and turn it frequently, and the things in it will break down fast, but you will have limited compost. I do not use this method for two reasons, first....time....I don't have the time to stay with it and second....I like to add compost once, which means about a month before setting my plants, I put the compost where I'll need it, hoe it in (or till it in) and it's all better.
The method I use is called "slow cook." In the slow cook method, you add throughout the year and turn only occasionally. I let the rain wet it over the winter months, and in the summer months, I wet it, completely cover it with a tarp (so that it will get hotter, killing all bacteria and causing the composting materials to break down faster). Since it's covered, you will get some greenhouse effect (your water will stay), but you will need to wet it every few weeks while it's covered.
Slow compost piles do best with 2 parts dead material and 1 part live. Dead are leaves that have fallen and tea bags/coffee bags, white paper....live are green things (trimmed shrub leaves...as long as you dont use chemicals on them, and spent plants you pull from the ground like annuals in the fall, etc).
What to put on it:
All fruit and vegetable trimmings from the kitchen (peels from onion, lemon, oranges.....rotted cucumbers that sat in the fridge too long....that sort of thing).
Shred white paper or newspaper. This is fantastic for your compost pile. Nothing shiny....only dull white paper....no ink coloring aside from black and white. White paper and newspaper add a TON of nitrogen to your soil....your veggies love nitrogen!
Fireplace ashes....burn the wood, put the ashes in your compost bin. If all you burn is artificial logs, don't put that in your compost pile....probably full of chemicals. (this is my opinion, I don't know what the "science" position is on this)
tea bags and coffee grinds.
Raked leaves from the yard....pinecones and sticks are fine, but they will take more than a year to break down, which is fine. I put these in, as pine is great for compost, but I have to pick the half composted sticks and cones out of my compost and put them back on the pile....they'll be ready next year.
egg shells.....they're fantastic. Actually, through the growing season, I break these up and put them around my tomato plants...tomato loves egg shells.
paper towels....(no grease, only towels you've wiped your clean hands with or used to clean up fruit and vegetable messes...)
No chemicals in your compost, no oil in your compost, no meat in your compost.....
Here's an article I cut and pasted from the internet...I hope it will come through:http://www.geo.hunter.cuny.edu/~mclarke ... ompost.htm