Long term cold composting

farmerkevin(USDA 9)February 5, 2014

I've been in this house for just over 3 years. When I moved in, a neighbor was moving out (I've lived on this street 27-28 years and grew up next door, but now own this house).

Well, my neighbor moving out (other side not this house) gave me his compost bin. He, as well as I, are organic minded. He had ice plant and all kinds of stuff in there. I cleaned it out and sifted through it and have been adding to it myself.

My question is, does compost go bad? How long can I keep it going?

It doesn't stink, and it's not sludgy. It is nice and black and smells sweet. I open the door on the bottom and pull out some good stuff.

I put it coffee grounds, tea bags, weeds, dried leaves, newspaper, leftover/old veggies, citrus peels, etc.

So as long as I keep turning it, and adding to it, it should go for a while. Right? I can't imagine it going "rancid." Or losing nutrients.

Oh and the picture is misleading. This is after turning the pile, and there are some big chunks hiding under the surface. And I just recently added enough leaves and weeds to fill it up the rest of the way.

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What you are doing is as good as any. Anything that might become rancid or other problem is no more likly than if you started a new bin each time. I believe there is advantage in continous inocculation of fresh additions.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 9:49PM
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Thats add as you go composting.
Best when the whole thing is turned & watered everytime its added to. Sometimes they may warm up & get "not quite hot" for a brief period of time. Lots of nutrients are lost in this & any composting process. With add as you go, when you achieve a cycle where finished matl. can be harvested on a regular basis (once a month or so) will help make up the nutrient loss. This can be achieved but be prepared to spend some time turning/mixing & watering.
When harvesting get every last bit of finish stuff each time so its not left there leaching nutrients at the bottom of the pile.
Hope that helps. Have fun & never stop composting!

This post was edited by paleogardener on Wed, Feb 5, 14 at 22:10

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 10:00PM
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If the bin gets too full, remove it from the pile, set it up next to it, and start a new batch. You can fork the stuff off the top of the old pile back into the bin until you get to good compost.

Compost will continue to slowly decompose and shrink, so it's good to use it when it looks like compost, but it certainly won't go bad.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 11:31AM
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I would be inclined to keep my new compost separate from any nice old stuff. Never know what could be in there.

On the other hand in time you might value the older material more. I have become quite picky as to new material going into my bins. Over time my tomato production has fallen greatly. Over fourteen years my clayish soil has had compost dug in each year and added as mulch. The last five years tomatoes have been quite poor compared to the first five years.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 3:45PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Robertz6, I suggest you post on the Tomato forum and see if your problem can be diagnosed.

Were the plants diseased? (What are the symptoms?)

Did you have smaller harvests harvests without apparent other problems?

Did you have big green plants but no tomatoes?

Or maybe poor-tasting tomatoes?

Have you changed the varieties you grow? Which varieties did you grow?

Do you grow other veggies besides tomatoes, and if so, what veggies and did they have problems as well? (And if not other veggies, have you had problems with other plants in the garden?)

Have you had your soil tested lately?

Providing your location would also give a clue about possible weather problems.

[Don't answer me here: I know a little bit, but there are real experts on the Tomato forum.]

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 4:05PM
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farmerkevin(USDA 9)

Well. Bad (good?) news. I was adding new stuff to the bin and when I dug down a bit, I felt heat. It wasn't hot today, kinda overcast in the morning. So I wonder if my pile is starting to heat up? I haven't done anything different. I've been adding the same type ingredients in the same proportions. Only difference is I pulled everything out to repair the bin and turned the pile while I was at it. I guess I no longer have a cold compost going????

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 11:35PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

When compost gets bad, it gets BETTER. (GRIN )

    Bookmark   February 10, 2014 at 10:59PM
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Your pile heated because you introduced air into it when repair was done.
I wouldn't be upset over the bin heating up from time to time. The way I see it is hot is best since it helps prevent part of seeds germinating as well as other issues. Cold is for the time strapped or lazy people. Heating up is somwhat a bonus if it happens. I disagree with turning add as you go cold because when it is hearvested, materials are in various stages of finish. I belive your neighbor intended you to put new on top and maybe stir the top as you feel like it. Material for use pulled from bottom is the oldest in the bin.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 1:04AM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

'Cold is for the time strapped or lazy people.'

klem - I prefer to call it efficiency, rather than laziness ;-) The garden doesn't care how the compost was made.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2014 at 11:11AM
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