New To Composting......I Need Your Help

minkies(8)March 13, 2014

Okay, I'm new here. Last year was my first ever garden and I had almost too much success with Square Foot Gardening lol. This inspired me to tackle composting. My family & I are avid juicers, which means WAY tons of fruit & veg scraps. I mean alot. My hubby built me a Pinterest inspired compost box last fall, Here's my issue, I am adding to it so frequently ( a large tupperware bowl everyday) that it never really breaks down. Last week my mom told me to go buy another bin as it will never finish at this rate. So off I went to my local green depot and got a classic black compost bin. I got a bale of dirt, added that and some leaves and am now also adding compost accelorator to this new composter and my old one.
My question is how long will my old compost pile take ( rough estimate?) do I stop turning it? it is FULL of worms :) I have no idea what I'm doing here and was hoping for some compost to use in this summers garden.
How do other people who have super huge amounts of kitchen scraps do this?
Thanks for any insight.

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What besides the kitchen scraps are you adding to that mix? Compost is a mixture of materials that are high Carbon and high Nitrogen, sometimes referred to as Browns and Greens although some greens are brown in color (manure). Kitchen scraps, fruit and vegetable waste, are generally considered to be greens, high Nitrogen and will need large amounts of high carbon, browns, for the bacteria that will digest that material to work on. Compost in a working pile will, generally, have 3 parts of brown, or high carbon, material to 1 part of green, or high Nitrogen, material.
So, what, besides the fruit and vegetable waste, do you have to add to the compost? Leaves that fall from deciduous trees? Straw? Paper and cardboard? Materials that have a Carbon to Nitrogen ratio over 30 to 1 are considered browns, or carbons while materials with a Carbon to Nitrogen ratio less than 30 to 1 are considered greens, or high Nitrogen.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 6:25AM
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Great reply thank you! I add shredded newspaper and leaves too, although not
Nearly in the amount you suggest. So what I should
Do is add scraps, then some leaves and newspaper/ cardboard. How often do I turn it?
Now that it's nice out I'm outside a lot and fight the urge to turn it everyday, if I want my old pallet
Composter to speed up should I cover it with plastic?

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 12:45PM
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Compost accelerator products are a waste of money in the opinions of many folks. Myself included. It will not make a cold pile get hot if the other basics are not already there -- small particles, proper moisture range, good mix of green to browns. And the heat won't stick around if the pile or bin is not big enough.

And if you have the right mix, you don't need a compost accelerator. Won't hurt to put a handful of soil or finished compost in your bin or pile.

How long until the compost is done -- that is one of the most asked questions in composting. The answer is, like so many things in life -- it depends. It depends on how much you know about the composting process. It depends on your ingredients, the size of same, how often you turn and water the compost, if you are hot composting, and some other stuff.

I'll say one month to four years, that is the range. One month IMHO would be a hot pile, and skimping on the curing/maturation/stability stage. Ranges in the years would be a cold pile, mix not optimal, and large woody material.

Even though my compost piles sometimes heat up to the 140-160F range two or three days after I make the pile, I don't consider my compost done in less than 3 or 4 months.

I suggest you buy a compost thermometer instead of spending money on composting accelerators. That way you can learn what the inside of your pile is doing.

Having a lot of worms is a indication that your pile is currently cold, and also that there is more breakdown still to go. Nothing the matter with cold composting, if you are willing to wait for it. Lots of folks get in a hurry and get frustrated.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 3:00PM
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Here's a shot of my pallet one and my new black one. I am eating up this advice! Thank you! So I need to basically add more brown, keep it watered and chill out lol.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 6:43PM
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People may disagree with me on this method and it is OK. I find that the cheapest and most efficient way to compost kitchen scraps is to dig the scraps directly into the soil or toss them around established plants or trees. They may look unsightly for a few days. But when the scraps shrink, it is very easy to turn them over. I have started doing this last year and noticed that the plants with the scraps do better than the plants w/o scraps toss on them, The direct contact of the scraps with the soil speed up the composting process. You do not need to buy expensive compost tumblers or mix brown scrpas or turn the pile.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 6:54PM
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You don't say what climate zone you are in but if you are not in the frozen north you could bury the compost with the worms in your garden anytime. By the time you plant it will likely be decomposed. Earthworms can turn veggie trimmings into castings very quickly and you will have the best fertilizer.

I also, like kousa, do trench composting. I live in the cold north so every day from April til October I bury the daily accumulation of kitchen scraps between plants. I have at least a quart, sometimes as much as a gallon, every day. During the winter I collect it in a black composter then mix with sawdust/fine shavings when the weather warms and make a compost pile. I occasionally turn it but am not concerned how long it takes. Sometimes it's done enough in a few months, sometimes a couple of years! LOL Depends how much effort I put into it.

The bale of dirt you started with is not necessary, nor recommended, to make compost. You just need to balance all those greens with more browns.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2014 at 9:13PM
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Thanks guys! I did actually take a wheelbarrow of the goods out of the pallet pile and dug trenches in my beds and threw it in and covered it up. I will stop putting soil
In, thanks for the tip! As soon as I can find one I'll get a compost thermometer but as someone said if I have that many worms then it's obviously not very hot in there. Tomorrow I'm adding more leaves and newspaper to my pallet as it has very little right now. You guys are awesome, thanks for all the info, oh , I'm in Vancouver Canada, we can grow pretty much anything here and we are already getting spring buds on tree's :)

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 1:47AM
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This composting tutorial may be of some help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Composting Tutorial

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 6:15AM
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Minkies, your climate zone is likely 7/8 depending on where you are in the lower mainland so you will be able to make compost fairly quickly with the correct mix. I'm upcountry in BC in zone 3 which is a different situation for gardening.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2014 at 2:06PM
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Luckygal, if you click on the "My Page" thingy next to minkies name you will see that they are in Canada, and zone 8. Kind of, somewhat as helpful as saying one is in the United States because of the very different soils and climates there are from Newfoundland to British Columbia.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 7:00AM
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Kimm, I hadn't clicked on minkies page as he/she in a previous post said they lived in Vancouver, Canada, Since I know Vancouver well I know there are variations in the zones depending on whether one lives at sea level or up a mountain!

I've lived and gardened from sea to sea in Canada so am quite familiar with the various climates.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2014 at 10:39AM
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A must-have goal that active-composting people believe in is a hot managed pile. I, however, being arguably the laziest gardener north of the Mexican border, know deep down in my heavily mulched heart that the best compost is in the pile that I'll dig into next year. Clearly I look at "accelerators" as even more gimmicky than Bokashi (no hate mail please! I'm both lazy AND cheap).

All the little microbes you could ever need are already in any old soil from pretty much anywhere underfoot or under the pile. Like the worms: if you build it they will come.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2014 at 2:44AM
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