Compost Mistakes

patchworkfarm(6)May 19, 2010

Most compost mistakes are pretty easy to correct. A few, though, may haunt you for a while. I've made a mistake that I have to face again and again for the last 5 years.

I compost in various places around my place. I usually try to get one good hot pile going a year. The other piles are tucked along the pastures and in the woods where they slow compost for a year or two before harvesting.

September six years ago, I decided to hot compost right at the edge of the veggie garden. We also butchered chickens for the first time that year, and I added the by-products of that event to the pile. Once winter set in, the pile cooled, but we ate chicken all winter and I added the spent carcasses to the now cold pile.

Come spring planting time, I spread the pile on the garden, sifting out some still intact bones into my new cold pile. In the fall of that year, I spread the new pile into the garden before winter, figuring that those bones would HAVE to compost by spring.

I just planted my fourth vegetable garden since that cycle. I'm still finding intact chicken bones. Brittle, but still intact. By the scores, still.

I have learned my lesson. For the last 3 years, I now stew all my cooked chicken bones in the crockpot overnight. As a result I get both chicken stock for the freezer, and maleable bones much more suitable for the compost pile.

What's your most memorable compost mistake?

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That's a good hint about the bones ... getting stock, plus cooked bones.

My composting mistake was telling my daughter that I OCCASIONALLY add urine to my pile to heat it up. Oh my gosh, you'd have thought I was doing human sacrifice to 'feed' my compost pile. So after assuring her that I will NEVER do that again [fingers crossed] I resolved to not tell a non-composter too many gory details about the composting process.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 9:47PM
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Why do you care?
I'd care, but for only two reasons---my dog would go crazy trying to get to them and
b.) actually I've got no b.) chicken bones aren't that sharp.

My worst mistake involved my 100% Haddock bin (I know. Who'd see that coming?). The stench was bad, but the worst was driving extremely sharp bones into my thumb, while gardening, for several years.

Is it getting speared that you object to? Or your dog finding your garden irresistible?

    Bookmark   May 19, 2010 at 9:57PM
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dottyinduncan(z8b coastal BC)

Let me get this straight: you use cooked chicken bones, etc. in your compost pile? Don't you get rats? I'd love to get rid of this residue but have been afraid to do so.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 2:25AM
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I dont object to the bones per se. The number of them just creeps me out a bit. Some days it feels like I'm planting in the poultry graveyard. My vegetable garden is right in front of the hen house and yard. I try not to let the "ladies" see what I'm uncovering out here.

You're right--didn't see the haddock thing coming!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 5:47AM
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flora_uk(SW UK 8/9)

There are NO compost mistakes .... except NOT composting.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 6:04AM
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In another life, with hubby #1, we got a plastic composting bin from the county burn facility. They were selling them for around $20 to promote home composting.

We dutifully filled the bin with kitchen scraps, lawn clippings, weeds from the garden, leaves, etc. and waited. It was hot for a short time (very short) and then it went cold. We never turned it. It sat all winter in a corner of our garden. When spring came I enlisted hubby #1 to pull the bin off and spread the contents in the garden. We started to pitch fork the "compost" (in retrospect it was still a pile of grass, leaves, kitchen scraps, and weeds). The pile came to life. There were literally hundreds of mice living in this little 3x3x3 bin. Every turn of the fork revealed mouse families. They started to scatter. Some escaped to the neighboring field, some met their fate with the back of a shovel, but one little guy found his way up hubby #1's pant leg.

I will never forget the sight of him dancing around, stomping on the ground and screaming like a girl. In fact, I'm smiling now just thinking about it.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 10:21AM
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GawdinFever(z5b/St. Louis, MO)

momstar, that's hilarious!!! "...screaming like a girl..." LMBO

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 10:42AM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

My most recent compost mistake was composting a table top display that I won (oh yeah) as a door prize. It was a fall decor, mini-straw bale with dried flowers and a scarecrow on it. When I got home, I seperated out the plastic flowers from the dried ones. Tossed the plastic into the garbage and tossed the dried flowers on to the compost pile. I busted up the mini straw bale and mixed it into the compost bin. The next day, as I inspected the pile closer, I realized the mini-straw bale was made out of plastic straw. GRRR.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 10:56AM
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momstar, I'm confused, the "mistake" was hubby #1?



    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:03AM
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BorderBarb, "you'd have thought I was doing human sacrifice to 'feed' my compost pile."
I thought that was a requirement to be a member of this forum?

Because I thought annoying neighbors added nitrogen to the pile????

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:25AM
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Momstar wins!

dottyinduncan: I too have composted many bones after boiling for stock. The turning point was the year I boiled up the Thanksgiving turkey carcass for stock and put the entire remains (bones, skin, vegetables) in the center of a hot pile. By spring all I found was the breast bone. Never a rat, and I've always had the occasional mouse regardless of what was in the piles. They burrow into drier piles in the winter to keep warm.

I don't recommend beef and pork bones - due to their density they will not break down and you'll see them over and over.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:25AM
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berryman, not a requirement per se, but we do give bonus points. That and having large, diesel burning, pieces of machinery.



    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:49AM
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Lloyd, hubby #1 was just the FIRST mistake.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 11:55AM
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berryman ... annoying NEIGHBORS? Oh yes, especially the one whose rat-harboring algerian ivy monster is destroying my fence. But not annoying a dear DAUGHTER who looks out for her old mamma. She thinks [knows] I'm strange, but still loves me ... doesn't get any better than that.

Re: human sacrifice being a requirement to be in this forum ....I didn't know that.... OMG! my fantasy life just got a whole lot richer....the list of potential donors is soooo long!

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 1:26PM
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(Snort) I've got this one neighbor who...well, never mind the details...

I haven't yet added bones to the pile, but it dawned on me recently that duh - that was a free source of bone meal. So I Googled it. Folks on another forum sure do it in spades - I was amazed by the types and quantities of animal carcasses some people compost. Quite entertaining stories.

I'm saving bones now to make stock, then add to the pile. I'm not worried about rodents of any type - I outsource that problem to our small but ferocious cat. I'd worry about rats, since they are a decent percentage of her size, but I've never seen one here, dead or alive.

I suspect my 14 year old of entertaining her friends by telling them of my composting & gardening obsessions. I teased her with the peeing thing a few weeks ago, but I've never tried it.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2010 at 3:09PM
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When I first started composting I read that you need to layer the food scraps, plant wastes, small sticks and dirt in your compost pile. I tended then to use the dirt on top to cover the undesirable looking stuff underneath. It took years to learn that dirt doesn't compost. It just sits there. And it freezes in the winter. And doesn't thaw in MN until about June. It was taking me about two years to make compost. I now make compost in about a year. Not record setting, but better than two years.

That and putting the compost bin too close to the house. The mice were pretty thick last year. In the bin. And the house. I moved my active bin this year next to my neighbors garage instead of my house. I'm not sure that she is impressed.

Even those mistakes weren't bad mistakes. Just improvements.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2010 at 11:30AM
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Not much by the way of bones but I transfer the ceremonial peach pit from bin to bin.

At one time I was collecting an awful lot of coffee grounds so I decided to experiment and mixed in a couple hundred pounds of coffee grounds into about 17 cu ft of bin - about half the bin by volume. I had a dark gooey mess for months of turning and and adding browns. It wasn't a bad experiment in I did get more data. Just a pain in the butt.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 2:02AM
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brdldystlu(5b Mo)

throw the bigger bones in the fire pit during your next fire, when the fire is out use the ash then around your yard/gardens. I have done this for years, burned a bunch of deer bones this past winter, and now see the plants/yard really going to town. The deer processor I get my dogs food from has burned the scraps for years and put them around his roses. They really are pretty every year.
Ok I know people are going to say don't use ash without a soil test first. In small amounts here and there it isn't going to change things to much.
tree huggin' soil worshippin' trash pickin' dog lovin' recyclin' woman
please control the pet population, spay or neuter your pet
Mystic(German shepherd), Ginger ( Vizsla boxer (?)mix) and Pixie (JRT Chihuahua mix)

    Bookmark   May 22, 2010 at 7:33AM
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Oh, you guys have brought such a smile to my otherwise dreary day. I've been sick for ages, it seems.

The mousie-pants dance just made my day!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2010 at 10:40PM
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I was thinking about your ceremonial peach pit over the weekend. I was trying (unsuccessfully) to turn wet soggy compost and came across the blue and white marble that keeps surfacing when I turn.

Hubby said "take it out" but I told him I liked it and wanted it to stay. I may keep that marble transferring from pile to pile until I am in the pile myself.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 10:33AM
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borderbarb: re: invasive vine...can you spell T-o-r-d-o-n?


    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 11:08AM
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I just added compost, corn bread mix, and powdered milk to my garden, around my lo an behold the fence to keep out rabbits and my dog, is not high enough. My dog has already dug up four of my tomatoes. He will eat anything that is edible and loves compost. I think he was a goat in his past life. So the question is, do I stop buying dog food and feed him compost?
Well I learned two things, my fence is not high enough and only add the compost in the spring or fall.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 11:15AM
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My compost is pretty full right now, anyone have room for hubby #1? He is free for anyone lacking in some compost material as he is full of sh*t.
My compost mistake was not composting or gardening because he didn't approve...boy am I glad that is over with=)

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 4:41PM
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tifbee you made me laugh. But don't think I haven't thought about the merits of ex-composting. Back to my problem on the "browns?" thread... I'm guessing an ex that is full of sh*t would be green, right?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 4:52PM
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Building my wood pallet compost pile under a tree was a big mistake. The roots grew up into the pile, and getting the compost out of the bin without getting tangled up in roots was nearly impossible. Sheet composting directly into the garden works much better in my small yard.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 5:03PM
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Thanks for all the responses. Momstar and tifbee--you cracked me up. And Mean, you reminded me that my first compost pile contained soil and it was so hard to turn, I nearly gave up composting there.

Another mistake I've made: I generally have one far from the house pile where I compost kitty litter. I try to keep that one hot, and then only use the resulting compost in perennial plantings far from the house. One especially snowy winter, I started to resent that long walk to the kitty litter/compost pile.

Lazy Me decided that it would be more efficient to walk out the basement door and toss the litter box contents over the hill into the woods 30 feet away. There were plenty of oak leaves and pine needles on that slope. Surely, nature would just compost those things in place! I implemented this plan every three days over the next four months.

The following spring, on one of the first nice days where my husband and I could sit on the front porch, a breeze came through the woods and ruined the taste of my iced tea. My husband turned to me and said, "Do you smell that? It REEKS like cat p*** out here!!!"

I claimed, at the time, that I didn't smell anything of the kind.

While he was golfing the next day, I was teetering on the slope next to the house, raking leaves over a very bad decision.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 6:48PM
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Ha, patchwork, I can imagine the smell...!

My friend once brought me an entire pickup load of food waste from a juice bar/organic restaurant for my birthday. This was in March in Missouri, warm but a month or two away from planting season, so we unloaded it, filled the bins, made lasagne beds the best we could and tried to hide the citrus peels, napkins, moldy beans and whatnot from the neighbors, hoping for the best. Some of it got a bit funky in the spring rains before it composted. I was finding forks and knives for awhile after that too. Actually cleaned them and took em back to the restaurant. They were delighted.

Not a mistake, but deffly an adventure!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 2:00PM
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Ive made a really stupid composting mistake. I thought I could leave some "green" kitchen stuff next to a new tree that I had planted because I didnt have any compost ready at the time and I thought it would be like a TREAT for the little mango tree. Extra vitamins oozing into the ground and all, ya know. Now there are some very disturbing little white worm type things wriggling around a soggy mess and this expensive mango tree looks AWEFUL! the little thing was only a year old when planted, and only planted 7 months ago (the day my daughter was born ,her placenta is under it). Its important to me to not lose it. What can I do to fix my mistake? I can't turn the soil, cuz that would mean digging up the tree, what do I do? can I add something? Would fertilizing help? More water? Less water? I live in Central Florida, does that make a difference?

    Bookmark   March 9, 2011 at 10:25PM
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Only thing that comes to mind is too many eggs from a local restaurant. The eggshell stays around forever. Only benefit I see is that I don't have any issues with slugs but it'll be till the next ice age when all those white flecks break down. Looks like I've added perlite to my garden beds.

If I run my hand through the pile too aggressively I inevitably get a piece under my fingernail...ow!

    Bookmark   March 10, 2011 at 2:08AM
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gardenz4evr(z7 MD)

This has been a fun string to read through. I don't really need to read comics, since this is ten times better and FREE!
I think my biggest mistake may have been when I added something close to twenty pounds of coffee grounds to my 3x3x2(h) pile. In time, ants found it most welcoming and I had hundreds of them creating a small city in the center of the pile. After I broke it up though, I questioned the wisdom of that because they do a great job of breaking (chopping) things up. I decided that, should I have that happen again, I'll just let them do their thing. Plus, that's another thing I love about composting, looking at all the little creatures cruising around. Happy Composting!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2011 at 10:15AM
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lizziem62(z4 Ont.)

has anyone added clumping kitty litter, or am i the only really truly dumbest person alive! if you dont know, it makes a globby sticky horrible mess! it never breaks down. i shoveled it out and put in into the rut in our lane-way. i covered it over with dirt (dirt) and leaves. but after 3 years if you step onto it you sink down and it oozes out around your feet!

    Bookmark   March 25, 2011 at 10:40AM
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You'd think I would know better by now . . .

Break the goose eggs before you put them in the pile. What a horrible smell when your pitchfork finds them months later. Also . . . the contents spray . . . toward you.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2011 at 12:06AM
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