'clumping' compost

wanderingoakJuly 6, 2008

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my neighbors and I have a compost tumbler that we are just starting to get the hang of using. One problem that we are experiencing is that the finished compost is not very fine, but rather clumped up in chunks like 'road apples'. We are not certain how to remedy this. One method we are experiencing with is to sun dry the compost out when it is finished 'cooking' in the tumbler, and then running it through a bagging chipper. Is there a more elegant solution to this problem?

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Belgianpup(Wa/Zone 7b)

Two thoughts.

First, is the finished compost recognizable at all? If you can still pick out identifiable materials, it may not be finished yet.

If it isn't recognizable (finished), the amount of moisture in it, combined with the rotating motion, may simply be causing it to form balls. If this is the problem, you may be able to just dump it onto the ground and flatten and break it up with the head of a metal garden rake. Or, just rub the wads between your hands to break up and separate it, dropping it into a tub as you do it.

If you don't intend to use it right away (yeah, right), you could put all the lumps into a bottomless container, keep it slightly damp, and drop a few earthworms into it (more will find their way from below), and let them finish it up.

If the chunks are really more than you want to deal with, rather than drying it out and running it through a shredder (which seems labor-intensive to me) why not make compost tea out of it, and use it in liquid form? Pour the results directly around the roots, or strain it and spray on the leaves. Be sure to dilute sufficiently, first.

Sue

    Bookmark   July 6, 2008 at 1:52PM
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louisianagal(z7bMS)

Sounds possibly too wet, and not quite finished.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2008 at 11:53PM
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blutarski

i find that carboard seems to 'ball up' readily and will be covered in other material so you can't tell what it is. once you break it open, you see it's wet carboard.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2008 at 11:03PM
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gardenfanatic(MO zone5b)

Whenever my compost is clumped up, it's usually from clumps of grass that never got mixed with the browns. That's why now I don't dump the grass clippings out of the bag, I pull them out by hand and shake them into the pile so they're not clumped up.

Deanna

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 9:51AM
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tclynx

I would probably just bust up the clumps by hand if I were putting the compost into containers. Otherwise I often spread really clumpy stuff on regular garden beds and under the fruit trees etc.

I'm a pretty lazy composter and in the Hot Central FL climate, compost happens pretty quickly without much extra fuss.

Here is a link that might be useful: TCLynx

    Bookmark   July 10, 2008 at 12:39PM
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mcav0y(z3/4 Anchorage)

my first batch this summer was clumpy, but I knew that I was harvesting it early. I didn't bother to screen it. I combined it with some extra peat moss I had and while mixing them together, broke up the clumps. If it was too big or too recognizable, I put in a pail to dump back into the compost bin. So far, the only problem I have seen some of the grass clipping clumps had surviving seeds. These have been easy to weed, and I just throw the seedlings onto my lawn (maybe they will take).

    Bookmark   July 11, 2008 at 4:38PM
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tomindenver

I have tumbler clumps too, but when the compost is ready, I have found that you can easily break up the clumps into finished compost. You might let your compost age a bit more to see if that helps.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2008 at 7:29PM
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