inherited compost bin; next steps

KacyMAugust 28, 2014

Hi all,
We just bought our first house and it has a lovely yard (so I am sure to be back here with plant questions very soon), but my first question is about compost. The previous owner left behind a large (the size of maybe 3 or 4 tires stacked, probably a little larger in diameter even) compost bin about halfway full. From what I can tell, it's mostly long pine needles and dry leaves. I know I need some "greens" in addition to all this brown. Should I just start adding kitchen scraps and grass clippings and water and stirring it all up? There seem to be little buggies inside (I tossed last night's veggie scraps and they were being attended to by little insects this morning that scattered when I lifted the lid). Normal? Problem? I'm very enthusiastic about learning to compost properly so I can take care of the plants on the property and start a little shade garden of my own. I have read a lot of posts about how to start composting, but not how to re-start. I can pick up coffee grounds from a local coffee shop, too.
Thanks in advance!

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Second basic rule: toss in anything that's ever grown: towels, grounds, leaves, garbage, Uncle Harry, stale bread, chicken feathers.

First rule: decide if you're willing to do the work needed to run an actively managed composting setup for this season's needs, or if you're happier with a year-long passive approach. This answer affects everything else.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 4:26PM
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Thanks grubby! I think for the rest of this year a passive approach will be the more realistic plan, since we are new homeowners and have a lot of other settling in to do. I am happy for the opportunity not to throw away veggie food scraps, and hope in the spring to have something to use in new beds that I might be ready to put in.

I can really just throw random stuff into this pile without getting it "going" first? It looks pretty inert as-is.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 8:54PM
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"I can really just throw random stuff into this pile without getting it "going" first? It looks pretty inert as-is.

Yup ... it's "going" - right now it's going slowly. Just keep tossing kitchen scraps and whatever in there, keep it moist and let it putter along at its own speed.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 9:46PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

You don't have decide if you want active or not, just go along and see if you are happy with the results. If you want more compost, you will want to speed it up. I did that at first, I put food in there and six months later I got nothing at all. The food decayed to like zero and all that was left was dirt. I thought it was like a washing machine, you put food and it get compost out, but it much more complicated.

    Bookmark   August 28, 2014 at 11:34PM
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Perhaps this composting tutorial may be of some help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Composting Tutorial

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 7:03AM
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If it has a lot of dry leaves and stuff you might consider re-layering it with greens. If you can move the bin (some of them come apart at the sides, or lift it off) and set it next to the pile, whenever you have greens, layer them in the bin and add some of that pile to cover. This is the lazy way, you can also stir it all up with a lot of greens but you may not have that much at once.

You might actually find some compost at the bottom, depending on how long it's been sitting there. This would be a good way to find out. Anything not fully composted can go back in.

And make sure it's moist, not drippy wet, but 'dry leaves' will still be there next year without some moisture.

    Bookmark   August 29, 2014 at 10:58AM
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