compost cooled off once grass was done

billfaith1October 13, 2010

I started my first pile about 3 months ago. At first it was mostly greens, grass and kitchen scraps. It heated up fast but begin to cool after about a week. Having hardly no browns I added a bale of straw and mixed it in. Since then it has never gotten hot again. It has gone down in size obviously so maybe its not big enough now?

How does that work? If you build a pile 3 feet high and it heats up nicely and then as it decomposes, it loses its hight, would it not eventually cool down? Also, once the fresh grass turns grey from all the heating its done, and it cools down, would it ever warm again? Do I just mix it up cold now? Right now it just looks like alot of rotten grass clumps mixed with straw. Doesnt look bad, but not even close to on its way to finished compost.

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I mixed a small batch using 1/3 fresh grass clippings, 1/3 fresh shredded cherry hedge leaves, and 1/3 garden dirt. I soaked it, and mixed it well every week. In 2 months, it was uniformly black and sweet smelling.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 6:31PM
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I've never had luck keeping a pile hot using straw as the main carbon. I could get an initial heat up then it died down. Seems to compost okay in the long run but I likes heat! I blame it on the lignin.

Previous discussion.


    Bookmark   October 13, 2010 at 7:48PM
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Unless the Carbon to Nitrogen, C:N, ratio is in the 30:1 range and the moisture level is just right the bacteria that work on digesting that material will not work really hard generating that heat. Grass clippings are very close to the optimal 30:1 (19:1) while straws are way out (80:1) so when they are mixed together the proportions must be balanced to get that 30:1, or close to it, ratio. That might mean 3 parts grass clippings to 1 part of straw.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 6:27AM
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Thanks folks!

Yes this straw doesnt seem to be doing anytyhing... I had some straw sitting on the ground after seeding my lawn and it looks the same as is did in April!

I can certainly add some grass clippings but wont I be into that viscous cycle of never having it finish? Its down to only about 2 feet tall. Is is too small now? Do you have to make these things like 5 feet tall so by the time they shrink, its still the magic 3 feet tall to cook?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 12:37PM
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I had the same problem with straw in the beginning, then I added a bucket full of compost from my finished pile, a $1.25 bag of manure from walmart and about 5 gallons of used coffee grounds I got from the coffee shop. Now the pile is heating up just fine.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2010 at 6:22PM
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billfaith, I think you have to set an arbitrary date and after that, don't add anything else to that pile. Or if you like to judge when it's cooked and use it then, use it then.

More piles, time-limited. It's like potato chips, one is not enough.....

    Bookmark   October 15, 2010 at 1:55PM
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eurolarva(z4 MN)

you can try a commercial compost accelerator that mixes with water. Another option is urine in the compost. I am pretty new to composting but have found the main reasons my earlier attempts failed was the compost pile was too dry. It is amazing how much water is needed in the composting process. Urine is high in nitrogen so it is a good source of heat. I would just keep turning it and adding grass clippings to it for the heat

    Bookmark   October 17, 2010 at 11:38AM
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