How long does it take???

gijaneNovember 25, 2006

Just wondering,...

How long on average does it take to get finnished compost in a tumbler. I see these ads for 13 days, etc all over the place. Is that true for your experiance.

My other question is I made a homemade tumbler out of a used steel barrel. Do you think I should put a few holes in random places so a little oxygen gets mixed in once in a while, or will that defeat the whole concept of composting.

Maybe I'm getting my composting and vermicomposting mixed up here.

Well hope all had a grand Turkey day!

GI Jane

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I just bumped up a good old thread about tumblers. Paquebot/Marting
is one of our experts on the subject. Haven't heard from him in a while. He
even puts chicken bones and parts of deer in it with great success.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 2:57PM
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Chemically speaking, there is no possible way what we add to a compost pile can be made fully compostable for use in our gardens in such a short time.

Thirteen days? How about thirteen the better thought. OK, so depending on circumstances.....sun, wind, air, water, temperature, contents, etc etc etc......such compost piles will eventually come to something.

But days.....common sense says otherwise.

Now there is on the market chemicals that can cause a compost pile to work faster...chemically speaking, it reacts with certain additions in the pile to break down at a faster rate. But even they cant perform miracles.

One of the worst things you can do for a garden is to use not fully composted material. The nitrogen that is responsible for the breaking down of materials would then be removed from the soil where the plants are trying to grow. You would be using the compost additions counter-productive to what you wish.

This is reason enough to have more than one bin....two is good....3 is better.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 6:12PM
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brdldystlu(5b Mo)

swanz, Martin got the boot from GW. Someone didn't like what he said. He will be missed by lots of people. However I still stay in contact with him.
Ok in that thread it does show my tumbler, shows a couple "finished" batches. Now as far as I know from reading on here for 3 years now that compost is never finished. It keeps composting till it is no longer. So if what Jeannie7 said is true you should never put compost on or in your gardens. I put both batches in the photos on my garden and have flowers growing there now. Both batches have not hurt the plants, however they are growing really nice, a couple of the plants are even healthier looking now than before the compost was put on the beds.I wish I would of taken photos, am going to be better in the future about that.
I do know also that lasagna gardening works, done that before. And that is nothing more than laying out different layers of organic matter to let it rot down, compost in place.
Sandy-who loves her compost tumbler

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 8:18PM
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I'm sorry to hear about Martin getting booted, he would get a bit cantankerous
at times, but I enjoyed his post, and his sharing of many years of experience. I
agree with you about not having to wait forever for compost to cure. After all
when I would turn over winter rye in the spring it's decomposition didn't take
long to feed the plants a few weeks later.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 8:40PM
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Chemicals really have nothing to do with the composting process - it is a matter of introducing the proper ratio of ingredients, adequate oxygen and moisture and generating sufficient heat. The microorganisms do all the rest. Since it possible to produce a decent home compost in as little as 30 days in a regular well-aerated pile, in season, with the proper combination of materials, conceivably one could accomplish it in a shorter period of time with a tumbler, as the quantity of material is smaller, turning frequently as instructed will introduce plenty of oxygen and the material will heat rapidly. And warmth equals rapid decompostion.

I'm not at all sure where jeannie is coming from - what she states just doesn't make sense and is counter to what is known about adding quantities of organic matter to the garden. Organic matter - composted or not - is what the majority of the microherd feed on and it is their digestion of OM that releases the nitrogen into forms that plants are able to use. The only time one needs to be concerned about nitrogen depletion is when one is using wood-based materials (or those with a high C:N ratio) as the primary OM and then working it into the soil. Since it takes longer for the microbes to break down this type of material, nitrogen is tied up in the process. And this really only applies if the material is worked into the soil - field tests have shown that even wood-based mulches (sawdust, wood chips, bark) do not cause nitrogen depletion if used only as a top dressing and not cultivated into the soil.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 9:36PM
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I am glad to see that it is not just me that has severe reservations about what jeannie7 is posting. Where is she coming from, I think perhaps Canada. ":^)

It really sounds like a smattering of information like that about the nitrogen needed to help break down other material is taken litterally and taken to the nth degree without the benefit of personal experience, observation or logical reasoning.

Most who have posted here for quite awhile probably are aware of my composting and ammending efforts. With a large amount of green manure from mowed greens, layers of horse manure mixed with wood shavings and alfalfa hay bits, shredded oak leaves and home made compost which looks about like
on the left in about 90 to 120 DAYS (not months). By her standards, I guess that it would be severely UNfinished and should not be put on my garden at all. I think that many of you are probably tired of seeing the many pictures that I have posted of how my plants grow, and produce, but I would be willing to go head to head with her if she has any actual pictures that she could post of her garden, plants and produce that she thinks would top mine.
That is my take on it.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2006 at 11:12PM
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blutranes(z8 Mid Ga)

Gijane asked her question, I see with my own eyes that it is about tumblers. The fact that she made herself a tumbler thus saving @$200 is to be commended in my view. All she wanted to know is if she should put some holes in it for better airflow to make better/faster compost. In the process her thread has gotten hijacked (something normal I hate to admit) and we are off to the races.

Gijane, I donÂt use tumblers, they produce too small an amount for my needs. I can only give you what I have read of people who have made tumblers and what they said they did. It is for that reason I only read your thread and observed the answers you got thinking I might be able to use your learning in the future. From what I have seen most do put holes in their tumblers for better airflow. As well, they state they put some kind of drainage setup to catch excess water that accumulates in the tumbler. Most have questions about weather they can use this water as a tea on their plants. I will admit I did not read the thread given, 131 posts about something I donÂt seems a bit much to read. So to save time I offer the learning I gained when I first started looking into composting.

I have made what some would call compost in 21 days, but I think I was just lucky that one time, and I still left it in the bin for a few months. C:N ratio is what you are looking for. 10:1 is considered finished compost regardless of how compost is made. I have used unfinished compost as mulch during the heat of summer; it didnÂt hurt my plants any. I used 10:1 compost as mulch and got the same results. Once it starts composting any plant will grow in it, you were given the lasagna bed example. I can admit I store some of my compost in 55-gallon drums, some plastic, some steel. The plastic drums give the best-cured compost, the steel hold moisture betterÂ


    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 2:03AM
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Oh, Bill, Bill, Bill... Not all of us above the 49th parallel have the same thoughts on composting, nitrogen, and the like. But I know you know that, eh? (Chuckle, chuckle. :)

One has to doubt the thirteen day claim, and with my experience, I'd throw that claim in the trash basket. Even with ideal ratios in my compost, and with ideal tending, during the summer it takes at least 6 weeks to make a nice batch. Mind you, I don't have a tumbler, but you have to let the microherd do it's work, and if you are always disturbing them, things will take longer.

As an example, it takes 3 to 4 days for a new mix of goodies to reach 130F, and about 7 days for that new mix to start cooling off. Mixed again, it will take another 2 days to get back up in temperature, and wait another 7 days before turning again... It's during this second turning that coffee filters and seaweed will no longer be identifiable. But if I turn too early and disturb the life cycle going on in there, those items won't disappear until the third or fourth turning.

Just my experience.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 9:25AM
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shellva(Camden 7b/8a)

I'm not familiar with tumblers either but I do know that oxygen is part of the good composting equation. Without oxygen one gets aenerobic composting. I guess that's the way to describe it. All I know is it smells. I'd put the holes in the tumbler.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 10:17AM
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Yeah, I knew that Tiffy. I always enjoy your postings and know that you speak from a database of your experience and not just something that you read somewhere and thought that it sounded good.":^) And, if that were the case, you would probably qualify it by saying something like I do "I have read ~ ~, or one report says ~ ~ etc.
Bill P.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 10:39AM
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remuda1(7b Hood Co TX)

On the page that lists all of the different threads for this forum, if you look to the right where they list all of the sponsor ads, there is an ad that says "makes compost in 14 days" for ComposTumbler.

Just thought that was a funny coincidence.


    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 7:36AM
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byron(4a/5b NH)

Organic Gardening sells a booklet "Making Compost in 14 Days"

with out a tumbler, but using a specific mix and a lot of turning

    Bookmark   November 27, 2006 at 7:17PM
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Hi GIJane

I have three different types of home built compost tumblers. One of which I have been using for several years now and I have not been able to make what I would call a "finished" compost in 14 days in any of them. In my larger, batch tumblers, I shoot for a 14-20 day heating (140-160 temperatures) period to be followed by a curing or finishing period of 90 to 120 days in a seperate bin. In my small 45 gallon tumbler I just keep adding my household stuff mixed in with leaves and let it decompose slowly. All of my tumblers have some form of venting to allow for air movement and I believe this to be crucial. The largest tumbler is designed to have natural heat convection move the air through the compost. I have only made one experimental batch with this unit and would hesitate to form any conclusions based on one sample. Next year I hope to have better data.


    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 1:09AM
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How long the process takes depends on how aggressively you manage that process. In the beginning you must have the C:N ratio very close to the optimal 30:1 and the moisture level just right, then just as the temperature peaks you need to turn so the outside stuff ends up in the center where the bacteria are most active. Most people I know that have used a tumbler have had a wet, stinky, undigested end product not good, crumbly compost, but then others have reported good success with them.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 7:21AM
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