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New to composting

Posted by prettyrainbows none (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 17, 13 at 15:35

I've just recently (a little less than a month ago) started my very first compost pile and the huge rainfall seems to have driven every pill bug in the area into my compost bin. I've always seemed to have quite a lot, but now it's absolutely overflowing with thousands and thousands. Will they disrupt any sort of balance or is it fine to leave it be?

Part of my problem I know is that my pile isn't heating up even a little. My bin is only 30x30x30in but shouldn't the very center be at least a little warm? I filled it to the top with dead leaves and food scraps but as of about a week ago it's less than half the volume it was before. Should I top it off to give it a better chance of getting hot?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: New to composting

..... it's less than half the volume it was before..... That means it's working. Give it a stir up and leave it again. You can make composting as scientific and complicated as you like but if you pile up organic matter you WILL get compost eventually. The size is rather small but if it suits you it is fine. It will just take longer. I have composted for many decades and have hardly ever had a heap to heat up. I don't care at all because it all composts eventually. That's the beauty of composting: it suits the OCD and the lazy, the intense and the relaxed.

RE: New to composting

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 17, 13 at 19:23

My name is TXEB, and I'm an OCD composter. I admit it.

Relax. Composting is nothing more than letting nature take it course. There are advantages to hot composting, and there are advantages to cold composting. In the end, both work well. The big difference is the time it will take to achieve the same result. If you're not in a hurry, or don't want to spend the time and effort "working" on hot composting, go for the cold approach. Just allow 12 months, but it may be done in six. There are some who build a new pile every year, and then let it rot for 2-3 years before they touch it.

If you want to go for the faster "hot" method, my guess would be that you are too heavy on the brown stuff (dead leaves) and not enough on the green stuff (kitchen trim). Other possibilities may be that the moisture is off a good bit (should be like a damp, rung-out sponge), or not enough air getting into the pile (do you turn it?). But hot isn't a necessity. It is, however, highly recommended if you are composting raw animal manures or animal products in general, or you are worried about "weed" seed carryover in your compost.

As for the pill bugs, let them do their job. They are good guys when it comes to chewing up organic matter. When they mostly leave, your compost will probably be near done.

RE: New to composting

What he said^ and I would add,the bugs are helping things along so don't worry about them. The compost is a breeding ground that might cause an increase in other areas where not welcome. If you want some heat,add green grass. If you have space to start another bin or two,that will alow experimenting without concurn of messing up the whole operation. Truth is,there is not much you can do while composting that will not recover on it's own. Personaly,I believe my 3+ piles/bins actualy save labor based on material produced. 1 bin/tumbler contains finished or soon to be finished. 1 pile/bin is activly prosessing. 1 or more piles/bins contains browns consisting of anything I come acroos and add to it until I have enough green to start a new batch. The 100% browns recieve water periodicly resulting in it being partly composted before and green is put in. Just go do it and I promise you will find a rythem that suits you.

RE: New to composting

Whether material in a compost pile heats up or not depends on how close to the optimal 30:1 Carbon to Nitrogen ratio the material is, how much moisture is in the mix and how much air is in the mix.
Understanding a bit about Pill, Sow, Potato bugs, Wood Lice, and the many other names these wee critters go by, will tell you that they prefer a cool, moist environment to live in and the presence of them in your compost pile says it is a cool, moist environment that is probably too cool and moist to generate much heat. One of the major jobs of these Pill Bugs is the help digest the dead organic matter which is one reason they are there in your compost, and why some think they are a part of the composting process.
Hot composting generally results in having that compost available sooner then it would be in a cold composting operation but even a cold compost pile will be ready for use eventually, like maybe a year instead of 3 months.

Here is a link that might be useful: Composting Tutorial

RE: New to composting

I'm definitely an OCD gardener in general! Both me and my mother have black thumbs so I'm out there fussing with my pile and my garden every day.

I didn't even know cold composting was possible, haha. That's what I get for being so impulsive. I was hoping to have some by spring, but if it's not destined to happen then I'll let it be and see about starting a new pile to try hot composting again.

I water it and turn it frequently but if there's no need to turn it, that's just fine with me. It would've been nice in the beginning to have a hot pile but I don't think it'll happen now that it's so itty bitty.

RE: New to composting

Then again, if you want to be really obsessive compulsive you can make compost in 14 days.

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost in 14 days

RE: New to composting

A cold pile definitely doesn't need to be turned often.

RE: New to composting

If you are really composting OCD, it is suggested that you use a pile that is between 3 feet cubed and 5 feet cubed (27-125 cu. ft.). This allows the center of the pile to heat up sufficiently to break down materials.

Here is a link that might be useful: Advanced Landscape Management

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