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Update on my compost

Posted by organic_flutterby 5 MO (My Page) on
Fri, Nov 8, 13 at 15:23

I have started my compost pile and have put everything I can find in it, stuff that's good to compost that is.

I don't really know what the ratio of browns to greens is. I know that it isn't cooking though. I started it about 3 weeks ago or more.

I think my pieces are not small enough and perhaps my pile isn't big enough.

I decided to put the stuff in my compost pile in the leaf shredder. I've done only a small portion of it as it is taking forever 'cuz it's wet.

Once I'm done shredding it, it is sure to break down, I hope. Do you think I need to continue shredding the whole thing?

What do I do with it over the winter?

Also, I have a couple large lawn bags of shredded leaves. I am going to save them until next spring, but they were a little wet when they went into the bags. Is that ok?

Or do you think I should add the shredded leaves to the pile now to make it bigger? The browns ratio is sure to be off if I do though and I have no more grass clippings for this year.

Am I stressing out for nothing?

Thanks for your help!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Update on my compost

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Fri, Nov 8, 13 at 15:35

There is no doubt that you will be able to screen your compost pile, next spring, perhaps in May, and get some usable compost. The larger pieces will get caught on the screen, and these go right back into the pile. The advantage of shredding lawn & garden refuse is that these materials will compost faster, and you can avoid the screening step altogether. If you need compost right away, to improve garden soil, for example, then shredding will get you where you want to go sooner. If you don't have a pressing need for finished compost, then a slow pile, with larger items, will work out fine. Our pile is slow, and can take 24 months to compost some items.


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RE: Update on my compost

Compost is like good BBQ. It takes time, and should be stress-free. If you over-think it, it doesn't taste as good. Err... wait... that last bit doesn't really work for compost... but you get the idea. ;-)

You didn't describe how big your pile is, but a 3 to 4 foot cube is ideal. Too small, and the pile won't self-insulate to keep the heat in. All those bacteria critters get too cold to eat.

If it were me, I'd toss the leaves in now & let them get munched on over winter, too.

When I need nitrogen in a pinch, I use granular lawn fertilizer. (I just used a few cups of 34-0-0 this week to get a couple piles kick-started.)

As for shredding the remainder of your ingredients, if they're dry, I might. If they're wet, I definitely wouldn't. That sounds like a mess, and a mess sounds like a stress I don't want when composting or BBQ'ing.


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RE: Update on my compost

If your compost material is too wet to go through the shredder it is too wet to hot compost, which is most likely why it is not "cooking".
The material that is to be composted needs only be moist, slightly damp, about as wet as a well wrung out sponge. When I first started composting I would soak the daylights out of the material until I learned it did not need to be that wet.
Too much moisture in the pile will inhibit air exchange and will freeze up when temperatures drop that low. Too much moisture in the mix is the biggest reason people have problems composting. Size of material may be the next problem since, up to a point, smaller particle sizes will be digested faster.
I think I would add more dryer material now to offset the too wet material you have, and maybe add a source of N as well. In a properly constructed compost pile with the C:N ratio at about 30:1 and enough but not too much moisture there should be a definite temperature increase in about 3 days.


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RE: Update on my compost

Here's a picture of my compost pile.

 photo DSC_0627-001-4.jpg

I have it in a open bottom box that is 4'x4'1'. It is on a brick surface. Behind it is a chicken wire bin for more leaves when I get them.

So I think the pile measures about m3 or so, what do you think?


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RE: Update on my compost

  • Posted by ericwi Dane County WI (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 9, 13 at 11:02

The pile is on the small side. If you add the screening and then add more leaves, it will get warmer and the composting process should accelerate. Even so, compost piles slow down in colder weather, so I would not expect this pile to get noticeably warm during the winter months.


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RE: Update on my compost

  • Posted by lonmower zone8 Western Oregon (My Page) on
    Sat, Nov 9, 13 at 20:34

Your pile should be much taller.

Here is an excellent resource to learn about composting

http://www.soilandhealth.org/03sov/0302hsted/030202/03010200.html

Here is a link that might be useful: Soloman's book on composting


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RE: Update on my compost

This is a workable bin that you can turn with fork. But does not have a big volume (16 cubic ft. 1 cub. Meter(m3 ?) is about 35 cub.ft).

This might be enough for daily composting but not for things like fall leave and garden clipping. But then you have the chicken wire bin to take care of that.

I think you have a good starting system. You will find out by experience what your needs are and how to modify it.


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RE: Update on my compost

Volume helps compost heat up. The minimum size most people have found that works is a 3 x 3 x 3 pile while many of us have found that a 4 x 4 x 4 pile is better.
Perhaps the link below will be of some help.

Here is a link that might be useful: Composting Tutorial


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RE: Update on my compost

Thank you all for your help.

I was thinking that I would use the chicken wire to build up the bin so I can add the leaves that I have shredded and more when I collect them.

I can add some nitrogen too, in the form of fertilizer or I've also read about rabbit pellets for that.

I will only have three 4 ft square garden beds in the spring, so I hope to keep enough compost on hand for them.


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RE: Update on my compost

I just moved my one bin over, almost all ready to use, however I will let it cook until spring..
3-4 foot high is what I try for


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RE: Update on my compost

Thanks japus, that's what I think I will do too. Leaves are still falling.


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RE: Update on my compost

Your pile is a yard SQUARE but only a foot tall. It needs to be bigger to heat up. :-]

Most of us would not pay for fertilizer to boost the compost, but it will work. However, if you eat, you have kitchen scraps. Use those leaves over the winter to layer on top of your regular kitchen waste additions. By spring you will have a much taller pile.


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RE: Update on my compost

Agreed, bring it up at least 3 feet, 4-5 is preferable.
Go talk to your local produce market/s, ask if you can have their discarded produce for your compost pit, they all trim off and have expired items.
Local farms, horse/cow manure, a little goes a long way.
Buy some straw, add a little every so often..
Above all compost books are great reading material for relaxation.
I love composting more than gardening.,.
Here's a pic of some items from my local grocery .
I chop it all up first with a sharpened ice scraper...


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RE: Update on my compost

My compost pile is about 2 feet high now.

Funny thing is that the thermometer registered 110 degrees 2 days ago and now it's not even 60.

And it kinda smells. I think I need to get some stuff like you got, japus. I don't generate enough kitchen scraps to make much of a difference, gonna have to seek another source.

What will happen to my 2 foot pile over winter? Will it still break down for spring use?


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RE: Update on my compost

...the thermometer registered 110 degrees 2 days ago and now it's not even 60.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

May be it just ran out of steam, nothing to compost ?
With a 1 foot deep, it can also cool off pretty fast, if temps drop or rains on it.


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RE: Update on my compost

try to compact it some, then keep stirring it up every 2 or 3 days.


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RE: Update on my compost

I agree that the size of your pile is presently to small. However, if you keep adding material to it little by little it will enlarge enough to start working and continue the composting process by the end of winter.

I never start my compost pile directly on the ground or any other hard surface. Instead, I generally use wooden pallets for the base to raise the pile off the ground. On top of the pellets I place a layer of small branches, corn stocks, or other such material. Then I start adding leaves, vegetable plants from my garden cleanup, weeds which have not gone to seed and other plant material as available to approx. one foot deep. I have access to manure from chickens, rabbits and other farm animals and spread a couple of inches of the manure on top of the previous material. The manure generally has earth when mixed in so no need for me to sprinkle some soil onto the pile. I then mix the materials together with a rake and add water and mix again until the material is as wet as a wrung out sponge. Then I go through the same process adding on top of what I have already done and pile gets bigger as time goes on.

My reason for starting my compost pile on top of the wooden pellets with the addition of some roughage over that is to help increase the amount of air going through the pile.Since the compost microbes that breakdown the material need oxygen in order to survive this is my way of improving the air flow.

The addition of to much water to the pile or using water soaked material will inhibit the air flow and can cause some of the bad smell that is created.

There are various methods used by different individuals which work for them. This is my method and has served me well of a number of years.

Sorry for such a lengthy reply but my hope is that it may assist you in your compost making. Don't get discouraged and you will come up with a working pile which results in some great compost when finished.


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RE: Update on my compost

What kind of smell is there? An ammonia like small indicates there is too much Nitrogen in the mix while a putrid smell indicates the material may be too wet and is in anaerobic digestion.
Compost should always smell like good, rich earth.


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RE: Update on my compost

Thanks japus, I guess I didn't realize I need to turn it so often.

flavio~thank you for your help! My decision to start a compost pile was kinda last minute and this bin was already sitting on bricks so I just threw stuff in it. I have more dried shredded leaves to add, but no greens to go with it. I'm going to try the produce dept at the store as suggested by japus.

kimmsr~I think that perhaps it may be too wet. I think I will add a PVC pipe with drilled holes to the middle of my compost pile.

I wonder how much a compost pile reduces down to by the time its finished, any thoughts on that?

This post was edited by organic_flutterby on Fri, Nov 15, 13 at 7:08


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RE: Update on my compost

You don't *have* to turn that often. Once or twice during the 6-12 month life of a pile is enough. Nature doesn't turn her stuff at all really. It just lays there and decomposes into the ground. :-] It does go faster and make a more uniform product if you turn.

Volume reduction is generally in the 5-10x range depending on how fluffy the initial ingredients are.

I would say most compost piles are right on the ground. It does help to lift it when you have large volumes of heavy dense compactable stuff. I compost food waste at the office, mostly coffee grounds mixed with sawdust and wood shavings, and it compacts and gets anaerobic. We put the bins up on pallets. I wouldn't worry about it with your small pile of garden stuff.


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