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Rebuilding a Compost Pile

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  floyd1440 on 4/1/2012, 7:26 am

TTT

Hopefully today I will buld my compost bin as you designed. Found some 4 foot x 25 foot roll at Home Depot as well as the U posts. Thinking of starting with one bin and adding a second down the road.

It will be 4 feet high right? This it to keep a nice 3 foot pile and not loosing any while turning my compost is my guess.

I talked to my next door neighbor as I have noticed his wife dumping both yard clippings and leaves in an area behind their house. Since I have only lived here a few years asked how long they have been dumping stuff in this pile. They said for close to 25 years and said I am welcome to take anything from their pile. just by eye, I would say the area is about 15x30 feet and 5 feet high.

Maybe the stuff on the bottom is good compost even though it has never been turned, but I will take the stuff of the top and put it in my new bin later this week.


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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  llama momma on 4/1/2012, 7:32 am

See if they use lawn care herbicides pesticides that could hurt your efforts. If they don't, you've got great neighbors. Very Happy

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/1/2012, 7:58 am

@floyd1440 wrote:TTT

It will be 4 feet high right? This it to keep a nice 3 foot pile and not loosing any while turning my compost is my guess.

That is correct floyd. After turning it, the pile will be higher than 3 feet. When you open up the "gate" to work your compost and pull it out, this is what it might look like......



When you rebuild it, forking/shoveling the compost back in, the pile will be higher than 3 feet. That'll allow you to close the gate. After you close it, you can level the pile out and knock it back against the gate. It'll look something like this.....



It's kind of hard to see but the compost is right against the gate. As it composts, it might even stick together somewhat and won't come falling out right away when you open it.
My pile isn't level. If I would level it out, it would be wider than it is tall and it might have trouble holding heat in.
When I build the bin, I thought bigger would be better. After this batch of compost is done, I'm going to rebuild the bin and make it 3ft long and 3ft wide.
Keep me posted!

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/1/2012, 12:24 pm

I rebuilt my compost pile again. This time I noticed that even when fluffed up, it's not as big as it was last week. The temperature of the compost was about 110F. The outside temperature was 50F. After rebuilding it, the starting temperature was 69F. This time I didn't add dried blood or rabbit food. I just added water. I also noticed that it's losing its "stink". I only notice it when I'd stick my face right against a forkful of compost and even then it wasn't bad.

I do believe that it'll be ready by the beginning of May with a couple of more rebuilds.

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  floyd1440 on 4/1/2012, 7:12 pm

TTT

Well I built to your specs and it looks good, Will take a picture later as it is starting to rain but will post one ASAP.

Looks like I can put another one beside it if things work out as I hope. Did talk to the neighbor again today. They have used some in the past but not in the last five years and do not plan to use any going forward. But the brown stuff on the bottom has been there for 20+ years so i am thinking or getting the leaves they put on the top first they collected last fall and going from there.

Is there any way to determine if chemicals have leached out over they years????


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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/1/2012, 7:17 pm

It'll probably depend on the chemicals that they used and how much. I wish I could give you a better answer. I hope someone else with more knowledge of herbicides can chime in.

I'm looking forward to see your pictures. What a Face

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  floyd1440 on 4/1/2012, 7:32 pm

The weather is supposed to be OK tomorrow. I want to both take a picture with it freshly built and another filled.

I make it a little different than your digram TTT

Used 4 foot galvanized fabric with 4 U posts, ties, and bungee cords as you suggested but I made it 3 1/2 feet square. It was by mistake but it calculates out to 1.2 cubic yards. How much finished compost will that make???


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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/1/2012, 7:42 pm

@floyd1440 wrote:The weather is supposed to be OK tomorrow. I want to both take a picture with it freshly built and another filled.

I make it a little different than your digram TTT

Used 4 foot galvanized fabric with 4 U posts, ties, and bungee cords as you suggested but I made it 3 1/2 feet square. It was by mistake but it calculates out to 1.2 cubic yards. How much finished compost will that make???


It'll depend on what materials you used in your compost, but if you start out with 1.2 cubic yards of materials, you'll get a little more than half of that in finished compost.

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  floyd1440 on 4/2/2012, 6:36 pm

Here is my first one......






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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/2/2012, 6:46 pm

Hey now....that looks real good! Congratulations on your bin build It looks better than mine.

Is that plastic lining the bottom of the bin? If that is, it shouldn't be there. You want the compost to come in contact with the ground.

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  floyd1440 on 4/2/2012, 7:55 pm

@Too Tall Tomatoes wrote:Hey now....that looks real good! Congratulations on your bin build It looks better than mine.

Is that plastic lining the bottom of the bin? If that is, it shouldn't be there. You want the compost to come in contact with the ground.

Yes it is plastic but I did that for two reasons.

1 To kill the grass, which was treated last year.

2 I put dirt down first before I loaded it with compost material today and I will remove it when I turn it. Hopefully that will be OK

But you get all the credit for what I did with that diagram.

For the material I added they were leaves, grass clipping, pine needles and some saved up vegetable scraps. Mel suggest they be dried first but they are wet due to the recent rain. Does it make any difference? And how often do you turn the pile?

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/2/2012, 10:51 pm

Welcome to the world of composting!

First thing I would suggest is for you to get yourself a compost thermometer if you don't have one already. Reotemp makes a good one. It's what I have.

What was the grass treated with? When was the last time you treated that grass? You want to be careful composting grass that has any sort of chemical treatment. Contaminated grass may mean contaminated compost.

The plastic on top of the grass may be a good enough barrier to keep the compost from getting contaminated. I would think the plastic should be pretty thick for it to be an effective barrier. Maybe someone who has more experience with lawn chemical residue will see this and offer some advice.

Part of the problem with the plastic barrier is that any worms in the ground wouldn't be able to move into the bottom of the compost.

I think Mel talks about drying out your grass before you add it to the compost pile. The reason for that is that if you were to add wet grass to the compost, it could turn slimy and smelly real quick. Last year when I started my compost pile, I would add grass right from my lawn mower bag without drying it first. It isn't a big deal if you don't add too much fresh-cut grass at one time. Towards the end of the year, I would dump the grass at the corner of my house and let it dry for a few days and then add it in. It wasn't totally dry like Mel suggests but it was drier than fresh.

Sometimes I would dump the grass into a plastic tub and keep it under my car port for a few days, stirring it around. It just depended on what I felt like doing at the time I was cutting the grass.

You could always balance out fresh-cut grass with something dry like dried leaves.

Do you have all of the compost materials right now or are you going to do the add-as-you-go method? I would recommend not doing that because you'll never really give the compost a chance to finish, unless you would remove the compost that would be at the very bottom of the bin. I made the mistake of starting off like that.

Get all of the materials you want to compost and put it in your bin. While that material is composting you can stockpile your materials for your next batch of compost. I keep several 5-gallon(foodsafe) buckets in my shed that I add my kitchen scraps to it on an almost daily basis. I also have a big tub that I've been collecting brown materials in.

See if you can get some sort of manure to add to your compost. Rabbit, llama, and alpaca manures come to mind. Horse manure is a great addition too. The trick with horse manure is that you really should get the compost as hot as you can. The hotter the compost is, the less likely weed seeds and such that's in horse manure will survive. If you find someone who has horse manure, ask them what they feed the horse.

I can surely tell you some of my compost ingredient scavenger hunt stories. Some of that was actually fun. What a Face

How often you turn the pile depends on you. Some people that compost take the easy road and just let the stuff compost on it's own without turning. Some are out there turning every few days. I'm kind of in the middle. I let the temperature of the compost pile tell me when to turn. When the temperature of the compost drops to between 100F and 115F, then I turn it. It could take a few days for the compost to drop that low or it could stay at 120F for two weeks(that happened to me before I turned it this last time).

Keep your compost uncovered. The only time I would cover it is if it's supposed to rain. I think it's best if you can control the moisture level of the compost. I tried keeping it uncovered during some rain last week and the temperatures dropped 20 degrees within a day. I don't want that to happen again.

My methods are not the only way to compost, but they work for me so I'll stick with them.

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  floyd1440 on 4/3/2012, 8:18 pm

"First thing I would suggest is for you to get yourself a compost thermometer if you don't have one already. Reotemp makes a good one. It's what I have.

What was the grass treated with? When was the last time you treated that grass? You want to be careful composting grass that has any sort of chemical treatment. Contaminated grass may mean contaminated compost. "

I will go out tomorrow and get a thermometer for my compost pit as I have some time off. Will travel to Agway and Lowes for this item, Another item I may need is some type of pitch fork to turn the pile?

The grass clipping are from a pile my next door neighbor drops of and says he has not treated his for two years but I will only take what is freshly cut. I made the mistake years ago in Alabama by dumping treated grass clipping on my garden and it suffered so am very concerned about chemicals to my new compost.

Next I liked the suggestion Mel has about getting thrown out produce from grocery stores and would like to know if you use them.

Finally I liked your comment about adding new material to a new pile so would it be prudent to build another smaller compost bin?

Thanks as always and will get you more pictures tomorrow........


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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  camprn on 4/3/2012, 8:24 pm

I use a digital kitchen thermometer.

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/3/2012, 9:53 pm

@floyd1440 wrote:"
I will go out tomorrow and get a thermometer for my compost pit as I have some time off. Will travel to Agway and Lowes for this item, Another item I may need is some type of pitch fork to turn the pile?

The grass clipping are from a pile my next door neighbor drops of and says he has not treated his for two years but I will only take what is freshly cut. I made the mistake years ago in Alabama by dumping treated grass clipping on my garden and it suffered so am very concerned about chemicals to my new compost.

Next I liked the suggestion Mel has about getting thrown out produce from grocery stores and would like to know if you use them.

Finally I liked your comment about adding new material to a new pile so would it be prudent to build another smaller compost bin?

Thanks as always and will get you more pictures tomorrow........

You can get a digital kitchen thermometer like camprn said but make sure it's 18 inches long. If your pile is 3 feet wide, you want the probe going in halfway to the center of the pile.

You can use a shovel but I'd highly recommend getting a manure fork. Some places call it a pitchfork. It should have 5 tines. Like this.....


I have a pitchfork that's got wide tines. It does the job but the compost does get stuck on it and it drives me batty. Get something like the picture. As soon as I get some extra cash, I'm going out to buy myself one.

You can certainly use discarded from grocery stores. I've done it before. If you do get that, go through it(watch out for the juicy stuff LOL) and pick out anything that doesn't belong. One time I got a bag of corn husks from my grocery store and I pulled out several plastic forks and other junk).

If you have a Starbucks nearby, stop in and ask for used coffee grounds. Try not to add too much to the pile though...roughly 10% of the pile's volume. It won't hurt if you happen to add a little more than that.

If you're going to build another bin, I'd build one the same size and just build it next to the existing one. That way you will only need 2 lengths of hardware cloth and 2 u posts, and a 3rd length of hardware cloth for your "door".

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  floyd1440 on 4/4/2012, 7:02 am

A manure fork; I will have to see were I can purchase one today as I currently have are a couple of different shovels and a rake plus a thermometer. My wife has one of those digital thermometers with a long cord, which woould work very well in my pile, but I would probably find myself residing outside by the compost pit. So maybe I should look into getting one for the pile.

Thanks for the tip about Starbucks and how long does it take before the pile begins to heat up?




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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  camprn on 4/4/2012, 7:07 am

I use a regular garden fork and a flat blade shovel.

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  floyd1440 on 4/4/2012, 7:48 am

@camprn wrote:I use a regular garden fork and a flat blade shovel.

Thanks; I will check that out at home Depot as they seem to carry more tools than Lowes.

Now my wife has become very interested in composting as well and saves all and any items we used to throw away and put in the pile; so my concern is if she continues to put fresh items in an mature pile would that not be a problem?

I could be way off here but I think you should either have several bins ir a small compost can for kitchen items...




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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  camprn on 4/4/2012, 9:32 am

Once you get your big pile turned and getting hot, just start a new pile to the side and throw all the fresh stuff in there; it will keep.

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/4/2012, 2:15 pm

@camprn wrote:Once you get your big pile turned and getting hot, just start a new pile to the side and throw all the fresh stuff in there; it will keep.

I totally agree with you camprn.

Floyd, do yourself a favor and don't do the "add-as-you-go" method of composting. If you do that, the compost will never get totally done.

For my daily collection of kitchen scraps, I have a plastic container in my sink(with a lid) and whenever that gets filled up, I dump that into 5 gallon plastic buckets(foodsafe with lids) I keep that in the shed. As soon as this current compost pile of mine is done in a few weeks, I'll start all over again and NOT do the "add-as-you-go" method. That was a major rookie mistake.

Go ahead and collect your kitchen scraps(veggie and fruit, coffee grounds, any "green" item). Keep that separate from your collection of "browns" When you think you have enough materials, go get yourself some manure and get another pile cooking.

If you have one of those digital kitchen thermometer on a long cord, tie the probe to the end of an 18 inch or so stick. That way you can insert and remove the probe easily.

How quickly the pile heats up depends on a few different factors.

1) the "green-to-brown" ratio of your materials
2) moisture level
3) outside temperature

Also, you don't want to really compact your pile. Try to fluff it up as you turn it. Remember camprn's "trick with the sticks" when you are rebuilding.

For me, I usually see a 10 degree per day increase in temperatures. However, when I redid my pile two weeks ago, it went from 70F all the way up to just over 160F within just a few days. If I didn't add a little more water(the pile looked too dry), it probably would've climbed a bit higher.

If it seems as though I ramble on at times, I'm sorry for that. Sometimes I get very chatty when I'm passionate about something like composting.
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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  plantoid on 4/4/2012, 2:41 pm

[quote="floyd1440"]A manure fork; I will have to see were I can purchase one today as I currently have are a couple of different shovels and a rake plus a thermometer. My wife has one of those digital thermometers with a long cord, which woould work very well in my pile, but I would probably find myself residing outside by the compost pit. So maybe I should look into getting one for the pile.

Thanks for the tip about Starbucks and how long does it take before the pile begins to heat up?



I have one of those long cord digital thermometers . The cord is 3 foot three long ( one metre ) . What I have done is get 700 mm ( 28 inches )of 1/2 inch ( 15 mm ) of copper water pipe , I made sure the probe will fit the internal diameter then removed it , flattened one end of the pipe for just a bit less than 1/2 an inch .

Now all I need to do when I want to see how things are cooking is push the flattned bladed end of the copper pipe deep into the heap and slip the probe down the tube to the bottom .

As copper is a great conductor of heat it is a matter of seconds before the temp starts to show and it's usualy maxed within 20 seconds . Not only does this get the temp reading it is also making a useful air/ water way into my composter bins

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/4/2012, 3:01 pm

I like that copper tube trick. What a Face

I would keep it and the temperature probe in my pile at all times.

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  bwaynef on 4/4/2012, 3:24 pm

Why don't you want to add more than 10% of Coffee grounds?

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  Too Tall Tomatoes on 4/4/2012, 4:25 pm

@bwaynef wrote:Why don't you want to add more than 10% of Coffee grounds?

Coffee grounds can compact too much and airflow through the pile might be restricted.

the last time I added any significant amount of coffee grounds was October/November of last year and just the other day when I gave my compost a turn, I pulled out and broke up several lumps of coffee.

I'm sure there are other reasons why you shouldn't have more than 10% or so of coffee grounds but I can't think of any

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Re: Rebuilding a Compost Pile

Post  camprn on 4/4/2012, 4:28 pm

It is really hard to have too many coffee grounds. I put in many pounds of used coffee grounds into my compost pile, but I have a lot of other stuff in there as well. My suggestion, don't sweat it. What a Face

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