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How do you separate finished compost from ongoing compost?

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How do you separate finished compost from ongoing compost?

Post  bvarbel on 1/27/2013, 12:08 pm

I'm still working on getting things going with my compost. In an earlier post I asked how to make it hot.

Lets say I get it going and I'm turning it and everything. As I turn it, finished compost is getting mixed around with new material. How do I separate the good stuff.

Also we drink a crazy amount of coffee and a huge amount of material is coffee grounds. If what I see as finished compost has bits of uncomposted coffee grounds is that going to be a problem.

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Re: How do you separate finished compost from ongoing compost?

Post  quiltbea on 1/27/2013, 3:13 pm

If you can, keep your composts separated. I have a compost pile where I add everything; from the kitchen, the garden, leaves, coffee grounds, ground eggshells, egg cartons and torn cardboard, newspaper, etc. I keep bags of fall leaves separate and top off my pile whenever I add some kitchen waste. Keeps it covered and animals away from the pile. Besides, the leaves are a great addition to keep a higher brown ratio, which I prefer.

I keep my 2nd pile, my finishing pile, separate. Mine happens to be a compost barrel the last couple of years. I fill the thing to the top and then keep it turned and watered and don't use any of it til its finished.

Or you can make a separate pile (at least 3 x 3 ft) of everything, then stop. Water it now and then, turn it when you can, and let it decompose without adding anything but water. When its done, add it to your garden.

Then start again.

I don't believe a little unfinished coffee grounds will hurt your garden. Just toss any large bits back into the composter to finish with the next batch.

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Re: How do you separate finished compost from ongoing compost?

Post  CapeCoddess on 1/27/2013, 4:50 pm

I have 2 piles going most of the time. If you look at my avatar, the pile on the left is the finished pile. I stopped adding to it around end of summer, but kept turning it until recently. So it was usable for this fall and winter, and the rest will be used for spring and summer. If there were still coffee grounds in it, I didn't see them.

When I stopped adding to the pile on the left, I started a new pile next to it - the pile on the right in my avatar - using all my kitchen scraps, seaweed and such. Later I turned the fall leaves & garden clean up waste into it as I mowed & cut them up. I'll continue to add to it until the end of this coming summer. It will be ready for use in the garden next fall, winter, spring, summer.

And on and on it goes...heading into my 9th composting year. I love you


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2 piles--what about 1

Post  bvarbel on 1/27/2013, 4:57 pm

I see that you are recommending multiple piles, adding to one until its full, and starting a new one.

Based on this, I would guess that I could just bring my pile till its full and stop adding to it at some point.

I'm glad to know bits of coffee grounds probably won't hurt anything.

I'm new to this, but its so fun, and I love showing people my pile. Its not hot and steamy yet, but its doing something and smells earthy.

I'm going to give a mini presentation to a local girl scout troop. They are interested in how composting works and about conservation of natural resources, recycling, reusing, saving water, and all that jazz.

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Re: How do you separate finished compost from ongoing compost?

Post  camprn on 1/27/2013, 4:59 pm

Once the compost pile has cooled and is not generating anymore heat I consider it finished. It is then that I add it to the garden. Any large or bulky or obviously uncomposted items get tossed back into the bin.

I don't have the patience to sift it. Any thing in the compost that is small and not completely rotten will continue to compost within the garden. And the worms will love it. I love you


41 years a gardener and going strong with SFG.

There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau



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Re: How do you separate finished compost from ongoing compost?

Post  southern gardener on 1/27/2013, 5:53 pm

We never sifted until this season. We made a "tray" out of hardware cloth/rabbit wire. It's about 1 foot by 2 feet with about a 3" lip all around to keep the compost from falling over the edge. My nephew and his friend sifted the entire pile in about 20 minutes! They put the "tray" over a 50 gallon barrel, one put the compost in the tray by shovel full while the other shook the "sifter" over the barrel. We had 3 barrels full in no time. Sure was nice to have it all "nice" and evenly composted. cheers The stuff that was too big just went into the "cooking" compost pile. carrot carrot
southern gardener

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Re: How do you separate finished compost from ongoing compost?

Post  yolos on 1/27/2013, 6:52 pm

I get used coffee grounds from Starbucks. Their label on the used coffee grounds says,

"Coffee grounds are a nutritional additive for your soil. During the brewing process, most of the acidity is removed, leaving used grounds with an average ph of 6.9 and a carbon-nitrogen ratio of 20-1.
Add grounds directly to your garden. Apply this "green" material as a side dressing to nitrogen loving plants, including most perennials and allium plants. Balance the nutrition of your soil with "brown" materials such as leaves or dried grass.
Or to your compost. Combine with "brown" materials in your compost pile. Use grounds within 2-3 weeks of brewing to capture the most nutritional value."

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Re: How do you separate finished compost from ongoing compost?

Post  landarch on 1/28/2013, 9:51 am

I prefer seperate piles...once a pile it to the proper size or fills the bin, I stop adding new material so the pile can at some point be finished and usable. Once a pile is done and usable, I store in large plastic containers (old cattle mineral tubs) to free up space to repeat the process.

I've only been doing SFG for a couple years, I so am not really dialed in to the amount of compost I need on hand for spring, summer, and fall gardening for the number of squares I have ( 140). I think one can never have enough compost.

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