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How do I know if I have completed compost

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How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  bvarbel on 2/8/2013, 5:01 pm

I live in Southern California. I've been building my pile since November or so. The pile is not the recommended 3'-4' even though the container is.

I just went out there...I kinda forgot about it. Everything is very dark brown and smells so sweet and earthy. I never did find out if the pile was heating up but it looks kinda nice. There are bits of food throughout. I've added heaps of coffee grounds--like a cup of them a day.

I'm worried that it looks nice because the highest percentage of what I've added has been coffee ground. Like I said it smells, not like rotting food or coffee grounds but sweet and earthy...and the black soil loosely crumbles in my finger tips--not like a clump of coffee grounds.

I have never made compost, but I'm gearing for spring planting and I want to try to make use of what I have...It looks like I might even have enough to start my first 4' x 4' SF garden.

If anyone knows what to do with this neat experiment, please let me know.

Thank you.
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  plantoid on 2/8/2013, 5:18 pm

Turn it every few days and see it if heats up abit using yiour hand on stuff out the middle of the heap . Don't let it dry out , keep it moist and covered not only to retain moisture but also any heat generated .
If it heats to say 100 oF plus the pile is not composted enough . If it won't rise above the local air temp at the third or fourth turning is should just about be ready to use.
You should not be able to identify any of the original matter being composted save for a few pieces hard wood twigs or bigger bits of wood
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Compost

Post  bvarbel on 2/8/2013, 5:27 pm

I turn it every 5 or 6 days. I can't recognize most of it except for last couple weeks additions--like I had a 10lb bag of rotten potatos I chopped up and added...little bits are there. When I turn it I always take a shovel and chop anything I see in there to even smaller pieces.

I've been doing this for 3 months. I started after grass went dormant so I don't have a lot of bulk. Mostly leaves, kitchen waste, coffee grounds, egg shells, pork fat, grease from hamburgers, chicken blood, and doggie doo doo.

Ok I'm just checking to see if you are reading...only plant material and rinsed eggshells.

I every time I stick my hand in there it feels room temp...I've never caught it hot, though the way it looks I suspect it might have.
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  Kelejan on 2/8/2013, 6:40 pm

Sad


Last edited by Kelejan on 2/8/2013, 6:43 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  Kelejan on 2/8/2013, 6:42 pm

@bvarbel wrote:. . .

I've been doing this for 3 months. I started after grass went dormant so I don't have a lot of bulk. Mostly leaves, kitchen waste, coffee grounds, egg shells, pork fat, grease from hamburgers, chicken blood, and doggie doo doo.

Ok I'm just checking to see if you are reading...only plant material and rinsed eggshells.
I wonder how many of us were about to jump on you. Very Happy
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compost

Post  bvarbel on 2/8/2013, 6:55 pm

Kelejan, I hope my sense of humor wasn't misguided. I actually can't believe how active this forum is. Lots of great tips and advice.
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  camprn on 2/8/2013, 6:57 pm

If it is not hot, smells good and you can barely identify things in the compost, it's ready to use! I love you
Put it in the garden, the worms will take care of the rest! What a Face

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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  quiltbea on 2/8/2013, 7:24 pm

camprn.....
+1
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  Kelejan on 2/9/2013, 2:30 am

@bvarbel wrote:Kelejan, I hope my sense of humor wasn't misguided. I actually can't believe how active this forum is. Lots of great tips and advice.
Not at all, bvarbel. I must admit it took me a couple of seconds to clue in, lol.
This is a wonderful forum, almost like a second home now and I log in almost every day, several times.
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  Pollinator on 2/9/2013, 9:27 am

Compost is an active thing, and technically, it's never done. If it smells nice and earthy, is crumbly and dark, use it. The microscopic life will continue in your soil and that's good.

We could just add all those compostables right back to the soil - and they would break down over a longer time period. The main reason we don't is that many of the materials will temporarily rob nitrogen in order to break down - and that would deny our crop an essential nutrient.

Oh, yeah, and the composting process contains the smells and the somewhat nasty appearance of garbage breaking down.
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  Pollinator on 2/9/2013, 9:30 am

@bvarbel wrote:Kelejan, I hope my sense of humor wasn't misguided. I actually can't believe how active this forum is. Lots of great tips and advice.

Well you had me there on the hamburger grease. It would eventually break down - but every dog in the neighborhood would be visiting and tearing up your compost pile...
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  plantoid on 2/9/2013, 3:58 pm

@bvarbel wrote:Kelejan, I hope my sense of humor wasn't misguided. I actually can't believe how active this forum is. Lots of great tips and advice.


I thought your post was funny.. Ha Ha not peculiar Laughing

Actually chicken blood would help activate a heap especially if it was diluted .. ( Feathers are OK as well ).

In days long gone when a woman had a child all the blood and afterbirth would be put in a hole and a tree sapling or seed set on top . That tree was usaully very special to the mum and that child. The same with the ladies monthly cycle , all cloths were rinsed out and the water put on the tree or a plant that gave food or drugs .
Blood has a high nitrogen content , you can buy dried blood as a garden additive . dried fish , blood and bone meal in another garden enhancer .

Basic NPK values for dried ( mixed slaughterhouse ) blood are N 12.0 % , P 1.0 % , K 0.75 % . It is very quick acting
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  camprn on 2/9/2013, 5:51 pm

I use dried blood as an activator in the compost pile, just a little goes a long way. I also use it by lightly sprinkling it on all beds with leafy greens, cabbages and Brussels sprouts.

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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  Triciasgarden on 2/9/2013, 7:03 pm

@bvarbel wrote:Mostly leaves, kitchen waste, coffee grounds, egg shells, pork fat, grease from hamburgers, chicken blood, and doggie doo doo.

Ok I'm just checking to see if you are reading...only plant material and rinsed eggshells.


rofl I started to cring on the pork fat and by the time i got to doggie doo doo, I was feeling really bad for you that your compost may have been ruined! I was trying to think of a nice way to tell you how you shouldn't have used those things and hoping someone else took on that responsibility so I wouldn't have to burst your bubble, lol! Boy I was so glad it was a joke! That was great!
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  bvarbel on 2/9/2013, 7:20 pm

Yeah, maybe I went too far...I'm a very nice guy with bit of a twisted sense of humor.

Truth is I'm SOOOOOO excited about this new(ish) SF Gardening book and my nicely developing compost pile. Pretty quick here I'm going to buy the wood and soil and build 3 of these gardens.

I'm 36, and in the 80's when I was a young kid my parents had the old book. Coupled from info from the show that used to air on PBS I think we had an old style SF garden. That experience inspired me to love plants.

I hope I have enough of a green thumb to pull it off...I just nearly killed a rosmary house plant on my kitchen window sill, but I think I can really do this.

All the extra net frames and covers you can build have me overwhelmed...but hey I live in Southern CA...Our growing season is already longer.
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  plantoid on 2/9/2013, 7:44 pm

There is a totally new book... released a few days ago , be certain to look out for it. It is apparently way ahead of even the fantastic second edition in which Mel dropped the idea of using mother earth .


My copy is due to be issued from Amazon UK & sent on 22 Feb 2013. cheers
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  bnoles on 2/9/2013, 8:27 pm

@plantoid wrote:There is a totally new book... released a few days ago , be certain to look out for it. It is apparently way ahead of even the fantastic second edition in which Mel dropped the idea of using mother earth .


My copy is due to be issued from Amazon UK & sent on 22 Feb 2013. cheers

Hi David.... could you please provide more details on this book. I am not aware of it.

Thanks!

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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  Triciasgarden on 2/9/2013, 9:13 pm

Bvarbel you fit in just fine here! I don't think there is anyone who hasn't killed a plant or two at some time or other so I am sure you will do great with your garden! You do have a wonder long growing season!

I haven't gotten to the netting to keep insects out myself yet and have to do more reading before I get started.

When things slow down a bit, you may want to think about some sort of shade cloth for when your temps get into the high 90s and the 100s there in the high desert but you have quite awhile before you have to think about that! There are people who have posted what they use and how they set up their shade cloth.
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Re: How do I know if I have completed compost

Post  camprn on 2/9/2013, 9:17 pm

@bnoles wrote:
@plantoid wrote:There is a totally new book... released a few days ago , be certain to look out for it. It is apparently way ahead of even the fantastic second edition in which Mel dropped the idea of using mother earth .


My copy is due to be issued from Amazon UK & sent on 22 Feb 2013. cheers

Hi David.... could you please provide more details on this book. I am not aware of it.

Thanks!
I think Dave has hit the hay in the UK.

I think he is referring to the second edition of the All New Square Foot Gardening book.

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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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