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Cool compost

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Cool compost

Post  lburgess on 4/12/2013, 8:18 am

Hello first time poster, and have a question. I started up a compost pile about a week ago that is about 3 X 3 X 3, used lawn clippings (primary nitrogen source) kitchen scraps and since I am out of browns I used the very small wood chips (3/8" avg. size) from a huge elm tree stump we had taken down about a year ago. I layered the pile with 1" wood chips to 4" of grass clippings, then mixed it well (I have it in a large tumbler)

The pile was at 140 - 150 degrees for the entire week (I had to add water a few times as it was drying out quickly) I checked it on Wednesday and the temp was still at 130. We had a cold front moving in so I thought it best not to turn it until after the cool front passed, I checked the pile temp last night and it was down to 80 in the center (ambient air was 62)

I assume that there is no way I should have consumed all the nitrogen in a single week (even though there is no distinguishable green left in the pile) My question is do I need to use alfalfa pellets to try to restart the pile or wait and see what happens?
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Re: Cool compost

Post  littlejo on 4/12/2013, 9:54 am

It's hard to know for sure.
1. Does it smell of ammonia? If not, I'd add just a handful of alfalfa, and turn to mix.

Check temp daily, if poss. repeat #1.

If it ever smells bad, don't add alfalfa, but turn daily if you have time.

If it smells really bad, you can add some tore up newspaper or cardboard, little bit at a time, and remember to turn. I think the oxygen is just about the most important part of composting.

Don't put off turning, compost doesn't care about the weather Smile
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Re: Cool compost

Post  lburgess on 4/12/2013, 9:57 am

There are no bad smells, the pile had been turned every other day up until the cold front came thru. Will add some alfalfa and see how it goes from there. Thank you
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Re: Cool compost

Post  camprn on 4/12/2013, 10:23 am

Part of the problem is that you used wood. Wood cellulose takes a lot of nitrogen, energy and time to break down. http://www.compostjunkie.com/composting-wood-chips.html

There are a few other factors to consider.
It seems the carbon,nitrogen ratio is now off as the available nitrogen in the pile has been consumed. Sprinkling dried blood is pretty quick and inexpensive to get the pile heating again.
You may be turning the pile too often. I don't turn my pile until the temperature naturally drops to 100*F or below.

Have you looked at the thread 'Are you a Hottie', and 'Compost 101'?


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Re: Cool compost

Post  lburgess on 4/12/2013, 11:00 am

While I agree about using the wood chips, these have been in some form of decay for right at a year, most of them will crumble to a light dust with very little pressure. I would have thought a 4" to 1" ratio would have been enough to finish breaking them down.

I have read thru the compost 101 thread, have not read the hottie thread will do so at my earliest convenience. The thought that I had been turning to often is the exact reason I did not turn it before the cold snap (even though the temperatures had remained high) I assumed it would be better for the pile to try to retain the heat. at this juncture I am not so sure that was the correct action.
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Re: Cool compost

Post  camprn on 4/12/2013, 11:17 am

The best composting site I have found.
http://compost.css.cornell.edu/

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Re: Cool compost

Post  Turan on 4/12/2013, 12:08 pm

Let me see if I got this. Small wood chips that have composted for a year mixed with grass clippings in a hot pile. Heats up and stays hot for a week and then cools down. It sounds like finished compost to me unless the wood chips seem to need more. In that case add more green (or blood meal) and let it heat once more. It is quite likely that the greens (nitrogen) were all used up in a week, that is my experience unless it is a very high greens pile (like from my chicken coop).

From the description the OP gave I think this compost is ready to plant in.

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Re: Cool compost

Post  lburgess on 4/12/2013, 12:45 pm

That could be, hadn't really thought about that with the short time span. I did not check to see how much of the chips were left intact. I will do that as soon as I get home today Smile
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Re: Cool compost

Post  littlejo on 4/12/2013, 1:03 pm

You very well may have completed compost, but I think I'd add a little bit of greens(alfalfa or blood meal) and go for another week just for good measure. Here are a few links for you to look at. Jo

http://compost.css.cornell.edu/Factsheets/FS4.html
http://www.urbangardencenter.com/oxygen.html

14 day compost I don't have their composter, but do most of the things they suggest.
https://www.compostumbler.com/StoreFront/how-to-make-compost
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Re: Cool compost

Post  plantoid on 4/12/2013, 2:09 pm

Iburgess.
It seems that the reason for the heap coolinbg is slightly different to what most people say . you will have used up a lot of the oxygen in the heap so the bacteria will not react with the nitrogen to produce amongst other things heat thus the heap cools .
give it a forking through turning the outsides of the heap into the middle water it lightly as you do it and it will soon be back up in the high 100's .
One thing about wood chips and bark it consumes nitrogen from the other naqterials for several years then whwn the stage of decomposition has gone so far it will start producing its own nitrogen to feed bacteria that will fully comost it over another couple of years .

The smaller the wood particles the quicker it will break down , so medium saw dust well wetted is ideal if sprinkled in the compost heap . I've been composting all sorts of materials with some straw and green ( from fresh cut wet timber at the sawmill ) sawdust.
It all composted down fantastically in about 6 months using the 18 day hot composting method ( but only turning the heaps about every 10 to 15 days as I am a physical wreck )
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Re: Cool compost

Post  lburgess on 4/12/2013, 7:16 pm

Checked compost when I got home, same temp as yesterday around 82 or so , very little browns (wood chips) left solid. I added two handfuls of alfalfa pellets and gave it a little water, turned it and will keep a check on temps this weekend. What is left of the grass clippings are very crumbly and dark brown this may be close to done.

Thank you all for your help and advice, I look forward to participating in more discussions in the future Smile
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Re: Cool compost

Post  camprn on 4/12/2013, 7:31 pm

WOW! that's awesomely quick compost!! lucky you!!!
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