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Incomplete compost

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Incomplete compost

Post  No_Such_Reality on 5/6/2013, 4:06 pm

This weekend I dumped out one of my composters. It basically is a trash container with holes drilled in that I used as a cold composter. Originally, it heated nicely, then cooled and I allowed it to age in container. Overall it's reduced to close to 1/3rd it's original size.

When I dumped it out this weekend, I would say it looked unfinished, or unbalanced.

First item of concern, it smelled. Not the rich earth dirt smell, but the more of a bottom of a lake mud smell. I did water it a few weeks back and it seems to have really retained water in spite of the drainage holes.

Second item of concern is it's unfinished. While the compost has a rich black appearance, it also is jammed with unfinished partially decomposed leaves. I'll try and get a photo up, but it's abnormally raining here in SoCal.

On a good news, in breaking it up a little, there are earthworms in it, so I guess it can't be that unhealthful in there.

I currently have it draining/drying a bit and then will look at breaking it all up. Any guesses on the issue? does it sound like maybe too many leaves?

My other bin is jammed full. In digging in it with my fork this weekend, I discovered completely dry layer (or layers) of leaves that I've used as cover layer to keep the pest down. I'll need more soakings to get them going I guess. It also have lots of worms up in the bin, so I just need to get all the layering consistently wet.

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Re: Incomplete compost

Post  plantoid on 5/6/2013, 5:15 pm

Whole leaves can be a pain to compost some of the 18 month old whole oak leaves are still present in one of my compost bins despite the bin recieving four turnovers .

The other bins I used a leaf vacuum with a mulcher onnit and they have really composted and integrated in the piles.

How many reheats did your pile get ( how many times did you turn it ) ?
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Re: Incomplete compost

Post  No_Such_Reality on 5/6/2013, 6:12 pm

Just one turn. Experimenting with a close lid container and being able to load it and forget it and let time take it's toll. Trying to minimize the time and labor needed to get the compost.

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Re: Incomplete compost

Post  plantoid on 5/6/2013, 7:19 pm

I have tried your method , the trial was for about 15 months .
It ended on first of May this year ( 2013 )
It was not very successful for like your OP says there was lots if incomplete composting and it stank to high heaven as it had gone to anerobic decay .

I've taken the heap apart removed the bottom part that was composted and split the remainder into two separate bins , mixing some straw & neat chicken muck in to them as well at every four inches giving a quick hose spray at each new level of rebuild .
The temp was 150 oF today , on Wednesday I hope to take both bins apart and remix into one bin and then do the 18 day hot composting thing .

Instead of using a big shovel or fork I have a kiddies sand spade set on old sea fishing rod butt fro my shovel and I use a three tined weed rake on a wooden broom stick to tear the heap apart . It takes me about 25 min to demolish and rebuild a heap and does not wreck me into the bargain .
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Re: Incomplete compost

Post  No_Such_Reality on 5/7/2013, 1:25 pm

Plantoid, I did that once. The work was okay, the space to do it was the bigger issue. I ended up using the driveway as that was the only practical space that I could readily clean up and not contaminate the compost with the rocky clay that serves as the soil here.

Not to mention, I don't really relish dodging Black Widow spiders that seem to love the insects in the compost bin.

My newest thought is to use the bin to get a first heat, then dump the bin in a pile between my fruit trees on the side yard. It's a narrow 4' strip between the wall and the sidewalk that runs the side of the house with a two foot strip with Camelia's planted along the house. I figure the pile can age there and an leachate benefits the trees.

I've got a compost turner I broke down and bought, I'll see how that works.


I've also got a orchard root irrigater. I figure I can use that to basically drill into the heap and get a soaking in to the dry middle layers.

But I think you might be right, maybe I just need to do the first heat in the bin and then transfer to my tumbler. Left in the bin, in compresses itself too much.

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Re: Incomplete compost

Post  mschaef on 5/7/2013, 2:11 pm

I dont compost but I have heard that you need to "mow" your leaves before adding them to the compost heap to help them break down faster. Just lay your leave out and go over them a few times with the lawn mover than add to the compost heap. :fall:
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Re: Incomplete compost

Post  greatgranny on 5/7/2013, 6:24 pm

I have sifted my compost twice in the past week. Yes, there is incomplete for the most part. Today (the 2nd sifting) I got enough to add to most of my garden. Wondering - the depth of the composter has gone down to about 2/3's of what it was. Therefore, the depth will only about 2 - 3 feet. I don't believe that is high enough. I haven't finished because I'm taking a much needed rest but could I add one layer of chopped leaves and a bit of grass and food trimmings and then pile the rest of the old unfinished on top? Would like your feedback. Thanks.
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