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To those of you with compost tumblers

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  sanderson on 1/3/2014, 6:36 pm

Thanks, Veteran.

Wood chips and wood shavings took too long to break down for my quick compost needs in 2013. I had to sift the "lumpy compost." But if I had any area for slow composting, I would use them again. I would love to use the sawdust from my husband's wood shop vacuum cleaner, but he saws plywood, coated, and treated wood in the same area.

Veteran, It is my understanding that once the browns have finished composting and no longer need the nitrogen, they release the nitrogen for the veggies to use. True? Since nitrogen is an element, it can't be consumed, only bound up while it's in another use.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  camprn on 1/3/2014, 6:52 pm

@sanderson wrote:Thanks, Veteran.

Wood chips and wood shavings took too long to break down for my quick compost needs in 2013.  I had to sift the "lumpy compost."  But if I had any area for slow composting, I would use them again.  I would love to use the sawdust from my husband's wood shop vacuum cleaner, but he saws plywood, coated, and treated wood in the same area.

Veteran, It is my understanding that once the browns have finished composting and no longer need the nitrogen, they release the nitrogen for the veggies to use.  True?  Since nitrogen is an element, it can't be consumed, only bound up while it's in another use.

The nitrogen can be tied up whilst being used during the composting process. this is the reason it is not a good idea to put chips directly in the garden as the N will not be available for the growing plants. explained here:
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/soil/msg0509480523277.html


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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  Veteran Compost on 1/7/2014, 11:08 pm

@sanderson wrote:Thanks, Veteran.

Wood chips and wood shavings took too long to break down for my quick compost needs in 2013.  I had to sift the "lumpy compost."  But if I had any area for slow composting, I would use them again.  I would love to use the sawdust from my husband's wood shop vacuum cleaner, but he saws plywood, coated, and treated wood in the same area.

Veteran, It is my understanding that once the browns have finished composting and no longer need the nitrogen, they release the nitrogen for the veggies to use.  True?  Since nitrogen is an element, it can't be consumed, only bound up while it's in another use.

Sawdust from a wood shop is a tempting carbon material, but you're right to avoid it.  Glues in plywood, as well as treated or painted wood can leave some nasty stuff behind in the sawdust.  Those chemicals can leach into the soil, so thats why I don't use any treated wood for building my compost bins, worm bins, and raised beds.

The carbon within our compost piles is broken down primarily by microscopic lifeforms (bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes) over time.  They take the solid carbon and break it into CO2, microbial biomass, and various carbon compounds.  At our eyeball level, it looks like the nice compost we all appreciate.

Keep a good mix of browns and greens and keep everything moist and the microbes will thrive and break it all down!

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Compost tumblers

Post  GloriaG on 1/8/2014, 8:48 am

FWIW: I use a set of three compost tumblers.  I have one tumbler that is "Fresh" to put scraps into, one "working" and one finished or almost finished.

So far, we've had success with them.  I only add scraps to the fresh tumbler, and I make sure to add dried leaves and kitchen scraps alternately so that I maintain a good brown/green ratio.  I spin the tumbler as often as possible.  If it's hot and I'm diligent about spinning it, I can make batches of compost fairly quickly.

In the beginning, I had one that got to be a wet mess, but I'm sure it was because I didn't add enough leaves and other brown material.  Now I add leaves, shredded newspaper, brown cardboard, etc. regularly and it seems to work fine.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  jimmy cee on 1/8/2014, 10:38 pm

I of the mind that GloriaG has it right on.
My tumbler was doing fine last season until ?
I now believe I didn't have enough brown material in it.
Right now it's frozen solid, I am continually adding kitchen waste, then when it warms and thaws
I'll start adding browns and keep it tumbling.

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Compost tumblers

Post  GloriaG on 1/8/2014, 11:32 pm

Thanks jimmy,

As a side note - I don't compost tomatoes, peppers or eggplants because of the possibility the compost might not heat up enough to kill any lingering diseases.  That was part of the initial instructions I read on composting in tumblers.

I don't really know how critical it is, but I decided I didn't want to test the outcome!  I'd rather forgo a little compost than have to treat next years crop for blight. 

This year, I believe my three tumblers will produce enough compost so I don't have to buy any.  Hooray!!!

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 1/9/2014, 4:00 pm

we have a friend that's a woodworker so about once a year he gives me a trash can full of his sawdust.  I use that and shredded paper most often for my browns and it works pretty well.  I have rarely ever felt any heat in my compost tumbler so I have no confidence that weeds are killed in it. 

When I'm done, if I don't mix it in with a new hot compost batch, I lay it out and cover with black plastic for a while to superheat and kill any bacteria or seeds.  So far that has worked well.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  jimmy cee on 1/9/2014, 8:57 pm

last WINTER (2013) after piling a bunch of stuff in it I opened the tumbler one cold morning.
A lite fog came out of the door, I slid in a vertical mercury thermometer and read 90 deg F..
This wasn't the heat compost needs, however I was very happy with it, happiness short lived  as soon after all froze up.
Point I am making is a tumbler can heat up, I don't think to much higher temps tho.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  brainchasm on 1/13/2014, 9:07 pm

Neither my tumbler nor my piles have ever heated up substantially, except the one pile, the very first time, and even that fizzled pretty quickly.

I just cleared all my garden refuse (dead plants, dried dead plants, old frost-kill maters, everything) and fed it through an electric chipper/shredder.  Made a tidy pile, everything is shredded small, and blended well.

No heat at all.  I think it can manage to stay 60degF in the overnight 40degF air.  I've watered, it, turned it, peed on it, everything.  No heat.

My tumbler is full of old dead stuff from much earlier last year, as well as some shredded cardboard, and whatever else looked good.  No heat.  Everything is brown in the tumbler, and it all might have fallen apart a bit, but it ain't compost, that's for sure.

My last plan is going to be to combine the big chunk pile, the small chunk pile, and the tumbler contents all into one big pile, once I feed the tumbler stuff and big chunk pile to the shredder.  I firmly believe it's a surface area and critical mass thing.  Now I just gotta find a place to put that much crap in one spot and not lose it to wind or the gravel underneath it, but I think I have a tarp that will work.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  Lemonie on 1/13/2014, 9:18 pm

Fresh urine can heat up a pile pretty quickly.  blush Just saying....

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  brainchasm on 1/13/2014, 9:24 pm

@Lemonie wrote:Fresh urine can heat up a pile pretty quickly.  blush Just saying....
Tried.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  Marc Iverson on 1/13/2014, 9:35 pm

I don't have a tumbler, but my pile on the ground didn't heat up until it was a very big mass. Most compost tumblers are far smaller, so "critical mass" might be a lot harder to get.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  brainchasm on 1/13/2014, 9:36 pm

@Marc Iverson wrote:I don't have a tumbler, but my pile on the ground didn't heat up until it was a very big mass.  Most compost tumblers are far smaller, so "critical mass" might be a lot harder to get.
Understood, which is why my next step is to combine all three piles, and try for critical mass.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  donnainzone5 on 1/14/2014, 9:59 am

Brainchasm,

What's your ratio of browns to greens? From what I've read, 1/3 to 1/2 should be greens, the rest, browns.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  Baysidebob on 1/14/2014, 11:28 am

Mine arrived last night.  The instructions say 1 part green, 2 parts brown.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  brainchasm on 1/14/2014, 12:36 pm

donnainzone10 wrote:Brainchasm,

What's your ratio of browns to greens?  From what I've read, 1/3 to 1/2 should be greens, the rest, browns.
I mostly stick to that...ok, no I don't, I just feed it all to the shredder.  This latest batch, that should have had the best chance, was probably 3 to 1 brown to green...should still have warmed up with a bit of uh, liquid.  But alas, NO.  Mad 

We'll see this weekend, when I shred everything else and get a bigger pile.  One thing I did learn - no trying to compost palm tree parts.  That stuff is waaay too tough.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  Marc Iverson on 1/14/2014, 6:15 pm

Can you put some nice fresh chicken poop or other high-nitrogen, microorganism-rich stuff, into the batch to help kick-start it? Maybe some fresh compost from a friend or neighbor's compost patch?

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  Baysidebob on 1/14/2014, 6:44 pm

@Marc Iverson wrote:Can you put some nice fresh chicken poop or other high-nitrogen, microorganism-rich stuff, into the batch to help kick-start it?  Maybe some fresh compost from a friend or neighbor's compost patch?

I just unpacked and set mine up and that's what I did.  Steer manure/compost mix, some chicken manure and watered in with fish emulsion.  I was just a slight bit over on "brown" so we'll see what happens.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  Marc Iverson on 1/14/2014, 6:55 pm

The fresher the better, is what I'm thinking. Straight from the horse's, err ... you know. Some of that bagged stuff sits around so long in the sun I wonder how many beneficial organisms could possibly survive in it.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  Baysidebob on 1/14/2014, 7:17 pm

I agree Marc.  But I'm a city boy and must use what I can get.  I lived in Japan during the Korean war and my parents told me stories of the "honey bucket carts" that would collect human waste from houses for use as fertilizer in rice paddies.  The Berkeley compost site says anything that was ever alive, including road-kill, can be composted.  I'm not sure I want to push that envelope but if someone does let us know how it works out.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  GWN on 1/15/2014, 12:36 pm

I am working hard away at heating up my composts as well.
I have a moderate chipper shredder and when i put garden waste through it and make a pile and add water, it is usually up to 140 degrees in one day.
My tumbler is another story. This is my third year with it and it just seems to be a mucky mess still.
This year I added lots of pure sawdust and chipped up stuff and house compost and it is still a mucky mess that freezes.
I WILL keep trying though.

My compost pile that is in my hoop house for the winter seems to be doing pretty well. It has stayed at 60-70 despite cold weather here. Problem is I have no fresh garden waste to chip right now ,NOR do I think my chipper would start in this weather  Sad 

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  cheyannarach on 1/15/2014, 3:13 pm

My tumbler's lid got KOed by the huge hail we had last year so I think I am going to turn it into two large flower pots this spring!

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  plantoid on 1/15/2014, 5:13 pm

@GWN wrote:I am working hard away at heating up my composts as well.
I have a moderate chipper shredder and when i put garden waste through it and make a pile and add water, it is usually up to 140 degrees in one day.
My tumbler is another story.   This is my third year with it and it just seems to be a mucky mess still.
This year I added lots of pure sawdust and chipped up stuff and house compost and it is still a mucky mess that freezes.
I WILL keep trying though.

My compost pile that is in my hoop house for the winter seems to be doing pretty well.  It has stayed at 60-70 despite cold weather here.  Problem is I have no fresh garden waste to chip right now ,NOR do I think my chipper would start in this weather   Sad 



 GWN do you have any adjustable air vents on the tumbler ?  It sounds a though it is too wet all the time.
Perhaps used less wet greenery  & open any vents you might have.
 
Obviously in sub zero temps anything stored above the ground will freeze easily & quickly.

 Are you likely to have got rain entering it ?  If so perhaps a removable "  umbrella " cover that stands a foot or so proud of the tumbler is the answer.

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  GWN on 1/15/2014, 6:00 pm


@plantoid wrote: GWN do you have any adjustable air vents on the tumbler ? It sounds a though it is too wet all the time.
Perhaps used less wet greenery & open any vents you might have.

You know I think you may have a point there
I wonder if there was an opening at the bottom (or at least what is usually the bottom) to drain xs water out.... I wonder if I need to drill a few holes.
I will have to see if there is a place where rain water gets in
Thanks Plantoid

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

Post  plantoid on 1/15/2014, 6:03 pm

Sometimes  the air vents are on the drum sides where the axle would go through. Often small plugs or sliding plate that covers a series of holes.  
 If you do end up drilling air vent holes make sure you won't be drilling into water that can run down the drill and end up electrocuting you .

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Re: To those of you with compost tumblers

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