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COMPOST 101

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COMPOST 101

Post  middlemamma on 4/28/2010, 1:58 pm

I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about compost. Can we start a thread of basic knowledge here?

Like how to start...what to do, what not to do.

From what I have gathered this is very delicate process and complicated. Do I have the wrong impression?

What different ways do you all do it? Bins, piles, wiggly hiltons???? Its all very confusing for my kindergarten level gardening mind.

I do not understand worms and the roll they play here?

Thank you in advance!

Jennie-Middlemamma

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  Odd Duck on 4/28/2010, 4:12 pm

Here's a link to get you started.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compost

This covers the basics, plus. It really isn't at all complicated to do a simple, old-fashioned heap. Just pile up all the garden trimmings, kitchen scraps (better if buried to minimize pests), some manure if you can get it, and turn it every few days if you want the compost fast, or don't turn it at all if you're not in a hurry or you have a bad back and plan on using it next year.

If you want a compost tumbler, you sometimes need to be a bit more precise and adjust the mix as you go. But a heap is simpler and much less precise. The more variety of stuff you put in your heap, the better the finished product tends to be.

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  organicgardeningzen.com on 4/28/2010, 4:15 pm

This was the site that got me started composting. I liked how straightforward and clear the layout was.

http://www.compost-info-guide.com/beginner_guide.htm

Once I felt like I had a handle on how to do it, I set up a system that I'm hoping will produce a decent volume of compost. I want to be able to top dress my lawn (2500 sq ft) with homemade compost this fall in addition to having enough for my SFG. I built 4 wire bins (4 ft tall by 5 ft diameter), very simply with rebar posts and rabbit fence, lined with used, flattened cardboard boxes to keep the compost from fallout out the spaces in the fencing. To get enough ingredients, I went to my local market and arranged to get a large rubbermaid tub of their green waste twice a week. I have a similar deal with my local coffee shop where I provide them a 6 gallon pail and they put their used coffee grounds in it for me and I pick up every few days. I also found a woman who keeps goats, and she bags up the straw from cleaning out her goat pens. So I have 3 bins going, the fourth is available for the weekly rotation/turning. I live in a dry climate, after turning and moistening, I cover the bins with black plastic (the super big black plastic bags) to keep the pile from drying out too much, rather than having to water it so often. I'm hopeful my first batch will be ready mid summer...

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  camprn on 4/28/2010, 4:30 pm

I posted this in another thread, but it addresses the importance of quality and make up of good garden soil and how to get there, including composting.

please read the links found HERE the fact sheets offer comprehensive information. Please know that adjusting your soil is a process and not an event and will take time. I hope this helps. Very Happy


Last edited by camprn on 4/28/2010, 4:36 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  Odd Duck on 4/28/2010, 4:32 pm

Excellent link, OGzen!

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  organicgardeningzen.com on 4/28/2010, 4:48 pm

Yeah, it was both comprehensive but easy to follow and learn!

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  timwardell on 4/28/2010, 6:23 pm

This YouTube video is one of the better ones I've come across and covers the basics pretty well.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSqlQ-P5CZQ

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  middlemamma on 4/28/2010, 6:31 pm

Thank you all.....I will sit down and start reading all of this tonight. Smile

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  timwardell on 4/28/2010, 6:33 pm

Here's two more videos that cover the topic fairly well.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAMy_ZJ0Xa8

and
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZqWTYB_XLwE&NR=1

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  Odd Duck on 9/29/2010, 10:24 am

Bump for the best compost thread with some really great links, too.

Boffer, can we move this thread to the compost section?

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Its easy

Post  PJ Allen on 10/4/2010, 7:34 pm

I bought 2 30 gallon trash cans with lids. Drilled holes in the bottom, sides and a few in the lid. At the time I had no leaves so I cut up some cardboard, some egg flats made from cardboard and newspaper that I ran thru my shredder. I then added the fruit peels, vegie scraps, egg shells rinced and then placed in a paper sack and stomped them to bits. coffee grounds, tea bags. I added water when it looked dry and more dry items when it looked was to wet or started to smell. I turned it at least once a week. I used a pallet to set the cans on.

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  FarmerValerie on 1/30/2011, 11:29 am

Not yet any where near an authority on this subject, but I did want to add something I read or saw or both. It is really best NOT to use grass clippings, as they have to be spread on a tarp, and completely dried before adding to a tumble composter, or spontaneous combustion could be a problem.

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  LaFee on 1/30/2011, 11:34 am

University of Minnesota Extension says this:

"Questions sometimes arise about spontaneous combustion in compost piles. Spontaneous combustion is the occurrence of fire without the application of an external heat source and can be caused by chemical, biological, or physical processes. Organic material can ignite spontaneously due to biological activity at moisture contents between 26-46% moisture if the temperature exceeds 200 degrees F. These high temperatures only occur with restricted air flow and piles exceeding a height of seven feet. Spontaneous combustion happens to stored hay or silage and only in rare cases to compost. No documented cases of spontaneous combustion have been reported for compost piles smaller than seven feet. Most reported fires occurring in compost piles are the result of external sources such as matches or the addition of hot ashes. In short, a well maintained compost pile with temperatures less than 150 degrees F will not spontaneously combust. If a compost pile gets too hot--more than 160 degrees F--you can cool it down by 1) reducing the size of the pile; 2) adding water to 55% moisture; or 3) mixing in coarse, bulky material such as wood chips. Compost piles work best at temperatures between 130-150 degrees F."

source: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/components/3296-03.html

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  camprn on 1/30/2011, 11:43 am

@FarmerValerie wrote:Not yet any where near an authority on this subject, but I did want to add something I read or saw or both. It is really best NOT to use grass clippings, as they have to be spread on a tarp, and completely dried before adding to a tumble composter, or spontaneous combustion could be a problem.

I always try to add green grass clippings to my backyard compost pile as it adds needed moisture and the required nitrogen to get the pile heating. I have had the pile as hot as 142F, which is what I am looking for, because I want to use the compost soon. With temps like that I can have finished compost in about 3 weeks.

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  boffer on 1/30/2011, 11:47 am

Good find, LaFee!

Maybe we need a thread called 'SAY WHAT? Debunking backyard gardening lore'!

Vermiculite/asbestos

etc.

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  quiltbea on 1/30/2011, 12:14 pm

This is a good and interesting thread.

I went to a local compost-making seminar last summer and the basic indea was to use:
1 part green materials to about 20 parts brown materials.
The compost was lush and looked and felt like good earth.

I started a new pile last fall.
Everytime I add a small bucket of chopped up kitchen wastes to my pile I top it with lots of last years dried leaves and add some water from the rain buckets scattered around in my garden area.

I'll let you know how that works out for me in the future.

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  FarmerValerie on 1/30/2011, 12:26 pm

As I said I am no where near an authority on this. But from what I have read it's best to mulch your grass clippings back into the lawn itself, and it is okay to add clippings to a pile. What I was commenting on is the possible risk of adding too many wet clippings to a bin or barrel, the kind you close up and turn, and that was quite possibly referring to my specific area, NE TX, where it can reach 100 degrees by 9AM. Granted that's not until August, and it usually waits until 10AM, but I have seen summers where we had 100 days of 100 degree weather. It's not uncommon for our weatherman to say it is raining, but it's evaporating before it hits the ground.

To me it's just not worth the risk of adding them to a tumbler where I live, because of the dry season we always have during summer. I would be the one that it would happen too. So we set the mower on mulch and use grass to fertilize the grass.

We encountered a brush/woods fire near our house one summer, and my husband had taken the water hose to work with him that day, he was power washing a house. My 2 boys, (10 & 8 yo), and I (pregnant) did what we could while waiting on the Volunteer Fire Department, thank God the wind was blowing the other way. So I prefer to err on the side of caution.

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  davidclubb on 1/30/2011, 5:07 pm

The website explained that anyone desiring to build a successful compost should build it in 4 inch layers. Begin with a 4 inch layer of fresh green matter like manure, moist grass clippings, food scraps and etc; then top it with a 4 inch layer of brown matter like dried leaves, wood shavings (not sawdust), ashes, coffee grinds, newspaper clippings and rice hulls from a local rice dryer or mill. Continue this process until you fill the bin. The goal is to create a pile with a core temperature of 130 degrees. In order to kill weed seeds and other pathogens, the core temperature should be around 130 degrees for three days. This temperature eliminates 99% of pathogens in the compost. For further details about judging how long to cure the pile, just refer to the website for that info. Good luck.

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  Megan on 1/30/2011, 6:15 pm

When we had a lawn to speak of, Valerie, we always mulched the clippings back in, too. Thanks for the word of caution; we currently have a tumbler composter.

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21 day compost

Post  camprn on 2/12/2011, 5:21 pm

I have not tried this, but I thought I would post.

Fast, no turning compost

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  Odd Duck on 2/14/2011, 11:11 am

The key is that he mixes his greens and browns at the beginning, before he puts it in the bin. You need to either mix it at the start, or mix it later, or let Mother mix it for you over time. I'm a big fan of Mother [Nature]. I layer and let her do the mixing, usually. If I'm in a big hurry for compost, I'll mix/turn a couple times and can get ready-to-use compost in about 6 weeks pretty easily, just a week longer than his plan. And if I turn twice, the whole bin is usable.

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what to add

Post  model a man on 2/15/2011, 9:27 pm

can I add avocado skins to my compost?

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  Megan on 2/15/2011, 9:30 pm

Don't see why not. As with any kind of compost, if there is anything remaining of real "food value" you run the risk of drawing pests like rats, but avocado skins sound like a perfectly fine addition to a compost heap.

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Re: COMPOST 101

Post  Old Hippie on 2/16/2011, 12:45 am

I not only put the skins in but the pits as well. I was surprised how quick they break down.........thought they would be like peach pits and be there forever but they are not.

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Compost 101

Post  florenceq on 2/16/2011, 12:52 am

We eat alot of avocados here in So Cal do the skins go right into the compost. I haven't put the pits in before since I was told they would take to long to compost. Based on the above post I may rethink that decision. hmm..............

This is my first year composting. I am using a 30 gallon trash can. Questions..........How do I know when it is ready? Do I need to do anything special with it before it goes in the garden? Does it need to sorted/sifted?

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Re: COMPOST 101

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