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Speeding up my compost??

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Speeding up my compost??

Post  jenjehle on 5/3/2010, 3:46 pm

I have an enclosed compost bin purchased at Sam's Club. I will attempt to put a picture of it into this post. My question is...


Does anyone have any suggestions about speeding up the process a bit?? I have some flower beds that need soil but my compost isn't quite broken down at the bottom like I want. Now that the weather is warming up and we can get outside more, we do try to turn every day or two when we add to it. But I'm getting a little impatient I'd like to use my own compost instead of purchasing it.

By the way, we bought and started this last year, maybe late spring/early summer. It's coming along nicely but not sure I can use it yet. Still kind of chunky at the bottom.

I'm in zone 5b, northern Indiana and have a family of seven (2 adults, 5 kids) and we produce lots of "stuff" for our compost. Lots of fruit/veggie leftovers go into it, egg shells, coffee grounds, along with yard waste and shredded newspaper. It will be great stuff if I could just get it to a point that I could use it!

Thanks for any suggestions!










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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  square ft jimmy on 5/3/2010, 4:03 pm

I've use triple 10 fertilize in layers or mixed in. It seems to draw heat and make it break down quicker. I use approx. 1 cup every couple of months.

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  Lavender Debs on 5/3/2010, 4:39 pm

Hey Jen!

I have learned a couple of tricks, but FIRST you know that it is OK to sift out the chunky stuff right? I kind of lift and scoop it out with a rake. This is ALWAYS an issue for me because I am always adding to mine......although from now on I am going to either run potato peels through the microwave or food processor.

Organic trick #1
Add alfalfa meal or pellets (like rabbit food or calf manna, it should not have any chemicals). For some reason this heats things up

Less organic trick #2.
Add high protein dog food. This also heats the pile up
Caution: I used to work at a grocery store. You would not believe the nasty junk that is recycled into dog food. You have no way of knowing if this is organic or not.

(both of these were from Garden Way by Dick Raymond)

Semi organic trick #3
add a compost activator (is that what it is called?)
Both Whitney Farms (now owned by the people who make Scott's Turf Builder and other fine chemicals) and E. B. Stone sell products that heat up the pile and enhance the final product. Both have good things like alfalfa meal, kelp meal, rock phosphate and seed meal. However they also have bone and blood meal which can be amazing in the garden, but you have no way of knowing if the cattle who "donated" these bi-products were treated with anything you might not want in your food. (that said, I have been adding EB Stone to my compost for a couple of turns)

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  Dietryin on 5/3/2010, 5:33 pm

great question! / great reply.

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  camprn on 5/3/2010, 9:17 pm

To get my compost going hot and quick my first choice is fresh manure and lately I have not been able to get any. My second choice is dried blood. I have never used alfalfa, but hear good things. I have had less than desirable results with the pre-made, store bought compost activator mix. Fresh cut grass has quite a bit of nitrogen and should help provide heat to speed up the process. I have had a pile get up to 138F using blood meal as activator.
I just built a new pile yesterday using dried blood and fresh grass clippings with a bunch of shredded dry brown yard waste and a bit of ready compost, watered it well and today its plenty hot inside.
The other bit that is important is air. When I build my pile I put about 9 stakes into the ground and build the pile (3'X3') up around them. When Im done layering and watering, I pull out the stakes, leaving vents that go down through the pile. After a week of heating up I place the stakes in the next bin and turn the pile into there, water, pull out stakes and wait for it to to reheat. I generally get usable compost in 4 weeks but it doesn't look like the stuff in the photo.
By the way, that lovely, humusy looking compost in the promotional photo is what my garden soil looked like after adding compost and had the worms at it for about 4 years. flower

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  chocolatepop on 5/3/2010, 10:37 pm

i know, go ahead and gross out, but MANY people suggested pee...

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Huh??

Post  jenjehle on 5/3/2010, 11:38 pm

@chocolatepop wrote:i know, go ahead and gross out, but MANY people suggested pee...

Ok, like what does that mean? Pour urine in the pile or have someone (like hubby) relieve himself into my compost bin? That heats up the pile and helps it breakdown faster?

I also need more info from camprn...
Where does one get dried blood? (YIKES... do I dare ask?) And when you say fresh cut grass, do you let it dry first before adding it? Or just put it in there green and wet? When we add our grash clippings, we lay it out to dry for a couple of days to let it dry out completely.
I'm not really sure what you mean about putting the stakes in the pile. I've heard about laying large sticks criss-crossing throughout the pile for air flow. But since I have a closed plastic bin (opposed to just an open pile in the corner of my yard) I don't know how I'd do the stakes.

A lot of this info is great, but I'm just a little more confused.

Lavendar Debs-Where do I get alfalfa? And high protein dog food? As in canned dog food; the wet stuff? Any name brands specifically that are good to use for this?
I have taken some compost out at the bottom and sifted through it taking out the "chunks" and using the dirt-just not very much. Only took out a little.

Thanks so much for your help! Keep those ideas coming, please! I'm still learning about composting. Sometimes I feel like I know enough, then I read these replies and realize I don't know all that much!

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  chocolatepop on 5/4/2010, 12:29 am

Jenny, thats what i was told. There is another thread on here from a while ago talking about it.

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  plb on 5/4/2010, 3:24 am

My local council suggests pee too... It's a very well known old way to enrich your compost. Just get your husband or son to relieve himself on the pile. It speeds things up and it's supposed to be really good for veggies...

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  camprn on 5/4/2010, 6:38 am

Hi Jen, I will try to post pics later, when I get home from work, of my open bin. Grass clippings are green when I spread them onto the pile.
Check this out.
I buy the dried blood from the grain/garden store. I have found small bags of it at Home Depot. You can usually find it in the soil amendment / fertilizer section, near the lime, bone meal, rose food, stuff like that.

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  Retired Member 1 on 5/4/2010, 8:48 am

Dried blood is usually marketed as blood meal. Urine works great in a compost pile. I use a sawdust toilet but for urine only. Both to save on water and for the garden. Every two or three days I empty it into the compost pile. Not smelly or unpleasant at all. No men around, so a bucket is the way to go for ladies. If I wanted to speed up a ready-made pile, I'd just "go" in a bucket and pour it into the compost pile right away. I think you'd see a big difference in a week.

I can't turn my piles due to a wonky back, so adding urine helps speed up the process. And it really gets hot. Yesterday I dug a hole in the active pile to put in some veggies and almost burned my hand.

I used to have a friend who was a dedicated compost maker. He put a piece of perforated septic pipe down the center of his to get air to it. Similar to the post method someone else mentioned. He claimed it really helped the pile break down. He also turned his pile once a week and had finished compost in as little as a month. With the kind of bin you have, turning the pile might not be possible, but how about getting air to the center? Maybe you could start over and put in a perforated pipe or even a tube made of hardware cloth? I'm trying the latter in my next pile.

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Speeding up my compost?

Post  janetgouvas on 5/4/2010, 9:53 am

I admit I am an impatient gardener. I want to plant my seeds today, see them sprout tomorrow and pick ripe veggies by the end of the week. Okay, not so realistic. I have been researching compost for the last several weeks and nothing I have read gives me compost tomorrow. So I have started putting all my KITCHEN compostable materials into an old blender. You're going to add moisture anyway so the water shouldn't hurt. It makes a nice compost soup (not puree) to add to the grass clippings from my son's yard. No grass yard of my own and no leaves yet. Since the goal is to break it down this should work. In the meantime, I'm just going to kick the can whenever I get near it to reinforce the process.

Janet
Surprise, Az

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Blender?

Post  jenjehle on 5/4/2010, 11:56 am

Janet-

Do you mean you put your materials that are going to go into your compost through the blender before adding them? So that they're pureed? My husband told me that if we wanted to get things to break down faster then I could run things through my Cuisenart Food Processor; I thought he was joking, but he wasn't. This just seems like a labor intensive thing to do (and a bit yucky)! I do try to chop everything up into smaller pieces whenever possible. We have LOTS of orange peels, cucumber skin, banana peels. etc. I will cut them up if I have the time (I have 5 kids, by the way Smile ) in hopes that this will help break things down quicker.

I'm not an impatient person, just thought it would be more usable than this by now. But it may not be able to heat up very much since I'm in NE Indiana and the weather still gets pretty cool at night.

Think I'm going to try adding some of the products mentioned earlier. And remove some compost from the bottom, taking out chunks if need be.

Keep the ideas coming!!

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  Lavender Debs on 5/4/2010, 12:28 pm

@jenjehle wrote:Lavendar Debs-Where do I get alfalfa? And high protein dog food? As in canned dog food; the wet stuff? Any name brands specifically that are good to use for this?
I have taken some compost out at the bottom and sifted through it taking out the "chunks" and using the dirt-just not very much. Only took out a little.


I get alfalfa meal at the local nursery (you can probably find it in the garden aisle at Wal-mart or Home Depo or any store like those). Rabbit pellet and Calf Manna are found at farmers feed stores. So is high protein dog food.....BUT the cheapest, dry (kibble) High protein (not just regular dog food, not canned) found at your local grocery store should work. It only takes a couple of hand-fulls of either dog food or alfalfa when you turn your pile.

Both blood and bone meal are bi-products from slaughter houses (nice name). They are packaged and ready to use in a small box. Wear gloves

About having your guys pee in the pile….first get them to build a tall fence. The neighbors might not understand.

Deborah . . .still laughing. . . .peeing outside was something my 2 year olds were more than happy to do. Now, at 32 they are a little shy.

Edit....my food processor goes right into the dishwasher and is nice for pulverizing compost into worm snacks.

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  scotch827 on 5/4/2010, 5:49 pm

Don't forget grass clippings. They always heat my pile up. Used coffe grounds work well also. Make sure your pile is damp. If I work at it, I can get good compost in 6 weeks give or take a little. I turn it twice a week. I think compost activators are not neccasary. You can get the same results with free stuff.

Scott

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  Icemaiden on 5/4/2010, 5:58 pm

I went to a talk on compost-making last month and the speaker recommended a spiked tool for turning the compost in a plastic bin. It is made of plastic and the bottom has hinged "ears" which fold up when you push the stick in, then they fall out at an angle and catch on the material so it pulls up and gives the pile a stir. Mine has temperature sensitive plastic so it will show if the compost is warm or cold.
Not that I have actually used it yet as my bin is still empty but in theory it sounds very clever.

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  jenjehle on 5/4/2010, 11:02 pm

Icemaiden-

We use a "fork" like to one below to turn ours/mix it. And we do it at least 3 times a week. More if possible. I would love to see a picture of what you're referring to. I can't really picture it without seeing it.


Still trying to decide what I think about the urine thing Smile

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  camprn on 5/4/2010, 11:12 pm

I simply could not live without my garden fork. Try putting some of those fresh green grass clippings in, I bet just doing that would help. The pile I built on sunday is HOT!Shocked Just from the green grass and the small amount of dried blood. I was not able to get to the photos of my bin tonight. Sorry. Rolling Eyes

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  Lavender Debs on 5/5/2010, 11:23 am

@jenjehle wrote: snip ....at least 3 times a week. More if possible.
You said you have 5 children and I hope that they are doing this for your OR they make themselves scarce when you do this so that you have time to think.

The real reason I am posting is because it takes longer for my pile (bin really) to heat up. Right now I am turning it no more then once every three days NO SOONER. I not a master gardener just a dumb-luck gardener, so keep that in mind when you read this. My hottest pile was one that had fresh chicken and rabbit poo, lots of green (fresh/raw) grass clippings, dry maple leaves, and bedding straw. We only turned it about once a week at the most, sometimes every other week. It was in a 4 foot tall wire frame and had about a 3 foot diameter (I could bend my knees, hold both sides and work the frame up and off to turn the pile back into the frame.) I never put a thermometer into it but when we had a spring snow, it melted the snow and put off steam all day. It seemed to take a bit of time to get there, at least a couple of days.

My little bins that I turn every three days NEVER get as hot as that pile did. I no longer have chicken or rabbit poo (and rabbit pee), just alfalfa. If I were you, I would give yours a couple of days to heat up before turning it. AND, if you have not already.....add a worm or two from the yard.

Deborah....maybe it is just the cold May weather?

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I don't touch the bin :)

Post  jenjehle on 5/5/2010, 11:58 am

Deb,

Actually, my husband does all the adding & turning of the compost bin. I have back and hip problems so I'm unable to do that kind of heavy labor. It does take quite a bit for him to try to get into the bottom and turn it all into itself.

I contacted our local NPR station because they have a 1 hour program on once a week with our Extension Office Horticultural Educator. This show is amazing and I have learned SO much from listening to it! I asked him the question about speeding up my compost and he responded that the best thing I could do is to turn it every day, mostly so that it could get air. Also to make sure that it didn't dry out; to keep it moist. I asked him about adding worms and he said that it probably already had plenty of worms and just to turn it daily. And he said doing that would speed it up quicker than anything else.


To be honest though, we don't turn it daily. We just don't have the time. I would say occasionally we turn it every day but most of the time it's every other or every 3 days. When my husband turns it, I ask him how it looks. Everytime, he tells me it looks like a bin full of rotting garbage I say "perfect!!"

But I still wanted to check with my fellow SFG posters here on the forum to see if anyone had any tricks up their sleeves to helping it along.

Thanks for all your responses! I'll keep checking back for more to chime in!

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  Icemaiden on 5/5/2010, 1:23 pm

@jenjehle wrote:Icemaiden-

We use a "fork" like to one below to turn ours/mix it. And we do it at least 3 times a week. More if possible. I would love to see a picture of what you're referring to. I can't really picture it without seeing it.

Here it is (still unused)!

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  camprn on 5/9/2010, 9:55 pm

Chocolatepop recommended pee as activator, and others have acted on the same with multiple benefits. Click the link,
Seriously rofl

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  milaneyjane on 5/9/2010, 10:25 pm

A friend of mine who was an avid composter gave me a few tips when she gave me two bins somewhat similar to yours. First, she use a weed eater or a hand turned ice auger (seriously works great if you live up north and have access to one) and stuck it right in the composter to mix it up. Also, she took some hardware cloth and stapled it to a small wood frame that sat perfectly across her wheelbarrow. When she needed compost she would sift it over the wheelbarrow. Anything that fell through was ready to go.

Rebecca

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  Odd Duck on 5/10/2010, 11:45 am

I've tried the spike with the fold-out "ears" and found that I couldn't lift it after I stuck it deep in the compost pile and I'm pretty strong. I just use the digging fork and it works best for me. Once the compost is ready or nearly ready, a shovel works great. Before it's mostly broken down, the stuff is usually too "chunky" for the shovel to drive into it easily. Stuff also flops off the shovel when it's in big chunks. I just don't appreciate that little branch that flips off the shovel and flings the bit o' goo from a still slimy potato skin into the face.

If you shred everything really well before it goes into the heap, the shovel would probably work fine. I tend to have very mixed texture, some is shredded well, some is chunkier, and the fork works better for me.

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Re: Speeding up my compost??

Post  mckr3441 on 5/11/2010, 4:10 pm

This has been an awesome thread! Thanks, Camprn for leading me here. I was away from the forums for a few days and missed this when I came back.

I have a lot of work to do as I get my next batches of compost ready. At least I now know what to try. Thank you everyone.

Just letting stuff sit for a year does work with turning it occasionally. But not nearly the way I want to do it especially because the weed seeds won't be killed. I don't have grass as ours is mulched right back into the lawn and is chemically treated, too.

I always screen my end product as I just don't like all those chunks in there. I throw them back in the pile and take out stuff that won't finish before I take my dirt nap!

I had one of those "sticks" with the wings to turn the compost but it never worked for me. I just use the garden fork now. I have a large plastic tube left over from some drainage work that I've thought of putting in the pile for air circulation. Haven't done it yet though.

I started another thread with my comost questions. I have it in Outside the Box. I'm going to try to use my "special powers" and see if I can't combine it with this one.

Claire

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