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New to composting

Post  Just Piddling on 8/11/2015, 6:15 pm

Well the title says it all.

After many years of thinking I was bullet proof I find myself turning 64 next birthday and realizing more ever day that dad was right about taking better care of myself and that I was only bullet proof when I was younger.

With my bad back turning compost piles is completely out so i have built a 55gal metal barrel composter. Once full I really can't roll it around much but figured out that I can take my zero turn mower and roll it all day long if need be.


I'm currently gathering some contents with the expectation of filling the barrel with thirty five gallons of material before I start off.

I have access to most of the items listed in Mel's book but have already added the following. I post this looking for honest thoughts on what I have done so far and any recommendations you expert have.

I understand that the barrel method may take longer but I have the time.

In the barrel as I type this is the following.

5gal packed green cow manure
5gal packed dried chicken manure feathers and all
5gal packed crunched up leaves
5gal packed dried grass clippings
5gal of year old worm castings
3gal of coffee grounds
3gal of tea grinds
2gal of chopped up left over garden vegetables


I guess that using a barrel biggest limiting factor is its inability to build up heat to large amounts of material but I hope that by only turning ever three days or so and maybe standing it up right between turning times it may build up enough heat to work.

Thanks for any advice in advance.

Just Piddling
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Re: New to composting

Post  donnainzone5 on 8/11/2015, 6:26 pm

I'd add some more browns, such as used coffee filters, shredded paper or newspaper (black ink only, no glossies), and cardboard.

The latter is easy to tear up if you soak it in water first.  

Kitchen and garden waste are always good, e.g., crushed eggshells, apple cores, rotted lettuce, trimmings from other fruits and veggies, watermelon/cantaloupe rinds, banana peels, citrus rinds (in moderation).  A bit of cat/dog hair, as well as dryer lint (a bit controversial) can also be added.  Also, crushed crustacean shells (crab, shrimp, lobster).

I'll bet your compost will be super!

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Re: New to composting

Post  camprn on 8/11/2015, 7:58 pm

Sounds like a great start. You may need to add a little bit of water. HAve fun.

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Re: New to composting

Post  sanderson on 8/11/2015, 8:22 pm

Bad backs lead to creative inventions for gardening.  Congrats on making the barrel composter.  Here are 2 valuable links for making compost.  The first allows the calculation of carbon:nitrogen (browns:greens) in a compost pile.  It only allows input of 4 items but I lump products of similar/close ratios together to have only 4 items.  The second gives you the C:N ratios of quite a few products.  

http://www.klickitatcounty.org/solidwaste/fileshtml/organics/compostCalc.htm

http://www.norganics.com/applications/cnratio.pdf

I plugged in your products (grouping those that are close to get down to 4 items) and you have a very high nitrogen mix,  14:1.   The calculator states 25-30 as good,  20-40 as OK.  So, you need more dry leaves, dry grass, or shredded plain paper or cardboard.  I think you said you already have the materials in the barrel.  Next time.  Wink  

I am on my 8th pile and I think I finally have the right mixture of horse manure, dried leaves, chopped produce and chopped alfalfa hay.  This time I used the calculator.  Gee, only took 8 tries.   silly me   Here is a possibility for your next batch as measured by 5-gal buckets.  12 buckets of compacted, wet, dead leaves (like leaf mold), 10 buckets of dry mowed grass, 1 of coffee and tea waste, and 3 of some combination of kitchen scraps / cow manure / chicken manure.  Poultry manure is higher in nitrogen than cow manure, which is higher than horse manure.

Worm castings, fresh or dry, should be added directly to the boxes and not composted.  Next time.  Very Happy

Opps, I see Camprn has replied. I forgot about the water. If she thinks you have a good start then relax and enjoy your batch. She's been composting for years.

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Re: New to composting

Post  Just Piddling on 8/11/2015, 8:48 pm

Appreciate  the reply's.

I thought about not adding the worm casting but they were getting old so I dumped them in. I have fresh working as I type this.

I will add some shredded cardboard tomorrow. Would 5gal packed be enough.
I have added water and rolled the barrel around and the mix seems nice and moist.

The adding of another 5gal should still leave plenty of room for mixing.

I built the barrel with opposing fins with two vertical mixing fins. Looks like an H with two horizontal bars instead of one. Sure helps to mix things up good.

I actually used the barrel to mix the contents of my two boxes before I started composting.
Mixes very well.

Once again thanks for any advice.

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Re: New to composting

Post  sanderson on 8/11/2015, 10:50 pm

@Just Piddling wrote:I built the barrel with opposing fins with two vertical mixing fins. Looks like an H with two horizontal bars instead of one. Sure helps to mix things up good. I actually used the barrel to mix the contents of my two boxes before I started composting. Mixes very well.
Smart idea

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Re: New to composting

Post  Zmoore on 8/13/2015, 7:51 am

Sanderson, thanks for the calculator and other information, pretty cool.  

Some information that may be handy for those who may work with it and they also generally use 5 gallon buckets for collecting and hauling material:
5 gallon bucket = .67 cubic feet 

The very base conversion is 1 gallon = .13 c.f.
or 1 c.f. = about 7.5 gallons = one and a half 5 gallon buckets

If I recall correctly the general guide for pile size is about 3x3x3 to 4x4x4 or 27 c.f. to 64 c.f. that's about 40 to 96, 5 gallon buckets.

Just FYI, may help measuring and planning mixtures.  

Personally I haven't been that exact with my contents, I just try to grab what I can, when I can, and try to make it a variety of components.  I don't know if what I have is too hot or not.  I know it looks good and smells good, but I'll just have to wait and see how it performs.  However, what sanderson provided looks interesting and useful.

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Re: New to composting

Post  Just Piddling on 8/13/2015, 3:33 pm

Yes thank you Sanderson for the links. Interesting how there can bet such differences in components that seem to be alike.

Zmore thank you for the gal to cf info. I had built a wooden 12x12x12" id box for actual measuring.Have been going to see how a 5gal bucket compared but have not yet.


Seems like as things break down I am going to have more room in my barrel so I will be adding more in the next few days to increase volume and get the numbers up.


Thanks again all.

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Re: New to composting

Post  sanderson on 8/13/2015, 7:35 pm

JP, As a general rule, once a pile (or barrel) is built up, nothing more is added unless more greens or browns or water are indicated by the conditions of the contents. The volume will shrink over the days, that's okay, just part of the process.

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Re: New to composting

Post  plantoid on 8/15/2015, 6:20 pm

JP ,
Can you rescue the worm casts .. that's better than gold that you've thrown away ?

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Re: New to composting

Post  Just Piddling on 8/16/2015, 1:15 pm

@plantoid wrote:JP ,
Can you rescue the worm casts .. that's better than gold that you've thrown away ?
Don't really think it was thrown away. It was a year or so old and I have at least another 5 gal of fresher with more coming along.

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Re: New to composting

Post  p14shooter on 3/15/2016, 3:39 pm

I will bump this thread back to the top as I seem to be still confused.  Here is what I have learned, tell me if I am wrong.

Composting in 5gal buckets is fine, but it will not cook, there fore will take longer to breakdown.  When I tried it last year, I kept adding to the bucket once it shrank a little.  This is not right, right?  Once it is full, let it go.

If I were to try a pile, it has to be 3x3x3 in order to get it to breakdown quickly.  Anything else will not work.

This homemade compost with only household scraps is not sufficient.  It needs to have some type of manure in it.

Even with a well rounded homemade compost, it should be blended with other types of compost to be over all balanced.

If the scraps are just added to the garden, this is wrong.  Although my 2 buckets of compost from last year which did not break down I put in the garden in the fall and turned, and in the spring there was nothing left.  This in itself confused me as if it did not break down in the summer, how did it do it in the winter?

There is not a realistic way for a household of 2 to produce enough compost to supply the needs of the garden.  Unless it is all leaves, and that is not a good thing.

If TD gets into vermicomposting, I should follow TD as the climate and circumstances there seem to be similar to mine, then I could get rid of all my leaves in a big way

I can use shredded paper, such as regular printer paper as food for the compost

I think that is enough for now

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Re: New to composting

Post  CapeCoddess on 3/15/2016, 4:25 pm

If you're looking for fast results, stop reading this post.
Laughing
I am a household of one and a half.  My 6'x 4' compost pile is mostly oak leaves with kitchen scraps, paper/cardboard, garden debris, urine and seaweed layered into it.  I don't turn it anymore or use manure. I add to it until around Aug 1st.  It takes about a year to become usable and it works fine. (I can sneak some out from the bottom in a pinch though.  Wink )

Then all the above listed items, sans leaves, go into a 'new' pile and when the leaves fall they get mixed in.  

I don't put scraps in my MM or gardens due to critters.  I don't mind if they rummage and dig in the compost pile though since they won't be damaging any plantings.

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Re: New to composting

Post  Scorpio Rising on 3/15/2016, 5:48 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:If you're looking for fast results, stop reading this post.
Laughing
I am a household of one and a half.  My 6'x 4' compost pile is mostly oak leaves with kitchen scraps, paper/cardboard, garden debris, urine and seaweed layered into it.  I don't turn it anymore or use manure. I add to it until around Aug 1st.  It takes about a year to become usable and it works fine. (I can sneak some out from the bottom in a pinch though.  Wink )

Then all the above listed items, sans leaves, go into a 'new' pile and when the leaves fall they get mixed in.  

I don't put scraps in my MM or gardens due to critters.  I don't mind if they rummage and dig in the compost pile though since they won't be damaging any plantings.

CC

Ditto, sans seaweed and urine. I tend to catalyze with blood meal. My pile is about 4x3, and has a newish side and a more finished side. I only add to the newish side over the season.

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Re: New to composting

Post  p14shooter on 3/15/2016, 8:46 pm

fast is not what I am looking for.  Urine?  I have read that in numerous places, but I am sure that you do not mean for me to go pee on it.  This must be something more scientific.  As for the seaweed, I have not heard much about that, but I can get it in abundance on my beach walks, but what about all that salt?

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Re: New to composting

Post  sanderson on 3/16/2016, 3:14 am

Seaweed on your beach walks???  Shocked  I am so jealous, as I am of CC.  I rinse the sand off the seaweed I get from the Pacific Ocean.  That should also be removing extra salt.  I mention seaweed because I like to think that our Oceans have lots of trace elements that wash down from the mountains and plains and out to the ocean.  I cut it up into about 6" pieces as our variety is large tubed and leafed.  It breaks down in my hot 18-day Berkeley compost within a month.

A little bit of Blood meal or urine can start up a compost pile.  I would recommend that the pee be collected indoors and discreetly added to the pile.  Razz

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Re: New to composting

Post  sanderson on 3/16/2016, 3:46 am

@p14shooter wrote:I will bump this thread back to the top as I seem to be still confused.  Here is what I have learned, tell me if I am wrong.

Composting in 5gal buckets is fine, but it will not cook, there fore will take longer to breakdown.  When I tried it last year, I kept adding to the bucket once it shrank a little.  This is not right, right?  Once it is full, let it go.
Yes, let it go.  Occasionally mix or dump into another bucket to add oxygen and to check the proper moisture content.

If I were to try a pile, it has to be 3x3x3 in order to get it to breakdown quickly.  Anything else will not work.
Correct.  Please refer to the 18-day Berkeley method thread.

This homemade compost with only household scraps is not sufficient.  It needs to have some type of manure in it.
Kitchen scraps and manure are 2.  Leaves, grass, coffee grounds, sea weed, etc. for the other 3, or 4, or . . ..

Even with a well rounded homemade compost, it should be blended with other types of compost to be over all balanced.
 Not necessarily.  see above

If the scraps are just added to the garden, this is wrong.  Although my 2 buckets of compost from last year which did not break down I put in the garden in the fall and turned, and in the spring there was nothing left.  This in itself confused me as if it did not break down in the summer, how did it do it in the winter?
Ahhh, the mystery of the micro-world in our beds.  See 'Microbes...you gotta see this one !!!' thread.

There is not a realistic way for a household of 2 to produce enough compost to supply the needs of the garden.  Unless it is all leaves, and that is not a good thing.  . . . I can use shredded paper, such as regular printer paper as food for the compost
True, true, yes.  You may have to go out side your house and property to gather materials.  Horse stable, cow patties in the pasture, 4-H rabbit, sheep, goats, chickens, leaves from your neighbors, coffee grounds from churches and Starbucks, wilted produce from Farmer Markets and grocery stores, restaurant and neighbors' kitchen scraps, bale of alfalfa hay, the banana peel the guy in the car in front of you threw out the window!  Wink Mow leaves and store in cages or a huge pile on your property.  Tarp during the winter and I bet you find a ton of worms come spring.  Mow shredded flakes of alfalfa hay.  Store coffee grounds in a pile/cage outside like the leaves.  Ditto for the manures.  Keep them dry during storage or you can get a ton of flies.  Just takes some planning and plotting.[/quote]

If TD gets into vermicomposting, I should follow TD as the climate and circumstances there seem to be similar to mine, then I could get rid of all my leaves in a big way.
see leaf and coffee grounds above.

I think that is enough for now

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SEaweed? in Denver???

Post  jmsmall on 3/16/2016, 8:54 am

We have very little seaweed here!

I'm using coffee grounds, kitchen scraps, Japanese beetles, weeds, garden plant carcasses, and leaves so far. These are what I get for free. Last weekend it was warm enough to turn the pile and all the weeds etc were gone but the leaves remain. I think I need more "green" to go with all the brown.

Jim

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Re: New to composting

Post  sanderson on 3/16/2016, 1:37 pm

@jmsmall wrote:We have very little seaweed here!Jim
Wink

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Re: New to composting

Post  trolleydriver on 3/16/2016, 1:43 pm

What is seaweed?  

We may have some riverweed and/or lakeweed that I could use.

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Re: New to composting

Post  sanderson on 3/16/2016, 2:11 pm

Aka kelp. I have bought kelp meal and crab flakes from www.kelp4less.com. Optional. I personally like a trace of the sea. Out of some 10 cages of compost I have made, I have only been able to time building a new pile with a recreational trip to the ocean side twice.

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Re: New to composting

Post  CapeCoddess on 3/16/2016, 3:30 pm

@p14shooter wrote:fast is not what I am looking for.  Urine?  I have read that in numerous places, but I am sure that you do not mean for me to go pee on it.  This must be something more scientific.  As for the seaweed, I have not heard much about that, but I can get it in abundance on my beach walks, but what about all that salt?

LOL
I don't wash my seaweed but there are those on the forum that believe we should. I usually go collect after a storm and maybe the rain has rinsed it. It's not something I worry about though.

You can use the forum search box to learn about urine, but personlly I will only collect it from non medicated folks, of which I am the only one I know around here.

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Re: New to composting

Post  sanderson on 3/16/2016, 4:26 pm

CC, Is your seaweed really sandy and snotty? Ours is.

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Re: New to composting

Post  CapeCoddess on 3/16/2016, 4:29 pm

@sanderson wrote:CC,  Is your seaweed really sandy and snotty?  Ours is.

Sanderson, did you really mean to say snotty? Or is that some weird autocorrect thing? lol Unless you mean like slimy?

Yes, sometimes my seaweed is very sandy, but if it's in a huge pile the stuff on the top isn't. I feel that the sand is good for my garden though so I don't mind it at all. But it's never slimy. It's kind of rough actually.

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Re: New to composting

Post  sanderson on 3/16/2016, 4:38 pm

I should have used the phrase "elephant snot" because it just drips off it after a few hours driving home from the coast.  A lot of sand sticks to it and there aren't any real "piles" of it.  More single or double layers just lying on the sand.

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Re: New to composting

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