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To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

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To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Zmoore on 10/19/2015, 9:09 am

Composting outside over the fall and winter?
I screened my last pile of finished compost and then dumped all that into my beds and worked it in.  Generally, I'm in process of putting things "to sleep" for the winter.  Locally we had a little bit of a cold snap this weekend and we got a good frost last night.  I'm in Virginia, so it'll warm up some off and on up until late November-December when it will start staying cold longer. 
Anyway, I was putting the rest of my compost pile to "sleep" as well and figured I'd start back up actively composting March-April next year when things start to warm back up.  I laid my pile out in more of a windrow, but it's only about 18" tall and 4-5' long right now.  I have a bag of coffee grounds and some hair from a barber shop to add to it still, but that's only about another 5 gallon bucket of material.  My current thinking is to just let it go dormant and/or let it go slow and not fight it over the winter.  I'll have plenty of leaves to add to the pile here in next few weeks, leaves starting to turn and fall.  
My question, anybody have luck generating finished compost over the winter?  Outside, I'm not moving "operation" inside.  Is it worth the work?  I assume there will be additional work as you're fighting the ambient temperature that will be going against the internal temperature of the pile.  Are there any keys to success?  Turn less, turn more, increase mass?  Cover in plastic?  I don't need compost in 14 days, but it would be nice to have some fresh finished compost ready to go first thing in spring rather than starting then and having it a month or two later.  
Opinions-Input?

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  yolos on 10/19/2015, 10:42 am

I start my piles in Oct/Nov when the leaves fall.  It is a challenge to get greens at this time though.  So I use what I can and get coffee grounds from Starbucks.  My browns are mostly Live Oak leaves which take forever to breakdown.  So I shred them in late Oct or early Nov.  Throw them in a bin and wet them down.  Then as I get some greens I add them to the pile.  By Spring the leaves are partially decomposed.  Then I start adding as many greens as I can.  By starting the pile in Oct/Nov, that allows the leaves to break down real fast when spring comes.  I either turn them a few times in Oct-Dec, or if I am busy I just stick my pitch fork in the pile and try to do some lifting and mixing up of the leaves.  My weather is a little warmer longer than your weather.  (I used to live in Va Beach, Alexandria, and Norfolk - Dad was in the Navy).

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Zmoore on 10/19/2015, 12:52 pm

Thanks for input yolos!

Maybe I will continue to add greens over the winter and just get whatever I can for greens as I go.  I can get the occasional Starbucks supply, it's "first come first serve", so not always.  I do however, get a pretty steady supply from my office coffee maker, but it's only about a 2 gal. bucket a week.  I just bring a little bucket in the office and sit it by the trash can in the kitchen and people will dump the grounds in that instead of the trash can for me.  
Right now my pile is "ok" balance wise, little short on mass, but it's about to get very "Brown heavy" with mostly leaves.  If I can get nature to do anything in terms of break down over the winter, then like you said, it should help things go faster in the spring.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  sanderson on 10/19/2015, 3:14 pm

The only things I can think of to add is to make one pile instead of a wind row and loosely cover when there's a lot of rain. It needs to be moist but not soggy for the long run. Anyway to talk you out of adding hair clippings due to chemicals and oil? They won't help that much with the overall bulks once matted.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/19/2015, 4:07 pm

I generate so much in the way of kitchen scraps all year. I'm surprised when people say they have trouble finding greens, until they're talking about working in a fairly large scale. I have trouble getting rid of mine!

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Zmoore on 10/20/2015, 9:49 am

Sanderson, 
Thanks for input.  As far as cover goes... yeah, I really need to work up a nice bin or storage system where I can also easily incorporate a cover.  I'm currently just doing a "pile" system at the edge of the yard, about the only cover I can think of is plastic sheeting or tarp and I just don't like the look.  I live in a large wooded lot subdivision, but during the winter when leaves are gone the neighbors can see more than you think.  Just doesn't look good to me, I need to come up with a more permanent storage system. 
Hair, didn't think about the oils or chemicals.  I just heard it could be used.  This is my first try with hair and the main reason I wanted to try it was to see if it helps deter crittters.  I get the occasional possum rooting around in my piles.  No major damage or mess, just they get in it sometimes, thought the hair might keep them away.  

Marc,
  Wish you were my neighbor Smile  I haven't been real "religious" about catching all the kitchen scraps.  I'm lazy I guess.  I grab stuff occasionally from our household garbage flow, when it's convenient.  HOWEVER, I did talk with my wife and told her I was sitting a goal for next spring to really go after our garbage more thoroughly.  I'd like to also see if it makes a noticeable difference on the amount of garbage that makes it down to the street for pick up.  Here's to big plans

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  yolos on 10/20/2015, 10:01 am

I use camouflage tarps.  Cut to fit the size of the top of the bin or pile.  I don't cover the whole pile, just the top.  They wont last more than one or two seasons though.  Go to Walmart.com and search for camouflage tarp.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  trolleydriver on 10/20/2015, 11:29 am

Mrs TD and I are cleaning up our veggie and flower beds. Is there anything we should NOT set aside for composting? For example, are there any flowering plants that should not be used? We have a lot of hostas which I assume can be composted. As well I assume all vegetable plants can be composted. Right now I'm just making a pile of stuff from the veggie garden. Mrs TD wants to bag the stuff from the flower beds and let the city take it away. I'm thinking why not use it ourselves?

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  CapeCoddess on 10/20/2015, 11:51 am

I don't put evergreens, gout weed or ivy's in mine.  I put them in a black bag for a couple of years.
Can't remember why tho...maybe because my pile doesn't get hot enough to keep them from rooting...?
idk
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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  trolleydriver on 10/20/2015, 12:21 pm

Same for me CC. For example, I avoid using the trimmings from the cedar hedges. And like yours my compost pile does not seem to get very hot.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Marc Iverson on 10/20/2015, 1:46 pm

@Zmoore wrote:
Marc,
  Wish you were my neighbor Smile  I haven't been real "religious" about catching all the kitchen scraps.  I'm lazy I guess.  I grab stuff occasionally from our household garbage flow, when it's convenient.  HOWEVER, I did talk with my wife and told her I was sitting a goal for next spring to really go after our garbage more thoroughly.  I'd like to also see if it makes a noticeable difference on the amount of garbage that makes it down to the street for pick up.  Here's to big plans

You know, sometime recently I heard or read that some really big number (40%? 60%) of everything that goes to the dump is food waste. So it should make a difference in your garbage volume.

I have used various containers to hold my scraps. Now I use a big square tupperware type container with a lid, to control the odors. It's big and wide enough that when I peel carrots or cucumbers or potatoes, I can just hold the veggie over the container and let the peels fall right in, no muss no fuss.

I've taken to putting the bowl in the micro for a few minutes when it's full, to kill off any potential diseases or fungi/mold or bug eggs. I was told by an agricultural scientist that she likes to check out grocery stores when she travels, and always finds evidence of disease or bugs in the produce. She also pointed out that farmers often grow disease-resistant hybrids, so grocery fruits and veggies may harbor pests that they are immune to, but that the plants in your garden may not be. So, now I'm careful and do the microwave thing.

I also roast my eggshells and throw them in the mix, but that's mostly to cut back on the amount of interested vermin, and interest from my dogs. And it does make them far easier to crumble and add in to the soil.

Anyway, I get a surprising amount of scraps. Heck, just making a batch of potato salad can give me a big mount of peels, eating a banana leaves a sizable peel, onion tops etc etc...

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  sanderson on 10/20/2015, 2:10 pm

I also use a freezer container and grocery plastic bags to catch my scraps, then freeze until needed. Also, the best scraps go to the worms!! I used to save egg shells after microwaving but now I just use crab meal. A neighbor eats a lot of eggs and used to save the shells for me.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  yolos on 10/20/2015, 3:41 pm

Unless you have a hot pile, make sure the seed heads from the flowers are removed.  Last year I did not remove the seed heads from the cosmos and marigolds and I had flowers popping up everywhere.  No big problem though cause they are real easy to pull up.  This year I tried to remove all seed heads so we shall see how it does this spring.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Scorpio Rising on 10/20/2015, 8:09 pm

I don't have a hot pile, just a traditional, Rodale style pile. Turn it every couple weeks, always have had good results especially over the winter for some reason! I think, it just has time to sit there and meld. I use kitchen scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds with filters, tea bags, lint from dryer, toilet paper tubes, hair from brushes (hairy teens!) and garden debris. I leave flower heads for winter interest, and by Spring, they are pretty picked clean by hungry birds and fauna.

Works for me, but not a high output arrangement at all. Will cover in winter, definitely interested it the camo tarp! My neighbors will appreciate it!

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  jimmy cee on 10/21/2015, 10:48 am

In my opinion time to start a compost pile is NOW.
Build it up, work it through winter, keep building it, working it, and you'll be rewarded with nice compost in the spring.
I save all the leaves I can get till next spring, then I dump them out and shred with a poor mans shredder...(((weed whacker in a garbage can ))) mix it in with horse manure and other stuff. just keep in touch with your compost pile, it's never over.
Sorry, gotta go...compost pile is calling.....




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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  CapeCoddess on 10/21/2015, 12:19 pm

Geez Jimmy, I'd be pulling up chair with fork and plate in hand to your compost pile.
Laughing
@Scorpio Rising wrote:I don't have a hot pile, just a traditional, Rodale style pile.  Turn it every couple weeks, always have had good results especially over the winter for some reason!  I think, it just has time to sit there and meld.  I use kitchen scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds with filters, tea bags, lint from dryer, toilet paper tubes, hair from brushes (hairy teens!) and garden debris.  I leave flower heads for winter interest, and by Spring, they are pretty picked clean by hungry birds and fauna.  

Works for me, but not a high output arrangement at all.  Will cover in winter, definitely interested it the camo tarp!  My neighbors will appreciate it!
OK, 2 things:
I don't put dryer lint in the compost coz of the polyester and such = plastics.  Does that even matter?
Why cover for winter?  I've often wondered about that...

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  yolos on 10/21/2015, 3:32 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:Geez Jimmy, I'd be pulling up chair with fork and plate in hand to your compost pile.
Laughing
@Scorpio Rising wrote:I don't have a hot pile, just a traditional, Rodale style pile.  Turn it every couple weeks, always have had good results especially over the winter for some reason!  I think, it just has time to sit there and meld.  I use kitchen scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds with filters, tea bags, lint from dryer, toilet paper tubes, hair from brushes (hairy teens!) and garden debris.  I leave flower heads for winter interest, and by Spring, they are pretty picked clean by hungry birds and fauna.  

Works for me, but not a high output arrangement at all.  Will cover in winter, definitely interested it the camo tarp!  My neighbors will appreciate it!
OK, 2 things:
I don't put dryer lint in the compost coz of the polyester and such = plastics.  Does that even matter?
Why cover for winter?  I've often wondered about that...

CC

I cover during winter because it is rainier and cloudier and the pile gets very soggy if  the top is not covered and there is less sunlight to help dry it out a bit.  Some in the north cover to keep the pile from freezing as fast by keeping in as much heat as possible for as long as possible.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Scorpio Rising on 10/21/2015, 8:25 pm


OK, 2 things:
I don't put dryer lint in the compost coz of the polyester and such = plastics.  Does that even matter?
Why cover for winter?  I've often wondered about that...

CC[/quote]

OK, I don't think that matters, CC, because polyester doesn't shed lint, cotton does. I wash (3 swimmers) tons of towels and jeans and t-shirts. All cotton. I have also heard to use the stuff that you vaccuum up, and I might do that (dog, teens) too.

And honestly, I have never covered my compost pile, but the last couple winters have beenso snowy and wet that I have had concerns about leach....so will try it. And it is in a kinda wettish location next to the SFG. This spring was just so rainy and wet, everything laid there. I had to do a major re-do on the pile ( with my son's help!!) Hard work.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  jimmy cee on 10/22/2015, 12:01 am

CC
Wife and I have often thought about those discards, some are totally gone, others questionable.
It's a large chain that I am getting these from and I do not want to do anything other than reasons I gave them.
Folks are great, besides that one never knows the reason why their tossed.

My covers are there to keep rain deluges out. When if at any time it needs moisture and rain is in the forcast I can remove them quickly.
As a rule there is enough moisture in those veggies that I don't need to water much.
Ran a steel rod down today, left it for a minute then pulled it out. almost uncomfortable to hold, there's a lot of heat down there.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Zmoore on 10/26/2015, 8:25 am

Compost Cooking!  Didn't show up well in photo.  Pile is a little small right now, building back up, wasn't expecting anything to be going on, but when I opened it up to check on it steam came out and it was noticeably warm.  


Adding Greens.  My honey did some flower bed clipping and trimming on Saturday and dumped the trimmings near my pile.  My football team (Redskins) were off to a horrible start on Sunday, so I went outside to "take a break" and piddle with the compost pile.  I grabbed handfuls of grasses(Pampas) from the pile and hand sheared some to add to the pile.  


Design flaw.  That's my "screener" right next to the pile.  I cut the top of the posts at too much of a slant.  Beer doesn't want to sit there easy, in picture the clippers are kind of keeping the beer from tipping over.  While I was "working" and taking a beer break I turned around to sit my beer down and thought, Man! That would be a perfect place to sit my beer if I didn't cut it so steep.


Where'd My pile go?  Shout out to Yolos!  Yolos suggested a camouflaged tarp to cover the pile since I was worried about the "look".  I got one and I think it's going to work great Smile  Picture doesn't do it justice, brand new tarp, so light is kind of "glaring" off of it, but that will go away with time.  I still have to add my "tie-downs" to the corners to keep it from blowing away, but I think it will work just fine.    

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  AtlantaMarie on 10/26/2015, 8:32 am

ZMoore, I see you had a helper too.  What was their opinion of your pile?

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  jimmy cee on 10/26/2015, 9:19 am

ZMoore
Your pictures are what I think heaven is almost like..really nice set up and I can just visualize that heat coming out of your pile.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  yolos on 10/26/2015, 10:16 am

Glad to see your winter pile is doing some cooking.  Watch out for the roots of all those trees.  Last fall I put a chicken wire bin out next to my woods. I filled it with my extra leaves.  I went out to gather the leaf mold yesterday and it was filled with roots.  I had to start sifting the pile to pick out all the roots.  I left the bottom open to the ground so earth worms could enter.  I sifted one wheel barrow full and only 1 worm.  Sheesh.  If I have left over leaves this year, I will definitely add a plywood bottom.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  Zmoore on 10/26/2015, 11:00 am

AtlantaMarie,
  That's Cuddles.  He's one of the six "foster" cats my wife took in a couple years ago.  It was explained to me that they were "foster" meaning, she was taking care of them while kittens and getting them taken care of and then she'd give them ALL away.  Somehow two of the "foster" cats are still at our house bringing our cat tally to 5.  Sheesh.  Anyway, he wasn't impressed.  Sniffed around a little and then left.  So far no problem with cats and compost pile, now Mel's Mix is another matter, they love to dig and lay in that.  

Jimmy,
  Glad you like it.  I love the area I live in, beautiful hardwoods around, river just a couple hundred yards away down the hill (fishing).  BUT, it does present challenges for gardening.  Trees all around 50-60' tall, shade, tree roots, etc.  Only decent open space I have is front yard where the drainfield is, but I don't want garden in the front yard. So, challenge it is.  I'm working on it.

Yolos,
  knock-on-wood (pun intended), no tree root problems yet.  I tend to shift and move my pile a bit, so that may help.  I don't do the "California-hot-14 day-Berkeley" thing, but I do mix and shift it around on occasion.  Also, can't tell from photo, but that area is sitting on a 1' or 2 of fill I put in few years back.  It was one of my earlier attempts at a garden area where I made a little timber retaining wall off the edge of the yard and filled it in with topsoil.  Since I've moved to SFG, I just turned it into my compost area.  
If you add plywood to the bottom that's going to restrict worms isn't it?  Well, site specific situation.  Can you get access to coffee grounds?  It seems to me once I started adding coffee grounds to my pile worm population went up.  My understanding is newspaper is good too.  Coffee seems to work good, I think it "perks" into the ground some and can attract worms from a further distance, like "stink bait", except it actually smells good to me.  Anyway, even if you're just doing leaf mold and not after fully blended compost, stick in some coffee grounds and maybe other food matter to "bait" the rooms in and they may stick around for awhile to work on the leaves as well.  My 2 cents.

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Re: To Compost or not to Compost that is the question...

Post  CapeCoddess on 10/26/2015, 11:53 am

OK, this thread is just the boost I needed to get excited about my compost pile.  I started the new pile yesterday and it was just a chore, but now I'm anxious to go home at lunch and add some more 'loot' & take some photos.

Thanks, folks.  Keep those photos, descriptions and updates coming! I'll add some photos, too, when I get back from lunch.
What a Face
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