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What's wrong with my compost?

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What's wrong with my compost?

Post  PapaRed on 7/26/2016, 12:30 pm


Composter:

LifeTime dual tumbler
Contents:
Kitchen scraps - 10%
lawn clippings - 25%
leaves, soil - 60%
water, some pine tree needles
rotate drums daily

At end of 90 days, the compost is dark brown, damp, (no smell) but has many lumps ranging from baseball size to golf ball size. The lumps slightly damp, can be smashed between thum and fore finger, are fibrous. 

So I figure I must be doing something wrong, but don't know what it might be?

I attempted to upload 2 photos, but was not successful?


Last edited by PapaRed on 7/26/2016, 12:56 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : comment concerning photos)
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  landarch on 7/26/2016, 1:35 pm

I think the tumbling action probably creates the clumps/balls...all you need to do is break them up a bit by hand or through a compost screen of some type (I use a section of rabbit-type fencing secured to a metal frame. 

The screen would also help remove ingredients in your compost that have not yet broken down...gives it a really nice finished texture.
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  llama momma on 7/26/2016, 2:39 pm

PapaRed
 
 I compost an open pile on the ground and turn with a fork.  Normally I find some clumps that need to be broken up.


Maybe your clumps are a 'normal' result of a tumbler. 


Another thought concerning fibrous clumps - if the grass is not dried out first then I could see where adding your normal water to the compost could gum things up even more.

Mel used this analogy.  Dry the grass first just like adding bread crumbs to meatloaf.  If the bread is fresh and moist it gets really gummy.  Add dry bread crumbs and presto, not gummy.   Same thing with grass.
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My compost

Post  PapaRed on 7/26/2016, 4:46 pm

Thank you both for the information. Using these tumblers are a new experience for me, but is the best option at this location. You're probably right about the tumbling action causing the clumps of compost.
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  AtlantaMarie on 7/26/2016, 7:34 pm

And since DH is about to build one for me, I'll have an idea what to expect... Thanks, PapaRed!
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  Scorpio Rising on 7/26/2016, 8:58 pm

That is compost.  Use it wisely.  It is round because of the tumbling dealie.  
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 7/27/2016, 12:21 am

That's the way a tumbler produces compost.  I'm not sure exactly why, but one thing is it's not common for tumblers to actually heat up due to their small size capacity.  Yours look fairly large compared to mine.  Mine always produces clumps.  I find I often need to add browns to my tumbler as I generally only use it when I need to store kitchen waste for a new pile so it can get slimy and smelly really easily.
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  jimmy cee on 7/27/2016, 8:10 am

My tumbler experience was posted a while back, here's the link. 
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t20782-tips-for-compost-tumbler
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My Compost

Post  PapaRed on 7/27/2016, 11:07 pm

Thanks to Scorpio Rising, audrey.jeanne.roberts, and jimmy see for the good information. In reading all about compost on another site, I also learned that I was probably turning the drum too fast and too often! (Thinking aeration was good) I now understand to turn it slowly, and only every couple of days. The compost does heat up, but then with ambient temperature of 110 degrees, everything does!   Smile

Also read that adding a cup of molasses with 5 liter of water will hasten the compost! That info indicated compost in 30 days or less?  

Still learning, sure enjoy this forum!!
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  Bart on 8/10/2016, 10:54 am

My compost has what look like maggots in it. Is that normal?
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  jimmy cee on 8/10/2016, 11:06 am

@Bart wrote:My compost has what look like maggots in it. Is that normal?
I have not seen maggots in my compost. Did you ever have any meat products included ? I believe they will just develop and leave..
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 8/10/2016, 12:03 pm

@Bart wrote:My compost has what look like maggots in it. Is that normal?
If they are soldier fly larvae, it's not unheard of. Do a search on "soldier fly maggots" and see if what you have matches. The maggots are basically doing the same job as worms, but unlike worms they'll turn into harmless flies.
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  sanderson on 8/10/2016, 2:16 pm

If they are black soldier fly larva, don't worry. They come, they go.

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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  Bart on 8/11/2016, 9:21 am

Did a google search. They look like soldier fly larva. I guess that's a good thing.

My compost is very wet and has that rotten smell to it. I think I caused that by adding too much water melon rein.

What do you think?

Bart
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  Bart on 8/11/2016, 9:53 am

Regarding Black Soldier Fly. Okay, it's in the compost. But from what I've read it doesn't produce soil enriching sold compost. It produces a tea. What should I do? Should I continue adding stuff and hope that the compost will start to evolve into sold compost? Would adding "Brown" help in that regard? I've been using cardboard as my brown source.

Bart
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  CapeCoddess on 8/11/2016, 10:06 am

@Bart wrote:Did a google search. They look like soldier fly larva. I guess that's a good thing.

My compost is very wet and has that rotten smell to it. I think I caused that by adding too much water melon rein.

What do you think?

Bart

Sounds like you need to add some 'browns' - dead leaves, shredded paper, torn up boxes, etc.

CC
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  Bart on 8/11/2016, 10:47 am

I took your advice and added shredded cardboard box.
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  jimmy cee on 8/11/2016, 12:11 pm

@Bart wrote:I took your advice and added shredded cardboard box.
How large is your compost area ?
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  Bart on 8/11/2016, 3:07 pm

It's a large plastic tumbler.

37-gallon capacity
Dimensions: 28L x 26W x 36H inches

Click the link to see what it looks like.

http://images.hayneedle.com/mgen/imagebywidth.ms?w=500&minh=300&maxh=600&img=master:FCM001.jpg
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  jimmy cee on 8/11/2016, 5:17 pm

Bart, from the description of your problem I'm going to guess moisture is making your compost smell yucky.
Keep adding browns until the moisture leaves...tumble slow every couple of days. watch it, don't neglect it..
It should come around.
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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  sfg4uKim on 8/14/2016, 2:54 pm

PapaRed

it's my understanding that you should not use more than 20% of any one "ingredient" in compost.

Have you thought of shredding your leaves and making leaf mold instead of putting so much into your compost? While compost is bacterial, leaf mold is . . . well, mold.

Here's an article you may find helpful: LEAF MOLD

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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  sanderson on 8/14/2016, 7:39 pm

Kim, After reading the articles, I'm excited about the late fall leaf harvesting! One neighbor has a clean front and back yard, so I think instead of raking leaves, I'll have husband mow and I will manage the storage garbage cans. Excited just thinking about it.

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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  sfg4uKim on 8/15/2016, 6:52 am

Before I started gardening I never thought I could get so excited about poop and leaves.

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Re: What's wrong with my compost?

Post  Zmoore on 8/15/2016, 10:28 am

Bart & Papa,
  My 2 cents.  First off Papa, that looks like good compost to me.  I wouldn't worry about the little clumps at all.  Little bit of work to break the clumps up or screen the batch and then throw the clumps back in the tumbler with the next batch.  I primarily use the "cold pile" method and when I screen my compost after it's done I get some clumps as well most of the time, I just take the larger stuff and clumps that don't go through screen and throw it in the next pile.  

I did get a tumbler last Christmas, exactly like Barts, same size, looks the same, I think the brand was YIMBY, but identical looking to that.  I'm having the same "issues" of clumping, bad smell, and gross critters.  The clumping as already mentioned I think is a matter of the rotating/rolling process.  The moisture and smell I think is related to the material and your best bet is to just add more "brown" if it gets too wet or smelly. 
 
The "critters" I think is related to the "environment" of the tumbler as well.  The first batch I did, I took a look at it at one point and was like "YUCK" that's gross, maggots, little flies/gnats, in that little space, gross!  At first I thought perhaps I failed miserably, but then upon closer inspection of my "cold piles" I found some of the same flies and critters, just didn't seem to be as much.  Then I thought, you know it might be related to the "environment" of the tumbler itself.  Some of the critters in my cold piles like worms aren't in the tumbler.. they can't get to it.  critters that can fly and that are small can get inside the tumbler.  Once in the tumbler they're protected from other "critters" and therefore... proliferate?  ummm, they become a higher proportion of the population.  Frogs can't get at them, birds, other larger predatory "critters" etc.  So, the critter population looks different.  

Anyway, In my opinion so far the tumbler works, but is a little more "finicky" than a simple pile.  I've also had it get away form me so to speak and end up with a more "gummy" product.  Last batch I did was broken down well, but.. "gummy".  I just emptied it out and sat it out to dry from a little while.  Surprisingly it took a little while, about a week or two of just stirring it back and forth to get it to "dry" out, but it came out alright and I was able to screen it to my finished pile.

I need to get some pictures of the current batch I have going.  I did mostly shredded paper and coffee.  Previous batch had paper also and it clumped pretty bad, way worse than Papas', I suspect the shredded paper is a factor in addition to the turning/rotating, but I decided to try another batch and see.  Last check it seems to be doing better than last batch that had paper in it as far as clumping goes.  I'll try to get some picture later this week and update that "thread" on the forum.
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