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Newbie composting questions

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Newbie composting questions

Post  mabehr on Thu 29 Sep 2016, 12:26 pm

Hi everyone!  New to the forum here.  There is a TON of information here that I'll go through over time, but I hope no one will mind if I jump to my most burning of questions.  I started composting this summer in an 80-gallon Earth Machine, in an effort to both save money on compost and also keep what I can out of the landfills.  I'm learning... and particularly learning that some things I am doing are sub-optimal.  For instance, I have been doing add-as-you-go with food scraps/kitchen waste in a hot compost bin... but for hot composting, I think I need bigger bins, and I think I need to save up & store my material and then add it all at once.

Messing around with the Cornell compost calculator, it looks like if I wanted to make compost from corrugated cardboard and food scraps (both items that I have plenty of), I would want to have 136 gallons of cardboard and 70 gallons of food scraps.  A few questions:

1) How do I safely store 70 gallons of food scraps until I am ready to put everything in the pile?  That's basically two big garbage cans, or 14 Homer buckets.  I'm both worried about animals and also spoilage/rotting/anaerobic bacteria.  (Maybe I don't need to be concerned about that last?  Not sure.)

2) Is hot composting the best option for food scraps, or should I consider vermicomposting for those?  Would vermicomposting let me do one kitchen bucket at a time in a continuous/add-as-you-go fashion?

3) Would compost tumblers get up to high enough temperatures even though they're much smaller than a cubic yard?  The popular Yimby, for instance, or maybe the very expensive Jora (which is insulated)?  I don't want to introduce weeds or risk getting anyone sick.
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Re: Newbie composting questions

Post  trolleydriver on Thu 29 Sep 2016, 1:10 pm

A very warm welcome mabehr from Ottawa, Candace.  You ask some good questions.

There are many experts at composting on this forum who will provide guidance. As for me, for the past two summers I have been doing add-as-you go composting in an Earthsaver plastic compost bin. I have had good success with that but it is not big enough to maintain a high temperature for a long period of time. With that in mind I am going to build a 3'x3'x3' bin which is the minimum size for hot composting. I will probably continue to use the earthsaver for kitchen scraps assuming I have enough other things (e.g., leaves, grass clippings, etc.) to use as well. For the hot compost bin, my plan is to collect leaves, plant materials from the gardens, coffee grounds and cardboard from the local coffee shop, straw, etc. and try to load it up all at once. Some people add manure. I don't think I would try to save up 70 gallons of food scraps ... it could get pretty yeuky. Vermicomposting would be a good option for food scraps (depending on quantity) but that is not an option for me at this time.

By the way, there is a ton of info on the forum about composting, compost bins, compost thermometers, etc.  You can use the Search function to locate the threads.

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Re: Newbie composting questions

Post  trolleydriver on Thu 29 Sep 2016, 2:32 pm

"Earthsaver plastic compost bin" should have been "Soilsaver plastic compost bin" in my previous post.

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Re: Newbie composting questions

Post  sanderson on Fri 30 Sep 2016, 1:32 am

Hi Mabehr, Welcome to the Forum from California! glad you\'re here Home composting is a good way to use disease free green waste and kitchen scraps. Add lots of mowed dried leaves and fresh barnyard manure, maybe some ocean help/seaweed, bags of Starbuck's used coffee grounds, water pile as you build it and you can have a good compost. Truly hot composting takes a minimum volume of 3'x3'x3', maximum of 4'x4'x4'. You will need to turn it several times and keep the temp below 160*F. Cold composting can be a big pile of the same things, turning a couple times and having patience. It will not kill seeds and pathogens to the degree that hot composting does.

My husband and I produce enough kitchen waste to feed the red wiggler worms in the summer with very little left over. In the winter, I dump the excess kitchen waste into a bin of leaves and cover with leaves. When I'm ready to gather fresh horse manure and build a new cage of compost, there's already some veggie scraps in it. I make mine when the farmer markets operate so I can collect buckets of unsalable produce. Some folks have freezers to store gallon bags of kitchen scraps.

As far as I know, tumblers do not reach hot temps.

Keep reading, and you will find a method that will work for you. Meanwhile, you can start a pile/cage to dump green waste, coffee grounds and kitchen scraps until you get some manure to "light its fire". We are here for you.

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Re: Newbie composting questions

Post  MrBooker on Fri 30 Sep 2016, 6:12 am

When I'm ready to gather fresh horse manure

Sanderson: Yesterday, I found 3 different horse stables within 6 or 7 miles from me. All 3 of them said they have FREE horse manure and that I could have all I want and they would even load it for me. One of them said he has "aged and fresh" manure.

So. My question is, are you saying I should get FRESH manure for composting?
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Re: Newbie composting questions

Post  plantoid on Fri 30 Sep 2016, 7:06 am

I'd go for the aged for it's more likely that a lot of th seeds will have germinated ( A horses digestive system does not kil l/destroy seeds like a ruminants intestinal system does , in a lot of cases they exot the horse in prome condition to germinate instead . 

Here in Great Britain ( UK ) we have an old gardeners saying of .... " One years seeds means seven years weeds "  .

  Using fresh /green horse muck usually  gives you  zillions of annoying annual & perennial weeds in the first three or four years .



Do check the germination /growth viability of it once you have made your compost .

Before you put it anywhere near your plants use a big plant pot. Mix up you preferred growth medium using some of your compost then sow half a dozen sweet peas flowers & half a dozen edible garden peas that have been soaked for 24 hours in the pot . Do the same with radish seeds & some lettuce seeds .
Put some food wrap over the top of the pots and put the pots somewhere dark & warm , check every day for 18 days to see if they have started to germinate  .

 If these germinate / grow in the pots you've actually just  tested the compost for residual hormonal  weed killers so it should be safe to use your compost.


These residual hormonal weed killers are used to kill all other plants in a grass field or lawn of grass ..they work exceedingly well & hang around not only in the soil & roots of the dead plants for several years but also in the cut grasses & cut weed tops .

 They are the bane of all gardeners  ,for we are finding that all over the world  they are often turning up in commercial made bagged composts .

 All is not lost if your tests don't work , put the pole to one side with it open to the elements , turn it every month for 18 months and it should be OK when you retest it . If not ...use it as a weed mulch where there \re no other useful plants such as along the base of a fence etc . it will eventually lose the hormonal weed killing capacity
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Re: Newbie composting questions

Post  jimmy cee on Fri 30 Sep 2016, 8:17 am

@mabehr wrote:
1) How do I safely store 70 gallons of food scraps until I am ready to put everything in the pile?  That's basically two big garbage cans, or 14 Homer buckets.  I'm both worried about animals and also spoilage/rotting/anaerobic bacteria.  (Maybe I don't need to be concerned about that last?  Not sure.)
I don't do this. May as well have it working toward a finished product rather than being in storage.


2) Is hot composting the best option for food scraps, or should I consider vermicomposting for those?  Would vermicomposting let me do one kitchen bucket at a time in a continuous/add-as-you-go fashion?
I know little about vermicomposting, what I do know is..nothing can compare to it.


3) Would compost tumblers get up to high enough temperatures even though they're much smaller than a cubic yard?  The popular Yimby, for instance, or maybe the very expensive Jora (which is insulated)?  I don't want to introduce weeds or risk getting anyone sick.
My tumbler works all winter, I start it up in late fall, add all kitchen scraps ( except meat and dairy ). I don't allow it to become to wet, it will become warm, not hot. When spring arrives and back yard is open I transfer contents to my main compost piles. ( like a drop in a bucket ). Weeds ? one thing I never concern myself about is weeds, with Mel's Mix, they just about jump out at me when I do have some.  Actually, I consider pulling weeds fun.
 
I'm far from being knowledgeable about composting, I love to do it though. Have 3 simple easy to build bins that I work with all year.  I pick up discarded groceries at the market, horse manure from the stables, store fall leaves for next seasons compost mix. all yard material.
I have a book that is one of three that are always with me ( Rodales Book of Composting ) I read it continuously.
A book on Microbe's and another on plant nutrients.
I strongly suggest these three, although there are many other good books, and I have lots of them. These are my favorites, it will amaze you as to the life existing in our garden soils. A few photo's







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Re: Newbie composting questions

Post  sanderson on Fri 30 Sep 2016, 4:03 pm

Mr. Booker,  I only do the Berkeley hot composting method (160*F), so I use fresh horse manure.  I have access to horse, with all it's undigested seeds, but not to cow manure with its more digested seeds. [I used aged manure in the last pile and it wouldn't heat up until I added blood meal.] After days of turning a hot pile inside out and upside down, it's rather pasteurized and seeds are destroyed (99.9%), as every part has reached 160*F.  I build a pile as needed as I don't have an extra cage or room for storage.

I'll add one more booking to the suggested reading: The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, by Pleasant & Martin.

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