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TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

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TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 10/2/2016, 12:14 am

Awesome job!  It's so much fun to watch the temps climb Very Happy   I have to start assembling a new compost pile right after I use the spring pile to refresh my table tops.  Now that it's cooling off I'm getting motivated to work.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/2/2016, 1:30 pm

@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:Awesome job!  It's so much fun to watch the temps climb Very Happy   I have to start assembling a new compost pile right after I use the spring pile to refresh my table tops.  Now that it's cooling off I'm getting motivated to work.
Thanks!

Also thanks to sanderson for separating out TD's Compost Thermometer into its own thread.

Now for today's readings.  As of about 8:30 am the temperature reading was 56.3 C (133 F). I was hoping it would get to 60 C but i think 56.3 will be the peak temperature actually observed.  Five hours later the temp has dropped slightly to 55.8 C which is still respectable for a pile that is only about 2'x2'x2' in size. The problem is that a small pile does not provide much insulation and heat will be lost to the much cooler outside temps.


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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts on 10/2/2016, 1:32 pm

That's actually amazing for 2x2x2!  You might cover it with something to help hold the heat and moisture in.  I have used old tarps.  Dog food bags opened up (they let the pile breath but still hold in the temps nicely).  Just about anything that you have handy  Very Happy

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/2/2016, 1:38 pm

@audrey.jeanne.roberts wrote:That's actually amazing for 2x2x2!  You might cover it with something to help hold the heat and moisture in.  I have used old tarps.  Dog food bags opened up (they let the pile breath but still hold in the temps nicely).  Just about anything that you have handy  Very Happy
I've put a thick layer of straw on top and then there is the lid for the plastic bin that contains the pile. Maybe I'll try throwing an old tarp over it. But I don't think I will be able to maintain high temps in the small pile.

By the way, in looking back through the thread I found that I had recorded a 57 C temp in an earlier incarnation of this compost pile. That temp did not last long.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/3/2016, 9:44 am

The temperature is continuing it's downward trend but it is still above 50 Celsius which is OK for me. Reading 54.5 C (130 F) at around 9 a.m. Still nicely within the thermophilic range for hot composting but not high enough to kill seeds and pathogens.


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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  sanderson on 10/3/2016, 9:22 pm


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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/4/2016, 9:25 am

Cooling off ... down to 50.9 C (123.6 F) as of 9:00 am today. I'm thinking it's getting time to turn the pile again.


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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/4/2016, 12:19 pm

I used a narrow branch to poke some holes in the compost from the top in the centre and in a pattern around the center.  There was steam rising from the holes. I stuffed some of the outside material into the holes together with some kitchen scraps. I also opened the little door at the bottom of the plastic bin and poked horizontal holes using the branch.

I've now got two digital thermometers in the pile. One sensor is located at about the mid point of the pile and the second sensor is located slightly off centre and halfway between the mid level and top level.

The ambient temperature at the compost bin is about 16 Celsius.  Here are the current readings inside the compost after about 90 minutes.



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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/5/2016, 11:44 am

The temperature in the middle of the pile has gone down 2.4 degrees C while the temperature between the middle and the top has gone up about 13 degrees since the last reading.  It appears that most of the microbe activity is taking place in the top half of the pile. I'm having so much fun with these digital thermometers that I ordered some more from an Ebay seller in Hong Kong.




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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  sanderson on 10/5/2016, 5:50 pm

You're just having way too much fun!

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/6/2016, 3:06 pm

Temperatures were down on both thermometers this morning. 




I decided to do a complete turning of the pile. I sifted out some of the finished compost that was in the bottom. It seemed to me that the materials in the bin were too wet. So I mixed into the stuff that was going back into the bin some dried grass, leaves and straw. I then reloaded the bin trying at the same time to put what had been in the middle onto the side areas and vice versa. Since this bin is also our place to stash kitchen scraps I added some of that as well.

Y'all are probably getting tired of me posting these daily (or multiple daily) reviews of my compost thermometers and compost bin. So maybe I should give it a rest at least until I can build my 3x3x3 and experiment that compost pile.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/14/2016, 10:20 am

Quick update om the plastic bin.

Outside temperature overnight was -1 Celsius. Temperature in the bin is 26.7 Celsius this morning. Slow cookin' now.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  Kelejan on 10/14/2016, 2:53 pm

From tD:

"Y'all are probably getting tired of me posting these daily (or multiple daily) reviews of my compost thermometers and compost bin. So maybe I should give it a rest at least until I can build my 3x3x3 and experiment that compost pile."

Of course not TD.  It is an experiment and many of us are interested. When I am not interested  skip over things.  There is so much to read on just this Forum that there is not enough time in the day and not everyone is a retiree.

PS  I am really enjoying being a retiree from being a workaholic. It took me a while to transition.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/15/2016, 1:15 pm

Construction of the 3x3x3 compost bin has begun. Details will be posted in the "Second Year SFG in Canada" thread.

http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t20145p600-second-year-sfg-in-canada#254320

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/16/2016, 4:41 pm

Assuming I can find enough materials to fill my new 3x3x3, I am wondering if I should try to start composting in it this year or wait until next Spring. It would be an interesting experiment to start this year to see if it would generate much heat before Winter really sets in and everything freezes solid. On the other hand, I may be wasting my own energy as well as some compostable materials and therefore should just store the greens and browns separately until next Spring. Advice and suggestions are welcomed.



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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  floyd1440 on 10/16/2016, 6:33 pm

My two bins are empty as I filled my boxes yesterday. Waiting for the leaves to fall and the I collect them and some grass clippings and fill my bins.

Don't worry about things until spring and empty my bins and add more greens. After turning them and adding more greens when necessary, I end up with one bin to deal with continue turning it till around August.

Let is set for a month and add it to the garden.


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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  sanderson on 10/17/2016, 3:29 am

I hope some more Northerners respond.

As soon as the leaves fall, I will build a new compost pile and turn it like I would any other time of the year. Last December the center of the pile bounced up to 160*F every time I turned it for 18 days. By April-May, it was ready to amend the beds for summer crops. Maybe you could add a tarp when the deep freezes arrive.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  Zmoore on 10/17/2016, 8:34 am

My 2 cents Trolly, go for it.
I did this experiment last year and it worked great.  Previously I would stop all composting operations in the fall with the rationale that it's too cold to compost in the winter.  Of course my area is a bit milder than yours, but I think it could still work for you.  I would suggest using a tarp or straw cover to help insulate the pile over the winter.
If you start now you should have a little bit of a window left to turn and mix the pile as you normally would, maybe you get high heat, maybe not.  Once the cold sets in hard, make sure the pile is covered/insulated and then don't worry about flipping it every other day or whatever, just let it do what work it can and maybe do a flip when there is a break in the weather, if there is one Smile  It's kind of like crock pot cooking instead of frying, takes longer to cook, but it'll get there.  You have at least 6 months to let it "mellow", probably closer to 7 for you and you have no need for the compost during that time.  No rush.  
For the "finishing touch" if needed, try to put on your calendar some time in early spring a few weeks before you will need it, give the pile a good mixing/flip and throw in some coffee grounds or blood meal... or... some other nitrogen/green that's already close to being broke down.. OH!  maybe urine?  Anyway, I use coffee, I wouldn't use manure (not enough time before I need the compost for the manure to break down at that point IMO).  Anyway, one last "jolt" to make sure all the microbes are done eating with some time for it cool back down before I put it on the garden.  
One other key (IMO), for starting now is getting the moisture right.  Having to add moisture in the winter is problematic, kind of "puts out the fire" of anything you may have going on and if you're not careful you'll make your pile more susceptible to a "freeze solid" aka ice cube.

Anyway, go for it.  If you enjoyed playing with your thermometers so far, you'll really enjoy this.  Kind of cool when it's freezing outside and then you peel back your tarp or straw a little and check the interior temp of the pile and find it's a balmy 80 degrees.  Sure, it may not reach 140+ and/or hold high temperatures on a regular basis for the duration, but you're "crock pot cooking" at this point Smile

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  jimmy cee on 10/17/2016, 9:31 am

For the past 2 seasons I have been working my 3 piles ( 27 cubic feet each ) all winter, ot at least when I can get to them.  During frigid freezing weather the outer crust ( about 4 - 5 inches ) will freeze, however, then internal temps will be in the 40s.  At that temperature I have detected worm movement, I do not know how active they are in that temp range, but they do move. I keep gathering up my discards from groceries and store them if I can not load them into piles. They do freeze, when a break in weather occurs, I add them to the piles. In that way when thaw comes my piles are that much ahead.


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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  trolleydriver on 10/17/2016, 10:16 am

Thanks folks for all the good advice. More is always welcomed so keep it coming.

For the last couple of years I have left materials in my plastic compost bin over the winter for slow cookin'. At the end of the winter last year it was a solid block of ice. However it is a small bin compared to the new bin.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  floyd1440 on 10/17/2016, 7:27 pm

I think it also depends how far your compost bins are from your house. In my case mine are a couple hundred yards from the house and down a hill so I don't like to go down a hillside to turn my compost.

Just get it started in the fall and turn it till it gets real cold and deal with it when spring comes around.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  sanderson on 10/18/2016, 2:59 am

TD, With your brand new bin, you will be out there several times a day with your log book. You will have a clear path beaten down in the snow!

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  yolos on 10/18/2016, 4:16 pm

You can always put a hoop house over the top and around the  bin.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  sanderson on 10/18/2016, 4:32 pm

@yolos wrote:You can always put a hoop house over the top and around the  bin.
Yes.  Something with a pitch so the water runs off instead of collapsing the roof in and making a bird bath! Or an oversized piece of plywood, then cover with a tarp or plastic.

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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

Post  Zmoore on 10/24/2016, 8:09 am

Hope TD doesn't mind me jumping in on his compost thread.  Nothing to do with thermometers though.  
I played with my compost tumbler some more this summer.  I still haven't worked out how to keep it from going anaerobic and getting a little gummy and wet.  My last run from the summer was mostly paper and coffee.  I managed to get a little less clumping of the paper in wads, but there was still some.  Anyway, thought it turned out neat.  Can't hardly tell shredded paper was major component.  One interesting thing also is the compost that comes out of my tumbler is so much blacker than what I get from my piles (more brown).  I guess it has to do with going anaerobic?  
Anyway, still wet and gummy, I can't take it straight from the tumbler to garden.  I have to dump it and then I let it sit for a while to dry out, occasionally spreading it out a little with fork.  Like other batches I'll probably end up throwing it in my compost pile and just let it mix and blend with the rest of it.   


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Re: TrolleyDriver's Compost Thermometer

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