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Compost Heaps

Post  brianj555 on 8/24/2017, 7:46 pm

I did a search within this forum for compost heaps and didn't find anything.  I realize I could google it, but I'm more comfortable with suggestions on here.  I made two 4 x 10 x 12" beds and only filled one with MM and am trying to compost the other for next march, for a couple reasons.  One being the expense. 40 cubic feet of MM is expensive.  Although I am finding it's pretty much worth it.
 I'm not doing much composting directly in the empty bed.  It is near my house and very near my planted bed, and I found that the heap was attracting lots of bugs and flying critters so I moved it about 30 yards behind my fence in the woods.  I get lots of fruit rinds from the school cafeteria , I have plenty of pine straw, brown leaves and grass clippings.   I have made a pretty good size pile of all the above. About 3 x 3.  I will be making more poles in the next couple months as well.  I am composting smaller kitchen items directly in the bed like coffee and tea grounds, egg shells, grass clippings ect.  
Now what do I do???


Last edited by brianj555 on 8/24/2017, 7:51 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Additions)
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/24/2017, 7:54 pm

Go to the library and get Rodale's Composting book...

https://rodaleinstitute.org/shop/the-rodale-book-of-composting/

The Bible in my opinion.  He is all about piles.  And there is an abundance on this site about composting!  Use the search box in the upper left hand corner.....

It is a way of life, lol!
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  brianj555 on 8/24/2017, 8:03 pm

Thanks.  I did try that, but I didn't see anything on heaps. Thanks for the link, although I would like to see if we can get a discussion about heaps going on here if possible.
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/24/2017, 8:20 pm

@brianj555 wrote:Thanks.  I did try that, but I didn't see anything on heaps. Thanks for the link, although I would like to see if we can get a discussion about heaps going on here if possible.
No piles in the Rodale book?  Then get the Rodale Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening.  It has an incredibly brief but in point little entry about composting.  That is where I got all my info forever.  

Also free at your library!  I bought mine many moons ago when i started the organic journey.  I have notes, dog eared pages. Etc.
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  brianj555 on 8/24/2017, 8:36 pm

No.  I couldn't find anything specific about heaps when I did a search on this forum.  Tons of threads about composting , but no hits when I searched for compost heaps.
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  countrynaturals on 8/24/2017, 8:46 pm

@brianj555 wrote:Thanks.  I did try that, but I didn't see anything on heaps. Thanks for the link, although I would like to see if we can get a discussion about heaps going on here if possible.
I'm a heaper, too. I use the cold composting method, which means I just pile it up and leave it alone. It takes a lot longer, but there's no work involved.

Now that the leaves are starting to fall, I'll be raking them into the compost pile along with manure and used hay from the chickens, goats, and rabbit, plus kitchen and yard waste. I still have a lot of horse manure, but that will come to an end soon, since both of our wonderful horses are gone, now. I also have 2 piles of wood chips decomposing, but that takes a very long time, so I consider it "mulch" not "compost."

My heap is in back, up against a fence. We have free-range chickens that do an awesome job of keeping it "turned" especially when I water it down. 

When I need compost, I just turn one side of the heap onto the other and use the good stuff on the bottom. I never mix it in, so it doesn't matter if it's not completely decomposed. I either use it as top dressing or dump it on the ground and plant right in it. Also, I'm old school sfg (dirt, not MM) so I don't have to worry about the proper mix of ingredients.

This is just my 2nd year of serious gardening, so I am still doing more things wrong than right, and learning almost everything the hard way, so I can't offer any sage advice. I just wanted you to know that you aren't alone in this adventure. geek
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  RoOsTeR on 8/24/2017, 9:04 pm

I heap. I do live on a farm so my heap is probably much larger than most backyard heaps. All livestock manure (horse, chicken, goat, rabbit, etc) goes there, along with all leftover feed, and bedding. If I ever feel manly and tidy enough, I'll bag some grass and toss it out there. If my wife doesn't toss my scraps to the chickens or goats. sometimes they make it to the heap. I never water it intentionally. It gets zero special attention from me at all basically. It makes compost. Slowly. But...it's been there for many, many years. The gold is deep.
I heap.

@brianj555 wrote:
 I'm not doing much composting directly in the empty bed.  It is near my house and very near my planted bed, and I found that the heap was attracting lots of bugs and flying critters so I moved it about 30 yards behind my fence in the woods.  I get lots of fruit rinds from the school cafeteria , I have plenty of pine straw, brown leaves and grass clippings.   I have made a pretty good size pile of all the above. About 3 x 3.  I will be making more poles in the next couple months as well.  I am composting smaller kitchen items directly in the bed like coffee and tea grounds, egg shells, grass clippings ect.  
Now what do I do???

What you do with it and what you add is up to you. You will get compost. Question is, how quickly do you want it and how much effort do you want to put into it? Some things, like pine needles will take quite awhile to break down. If you want to get technical and play with the balance of moisture, browns to greens ratios and whatnot, along with a bit of elbow grease, you can produce compost fairly quick.
You can find all kinds of threads on this. You just have to find the right wording sometimes. Compost piles will pull some stuff up.

This thread for example will give you some ideas what others have done with their heaps...piles...some is what you may be interested in, and I'm sure there's lots that doesn't pertain. You just have to find the pieces!
http://squarefoot.creatingforum.com/t20514-wanted-pictures-of-compost-bins?highlight=compost+pile

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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  brianj555 on 8/24/2017, 10:33 pm





What you do with it and what you add is up to you. You will get compost. Question is, how quickly do you want it and how much effort do you want to put into it? Some things, like pine needles will take quite awhile to break down. If you want to get technical and play with the balance of moisture, browns to greens ratios and whatnot, along with a bit of elbow grease, you can produce compost fairly quick.
You can find all kinds of threads on this. You just have to find the right wording sometimes. 
I have about 6 months before I will be using it.  How long do pine needles take to break down?  Based on my time frame, how much turning and watering do I need to do in your opinion?  Also, can it get ready too quickly?
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  brianj555 on 8/24/2017, 10:38 pm

@countrynaturals wrote:


When I need compost, I just turn one side of the heap onto the other and use the good stuff on the bottom. I never mix it in, so it doesn't matter if it's not completely decomposed. I either use it as top dressing or dump it on the ground and plant right in it. Also, I'm old school sfg (dirt, not MM) so I don't have to worry about the proper mix of ingredients.

This sounds great.  So do you just keep putting new stuff on top and take from the bottom when you need it?   Also, I have been offered some horse manure from a friend.   Would it be beneficial to add that in ?  I won't be using it until the beginning of march.
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  sanderson on 8/25/2017, 2:28 am

I just checked the Search Box for compost and we now have 450 threads! Shocked Yes, horse manure is great. Worms love it. Do make sure you have a mix of "browns" and "greens", keep it moist, turn it when you remember.

I use the 18 Day Berkeley method (really takes a month for me because life gets in the way), others build a large cage 3x3x3' to 4x4x4' and load it up in layers, moisten, and let nature more or less do the composting. This can take a year or two for finished compost. Some build a big ole pile on the ground and "walk" it by turning from one spot to the next. Others may have windrows and turn with a small front end loader. Others have "tumblers". Many options but most take months for complete composting except at the bottom. Wood takes forever and you said you wanted it in 6 months, so don't use wood. Mowed fall leaves are great.

A book I have (bought on eBay) is The Complete Compost Gardening Book by Pleasant and Martin. Nice photos.

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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  countrynaturals on 8/25/2017, 11:39 am

@brianj555 wrote:
@countrynaturals wrote:


When I need compost, I just turn one side of the heap onto the other and use the good stuff on the bottom. I never mix it in, so it doesn't matter if it's not completely decomposed. I either use it as top dressing or dump it on the ground and plant right in it. Also, I'm old school sfg (dirt, not MM) so I don't have to worry about the proper mix of ingredients.

This sounds great.  So do you just keep putting new stuff on top and take from the bottom when you need it?   Also, I have been offered some horse manure from a friend.   Would it be beneficial to add that in ?  I won't be using it until the beginning of march.
Yup and yup. My only rule about horse manure and "cold composting" is that I won't use it on root crops. I have no scientific basis for this rule, but it just doesn't seem safe to me. Also, be sure you know how the horses are cared for. Our manure came from our own horses, so there were no surprises, but if the horses are on antibiotics, or if the owners spray the pasture for flies, or feed them some kind of treated food????? Sorry, I'm not even sure what all the issues are -- I just know there are some concerns. geek
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  sanderson on 8/25/2017, 2:20 pm

I don't use cold composted or raw manure in my beds, either. Embarassed I do use raw manure under wood chips in the 1x50' dirt strip and in the flower beds, under the wood chips. By spring, it's ready for planting.

In the 1x50' strip, all of the leaves and horse manure placed under the wood chips in the fall have turned to "dirt". I have been removing corn, sunflowers and some sorghum recently and nothing is recognizable. bounce

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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  CapeCoddess on 8/25/2017, 5:31 pm

I'm a heaper. I don't use domestic animal manure but usually use seaweed instead, along with leaves and garden & kitchen scraps. My friends & neighbors give me lobster tails and bodies, along with their meal & fridge leftovers and one time 2 very large bags of worm poo. Sometimes I will gather bunny or goose poo for my heap if any is around. I used to turn it every weekend but now it's cold composting for this old gal. It just sits there. I sometimes bury any additions but mostly throw them on top of the pile and maybe toss a fork full of compost from the bottom onto the top. The only time I water it is when I mow and pile on the fall leaves when starting next years pile.

I'm a lazy heaper.
Wink
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Lazy might not be bad!

Post  brianj555 on 8/25/2017, 5:46 pm

I'm thinking since I won't be using it until march, lazy and slow might not be a bad thing.  Once some does get ready, do I go ahead and put it in the box, or do I leave it piled up until I am ready to plant?
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  countrynaturals on 8/25/2017, 6:47 pm

@brianj555 wrote:I'm thinking since I won't be using it until march, lazy and slow might not be a bad thing.  Once some does get ready, do I go ahead and put it in the box, or do I leave it piled up until I am ready to plant?
I just leave it until I need it. I water it occasionally to keep things working and keep the chickens interested. Sometime we go 5 months with no rain, so watering makes a huge difference for me.
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  sanderson on 8/25/2017, 7:34 pm

@CapeCoddess wrote:I'm a lazy heaper. Wink CC
Great term! Razz

Brian, If you have the other ingredients (peat moss and vermiculite) at hand or already in the box, go ahead and put the compost in the beds. There is an invisible world in the soil that takes shape. Covering beds with permeable weed cloth, a sheet or bridal tulle for over winter, protects them from wind-blown seeds.

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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  Scorpio Rising on 8/25/2017, 8:40 pm

@brianj555 wrote:
@countrynaturals wrote:


When I need compost, I just turn one side of the heap onto the other and use the good stuff on the bottom. I never mix it in, so it doesn't matter if it's not completely decomposed. I either use it as top dressing or dump it on the ground and plant right in it. Also, I'm old school sfg (dirt, not MM) so I don't have to worry about the proper mix of ingredients.

This sounds great.  So do you just keep putting new stuff on top and take from the bottom when you need it?   Also, I have been offered some horse manure from a friend.   Would it be beneficial to add that in ?  I won't be using it until the beginning of march.
Yes, exactly!  And yes emphatically about the herbivore poo!  Grab that horse hockey asap!  Mix it in so no worries about burn....but put that stuff on there!
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Here's My New Heap

Post  brianj555 on 8/26/2017, 10:42 am

Based on what you guys said and everything I could find to read on the matter, here's my first attempt at composting.   It has about 8" of small twigs on the bottom, then somewhat already decomposed leaves and straw , then watermelon and cantaloupe rinds, then grass clippings , then more leaves and straw, then coffee and tea grounds and old pears , grass clippings then more leaves and straw.  See behind my house , the ground has never been built on, so it's basically virgin ground .  It's about 9" or better deep with straw and leaves and the stuff on the bottom is nearly already totally decomposed.
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  plantoid on 8/26/2017, 11:34 am

Go to the home page  move your curser to the extreme left of the screen & a drop down appears . Have a look a the compost threads mentioned in the op down  . 

 Heaps versus  bins
 A heap has a larger top surface area , it's open to the weather & takes up more space.
 The sloping sides are constantly  emitting  heat from the heap as well as gases produced by decomposition .
 A heap is not as efficient as a bin at composting volume for volume .

A bin will give you a greater mean volume under the top surface area . Nutrients produced by composting  will tend to stay in the  of  contents the bin a lot better .

 The greater height of ta 4 x 4 x 4  stack in an enclosure means you will build up heat quicker &greater through most of the material  .. We need heat & moisture in the heap for the materials to rot , the gases given off also feed other bacteria & moulds essential for quality composting .

" The Berkley 18 day hot composting method  " ( Cornell university ) is an on line source  ) .  It is something I can happily suggest that you take your time to read & use .  For to my mind it's about the best information you can find about practical composting anywhere in the world .

 There are also many links to PDF's in it that tell you what can be composted and the ratios needed of each material used . .
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  brianj555 on 8/26/2017, 12:03 pm

Thanks Plantoid!  My intention is to eventually box this pile in/ make a bin around it.  It is surrounded by four pine trees ( why I picked this spot). I realize I probably should have made the box first, but I had lots of kitchen scraps and my container was full.  I never thought about it before, but I guess a bin would contain more heat. Thanks.
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  sanderson on 8/26/2017, 1:42 pm


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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  brianj555 on 8/28/2017, 5:57 pm

Should that pile pictured up top be getting hot to the touch yet?  I feel a little heat when I put my hand near it, but not a whole lot?  I haven't invested in a compost thermometer yet. I'm still recovering from buying 40 cubic feet of MM.  I have another 40 cubic foot box that's empty, that's why I'm composting now for March. Wink
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  trolleydriver on 8/28/2017, 6:19 pm

@brianj555 wrote:Should that pile pictured up top be getting hot to the touch yet?  I feel a little heat when I put my hand near it, but not a whole lot?  I haven't invested in a compost thermometer yet. I'm still recovering from buying 40 cubic feet of MM.  I have another 40 cubic foot box that's empty, that's why I'm composting now for March. Wink
I expect if you check the middle of the pile it will be hot. Stick a metal rod into the pile and feel how hot it is when you take it out. Or just dig in and put your hand down there.

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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  brianj555 on 9/3/2017, 10:34 am

Do you dry your grass clippings before putting them on the heap?
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Re: Compost Heaps

Post  CapeCoddess on 9/3/2017, 10:49 am

I do more or less. I dump it all over the top of the pile and all across on the ground, then spread thinly to dry. I work it in to the pile as I add more scraps.
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