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New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  saganco on 12/23/2017, 9:03 am

Oh sorry Plantoid - I did word that wrong.  I am ONLY talking about raw veggies and fruits from the local health food store. Hubby and I could NEVER generate enough fruit/veggie waste without their help.  We don't even peel ANYTHING (other than cucumbers).  When he eats an apple, his "contribution" to the composter is the stem - that's it, only the stem.  So we'd be years getting enough "scraps" to fill the composter (food part) once!
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  saganco on 12/26/2017, 3:14 pm

Hmmm, I don't know if my open door/drying session just cooled things off too much, or if it's part of the natural cycle, but neither side now is hot.  Yesterday it was side 1: 142 degrees, and side 2: 130 degrees.  This morning, it was 108 and 97 degrees.  I put some shredded cardboard and some aged rabbit poop and bedding in to see if it warms back up.  Hope I didn't screw this up...! I did bust up some "globs" and make them more accessible for the decomposition.
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I think I killed it :-(

Post  saganco on 12/28/2017, 5:18 pm

I need advice!  I seem to have somehow KILLED my compost!  Today's temps were very discouraging - so it's obvious that I need help from you skilled composters.

This is my very first compost making venture ever.  I recently got a new Jora JK125, and as a "modified" Berkeley 18 day hot compost attempt, I loaded both sides carefully with good ratios of green to brown.  Below is the daily log so you can see that they took a while to heat up, then heated well, but now are kind of cold and lifeless...

I can also post here what went into the 2 chambers if you guys need that.  So without further ado - here's the temp/activity log:

DATE
Side 1
Added steps
Side 2
Added steps
12/12/17
Loaded it
Loaded it
12/15/17
appr 70
+3 big handfuls of cardboard
appr 70
+3 big handfuls of cardboard
12/16/17
appr 70
+ 1 scoop wood pellets
appr 70
+ 1 scoop wood pellets
12/19/17
75
+ 1 scoop pellets
117
nothing added
12/20/17
80
early +appr 2.5 liters of shredded leaves, 1 scoop pellets, some wood ash, & azomite
147
early added 1 scoop pellets
12/20/17
90
dinner time reading
154
dinner time reading
12/21/17
86
10:30 am - swapped some of this side with side 2
156
10:30 am - swapped some of this side with side 1
12/21/17
88
3:30 pm + wad of cardboard
160
3:30 pm + wad of cardboard
12/22/17
114
very wet, left doors open to dry for 4 hours
144
very wet, left doors open to dry for 4 hours
12/23/17
153
+1 scoop pellets
131
+ 1 scoop wood pellets
12/24/17
152
142
12/25/17
142
130
12/26/17
108
+3 big wads of cardboard & 3.5 scoops aged rabbit poo/bedding
97
+3 big wads of cardboard & 3.5 scoops aged rabbit poo/bedding
12/27/17
90
78
12/28/17
80
68
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  donnainzone5 on 12/28/2017, 5:28 pm

My immediate thought is too much brown, too little green.  Try adding kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, etc.
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  saganco on 12/28/2017, 7:27 pm

I did add some aged rabbit poop and bedding and was under the impression that was considered a green - though it is WELL aged...  I will add some coffee grounds tomorrow.  Should it heat up again or is it "time to cool off"?  It's been 16 days since I started it, and though it's looking good, and smelling like "earth", there are still balls and clumps I break up from time to time.
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  sanderson on 12/29/2017, 3:07 pm

Wood pellets and cardboard are high, high in carbon and will tie up the nitrogen for a "long" time.

From what I have read, if wood pellets are to be used, they should be pre-expanded by adding water to a bag that has been cut open in an X-pattern. There are product videos showing how to do this. Use sparingly, as well as cardboard (another wood product). It takes a heck of a lot of quality greens to provide enough nitrogen.

You may consider adding a tad bit of blood meal to see if it will kick start the composting process.

Clumpy compost is from too much wetness, I've been told.

Experience is the best teacher. Wink

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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  BeetlesPerSqFt on 12/29/2017, 5:44 pm

For some clarification on the wood pellets choice: Jora compost tumbler site actually recommends wood pellets as the main "brown", because of the higher water absorption capacity of wood pellets compared with other "browns" -- but only to 10% volume, and assuming the rest of the contributions are green.

If I recall correctly *hot* composting encourages the growth of specific microbes (ones that only grow when the compost gets hot; Actinomycetes?) that break down cellulose and the fibers in wood fairly effectively. The wood pellets also have a really good surface area compared with something like wood chips, so it's easier for them to be broken down further.

They still do need to be used sparingly and/or with strong greens, and aren't a great choice for cold composting, but they worked out fine with my Jora in moderation.
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  saganco on 12/29/2017, 8:09 pm

Thank you both Sanderson & Beetles!  So due to limited space in the Jora now, I'm looking at coffee grounds or brewery waste (which would be very wet again).  I've finally got what I think is a good moisture content.  Do you have any other ideas for something with high nitrogen, but very compact in nature as the bin is pretty darned full?
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  trolleydriver on 12/29/2017, 8:22 pm

@saganco wrote:Thank you both Sanderson & Beetles!  So due to limited space in the Jora now, I'm looking at coffee grounds or brewery waste (which would be very wet again).  I've finally got what I think is a good moisture content.  Do you have any other ideas for something with high nitrogen, but very compact in nature as the bin is pretty darned full?
You could try some blood meal like sanderson suggested. Maybe she can give you some guidance as to how much to use.

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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  yolos on 12/29/2017, 8:38 pm

I used alfalfa pellets one year to reheat a pile of compost.
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  saganco on 12/29/2017, 9:09 pm

I think because of our remote location (and I get most things online), I'll just stick with whichever decomposes faster - veggie scraps, coffee grounds, brewery waste (if it won't create another issue of being too wet in the already too full chambers), or very aged rabbit poo and straw (if it's still considered to be a nitrogen).  Space in the chambers is definitely part of the "what to use" as both sides of the Jora are darned full already (didn't help that I kept adding cardboard and wood pellets - sheesh - I was going the wrong direction on that)!
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  trolleydriver on 12/29/2017, 11:28 pm

@saganco wrote:I think because of our remote location (and I get most things online), I'll just stick with whichever decomposes faster - veggie scraps, coffee grounds, brewery waste (if it won't create another issue of being too wet in the already too full chambers), or very aged rabbit poo and straw (if it's still considered to be a nitrogen).  Space in the chambers is definitely part of the "what to use" as both sides of the Jora are darned full already (didn't help that I kept adding cardboard and wood pellets - sheesh - I was going the wrong direction on that)!
I believe straw is considered to be a brown so you do not want to add that to an already over brown mix. As for the very aged rabbit poo, I don't think that will help you either. I would stick to the veggie scraps and coffee grounds but keep in mind these will add to the moisture content as well. All IMHO.

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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  sanderson on 12/30/2017, 1:47 pm

Okay, here goes.  Try 1 level Tablespoon in one side and 2 level Tablespoons in the other side.  That may help you get a comparison. I used 1 cup for the 3' x 3' x 3' bin, divided into 3 layers when I used leaves and/or wheat straw as browns.  Just as insurance.

In a tumbler, too much moisture can be a problem and hard to reduce. I had to lower the moisture by leaving it open, then re-tumbling.

In my open bottom 3x3x3, bin, too much moisture was easy to control. No such thing as too much water at the beginning. Each time it was turned, hot steam escaped. As the days went by, I sometimes had to add water!

Hope this helps.

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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  saganco on 12/30/2017, 9:25 pm

Thanks Trolley and Sanderson.  Trolley - the coffee grounds are dry as dirt!  So they likely won't add moisture, and I "think" that they will break down quicker than the veggie scraps, so I went that way.  Hope it was a good choice.  Sanderson - should I assume you were talking about blood meal?  Here's the last two days of changes:

12-29 - Side 1 = 80 degrees, and side 2 = 63.  I added 2 scoops of dry coffee grounds and 1 scoop of good enhanced garden dirt from a friend who stopped gardening a while back, but had added a lot of compost back when...
12-30 - Side 1 = 88, and side 2 = 68.  Added 3 scoops of dry coffee grounds to side 1, and 4 scoops to side 2.  The moisture level seems good for the time being.

So, do you still think the blood meal is needed?  I'm thinking if 2 scoops of dry coffee grounds bumped temps up 8 and 5 degrees in 24 hours, that the additional 3 and 4 scoops might give some good temps by tomorrow or the next day.  Your thoughts?  I can certainly get some blood meal if that's what it needs though - no big deal on that.  I thought about the brewery waste, but the jury is still out on doing that at this point.  Today was day 18 of my "Berkely 18 day" composting modified version.

I think with the small amounts of stuff that I can put in the JK125 - my 18 or so bags of leaves will last me a few years!  Well, not really, hubby will burn them before he moves them to the new house in a year!
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  sanderson on 1/7/2018, 2:28 pm

Saganco, I read your comment in Containers and Pots. If you were to start over, what would you do differently? Besides not to continue to add new material. Wink What materials and how much? Each time (called experience), you will learn what works better. The current compost can be either bagged with holes punched in the bag or stored in a 33-gal container, again with holes drilled in sides and bottom. It will slowly decompose further.

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The update on the spreadsheet...

Post  saganco on 1/7/2018, 2:58 pm

Well, this thing is not going as well as it started out (I started both sides of the composter on 12-12).  What I need to know is if these temps are considered normal (and this spreadsheet is a continuation from the one above).  First number after the date is side 1 temps in F, and side 2 is two columns over.

12/29/17
80
2 sc coffee, 1 sc Azo, & 1 sc good amended dirt
63
Same as side #1
12/30/17
88
3 scoops coffee
68
Same as side #1
12/31/17
78
Added water
74
Added water
1/1/18
84
70
1/2/18
94
70
+ 5 oz pee
1/3/18
92
73
1/4/18
87
2 sc coffee
71
Same + some leachate
1/5/18
86
+ 4 oz pee
76
Same as side #1
1/6/18
90
Broc micro greens & roots + 5 oz pee
80
Same as side #1
1/7/18
98
4 oz veggie puree
76
10 oz veggie puree
HELP!!??  Am I on the right track here or is there something different to do here?  Last time I posted the spreadsheet, the comments were that I had put too much brown in, and needed greens.  I didn't want things that take too long to break down, so I went with - uhhmm "recycled water", aged dry coffee grounds, and the veggie puree so it won't take too long to decompose.  Is my logic flawed?  Is this temperature shift normal for the process or do I NEED to "restart the heat"?  Thanks all!
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  sanderson on 1/7/2018, 3:31 pm

How would you "restart" them?  I had a tumbler full that never really took off (It only reached 130*F days 5-7, then fizzled out).  I put the material in a "holey" 33-gallon rolling garbage can and started a new compost pile in the tumbler.  The material in the garbage can will be for flower beds as weed seeds may not have been killed.

My theory is that there are 2 things you build once, sauerkraut and hot compost piles.  After that, it's monitoring.  I had one batch of kraut that turned bad and threw it out.  I've had a couple of compost piles that never launched and used the material for flower beds, only.

The art of the Berkeley hot method, is to build it correctly in the first place and don't add anything more.  Not too wet, not too dry.  Lots of greens.  From there on start rotating and open to introduce oxygen on day 4 or so.  You can open to peek at the thermometer but nothing else those first couple of days.


Last edited by sanderson on 1/8/2018, 4:19 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  saganco on 1/8/2018, 10:22 am

So does that mean that it's not SUPPOSED to get hot again and "finish"?  I can still recognize some of the veggie scraps from the original input, as well as the shredded paper...  I was hoping that the veggie puree would kick it back into "hot" again.  I'll see what has happened overnight after a while...
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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  sanderson on 1/8/2018, 4:40 pm

I don't know if you can get it hot again. I haven't had any luck after that amount of time in the tumbler. You could try a couple tablespoons of blood meal and rotate well. If that doesn't do anything, I would call it a great experiment and move on. It will continue to compost but in a slow, colder method.

For the next batch, I would recommend that you get all the ingredients collected, using only dry leaves as the browns, no paper or cardboard, and build all at once. If the coffee grounds are dry and the brewery grains are wet, you may not need to add much or any water. If you add manure, fresh is best. You don't have to puree the produce, just roughly chop. Moistened alfalfa feed pellets. Non-fat milk, beer, yogurt, expired cans or frozen bags of fruits and veggies. Get everything collected and build in layers, browns and greens.

The compost pile I built on the 6th has gone from 70*F baseline to 135*F as of Noon today, the 8th. Mowed leaves, fresh horse manure, Starbucks, kitchen scraps saved up, and a spoon of blood meal, and a little water.

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Re: New Composter - Need Help Filling Correctly

Post  saganco on 1/8/2018, 6:00 pm

Thanks.  I did start it with everything all at once, but when it was too wet, I did the leaves and cardboard - which in hindsight, I believe killed it.  Hubby just brought me some blood meal today, so I'll throw a couple of T in each side tomorrow morning and see if this thing can be revived.  Kinda hard to build in layers in a Jora composter, but I can try.  I sorta did that on side 2 when I loaded it, but then I mixed it all up right after I finished loading it.  Congrats on your good temps - you're a hottie now!
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