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compost questions

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compost questions

Post  itsablondething on 6/28/2010, 8:55 pm

I am new to composting. I saved all of my leaves from last fall, and filled 2 big compost bins with them. Currently I have 3 compost piles/bins going with a mix of green/brown stuff. I have tiny yard (less than 1/4 acre) but between kitchen waste and weeds (I have extensive flower beds for the space), I literally do have 3 bins filled almost to the top AND I am running out of "brown" material.

It is EXTREMELY difficult for me to "turn" the compost due to back and shoulder issues, so I try to mix as I can as I layer and water. I do have a compost rotating drum that I am putting together (ok, I conked myself in the head, saw stars, and ended up in the ER for a while while doing so) however it isn't finished yet due to "technical difficulties". (I have to admit, the serious bump on the head sort of has made me reluctant to finish putting it together.. but one day i will brave! LOL)

So here are my two questions (maybe 3).

To get more "Browns" should I spread some greens out in the sun to dry, or what?

And how do I get my other 3 piles to compost FASTER when I can't physically turn them?

I've also seen recommendation of brown to green ratios of anywhere from 4:1 to 1:1. What do you use?


Last edited by itsablondething on 6/28/2010, 8:57 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : spelling error change meaning.)

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Re: compost questions

Post  silverbug on 6/29/2010, 7:23 am

Boy, I dunno. I think that turning it is the key. I have one of these poker things that spreads it's wings open when you pull it out, and it kinda mixes it up. I want to get a small pitch fork to really go to town along with my turner, but since starting mine in spring, I've got a great thing going in my bin. I put the bin over last years brown leaves, I added kitchen waste, my husband throws in our paper shredder paper, I watered it, turn it every single time I add my kitchen bin, which is a gallon sized bin, and it smells like strong dirt after a rain in there, and what was a full fluffy thing is down to a quarter of my bin now. I looks like dirt and smells like dirt just under the surface. It's amazing to me, but I swear it's entirely because of the turning. My bin is in the shade, it's cool....maybe because there's also a crazy compost/wood pile just behind it, and there was already an active worm/bug wild life thing going on the ground beneath where I put it, but all those things and the turning is making it happen pretty fast. Where I didn't think I'd have anything for use til next year, I'm hopeful that I'll have some stuff to turn into my garden in fall. I have no formula for ratio, especially since it's mostly kitchen scraps now. I don't have a ton of dry stuff, but I do compost all my paper towels, which embarrassingly is a lot...Maybe you have too much dry. Eat more veggies. LOL

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Re: compost questions

Post  Retired Member 1 on 6/29/2010, 8:01 am

I too don't turn my piles and they take up to a year to make compost, depending how how much I water them. I'm not picky on the proportion of greens to browns, but probably manage about a 1:3 ratio. Yes, you can spread lawn clippings out to let them dry and they become brown. There's a fairly lengthy thread on speeding up compost -- have you read it? Just put "compost" into the search box. If none of those ideas work, I'm not sure what to tell you.

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Re: compost questions

Post  herbarium on 6/29/2010, 10:55 am

I rarely turn my compost due to time and laziness. The more frequently you turn it (within reason of course) the faster you will have compost. So, you may need to wait a year or so before it is ready.
Browns to greens - 2/3 to 1/3 is good. Too much green and your pile will probably stink. For more browns you could spread stuff out and let it dry. You could also buy a bale or so of straw or see if you can collect leaves from anyone else.
I wrote a compost article for my blog which may be helpful to you: http://www.herb-arium.com/apps/blog/

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Compost

Post  junequilt on 6/29/2010, 1:20 pm

Aeration and moisture are key to getting a compost pile finished quickly. Hopefully you can keep your pile moistened. If you can't mix, you can aerate by sticking something into the pile that will help it release heat.

An article in an old Organic Gardening magazine recommended the use of drainage PVC, the stuff that comes with holes already bored into it. You insert the pipe holey-end down in the center of the pile with the other end sticking out the top. Heat rises from the pile and goes out through the pipe. You can insert multiple pipes, if you wish. You can also use regular PVC and drill your own holes.

Another method of cooling/aeration is to collect some sturdy hollow stemmed plant stems. I tend to think of pokeweed, since it's a nuisance that flourishes locally. Punch holes in the stalks and stick them through the pile. They will gradually decay and collapse, but in the meantime they will help aerate. Note: If you use pokeweed, just make sure you strip off any berries! You don't want to take a chance on those things surviving the composting process and germinating in your garden.

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Re: compost questions

Post  itsablondething on 6/29/2010, 10:41 pm

Thanks everyone.. I've already rounded up a friend who is going to give me some leaves for next year.. and few more as a source of horse , cow, and chicken manure.

I am going to try to get a stick of some kind to help aerate... me turning giant piles is impossible. And, when I catch up on some other chores, I'll try to tackle putting my rotating drum together again.. and probably wear a hard hat! Smile

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Re: compost questions

Post  silverbug on 6/30/2010, 7:51 am

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00385WV1A/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_2?ie=UTF8&cloe_id=9b4d5129-507e-47cf-b977-f122408c284a&attrMsgId=LPWidget-A2&pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=B000PWD26C&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=11319GVESXGPCN0D704E

This is the thing you need. I have this, only mine's not as sturdy and nice looking as the one in this link. It works pretty well. I wouldn't say it goes in as deeply as I'd like, but, maybe it doesn't need to. Then again, mine's a plastic thing, not this nice metal, and my "wings" aren't as long either. I'd recommend one though. I use it every time I add a bucket.

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Re: compost questions

Post  nancy on 6/30/2010, 8:36 am

I have something similar to silverbug's link, too. I don't use it as often as I should, but it is a very handy thing to have. I got mine at the earthmachine sale the county hosted.

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Re: compost questions

Post  Odd Duck on 7/5/2010, 6:41 pm

My "metal thingy" is nearly worthless for me. I tend to have a fairly coarse, "brown" heap and the gizmo won't penetrate well and the "wings" get stuck and won't open so it doesn't lift any significant amount. I use a turning or "potatoe" fork or shovel to turn my pile depending on how finished it is. When it's "fresh" I use the fork and once it's getting done and the particles are finer, I use the spade.

I usually dig a big hole into the heap to add my kitchen scraps, but really don't turn it very often unless I'm wanting compost for a specific project or for the big fall and spring bed prep.

I actually run 2 heaps and usually have a finished (or nearly finished) heap and the "adding to it" heap. Once a heap is fully used up, I start turning the fresher heap into the empty space. Sometimes I get a bunch of manure and layer it again (and restart it). If it's nearly ready and just needs a little more mixing of the layers, I just turn it a little at a time so it doesn't wear me down so much.

My favorite garden advisor has told me that if you can stand to stick a bare hand into it, it's ready to use - not stinky (just smells like good dirt), not too buggy, no huge, hard sticks (soft sticks will finish soon enough in your soil or toss them into the "fresh" bin), fairly fine, light, loose and crumbly texture - it's good.

I think it matters a lot less on your proportions of green:brown if you maintain the right moisture content. Too dry will slow it down, too moist will stink and not give you the texture you want. Perfect compost will have a better ratio of nutrients, but any well-rotted material will continue to add quality and nutrients to your soil. The more mixed the sources, the better variety of nutrients available to your plants.

In other words, don't sweat it and close is definitely good enough in compost.

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Compost turning tool

Post  junequilt on 7/6/2010, 1:00 pm

My experience with the compost turning tool is about the same as yours, Odd Duck. It cost a fair amount of money and was a disappointment. I went back to turning the pile with pitchfork and shovel.

DH came home with about 30 lbs. of used coffee grounds on Friday, and he's supposed to pick up more today. I think the composting bug has bit him hard!

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Re: compost questions

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