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Soil and Composting: Can I see pictures of your compost bin or pile?

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Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

November 10, 2010
1:44 PM

Post #8205141

I am writing an article on winter composting for publication here on Dave's Garden, and would like to include pictures of several different composting methods. I would, of course, give credit to the photographers in the article, and I have already included a link back here to the composting forum, for those who would like to learn more!

I have two Miracle Gro BioStack composters, and will be including my own pictures of them, but would love to see a tumbler, a bin, and a pile, as I address ways to retain heat in all of those in the article.

Thanks!
Angie
kentstar
Ravenna, OH
(Zone 5b)

November 17, 2010
4:26 AM

Post #8216321

My simple backyard bins hold plenty of shredded leaves. In April, I have access to loads of horse manure to add to them, besides the usual used coffee grounds, grass clippings, etc.

All in all, simple but effective for me!

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Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

November 17, 2010
6:12 AM

Post #8216487

Thanks, Kentstar, for responding! I already submitted the article with the pictures I could scare up, but I really appreciate you taking the time to post your composting set-up.

Those look like very nice wire bins! I think that is what I need to hold all the leaves I collect in the fall; they won't begin to fit in my compost bins! So far I've been bagging them and storing them in the shed until I need them.

Thanks again!
Angie


Early_Bloomer
Springboro, PA
(Zone 5a)

November 27, 2010
12:12 AM

Post #8232267

I make piles on the ground, turn them once or twice and when ready, use them as needed.


EarlyBloomer

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Early_Bloomer
Springboro, PA
(Zone 5a)

November 27, 2010
12:16 AM

Post #8232270

This is a springtime photo with several piles of raw material I've run through my shredder in the foreground and the finished piles in the back. I'll mix the new material with grass clippings and build new piles.

EarlyBloomer

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Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

November 27, 2010
2:08 PM

Post #8233041

Looks like you have lots of leaves available, too, with all the trees in the background! Our leaves mostly come from the neighbors' trees, as we only have one very young maple in our yard. I keep trying to talk DH into some fruit trees, but he doesn't want the extra work of mowing around them, and wants to keep the wide-open spaces for the boys to play. Maybe someday. . .

kenboy
Big Sandy, TX
(Zone 8a)

November 27, 2010
2:21 PM

Post #8233052

I go by the quantity is more important than quality method. I gather about 6,000 bags of leaves every year and do get some horse manure at times but it is a drop in the bucket compared to my pile. I do not have any way of turning it, so it must be left to rot for over a year before it is complete. This year the pile was started in March because it was such a cold and wet Winter that people put off raking their leaves until Spring. This picture was taken in May and the pile is much higher now. When I get time I will take a new one.

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Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

November 27, 2010
2:51 PM

Post #8233098

Wow, I love seeing all the loose piles! We aren't allowed to have those in town, so I have contained bins. DH probably would pitch a fit over loose piles, anyway. He tolerates my gardening, but only insofar as it doesn't interfere with easy mowing of his grass. LOL

jlj072174
Raleigh, NC
(Zone 8a)

December 4, 2010
4:10 AM

Post #8243433

Angie - I don't have pictures, but I will share one thing I've done in the past with you, as it pertains to "winter". I have 1/4 acre in the city limits of Raleigh that I live on. And I have about 12 maple & oak trees on that 1/4 acre, so I have NO shortage of trees come fall/winter! Our city collects the leaves with a large vacuum each fall/winter; however, I like to use them as well for mulch and spread around my lawn in hopes of breaking down the clay soil we have an abundance of. Mowing helps some, but it blows/spreads them around a lot as well, and sometimes I want to use some for mulching my other plants pretty heavily. So what I do with a lot of my leaves is this: I have a large, rubbermaid trash can with plastic lid. I cut a line from the outside edge of the lid to the center, then cut a hole in the middle about 6 inches (basically, make the lid look like a donut). I pile my leaves into the trash can, put the "business end" of my weedeater in the trash can, put the lid on & around the weedeater (don't forget safety glasses!), and use the weedeater act as a hand-blender to "puree" those leaves with up & down motions. It's super quick & easy. Once the first load is chopped up, there is a lot of room in the trash can again, so I just keep adding more leaves and keep chopping away until I can't put the lid around & on top of the weed eater anymore. Even when full of the chopped leaves, the trash can is so lightweight it's a cinch to carry around the yard and dump the mulched leaves exactly where I want them.

The only down side is that my weed eater finally tanked out on me last summer, so I have to get a new one ... and quick because the city will be around any time now to collect the leaves soon, and I don't want them taking them before I can get my hands on enough to mulch my plants with.

Best of luck with your article!
Jennifer
Luvmoss
Guerneville, CA
(Zone 9a)

December 4, 2010
9:14 AM

Post #8243808

Wow Jennifer what a great idea! Thanks, I'm going to do it. ~ Holly
CapeCodGardener
Mid-Cape, MA
(Zone 7a)

December 4, 2010
3:06 PM

Post #8244172

Jennifer, that IS a great idea--to make a dough-nut hole in the lid. I've tried the exact same thing with my weed-eater, but I never used any sort of lid, so the leaves would swirl up and out of the top of the trash can, causing unlady-like language on my part.
Thanks for the suggestion.

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

December 4, 2010
9:32 PM

Post #8244737

The article actually ran a couple of weeks ago. I hadn't expected it to move through the process so quickly! I really do appreciate all the responses, though. Feel free to make comments at the bottom of the article, so anyone who stumbles across it in the future, while searching for articles on composting, can benefit from your experiences!

http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3050/

I like the trash can idea! I have one I use for growing potatoes, with holes partway up the sides. In the fall and winter, I use it to store mulched leaves, so I can keep adding them to the compost bin after a few loads of kitchen waste. Maybe I'll try your weedeater idea, so they are more finely chopped!

I also like to put a thick layer of mulched leaves on my beds in the fall, and top it with wood mulch to keep it from blowing off. Kind of my own little mini-lasagna bed. :)

jlj072174
Raleigh, NC
(Zone 8a)

December 5, 2010
6:04 AM

Post #8244946

Great article, Angie! Thanks so much for sharing your experience & ideas with us all! I've been wanting to start a compost pile/bin for some time, but am not super-scientifically savvy when it comes to understanding the biological process for compost and what is required (I can't even recall one item off the periodic table, embarrassingly enough!). I'd just go outside and start piling things up without knowing how/why/when. Your article and a few others I've found recently have helped make this more understandable, and ideas like those in your article help spark my creative juices for getting my butt in gear to start composting.

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

December 5, 2010
1:58 PM

Post #8245583

You'd be surprised how many things I've been inspired to try here on Dave's Garden. A lot of my plant addictions started right here, in front of my computer screen. :) Composting is one of those addictions. I started with one compost bin (my husband gave it to me for Mother's Day a couple of years ago. His mother was horrified, but I couldn't have been happier!), and quickly outgrew it and had to add a second. I don't know why I haven't found my way to this forum more often. I guess compost is hard to mess up. Sooner or later, "compost happens" regardless of whether you get the proportions right, or turn it often enough. LOL

Anyway, I'm definitely planning to stop by here more often, and get to know the other folks who compost. My neighbor thinks I'm nuts. Then again, he also thought I was making wine in the rain barrels under my downspouts, so know knows what he assumes about my compost bins. Maybe he thinks I just never remember trash pick-up day?

Angie
CapeCodGardener
Mid-Cape, MA
(Zone 7a)

December 5, 2010
3:30 PM

Post #8245737

Please do stop by this forum more often, Angie, and share your experiences. It's a very friendly forum--well, we are somewhat obsessed--but we love to talk dirty together ;-)
My neighbors, not to mention my family, also think I am nuts: several bins, a pile, black garbage bins full of leaves, plus a Bokashi bucket AND a Nature Mill composter. And does anybody else insist on taking home restaurant-scraps?
BTW, I really enjoyed your article, which I missed in November so I am glad you told us about it again.
http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/3050/
patti47
Lynnwood, WA
(Zone 7a)

December 9, 2010
6:20 AM

Post #8251441

When grass clippings pile up and sit for several years, without turning or any other amendment, it turns into a solid dark brown mass. Is that soil or compost or what would you call it? I went ahead and piled it onto the garden beds many inches deep. I saw no worms in it. What is it? Is it good stuff, ready to plant in? I just took a chance with it cuz it was there. In the spring, if it is still as solid as it is now it's going to be a task to break it down.

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

December 9, 2010
8:16 AM

Post #8251673

If it has set for several years, it should be fine to put on your garden. I've read that you should be wary of piling fresh clippings on, because they are so high in nitrogen, and can "burn" your plants. Fresh grass clippings can really heat up your compost pile, too, if it doesn't seem to be doing much. Too much, though, and your compost will get slimy and soggy and stink to high heaven.

That said, we used to have an elderly neighbor with a phenomenal garden, and he piled all his fresh clippings between the rows of vegetables with no adverse effects. Our current neighbor keeps offering his clippings to me, but he puts so many chemicals on his lawn that I'm concerned about the effect it would have on my gardens. He is fairly "lawn obsessed" and spends an unbelievable amount of time de-thatching, plugging, rolling, fertilizing, poisoning weeds, and mowing every 5 days or so. He won't leave any clippings on his lawn, and bags them all, but then doesn't know what to do with them and wants to put them on my garden or my compost bins. I just politely say "no thank you" and mention that I am trying to garden organically, and am concerned that his herbicides will damage my plants. His vegetable garden consists of one bag of Miracle Grow potting soil, with an X cut in the side, and a single tomato plant in it. LOL I sure hope he put drainage holes in the underside! But I digress. . .

Is this going on flower beds, or vegetable garden? If you can till or dig it in a little, that might be a good idea. Sometimes grass clippings can form a solid mat and not allow water through. If your weather is getting cold (ours is!), the worms may have dug down deeper to stay in warmer soil. If you have the chance, you might consider mixing it together with some carbon-rich "browns" like leaves, to help with the texture. It sounds pretty solid. Is it very dry?







patti47
Lynnwood, WA
(Zone 7a)

December 10, 2010
10:35 AM

Post #8253363

This stuff is not at all the dry grass nor the dense, heavy, slimy wet stuff that grass can turn into. This was 2 feet down, several years old. The familiar grass stuff was on top. If was of the consistency that could be cut into blocks that would hold their shape. There is no smell and no worms. It's dark brown. I had to cut it apart with a spade to remove it. It didn't crumble. So for now, throughout the winter, it is just going to sit on top of the raised veg beds. I broke it up a little to spread it over all the weeds that were there.
sarahn
Milton, NH
(Zone 5a)

February 4, 2011
8:47 PM

Post #8354512

Great thread Bookerc1! I love checking out other peoples' piles. Here is my first ever compost pile. This photo was taken in mid spring of '10 after a turning. I started in late fall of '09 as I had piles of sawdust and straw I wanted to get rid of. By March I had learned more about composting and got a better c:n ratio, air & moisture, etc. By October I had a beautiful pile of black-brown, broken-down, woodsy scented bits of straw. I used it for a mulch, as I wasn't sure if it had completely decomposed. My current pile is under snow. Can't wait for spring!

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Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

February 4, 2011
9:00 PM

Post #8354531

I know, I love seeing how other people do it, and especially hearing their adventures and misadventures. One of my favorite threads on DG was about growing potatoes in straw or leaves, on top of the ground, and the stories of the snakes that would burrow in, and the extents to which she would go to scare away the snakes before she started foraging for new potatoes. I laughed til I had tears running down my cheeks. :)

You pile looks nice! I'm really eager to see how mine look once the temps warm up. Despite all my attempts to insulate, I think the frigid temps this week put a halt to any active composting. It has quite a drift built up around it, so maybe it is better insulated that I think. If there was any heat whatsoever going on in there, you'd think the snow would melt, though.

sarahn
Milton, NH
(Zone 5a)

February 5, 2011
12:47 PM

Post #8355713

I know that in our cold weather zones there is little activity below 50 degrees F. Not really composting in the winter, but maybe a little something is going on slowly on the micro level. The straw bales you see in my pile photo were used for my first ever attempt at strawbale gardening. Seven bales in all and by the fall they were "used" up to about half the size. Most of which I just started stuffing with kitchen veggie scraps, coffee grounds, etc. Then in October piled them in together and added alfalfa pellets, bone and blood meal, raspberry leaves, lawn clippings, and more. I never saw snakes in the straw bales, but did see alot of the same kind of compost macro critters, like spiders, slugs, earwigs, beetles, etc. Very cool.

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Dogs_N_Petunias
Cleburne, TX
(Zone 8a)

March 16, 2011
6:31 AM

Post #8429977

Our compost bins are cut from fiberglass underground storage tanks. 8' in diameter and about 2 1/2' tall. We first purchased these for cleanup of our barnyard (llamas, min. donkeys, goats) and oak leaves before we even got interested in gardening. Gardening neighbors started begging for the results and we gave it away for years before we had sense enough to use it for our self. LOL. Now we add all kitchen vegetable scraps and gallons of coffee grounds from local restaurant, too, and make about 2 finished batches per year in each of the three bins. A little labor intensive because we have to turn it with a pitchfork frequently and add water when we have extended dry periods like this last year. But it has opened up a whole new world of gardening in raised beds on this iron ore/clay hill we live on.

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Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

March 16, 2011
8:15 PM

Post #8431585

D_N_P, those look like a great idea! Sounds like you have the materials to make some great compost! Have your neighbors started composting on their own, now that you've "seen the light?"

Dogs_N_Petunias
Cleburne, TX
(Zone 8a)

March 17, 2011
4:36 AM

Post #8431903

[quote="Bookerc1"]D_N_P, those look like a great idea! Sounds like you have the materials to make some great compost! Have your neighbors started composting on their own, now that you've "seen the light?" [/quote]

Well, they kind of cry big crocodile tears when we say we're not giving it away anymore. LOL. We don't have much sympathy for one guy because for years he would tell us about his tomato production, approximately six hundred pounds in a season, while giving our compost the credit, and he never ONCE offered us even one tomato !!

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

March 19, 2011
4:30 PM

Post #8436903

Dogs__N_Petunias- that guy was not very nice !
Hm, turns out I can't find a picture of mine. I might take one this week. I have a couple.--
Earth Machine- a black plastic job with handy door for scooping finished compost out the bottom, except you can only scoop the first gallon of stuff, the rest is packed in down there forget it! But it makes the composting look offocial.

Floppy black plastic cylinders with holes- those were given out by our county. They do OK, nice that you can roll them up for storage (as if one is ever NOT currently composting- but in summer I have less than fall)

Wood- my favorite is made of 'two by 8s' by 8 ft on the long side and 4 ft on the ends, which have lincoln log-esque notches in them so I can stack em up. edge wise. I load it with leaves in fall, scraps and whatever thru winter, top with some dirt in early summer, and plant some kind of squash or pumpkin. I have had good luck that way. It shrinks way down thur the season and then in fall I would move the boards to start a new place, and have a raised area of mostly finished compost left in its spot.

margocstn
Savannah, GA

March 20, 2011
4:54 PM

Post #8439033

Mine is hardware cloth zip tied to metal posts. I should have used shorter wire, you can't pile it as high as the wire or it won't decompose. I also have piles of leaves and yard detritis. Some of it I use as mulch, some I add to the bin with kitchen scraps. The wire just keeps the dogs out.

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Soferdig
Kalispell, MT
(Zone 4b)

March 22, 2011
9:42 PM

Post #8444260

I have to look down on mine from our sunroom/living room so I designed them with a wheel like look. They are in contact with ground and are made up of railings off my deck that I replaced. I rotate 3 times from one to the other as they are processed. I allow my chickens to have free acess to them and they keep them stirred on the top.

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margocstn
Savannah, GA

April 20, 2011
2:23 PM

Post #8509305

That's a good idea! I sometimes set one of my chickens on top of mine for a few minutes. The only problem for me with making it more chicken friendlly is it will make it more dog friendly as well.

My chickens do have access to the leaves and debris I have stored along the back fence. I use leaves in their pen, which also go into the compost pile when I change them out.
moxies_garden
Batesburg, SC
(Zone 8a)

April 24, 2011
6:04 AM

Post #8516993

Here is one of my 2 compost bins. They are merely 15 ' of fence wire..pinned into a circle. I had this compost pile just open on the ground, but the edges weren't working, as they couldn't get enough material to heat up and compost. They have taken off since we stacked this one and the other one on the opposite side of the property. I will be getting a 3rd one made, eventually, so as always to have 1 finished, 1 working, and 1 fresh, going at the same time. We hope to be able to turn the 2 main bins into the garden soil, when we turn it after the summer crops are pulled.

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RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 11, 2011
1:53 PM

Post #8555217

Do the 8' fiberglass tank sections have bottoms, or are they open on the bottom?

If open, are they sturdy enough and light enough that you could lift or pry them up and away from the pile?

If you can lift the wall away, the pile would be much easier to turn. Then flip the wall back around the pile, and dig away around the circumference under the rim of the wall, to let the wall settle back down to ground level.

Maybe lift one side a few inches, and tuck in a 2x4 laid flat.
Lift the other side, tuck in a 2x4.
Go back to the first side, turn the 2x4 up the wide way.
Keep hoisting up a few inches at a time until you get one side high enough to shovel out from the bottom.

Shovel out enough from the bottom that the rest turns as it settles.

Just a thought. The "shovel from the bottom" idea sounds like more work than forking it from above!

Corey
Dogs_N_Petunias
Cleburne, TX
(Zone 8a)

May 11, 2011
5:38 PM

Post #8556429

The fiberglass tank sections have no bottoms. DH has a little tractor with front-end loader that he lifts the whole fiberglass thing up a couple times a year, repositions it and then puts the contents back in. The thing is way too heavy for a person to lift. Most of the time I just use a pitchfork to turn the contents and that is really sufficient.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 11, 2011
5:58 PM

Post #8556459

Nice!

Corey
cathy4
St. Louis County, MO
(Zone 5a)

May 11, 2011
6:11 PM

Post #8556484

Anyone who gets free compost and doesn't share the tomatoes is just plain crazy.

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

May 11, 2011
8:49 PM

Post #8556817

re shoveling from the bottom.
I have the stupid Earth Machine composter with the supposedly handy door for shoveling from the bottom. At that point, all you can do is trowel out a few scoops- the rest is like packed dirt from the weight and fiber in the material above. Really you are trying to shovel sideways and it just doesn't work. The lift-reposition way to turn and harvest is the way to go with this thing.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 12, 2011
11:19 AM

Post #8557947

>> re shoveling from the bottom.
>> ... with the supposedly handy door for shoveling from the bottom. At that point, all you can do is trowel out a few scoops-

Too bad! My little pile is also threaded with slow-decomposing stems that make it hard to turn. next time I start a new pile, everything that goes into it is going to be chopped fairly short!

Corey

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

May 12, 2011
12:18 PM

Post #8558057

''chopped fairly short!''
Another learned the hard way thing!!
Really, the Earth Machine is never spoken of in my regional forum without the added prefix stoopid. Sure wish I had the Biostack. At least the earth machine makes it look official and not like a garbage heap.

PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

May 12, 2011
1:55 PM

Post #8558388

I ditched my Earth Machine for a biostack in '09. Very, very glad I did.

Scott's manufactures the biostack now under a different name: http://www.google.com/search?q=scotts+compost+bin

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 12, 2011
5:37 PM

Post #8558838

I have two BioStacks, and that is a really nice set-up. I can take the top level off of one and place it on the other, shovel some material over, and repeat, until I am down to the lowest level and the finished compost. Then I reverse the process, putting each layer back onto the original Stack, and keep going until I'm down to the lowest level of the other one. I can't imagine how I'd turn it if I didn't have two!

daves_not_here
Las Vegas, NV
(Zone 9b)

May 21, 2011
1:46 PM

Post #8577874

This is my compost pile. It was started in mid April. I'm a little concerned with how near I put it to the house. That decision was made because it was easier to move a rose than a Lemon tree. It was also shaded by an Apple that was infested with borers of some sort. That tree has been removed. I'm having a little trouble getting it to warm up properly. Possibly because of shade or I'm because I'm keeping it too wet. Or other reasons, n/c ratio... Anyway, here's my pile.

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Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 21, 2011
2:46 PM

Post #8577961

Mine don't seem to heat up much until I get a pretty sizable pile going. It might just be too small at this point.

daves_not_here
Las Vegas, NV
(Zone 9b)

May 21, 2011
4:15 PM

Post #8578097

That's another possibility. I just finished turning the compost and it was already as damp as a wrung out sponge. Most of the greens I added were the leaves of the Apple tree that I removed. I am a little confused though. I have herd many times that the way to get compost to heat up, is to add greens. I have also herd that you shouldn't add anything after a pile is started. That it should just be turned periodically as in the three bin method. I understand that as long as the compost is decomposing it is working. But, will a pile heat up without adding anything, with just turning and adding water if needed? Is there a point where I could add too many greens? There are still many roots that I dug up (that I imagine are browns) that look as if they need to break down more. All I want is some finished compost for next spring. My son wants me to say we are going to put it in the garden. He liked the worms in my old vermicomposting bin. I think I'm well on my way.
Sorry about the rambling.

David and Aidan

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 22, 2011
6:35 AM

Post #8579113

If you add too many greens, it will get really soggy and develop a foul, sour smell. (Don't ask me how I know this. LOL) It seems that if my pile starts to slow down, if I turn it and redistribute the parts that haven't broken down, and give it a good drink, it heats up again. If I have a high proportion of browns, and it doesn't seem to be doing much or heating up, I'll sometimes put the bagger on the mower and add one bag of grass clippings, and that seems to get it going again. I usually just let the mulching mower put the clippings back on the lawn, though.

I continually add to my piles. I have two bins, and my initial plan was to fill one, and let it finish while I filled the other, so I always had one newer one, and one "finishing" one. Somehow that hasn't been how it worked out, and I have two at about the same level of progress. I have the Miracle Grow Bio-Stack bins, and I take the top couple of levels off of one and add to the other, and keep forking the materials over and mixing them up until I get to the lower layer, where the compost is more finished. I remove the finished layer, then start putting the layers of BioStack back on the original, and forking the materials back into it, then do the same for the second one. Everything gets mixed and turned in the process, and it is relatively easy to do. I just don't do it nearly enough! I need to get out there and turn it again, as my 12 year old just added about 4 bags of grass clippings without telling me, and the bins are now overflowing. I need to get the greens mixed throughout so it will really heat up again!

Hope that helped a little.

Angie


sarahn
Milton, NH
(Zone 5a)

May 22, 2011
4:56 PM

Post #8580273

I had a problem with my first ever pile heating up until I built up to the 3'x3'x3' size. My second pile did much better and it was closer to 4'x4'x4'. Something about the critical mass that allows the bacteria to really replicate.
daves_not_here
Las Vegas, NV
(Zone 9b)

May 23, 2011
10:50 AM

Post #8582056

Well I have the results from my experiment. I added more greens to my pile two days ago, (without adding any water because it already felt like a wrung out sponge,to me at least) and it still hasn't heated up at all. I guess I wring out sponges so there dryer than others. Or all the browns are used up. I'll add some water today and see what that does. If that doesn't work I have about four gallons of bark dust that I'll add.
Perry wanted to say "hi"

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PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

May 23, 2011
12:16 PM

Post #8582211

Dave, your pile might not be big enough. Smaller piles can't retain enough heat to get truly "hot." They'll still decompose, though.

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 23, 2011
6:20 PM

Post #8582985

My theory is "don't add big or hard things" once a pile has started. Since they take forever and a day to break down, they just delay things.

But I would add soft green stuff anytime. Grass clippings seem to break down very quickly, unless it all packs down so tight there is no air.

Someone suggested a way around the "big pieces" problem: chop up anything hard BEFORE you put it into the pile. Consider chopping it twice! You might have to wait years for a pencil-thick branch of green wood to decompose, but shredded toothpicks will soften and disintegrate somewhat in MUCH less time.

I agree about "critical mass" or critical size. Maybe the outermost 12-18 inchs is more like insulation than "reactor", and only the inner part retains much heat and humidity. My outer layers are always dry and clearly not doing much. The action is only in the core.

Maybe you have to get the pile to be more than 36" across before there is an accelerating, "hot" chain reaction.

Stars work that way! The outer layers (90% in many stars) mostly serve as insulation and weight to compress the inner core. Fusion only occurs in the center of the star. If the star isn't big enough to compress and insulate the core enough, there is no fusion and it's just a "brown dwarf".

Size matters, and for compost heaps there seems to be a size (3-4 feet accross) above which there is an accellerating reaction.

But even small compost heaps will decay - eventually. The first symptom of that in a small heap I had was that "any" black compost appeared. If you have "any", you know it's working. You really can't judge it by whether the big pieces have disintegrated yet: that might take years. Expect to rake them out and demote them to your seocnd pile, when you're ready to harvest whatever has decomposed.

(Someone asked what Beethoven and Bach were doing in their graves. "Decomposing".)

I wonder if the enclosed compost "systems" like tumblers and cylinders mainly provide that insulation and mositure retention? If so, maybe they can make a 1-cubic-foot pile work more like a 3 or 4 foot diameter pile.)

Corey

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 23, 2011
8:03 PM

Post #8583270

Corey, that makes sense. My outer edges, especially the corners, are always dry and not doing much. It is the center that is hot and actively breaking down. Every time it slows and cools, if I stir it all up and get those edge materials incorporated in, it usually gets it cooking again.

PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

May 23, 2011
11:26 PM

Post #8583564

[quote="RickCorey_WA"]I agree about "critical mass" or critical size. Maybe the outermost 12-18 inchs is more like insulation than "reactor", and only the inner part retains much heat and humidity. My outer layers are always dry and clearly not doing much. The action is only in the core.

Maybe you have to get the pile to be more than 36" across before there is an accelerating, "hot" chain reaction.

Stars work that way! The outer layers (90% in many stars) mostly serve as insulation and weight to compress the inner core. Fusion only occurs in the center of the star. If the star isn't big enough to compress and insulate the core enough, there is no fusion and it's just a "brown dwarf".

Size matters, and for compost heaps there seems to be a size (3-4 feet accross) above which there is an accellerating reaction.[/quote]

I dunno. Sounds dangerous to me.

Thumbnail by PuddlePirate
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sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

May 24, 2011
5:53 AM

Post #8583867

ROFL

I agree with everything the several experienced posters here are saying.

And Perry is handsome!
Soferdig
Kalispell, MT
(Zone 4b)

May 24, 2011
9:43 AM

Post #8584347

I think you Corey are a brilliant man who looks into all corners of our being. We are so blessed to know some of the miracles of this creation. Your humor is ideal and poignant and the delivery is superb. Thank you for posting. I would like to sit in a chair for a week and discuss the aspects of your knowledge, experience, and most importantly observations you have made. I enjoy your press.
I feel that carbon is the only thing you cannot add without proper placement. I dig holes in my compost while cooking to place the kitchen scraps during the composting and place them there. I always add nitrogen to catch them up to the rest of the pile, up to a point of harvest.

Thumbnail by Soferdig
Click the image for an enlarged view.

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

May 24, 2011
2:38 PM

Post #8584816

LOL PuddlePirate. That made me laugh! My kids wandered over to see what was so funny, and to my surprise, they actually got it! I guess they must have been listening when I lectured on why you can't fill the whole bin with fresh grass clippings. . .

Angie

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 24, 2011
2:46 PM

Post #8584828

Flatterer! I would also love to sit and chat with you most importantly observations for a few hours or days. With plenty of beer and cigars at hand.

>> most importantly observations

That, I agree with. Of gardening "knowledge" I claim little or none. My plentifull opinions are dubious at best, especially where I have a long-term preference for "doing it my way", as in turning new soil and composting rather than lasagna-ing.

But as with everyone, the most useful and truest thing I can offer is an observation: "I did this and saw that".

But even those fail to communiucate sufficiently when I forget to add (or know) all the relevant circumstances ... like ...
... because I'm too cheap to buy enough compost
... because most of my soil is as well-drained and aerated as over-cooked oatmeal

Thanks again for the kind words. I also value and believe your reports and respect your attitudes towards life and nature.

That chat would be extra-enjoyable for its non-PC nature. Which rmeinds me, you have Dmail!

Corey

RickCorey_WA

RickCorey_WA
Everett, WA
(Zone 8a)

May 24, 2011
2:48 PM

Post #8584836

PuddlePirate,

"Ahh dunno if she'll TAKE it, Cap'n! "
"Warp Core breach imminent!"

Corey

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