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Hot composting

Tri-Cities, WA(Zone 7b)

Having removed a large tree recently and having had the branches and stump chipped I ended up with this wonderful material for mulching and soil ammendment. There was only one problem. The tree it came from was a sycamore, and as anyone with experience with type of tree know, they generate a *lot* of seeds. Millions of them. On every branch.

Thumbnail by tropicalaria
Tri-Cities, WA(Zone 7b)

So my first attempt to refine this material will be hot composting. Here is some wet (overly green) one-month old hot compost comprised of manure, shredded leaves, old finely cut wood chips, and other yard waste materials.

Thumbnail by tropicalaria
Tri-Cities, WA(Zone 7b)

Interleaving this material with the wood chips produces a fine open compost heap. This was about 5' w x 6' l x 4' h. This picture was taken one week after assembling, when it was about to be turned and mixed. You can see a bit of the new pile being started behind it.

Thumbnail by tropicalaria
Tri-Cities, WA(Zone 7b)

At one week, prior to mixing, we were generating a lot of heat. This thermometer penetrated the pile from the top to 12" down.

Thumbnail by tropicalaria
Tri-Cities, WA(Zone 7b)

Tomorrow I will turn it again, at two weeks old. No, you don't have to turn it as often as that to keep a hot pile going, but I need the aeration to maximize biodegradation and it's important to get the outside of the heap mixed into the inside so that all of those seeds are destroyed.
I'm also going to start a second heap to work on more of those chips. Since it will only be two weeks behind, I may eventually combine the two, but I don't have much experience with the dynamics of a pile much bigger than that (heat buildup, aeration, water retention).

My next project: what do with the juniper branches?

Thumbnail by tropicalaria
Ottawa, KS(Zone 5b)

Tropicalaria,

"My next project: what do with the juniper branches?"

If you had a shredder-chipper, you could run them through its hammermill screen to create a finely shredded product with a lot of surface area. In your compost pile the shredded juniper branches should act as greens with some browns component. Do you expect to have a lot of prunings and such that would justify the purchase of a shredder chipper?

We have over two acres of woods, so we have an abundant source of material to put through our shredder-chipper. I put the evergreen prunings through our shredder hammermill, using a " screen to create a very fine fluffy greenish product that is ready for quick decomposition in the compost pile. We have several screen sizes to produce products with different textures.

MM

Tri-Cities, WA(Zone 7b)

Actually I do have a chipper/shreader. My main concern with these is that I've been told that juniper contains various oils and resins that retard decomposition and can be harmful to compost piles. I have a large amount of this material though (10-20 times as much as in that picture), and will likely try it anyway.

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