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Soil and Composting: How do you shred cardboard to add to your pile?

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Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 3, 2008
11:34 PM

Post #5048420

We don't have a shredder (though I'd like to get one). Will it break down fairly quickly? Can I just tear it up into pieces? I have a BioStack, and am just learning how to compost. I really think I need more browns!



kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

June 4, 2008
10:55 AM

Post #5050635

Booker: If you soak cardboard first, it is very easy to tear. It works best to really soak it, like it a bucket of water for a few minutes, rather than just squirting with a hose.

I have a shredder for junk mail and other paper. However, it does not take cardboard or newspaper, so be careful if you are going to attempt this.

I thought I broke our shredder with a Bud Light box. My husband did finally get it out, but I won't try that again. Just soaking in water works fine.

Karen

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

June 4, 2008
4:20 PM

Post #5052267

Thanks, didn't think of soaking it BEFORE I tore it up. I ripped it up into small pieces, threw it in, and then hosed it down. Next time I'll know better.

I
jenepat
North Richland Hills, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 20, 2008
2:09 PM

Post #5441126

Is it ok if the cardboard is colored? Like the bud light box? Or other colored boxes from the pantry, etc? I've hesitated saving these for compost b/c I'm not sure...
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

August 20, 2008
5:31 PM

Post #5442084

jenepat: Some purists say not to use it. I do. You have to decide for yourself whether or not to use it. Use it if you want to, otherwise trash it.

My thought is it'comprises a very small component of the compost, and I don't worry about it.

Karen
jenepat
North Richland Hills, TX
(Zone 8a)

August 20, 2008
5:51 PM

Post #5442161

cool, thanks karen.

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

August 21, 2008
1:53 PM

Post #5446348

Shredder note- I bought a 25 dollar at Target and we pretty soon had ruined part of the blades with something too heavy, or a card, even tho it has a card slot.

NYrainshine
Franklin Springs, NY
(Zone 4b)

August 27, 2008
4:47 AM

Post #5473057

I have read in several sources that the colored ink now being used is almost totally soy or vegetable based rather than petro oil, so anything recent should be non toxic to compost. My reading was geared toward questioning burning things like magazines and colored inserts from newspapers in a woodstove. Apparently, inks have come under the same scrutiny in recent years as paint.
doccat5
Fredericksburg, VA
(Zone 7b)

August 28, 2008
3:37 PM

Post #5478540

Just make sure you soak the cardboard, it will break down with out all the extra effort...:) Worms love it and black and white newspaper.
Portland1
(Judi)Portland, OR

August 28, 2008
4:11 PM

Post #5478689

I am just about to purchase my first compost bin - no room for a big pile. I have never done this so any tips? Also, do you keep a little bin in your kitchen for scraps to compost? What do you put in it? What happens to all the junk we put in our garbage disposals?

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

August 29, 2008
4:41 AM

Post #5481664

I did a bunch of reading, and found that many people are not happy with the compost tumblers. Sounds like unless you are diligent about getting the right balance of greens & browns, you end up with green, stinky soupy stuff. Ugh.

I heard really good things about the BioStack Compost bin, which I found at Menards for $90 this Spring. It was super easy to put together (my 7 year old could have done it--easier than Legos, no tools required!), and easy to turn. It is basically 4 plastic squares with pegs on the corners to keep them stacked, and a flip-top lid on top. To turn it, just take off the top square frame, set it beside it on the ground, and start forking the top layer of unfinished compost into it. Keep taking off the frames and transferring the compost over, and water with a hose between layers if necessary.

I'd like to get one of the nice little pails with the charcoal filters for my kitchen. Right now, I just collect scraps in an old ice cream bucket all day, and add them to the pile after dinner. I like to either dig a hole in the compost & bury the food scraps, or add a layer of plant material over top, or else a swarm of gnats and flies will. . well, swarm you when you next open the lid.

I put in coffee grounds & paper filters, tea bags sans staples, any fruit or veggie scraps, melon rinds, moldy bread, basically anything but meat or dairy products, or high-fat items. I poured in several jars of failed homemade sweet pickles last week, and boy, did they break down quickly! ;o) I rinse egg shells a little & crush them after they dry, too. Great source of natural calcium! I do think I should have chopped up the cobs from all the corn I froze, but I know that eventually, this too shall pass.

I also wet down cardboard boxes, like cereal boxes, the huge box the composter came in, etc., and tear into smaller pieces, to add more browns to the mix. Also old newspapers, shredded papers. Seems I always have WAY more greens than browns, since most of what is in it is yard waste. This was my first year using a compost bin, and I think I'm going to start collecting and hoarding bags of leaves this fall, so I can add them gradually all summer with all the grass clippings and yard waste! I searched diligently for straw all summer, and it seems there is just none to be found around here.

My basic impression is that the process is nowhere near as fast as many retailers claim, but I'm not in a hurry. In just three months, I've filled my first BioStack, and my second is over half full, so I know two things: 1.) I've kept an awful lot of stuff out of the garbage by composting, and 2.) Eventually I'll have quite the nice haul of "black gold" for my gardens! I'm sure if I was more diligent about turning it weekly, checking temperature, watering frequently, balancing carbons and nitrogens, etc., it would cook away much faster, but for now I'm content with my poky, non-scientific method. And I have volunteer melon and tomato plants all around the perimeter of my bin! :o)

CapeCodGardener
Mid-Cape, MA
(Zone 7a)

August 30, 2008
8:08 PM

Post #5487788

REALLY helpful summary, bookerc. I too have Biostacks, and love them. I also collect my autumn leaves in black plastic bags, and sprinkle them back into my Biostacks as the summer season wears on. If I get really ambitious I shred them, but. . . this doesn't always happen and it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of difference when they have been composting in bags for some months.
[quote]I'd like to get one of the nice little pails with the charcoal filters for my kitchen. Right now, I just collect scraps in an old ice cream bucket all day, and add them to the pile after dinner.[/quote]
I also have one of "those little pails" with a charcoal filter under my sink, but I have found that if you have any sort of bucket or pail with a top on it and empty this every two-three days and wash it out, the filters aren't really necessary.
NYrainshine
Franklin Springs, NY
(Zone 4b)

August 31, 2008
11:38 AM

Post #5489946

When I was growing up my mother had a layered compost pile for yard waste just outside the garden. It was mostly passive and not regularly maintained as far as watering or turning. At one point she started to put vegetable kitchen scraps in the blender that sat out on the counter. There was a bucket at the back door where it would collect, and then each day it would be poured over the pile. It took care of the bug problem and didn't draw mice or racoons like whole scraps had done on the open pile. One dry summer, having a temperamental well, she eventually just started to use it to water with. (And knowing her, it was probably second hand water from the washing machines' rince cycle) She discovered she preferred doing it that way, and just scuffed the dry crumbs into the soil when weeding or hoeing. I would think if a blended liquid was put into a commercial composter it would really decrease the process time.

Bookerc1

Bookerc1
Mackinaw, IL
(Zone 5a)

September 1, 2008
12:52 PM

Post #5493481

Great ideas! I bet the puree would break down almost immediately! Now, if I could just throw my corn cobs in there. . . I have yet to find any easy method of chopping them, and since I freeze corn, we're talking about 16 dozen of them in there! Seems everything else is breaking down nicely, but those cobs just stay there!

Any thoughts from the experienced composters? Also wondering about things like branches and especially prunings from my roses, with all the accompanying thorns. We don't have a chipper (is that what they're called?) and I hate to bag it and put it out for pick-up.




NYrainshine
Franklin Springs, NY
(Zone 4b)

September 1, 2008
1:43 PM

Post #5493623

Check this out:

http://www.aaroncake.net/projects/mulcher.htm

Bookerc1 - Maybe you could soak the cobs for a week or so in a pail of water, then they would start to rot and break down a lot faster. I assume they are already "cooked" a bit anyway?
Portland1
(Judi)Portland, OR

September 1, 2008
2:02 PM

Post #5493690

I think you all have invented a new item - a kitchen compost pail with blender function so you can blend just before pouring onto compost pile.

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

September 1, 2008
3:03 PM

Post #5493902

Corncobs just take a long time- almost like a piece of wood. Eventually they start to break apart. They must be densely carbon. try Soaking some and let us all know in a few months how it went.
Great link to home made mulcher!
Branches and rose trimmings- no easy way .
jeffinsgf
Brighton, MO
(Zone 6a)

September 1, 2008
4:44 PM

Post #5494309

My wife keeps our kitchen scraps in the freezer until one of us makes a trip to the compost bin. She uses a small plastic bowl that holds a day or two worth of scraps. In the freezer there's no odor and the scraps seem to break down quicker in the bin after they've been frozen.
Portland1
(Judi)Portland, OR

September 1, 2008
6:44 PM

Post #5494769

Keeping the kitchen scraps in the freezer is a great idea - I will start doing that. Maybe the freezing breaks down the cell walls faster and gives the process a head start. And you don't have to have that bin in your kitchen. Thank your wife for me!

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