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Soil and Composting: ok, what am i doing wrong?

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bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 18, 2009
8:56 PM

Post #6286395

new to composting. I thought these black fancy bins were supposed to work faster? not! How do I get it to "heat up"?

sis brought me a black bin composter. we filled it with fallen leaves, browned and fresh weeds, veggie scraps, aged horse manure (a bit of fresh, too) and fresh lawn clippings. added more oak leaves and fresh weeds all summer whenever space permitted. Weeds wee growing out the aeration slots!

end of summer, I lifted the bin and re-forked everything back in in reverse order. my version of turning it. I do scratch about a bit to rearrange the top, but can't go too deep, when I add new material. my shoulders can't take torque. after every rain I poured in any collected water. It did get dry once.

there are glorious weeds growing out the sides again. when I turned it last fall, it hadn't made much progress, maybe and inch or two of 'black soil" which I put back in to help restart.

so? is there something I"m not doing or doing wrong, some reason weeds are growing and "black dirt" isn't? a year later, I still see fibers intact.

Am trying again with a 4' wire fencing circle. do I need to grind everything up? no shredder. does it need more water? have shoulder problems from hauling buckets. Please don't tell me it needs more sun - it's already got a partial sun space, almost the best I have available. only once did it feel warm.

sawpalm
Winston Salem, NC

March 18, 2009
9:07 PM

Post #6286444

Here are some suggestions:

Be careful when you put weeds in. If they are flowering and have seed pods they will sprout and you will get more weeds. .

Horse manure also has weed seeds from the hay so it's good to be sure it is well rotted before putting in the bin. Cow etc. manure is better if you can get it; in any case manure of almost any kind (except dog and cat) is great to get the pile to heat up.

The leaves might also be the problem. If they are oak leaves they will not break down for a long time. Shred them if you can but I always put them in without shredding and it works.

There is a wonderful tool called the compost crank which really helps in the aeration and doesn't hurt your back. I need to find out where you can get it and get back to you. It's the best tool I've ever used for composting (a good fork is next best). Don't forget, compost does take time but in the summer you should be getting good results in due time. You should not have to move it into the sun. A pile will heat up without full sun. If the conditions are right, the micro organisms and the worms will create the energy for the heat. Good luck. I have two blogspots with sections on composting. See psumcearthgarden.blogspot.com and kirbyplant.blogspot.com
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 18, 2009
10:42 PM

Post #6286863

thanks sawpalm.

it's not my back, it's any twisting motion requiring torqueing pressure on rotator cuffs (shoulders) back is just fine (well, there is some C5 and T5 damage) I fell forward down a short wooden steps after Hurricane Bertha, grabbed the railings. both arms ended, my 200 lbs moving against them, above my head behind me, ripped them good. reinjured both hauling the water buckets.

so any fork I can lift (just not over my head). i can lift the bin off, I can fork the contents back in, not fun but can do in small bits. I can insert a fork, and there it ends. No twisting or rotating the inserted fork. does this make a big differnce? I volunteer down at Juniper Level BG, and wish I had their backhoe for "turning" a compost pile. now that I could do!

YES 0 oak leaves. lots of others, too. lots of pine straw. sounds like I'm going to need that shredder after all. think I'll ask around
margocstn
Savannah, GA

March 19, 2009
1:41 AM

Post #6287677

I dont' see how a black compost bin would be any faster than a wire circle if it's not a tumbler type. I use a wire bin. I made a plastic cover that goes around the wire sides to reduce evaporation and keep it damp. Pee really helps it get hot, it was the first time I had a steaming pile!

My shoulder is still healing from surgery in sept. I started improving from what it was (torn cartilege and somethign with the labrum) pretty quick but I guess it has been messed up for years because I continue to be able to do stuff I havn't done in years! The other night I scratched my own back, higher than I have in years! I could barely dress myself for awhile.

I fork my compost out of the ring through an opening I make at the end, and kind of mix it the best I can and put it back in. It works pretty good.

I used to have a wire ring bin but the ring was small, I think it was too small to get hot in the middle. My best one now is about 6 feet diameter, I think it was a 10 or 15 foot roll. The other is larger. I save my leaves and other yard waste, then transfer it to the other bin to get mixed with kitchen scraps and more greens. I cut up my kitchen scraps, stuff like coffee filters and banana peels and stuff. I've been having a problem with red ants though.

I would go back to the wire ring or get a tumbling composter if I were you. I throw everything in mine had havent gotten a big weed crop yet. Sometimes something will grow on the edge. I have a small hand rack I use to bury my kitchen scraps so the top of my pile gets tossed somewhat.
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 19, 2009
5:32 AM

Post #6288654

well, mine is going to have weed seed. I have too much to always get to before it goes to seed. maybe this is too small to get hot and the wire will do better for me.

Plant delights piles theirs very very high. Jeremy says so it gets hot. I'll have to try higher. I certainly have enough stuff to fill it. DH flung about 100 trees worth of leaves down a drainage area. not easy to go after, will have to do it before the snakes come out.
stormyla
Norristown, PA
(Zone 6b)

March 22, 2009
3:49 PM

Post #6303369

Bonjon, I also have limited back and shoulder capability and have found the Compost Crank very helpful. This is where mine was purchased:

http://www.johnnyseeds.com/catalog/product.aspx?category=292&subcategory=302&item=9132
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 22, 2009
7:10 PM

Post #6304262

thanks, but that's the kind of thing I just haven't been able to use, it requires sideways torque
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

March 22, 2009
7:56 PM

Post #6304444

Bonjon, take a look at the Yard Butler aerator:

http://www.google.com/products?hl=en&q=yard butler compost aerator&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=EZfGSdmYKpr4MO-e7YUK&sa=X&oi=product_result_group&resnum=1&ct=title

You jab it into the pile and pull it straight out. No torque required.
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 22, 2009
10:41 PM

Post #6305099

NOW that might work. thanks
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

March 23, 2009
3:10 AM

Post #6306337

You're welcome. I like mine; it's relatively easy to use while sitting in my wheelchair.
fancyvan
Calgary, AB
(Zone 3a)

March 23, 2009
3:16 AM

Post #6306363

Our local compost queen says none of those black plastic composters let in enough air. She told us to get 1 " drill bits for our drills and cut holes all over the place.

I got the bit but never did the drilling! I just let the compost sit until I figure its done - 3-5 years!
shuggins
Houston, TX
(Zone 9b)

March 23, 2009
12:11 PM

Post #6307139

I have stuff in my composter. I put it all in over the weekend. It is sort of layered in right now. How long should I wait before I turn it? How often should I turn it? I have some plant trimmings, rabbit droppings, coffee and filters, a few leaves, and some shredded paper.
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

March 23, 2009
6:44 PM

Post #6308791

It depends (I know, that's unsatisfying). I turn mine if it doesn't heat up, or after it cools off. Is your composter hot yet?
shuggins
Houston, TX
(Zone 9b)

March 23, 2009
6:47 PM

Post #6308801

Well, I doubt it, but not to sound stupid, but exactly how would I know? I realize that if large amounts of steam were coming off that would be an indicator, but I figured it would take a while to heat up and since I just started a couple of days ago, I didn't think so.
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 23, 2009
6:55 PM

Post #6308836

:-) now that I know. the one at Plant Delights (a small hill of compost) does just that, it steams, and even in November I could walk by and feel the heat coming from it.
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

March 23, 2009
7:00 PM

Post #6308860

I stick a compost thermometer into my pile. Nice & clean, no digging required.

http://www.google.com/products?hl=en&q="compost thermometer"&scoring=p

If the temp's over 100F I leave things alone. Otherwise, I aerate it with my Yard Butler and check the moisture level (ideal = like a wrung-out sponge).

Basically, you just need browns, greens, moisture, air, & ambient temps above freezing. The microherd will do the rest.


UPDATE: If this is your very first batch, try tossing in a clump or two of soil from your property to "seed" the composter with your local microbes. Otherwise, just toss in some finished compost from the previous batch. Gotta have the microherd to get things cookin'!

This message was edited Mar 23, 2009 3:10 PM
shuggins
Houston, TX
(Zone 9b)

March 23, 2009
7:08 PM

Post #6308890

Well, I think I have all those things. I do need to check the moisture level. I think I will open it this afternoon, check the moisture level and likely give it a stir. I should be able to tell if it is 100F. If it is not hot and I stir it, should I give it a couple more days and check it again or do it daily or how often?

BTW, thanks for all the help.
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

March 23, 2009
7:15 PM

Post #6308918

Before you spend more energy & time on your compost, consider reading this thread first:

http://davesgarden.com/community/forums/t/957122/

It'll all rot soon enough. :)
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 23, 2009
7:43 PM

Post #6309038

well, that comment about the black bins not getting enough air might be the problem. especially with new and very healthy weeds growing out all the air vents!

thought I'd try the wire, but realize I gave the wire to my sister. so will go on craigslist and locate some free pallets. there are usually some around town. but that part about wiring them together? haven't a clue how to do that.
shuggins
Houston, TX
(Zone 9b)

March 23, 2009
10:49 PM

Post #6309802

Okay, it has come to my attention today that composting is not for the squeamish! I went out to turn my pile and found what I believe to be maggots. So my question is, are they supposed to be there. I am sure what happened is that the rabbit droppings that I was given sat out over night without a cover. When I went to pick them up, there were flies on them and now I figure that is where the maggots have come from. They were on there as maggots when I put the droppings in the composter. One place I read say that it was fine and part of the process and one place I read said, I should add more browns because the pile must be too moist. So please HELP!
shuggins
Houston, TX
(Zone 9b)

March 24, 2009
12:49 AM

Post #6310266

I went ahead and added some shredded newspaper to the mix and stirred it all up. The interesting part is that the rabbit droppings that are still in the covered bin with no aeration don't have the maggots. I would have thought they would all have the same thing. I am guessing they are maggots. I am sure that they came from the rabbit droppings.
margocstn
Savannah, GA

March 24, 2009
1:16 AM

Post #6310427

Here are mine. This one is the "hold" pile. It's my excess yard debris. I don't put kitchen waste in this one.

This message was edited Mar 23, 2009 9:17 PM

Thumbnail by margocstn
Click the image for an enlarged view.

margocstn
Savannah, GA

March 24, 2009
1:21 AM

Post #6310463

Here is the "working" pile. I keep it moist and it has plastic around the sides so it doesn't dry out too much. I put kitchen scraps here and other rapidly decomposting stuff, stuff that might smell a little. The only thing bad I have gotten is ants. I got some ant killer, mostly because my doggies were getting ant bites. I only used a little but it seems to have worked. This is the pile that gets harvested for the yard and garden. I also turn it every now and then. I can open it up and fork the stuff out of it.

Thumbnail by margocstn
Click the image for an enlarged view.

margocstn
Savannah, GA

March 24, 2009
1:25 AM

Post #6310476

The next time I empty it I am going to move it by the other pile, they are on opposite sides of the yard right now. That's because I started out with one pile and no raised bed. I only have so many sunny spots in the yard so I made the raised bed where I could. I am going to move the compost piles next to each other and put another raised bed by that one. Behind it all is a bed of elephant ears and canna lilies that look all pretty and tropical in the summer but I'm afraid I am going to have to alter that now. I am going to remove the elephant ears and make a canna lily bed in the middle only.
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 24, 2009
11:22 AM

Post #6311815

If your compost isn't heating, something in your method if "off". For it to work properly, you need the proper C:N ratio (or close), proper moisture, and adequate air. I've used black plastic bins for probably 20 years and they can indeed work very well.

My bin usually heats to 150 after adding fresh material, flipping, and adjusting moisture. Heat theoretically kills seeds but if you get sprouts, flip, and bury the stuff it will be killed.
This is the temp in one of my bins.

Karen

Thumbnail by kqcrna
Click the image for an enlarged view.

bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 24, 2009
3:06 PM

Post #6312686

ok, so back then to my original questions:

does this black bin have to be in full sun? Because I have tons of tall trees, oaks and pines and full sun space is in full use with fun sun plants. all that's going to be available to the bin is dappled sun at best, probably more like bright partial shade. There's irises beside it that are only blooming so-so because not enough light. I'm in zone 7

I used a 60 brown/40 green mix, but had a lot of green in the summer (pulled weeds) and had piles of it sitting next to the bin, these went about half brown, or slimy, before I added them. We always have tons of brown to add, too.

also note I put in horse manure, aged. some kitchen scraps (banana peels, not meat or bone)

shuggins
Houston, TX
(Zone 9b)

March 24, 2009
4:11 PM

Post #6312990

I asked about the full sun on another thread and was told no. Since most of the heating is done internally by the microbes, full sun wasn't necessary.

As far as ratios, well I haven't gotten that figured out. I think I have figured out how to fix problems, but not how to avoid them.
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 24, 2009
4:12 PM

Post #6312996

Compost doesn't need full sun, heat comes from the composting organisms. Especially in your warm climate, ambient temp should have little effect. There are people in Canada and even Alaska who get steaming hot compost in winter.

Your compost ingredients sound fine, but more important is the ratio. Shoot for a C:N ratio of 30:1. Correct moisture is equally important. The only way to get that, I find, is to flip the whole mess and add moisture as I go. It's nearly impossible to add it from the top and get it even all the way to the bottom.

Frequent flipping (once every week or two) helps a lot. It's not necessary- things will rot eventually if left untouched but can take a much longer time. Chopping things into smaller pieces helps, too. No one can really give you a magic pill to get it cooking. I think it is, in essence, a learn-on-the-job thing. Once you get the hang of it, it's easy.

Generally speaking, all other things (air, moisture) being equal, lack of heat often means you're lacking nitrogen. Too much, though, can make it slimy and stinky. If you've flipped it, got even moisture (damp as a wrung out sponge, not wet) you might try adding more nitrogen and just see what happens. If it gets stinky, add more carbon.

IMO, none of these compost aeration gizmos will work like physically forking the whole thing to a new spot. Not an option for some folks, but if you are physically able, that seems to work better than anything. I bought one of those winged things years ago and I find it pretty useless. If you have weeds coming out the side air vents it sounds like it hasn't been turned in a very long time.

bonjon, are you able to flip the compost? Or can your spouse do it for you?

Also, if you've not seen it, the Florida online tutorials are pretty good.
http://www.compostinfo.com/

Karen
fancyvan
Calgary, AB
(Zone 3a)

March 24, 2009
5:48 PM

Post #6313421

I have an elderly neighbor who composts everything possible! She chops everything into small pieces and she used to ( until she injured an arm) play in it pretty much every day with an antique 3 prong pitch fork ! She doesn't concern herself with ratios or core temps , uses bins made from wooden boards - they are in a mostly shady spot until late afternoon, open on top and produces lovely compost every year!

Me I just fill up the bins - kitchen waste, leaves, some yard waste if I am trimming perennials, occasionally grass clippings and moisture if it is very dry and let it sit. Clean em out every 3-4 years. They only produce enough compost for the veggie garden anyway and I dont have the space to compost larger amounts
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 24, 2009
8:08 PM

Post #6313977

well, kqc, now I'm even more confused. you mention a ratio of C to N of 30:1, but then you say with my 3:2 ratio I might need more N? to get the 30:1, won't I need more dead leaves? or do I need more nitrogen as in more green weeds?

for instance, I've just now weeded 15 irises, pulling off the blown on dead leaves (mostly oak) at the same time. there's soil on the weed roots, too, as we have a lot of spring weeds that send out runners. I've filled two bushel baskets. they are about 60:40 brown falled leaves to weeds with soil by volume, probably the reverse by weight (or higher for weeds due to soil weight). That took me 1 hr. there are 900+ irises left to weed, so there's a lot of waste. [We also have two storm drainage ravines full of leaves from this past fall and winter.]

Therefor, my black bin cannot keep up with me, but it might if it was getting hot. It's never been hot.

Prior to the black bin, I used a loose pile, but that's wasn't satifactory: it's too hard to turn (with my shoulder damage), it blows around too easily, and it seems to be providing haven to vermin, attracting them to the yard, including snakes, skunks, bunnies ,etc.
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 24, 2009
8:48 PM

Post #6314128

There are just so many variables. I use volume as a guide, not weight.

It's not just what's usd but the volume of each that should aim at being 30:1. Say you have 2 cu ft of grass clippings (C:N ratio 15:1). If you're using leaves, it will obviously take more leaves with a C:N ratio of 60:1 than it would sawdust with a C:N ratio of 600:1.
http://www.compostinfo.com/tutorial/ElementOfComposting.htm
Does that make sense?

Also, it works best to build a lot at once rather than a few handfuls all the time. Also particle size. How big are your pieces of weeds or whatever.?

If your problem isn't C:N ratio, it's probably either moisture or air.

Karen
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 24, 2009
9:02 PM

Post #6314196

all good comments and questions.

it's likely I'll need DH to do the turning in the future, as it's beyond my shoulder strength.

gotcha on the ratios. we don't get much in the way of grass clippings, but the entire back yard is mostly nice green weeds we mow!

As for how small 0 NOT small at all except where we mow. have no good way to grind them. used to try that with the mower running across them, and it messed up the mower real bad. And took me hours to unwind the fibers from beneath the blade. we ended up buying a mower, and I've been buying compost since then too, as I finally gave up making any.

I've been pouring water in the top of the bin. sounds like that isn't doing much good either. I was out there just now, and old veggies tossed out smelling horrid in there. lots of baby mosquitos, too, and flies.
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 24, 2009
9:14 PM

Post #6314258

Mosquitoes and flies = probably too wet on top.

For big plants and weeds, I just chop them up with pruning sheers. Things like banana peels I chop with a knife before taking outside. And I don't throw in weed seeds. I just trash the seed heads and compost the rest of the plant.

Did you go through that Florida compost tutorial? I think it's worthwhile.

Karen
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 24, 2009
9:24 PM

Post #6314295

Another online tool that might help with ratios is a compost calculator. There are many if you google, here's one
http://www.klickitatcounty.org/SolidWaste/fileshtml/organics/compostCalc.htm

Karen
shuggins
Houston, TX
(Zone 9b)

March 25, 2009
12:08 AM

Post #6314922

I am happy to report that when I went to check the composter today and make sure that I got the paper from yesterday mixed in pretty well, I noticed just the slightest amount of STEAM! YEAH!
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

March 25, 2009
4:00 AM

Post #6315942

Betcha it'll be hot within 24 hours.

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

March 25, 2009
1:52 PM

Post #6316932

Puzzle pieces==
=Dry tree leaves---I think I'm only just now appreciating that it takes a lot to re-wet a bunch of dry tree leaves. When you sprinkle water on, it seems to run through. I bet a lot does. Adding soil may help re- wet the leaves by sticking to them.
=You'll get a lot of heat quickly from a pile of fresh grass clippings. That's N and moisture and limited air because it packs tightly.. Then it cooks it dry, or ends up slimy in the middle, from no oxygen.
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 25, 2009
2:56 PM

Post #6317199

Congratulations, shuggins.

Getting compost hot does take some practice and experimentation.

Karen
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 25, 2009
7:29 PM

Post #6318468

we have very little in GRASS clippings per se available. are they essential? can't I use the mowed weed clippings? our back "yard" is a "lawn" of mowed weed, about 1/3 acre: I see nutgrass, clover, @#$#$ volunteer bermuda, crabgrass, winter weeds, chickweed, wild strawberries, etc. the only problem with this is of course that blasted bermuda - biggest weed problem in the irises!

so little grass because I am allergic. In four years, have removed almost half the "real" zoysia grass lawn, planted irises. since irises grow without mulch, I have tons of weeding to do. Daily have at least 2 bushels of whole green weeds to add to the pile.

that's too many weeds to even remotely try to denude them of flowers or seeds - that would take longer than weeding! Hence, I need a hot pile to kill the seed.

when weeding, I try to go after all the root I can. plenty of soil on those roots. our "soil" is hard solid red clay. lots of clods of it get put in the pile with the weeds- I'd say 1/2 to 1/3 of the physical weight in my bushel baskets is clay. Do does there need to be more than that? even though I'm using manure too?

Florida tutorial? where?
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 25, 2009
8:42 PM

Post #6318855

No, grass isn't essential, it's just something that many folks have in abundance. Weed seeds probably aren't a good idea, at least not until your compost is hot.

Florida tutorial, posted above. I think it's good anyway.
http://www.compostinfo.com/tutorial/index.htm

It's interesting to play with those online calculators, too, like the one I posted above. It can give you idea, based on C:N ratios, of what kind of mix is beneficial for different ingredients, including manure.

Karen
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 25, 2009
8:51 PM

Post #6318906

oh - guess I didn't read the giant word Florida on there! LOL

well, I'm trying the wired in piles next. this black bin is worthless, I'm thinking.
pennefeather
McLean, VA
(Zone 6b)

March 26, 2009
3:27 AM

Post #6320836

Try tossing in some alfalfa. I threw some in on Sunday evening, along with some water, and stirred everything well. Today, when I opened my biostack and began moving the top layer, the layer underneath produced steam, heat, and the material was white, like ash produced from a fire. The more that I moved the compost, the most ashlike pieces I saw throughout. I don't have a thermometer, but it was hotter than I have seen it.

I read somewhere that alfalfa is a great accelerator.
Melissande
Chillicothe, OH

March 26, 2009
10:23 AM

Post #6321291

Hi. I'm relatively new to composting too, and two books I've found super useful to help me understand what it is I'm trying to make happen and how to tweak it to suit what I've got to work with, is:

Humanure by Joseph Jenkins-- a book with a website and a rabid following. Even if you never intend on using what's in this book, the techhie stuff in it and the understanding of it is invaluable

and...

the Complete Compost Gardening Guide (authors Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin

This book has recipes for hot composts, long slow cool ones, which you want for what situations, explanations, pep talks for newbies, cautions, chin chucks and outrageous suggestions that truly work. Read this book, and you'll know what you're doing and why, and bins full of half-rotted compost with weeds and stems sticking out of it will no longer trouble you (hint: everybody has that. It's what they invented compost sifters for).

Have fun and remember: everything & everybody rots, you couldn't stop it if you tried. But educate yourself and you sure can harness it and make it work for you. Without rot there'd be no cheese, no wine, kim chee, soil, beer, bread, spring, or life. Three cheers for rot!!!



This message was edited Mar 26, 2009 7:10 AM
Melissande
Chillicothe, OH

March 26, 2009
11:10 AM

Post #6321371

Oh and BTW, just because leaves turn brown, that doesn't make them a 'brown'. The brown and green has ref. to the color *most* nitrogens and carbons are. Green refers to growing stuff like grass and weeds Brown or not, they are 'Green'. Browns are the carbons. Most common brown is manures, hence the choice of Brown as the representative color. Food scraps usually fit under that too. Most common form of smokin' hot compost is a manure pile. The brown is the manure, the 'green' is the hay/straw bedding which is usually a lovely blond.

Speaking of magic pills for fast compost: If you want something to make your stick-y weed-y stuff to turn into a smokin hot pile,(don't use this method unless you're up to going out and rolling this over every other day minimum as it is a MUST if you don't want this to actually catch fire) go buy yourself a sack of cheap dog food at the local store and a tarp, bring these home, carry your compost from the black thing out to a place where you've got about 8' of room, spread the tarp and dump the compost on it. Take a hoe and roughly chop those plant stems that didn't break down in the black thing, and layer the compost/sprouted weeds and dog food into a pile at one end of the tarp, moistening as you go. the dog food will act as the alfalfa mentioned elsewhere in this list as a 'starter' and cause the pile to heat up. Every other day go out and bring the edge stuff into the center so it gets hot too, and use the tarp to roll the whole mess over by lifting the edge closest to the pile. In a couple of weeks you should have finished compost. When it finally cools off, cover it with the tarp for about a month to let it mature. After that, you can put it on your garden.

This is from the Barbara Pleasant/Deb Martin book. It lists cottonseed meal, chicken crumbles, alfalfa pellets, as well as dog food and the leavings from all grain beer wort and whisky mash as some of the things that will work, and they work because they're mostly grain (greens). Why not give it a try?
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 26, 2009
11:29 AM

Post #6321397

The "green" actually refers to materials with a C:N ratio below 30:1 (high N source)
"Brown" refers to materials with a C:N ratio higher than 30:1 (high C source)
Manures have a low C:N ratio around 15 or 20 and thus are a nitrogen or "green". Manure is NOT considered a "brown" or carbon source.
http://www.wiserearth.org/uploads/file/7c089dc3a82030787dda4d973271144c/N Ratios.pdf

I think the "brown" and "green" are poor designations because they confuse people, as they have apparently confused Melissande. (BTW coffee, though brown in color, is also a strong "green" or N source.)

Karen
sawpalm
Winston Salem, NC

March 26, 2009
1:23 PM

Post #6321766

I worked with Brooklyn Botanic Garden in the urban composting program. A guidebook that we developed called Easy Composting is another good resource. It's available from bbg.org

Two others are "Let It Rot" from Storey Publishing and Worms Eat My Garbage (on worm bins) by Mary Appelhof.

This is really a great series of posts. Thanks for all the info. Ellen












Melissande
Chillicothe, OH

March 26, 2009
7:03 PM

Post #6323230

cqcrna, did I get it wrong? Oh Well! Opportunity to learn from my mistakes! Thanks for straightening me out.

This stuff is so exciting, it's difficult to keep your trap shut about it even when you've only got half your info straight!--M
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 26, 2009
8:37 PM

Post #6323577

Mlissande:You don't seem to understand C:N ratio, i.e. the "green" or "brown" designation.
It has nothing to do with the color of the material as you said, "manure is brown because of it's color". For the purpose of composting, it is a "green" due to low C:N ratio. And though coffee grounds are brown in color, they are a "green".

Also,:
- fresh green leaves taken from a tree or plant might be "greens" while brown, dead leaves which are naturally shed in fall are "browns".
-hay is "green" while straw is "brown"
- vegetable kitchen waste is green.

There are many online charts with C:N ratios or math formulas to calculate the C:N ratio. I think it helps to avoid the "green" and "brown" designations because they do tend to confuse a lot of people. "Nitrogen" and "carbon" seem more logical because the just don't confuse so easily with the color of the material.

Karen

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

March 26, 2009
8:49 PM

Post #6323633

How's this?
C (brown) rarely smells and is usually dry.

N (green) often is moist or smells some way. You usually don't want to stick your bare hands in it.

(Hay and alfalfa pellets don't fit this tho.)
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 26, 2009
10:09 PM

Post #6323962

well DARN! I think I'm getting it! it doesn't matter what color I'm putting in! "brown" isn't the color!

I'm using mostly all green adds then. And I have tons of brown available, just not adding enough to get it going. well, it's back to the stable for MORE manure! and time to go down to the ravines and pull back up some leaves (oh DH is going to just love that - I told him I didn't want them put down there...)
ice_worm
Palmer, AK
(Zone 2a)

March 26, 2009
10:19 PM

Post #6323997

...and time to go down to the ravines and pull back up some leaves (oh DH is going to just love that - I told him I didn't want them put down there...)


LOL
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 26, 2009
10:29 PM

Post #6324057

bonbon: Manure is a green

Karen
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 26, 2009
10:33 PM

Post #6324073

oh boy. this is more science than logic

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

March 26, 2009
10:41 PM

Post #6324115

Well, yeah actually. N is part of the chlorophyll molecule that green plants all have, and that N is part of urea that is in urine, that helps me remember some. N is also very transient, while C is not. That's why people are always saying add N to heat up the pile.
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

March 26, 2009
11:10 PM

Post #6324260

If you play with those links I gave you I think it will help. Get a good idea of what's nitrogen and what's carbon. Because the green and brown thing confuses so much, try putting that nomenclature out of your head and think "nitrogen" or "carbon" instead.

To get a mix to give you a good hot pile, oxygen and moisture are a given. It's the actual ingredients that will usually make or break your effort.
http://www.klickitatcounty.org/SolidWaste/fileshtml/organics/compostCalc.htm

And as that calculator shows, you can't rely soley on a formula like equal weights or equal volume of carbon or nitrogen. Because it's C:N ratio is so high, you will need a much smaller amount of wood than you would of leaves to "balance" a given amount of nitrogen and get a pile cooking.

If that didn't make sense, try plugging these three ingredients into this calculator:
horse manure, dry leaves = tells you for 1 cu ft manure you need 1.5 cu ft dry leaves to get a C:N ratio of 29.85

Let's try again with the same 1 cu ft horse manure but use only wood chips as the second ingredient = you need 1 cu ft of wood chips to give a C:N of 32.91

So, because the C:N of leaves is lower, you need more of it (cu ft) than if you were using wood.
http://www.klickitatcounty.org/SolidWaste/fileshtml/organics/compostCalc.htm

Did this make more sense?

Karen
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

March 27, 2009
2:59 AM

Post #6325194

no wood chips, may have acorns though
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

April 4, 2009
7:08 PM

Post #6364027

A very inexpensive and very good booster is cattle grade black strap molasses. It can be purchased under ten dollars a gallon (you must take your own container) at any farm feed producing mill. Two ounces in a gallon of water is the usual application to any method of composting. The living biology in cattle grade molasses is awsome and includes about thirty trace minerals. This will feed your native biology and enable them to expand and do their work more quickly. This same measure of black strap molasses may be used in watering and flower bed or garden and will be good for all concerned. Once a month is ample during the growing season. It may be applied as a foliar feed too.

Another thing many composters do not do is add a sifting of their native garden soil. That small amount of garden soil contains many biological factors that compost all needs.

Any sleepy pile or the contents of any barrel like so called composters will awaken and go to work when fed black strap molasses. It is inexpensive and better or as good as most purchased much more expensive commercial compost pile boosters. It is the working living biology that creates the heat.

One word of caution is important. Black Strap Molasses is very much alive with living biology. Your gallon should be sitting in a foil tray. In warm weather it may grow in the bottle and make an ugly mess if you do not heed this advise.

I have been aware of all kinds of composting advise well over fifty years now. My practice is to include by vollume aproximately one forth of the following in my piles: manure of any type and age, mixed greens and browns from lawn and garden in season, leaves, spoiled alfalfa, used potting soil, garden soil all boosted by black strap molasses. Bonus items when available might include soy plants, pea hulls, floor sweepings from barns, small animals or road kill burried deep under a pile, kitchen wastes, shrimp shells from a seafood center and my famous pee bucket contents as needed. Then anything else that will rot.

These are the basics to which few modern writers seem to want to elaborate upon to make saleable copy for the magazines and book trade. Composting is not rocket science. I doubt that many writers today have ever made an ounce of good compost. Should I make a mistake in the additions to the pile it just takes a little longer to find that black gold finished.
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

April 4, 2009
8:05 PM

Post #6364244

you're the first one that says used potting soil! been dumped all potting soils from plants I forgot to water through the winter in my pile for years.
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

April 4, 2009
8:16 PM

Post #6364284

Potting soil by the end of a growing season is just tired and unballanced from the plants use. I see no reason not to toss them in the pile. The organic content will rebuild itself from all the goodies in the pile. That little bit of worn out potting soil would be a very small percentage of the total pile. Likewise to all but a purest organic person, the nasties that may have come, from a green house, will be largely if not totally leached out during the daily waterings. Most potted plants have been grown in peat or peat and other soil substitutes. It's a shame to not reuse it.



























bonjon
Raleigh, NC

April 4, 2009
9:01 PM

Post #6364435

yeah, and when I forget to water, they turn into peat bricks that don't want to rehydrate, so the plant gets doubly stressed when the water I give just drains away.
Katye
Sammamish, WA
(Zone 7b)

April 5, 2009
5:42 AM

Post #6366195

Doc - in your experience, what would be an approximate amount of time for horse manure in sawdust to break down in loamy soil?
Could one accelerate this process by adding the molasses? Alfalfa pellets? Haven't been able to collect much in the way of ingredients as it has been wet & cold. 1st mow might be attempted tomorrow...
I was able to buy a truck recently, and now have 2 sources for horse manure. There was no way to get the autumn leaves here, and what I did have went to the orchard. The horse manure has been mixed into raised beds with some pretty nice soil that I have worked on for many years. To create another planting area, I thought it best to take a sampling from each one of the beds & then mix in the manure to create more volume. Got 5 gallons of molasses. Worked like a charm last year, but I used it differently.
Got any tricks to pull out of your hat?
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

April 5, 2009
7:40 AM

Post #6366317

Doc, have you ever added a sizable amount of raw molasses to a cool pile? I'm considering kick-starting mine that way, but I can't have a smoking crater where my house used to be. Kinda drags down my neighbors' property values.
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

April 5, 2009
1:11 PM

Post #6366764

Oh gee wizz to the above two posts...Manure and sawdust placed in the fall with a cover crop over all will be broken down by Spring here in a cold winter frozen up type winters. The same placed in the early Spring will break down a little faster due to warmer conditions but nothing much happens until the soil temperature reaches fifty degrees. After getting to fifty degrees the warm up becomes a little faster.

Molasses always helps but not as much in the colder slower soil. The natural bacteria, fungi and critters from amoba to nematodes and beneficial insects perform their growing and numbers explosion in direct relation relation to soil temperature. In the garden mixed in is no match for a good working compost pile that can and will commonly heat up to over a hundred degrees. That is a whole beneficial temperature range for the biology. Some of them need the higher temperatures to work and grow at all. I have never made any effort to learn and fully understand the academic fine details. I leave that to our reak researchers to write and expound upon. I work the KISMIF theory and it works fine. Keep it simple make it fun! Really we can not change the rotting process. All we can do is make ready to help it a little by including all of the basics. Mother nature provides the timing a bit different each year. The only difference is the time it takes to get from point A to point B. If for any reason we add elements that take longer or the weather is cooler than normal it just takes a little longer to see it become real finished compost.

The range of ounces of molasses per gallon of water is quite wide. I usually suggest two ounces in a gallon but you can use six ounces in a gallon for so called jump starting or super boosting. Mother nature still holds the key for the ground or pile temperatures. Turning piles weekly or every two weeks enters oxygen and moisture by our judgement. Jump starting or boosting at higher rates of molasses use depends on starting temperatures of about fifty degrees in both the pile and the gardens to cause better results. I doubt that a smoking pile up to 140 degrees or so would be an issue of concern. My average highest ever was one time a hundred and twenty degrees. That was in summer with a starting temperature of eighty degrees.
Only the magazines and books will hold still for temperatures in the piles over a hundred degrees. Doing nothing but making a sizable big pile will see temperatures in the eighty degree range. That do nothing pile needs a whole growing season to finish for the following Spring use.
You still need all of the basics in that pile to do that good. Because of my age and health I take a whole year to get to finished just letting it lay there with minimal distrubance. I don't worry because that still gives me for several wheel barrow loads up to a ton of really good compost.

I do remember how confusing this was in my early days of gardening. Today the understanding might be Zen in Gardening. I, the elements and nature become one and it happens. This is rather exciting all the way down to worthless pondering depending on the readers savy. My neighbors watch, talk and ponder my success but they do not really make an effort to better their skills. They all would rather dump another bag of 10 - 10 -10 and continue to think I am an old fool. When my final day arrives I shall pass on with the comforting thoughts that my blathering such as this may have added some fun and excitement for a few folks I've never met.
Katye
Sammamish, WA
(Zone 7b)

April 5, 2009
3:40 PM

Post #6367285

Thanks, Doc - I appreciate your wisdom & wit.
Normally, I create the "do-nothing"piles. This time was an exception.
kqcrna
Cincinnati, OH
(Zone 6a)

April 6, 2009
12:37 AM

Post #6369503

The basic recipe: the right mix, the right moisture, plenty of air

Karen

Thumbnail by kqcrna
Click the image for an enlarged view.

margocstn
Savannah, GA

April 6, 2009
4:09 AM

Post #6370389

Adding pee really seems to help.
docgipe
NORTH CENTRAL, PA
(Zone 5a)

April 6, 2009
3:23 PM

Post #6372109

Commercial urea comes from urine. The N content varies depending on processing and sources. Raw urine differs a little from animal to animal but 12% Nitrogen if used immediately or relatively soon after collection is a reasonable N value estimate. If stored some serious losses will be a factor.

postmandug

postmandug
Bardstown, KY
(Zone 6a)

April 7, 2009
12:43 AM

Post #6374856

Hey doc, how much will Bud Light change that N percentage?... Seems to be ready to "use" much quicker after few Bud Lights!!!!

Doug

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

April 7, 2009
12:47 AM

Post #6374880

Personally I find that restaurant-made iced tea increases the availablility of " liquid N " dramatically, too.
AND if I started storing it, there Would be serious losses-- in my personal life and family's assessment of my sanity.

postmandug

postmandug
Bardstown, KY
(Zone 6a)

April 7, 2009
12:49 AM

Post #6374893

"family's assessment of my sanity" is not something I've worried about for years!!! They all know I'm a little nuts and a lot of fun!

Doug
bonjon
Raleigh, NC

April 7, 2009
2:30 AM

Post #6375499

oh dear. now I'm going to have nightmares, of going to restaurant and drinking lots of Miller beer and sweet tea, and coming home, climbing up into compost and squatting...
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

April 7, 2009
3:37 AM

Post #6375852

TMI! TMI!!
Katye
Sammamish, WA
(Zone 7b)

April 7, 2009
3:59 AM

Post #6375931

this has given me pause for careful consideration of employable methodologies...

sallyg

sallyg
Anne Arundel,, MD
(Zone 7b)

April 7, 2009
11:59 AM

Post #6376599

bonjon--some amount of beer gives a plausible excuse for mistaking the compost for the actual facilities.

postmandug

postmandug
Bardstown, KY
(Zone 6a)

April 7, 2009
2:12 PM

Post #6377060

Maybe we need to start calling it a "Compist Pile"...
PuddlePirate
North Ridgeville, OH
(Zone 5b)

April 7, 2009
3:37 PM

Post #6377496

Ah, the joys of potty humor ...
Katye
Sammamish, WA
(Zone 7b)

April 8, 2009
12:41 AM

Post #6379810

excellent, PMDug!

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