composting question,

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

i am new to gardening and just bought a tumbler composter and a yard chipper vacuum and was wondering if i could shred my browns and greens together or do i need to layer them?

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

You can shred them together, but you may need to add more greens and maybe some food waste to keep that working.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I've also read that "layering" gives no advantage - mixing well causes faster decomposition as long as it doesn't pack down so tight that air can't get in. With a tumbler, I don't think you need to worry about that.

>> yard chipper vacuum

I envy any kind of chipper or shredder! I sharpened the blade on my little electric lawn mower, then run it back and forth over branches on my driveway. But it takes many passes, and still there are big chips of wood and twigs.

With anything woody, it helps a lot to chop it fine before adding it to the heap. Otherwise, the rest of the mix will be ready to use in 3-6 months, but you'll be picking and screening wood chips out for years.

>> add more greens and maybe some food waste to keep that working.

True, unless you start with lots of green grass clippings.

I keep reading that you can run a pile on 20-to-1 browns to greens and it will still break down "eventually". I GUESS so ... but I try to aim for 5-to-1 if I can find enough greens. When my pile is too brown, it breaks down slowly and I have to sneak a little finished stuff out of the bottom and from the very middle, then screen it.

So I keep adding green clipings and kitchen waste and coffee grounds as they become available. (coffee grounds are a good high-Nitrogen "green"). Sometimes I'll "cheat" and buy a cubic foot of steer-manure+compost mix, figuring that is enough to help digest 5 cubic feet of leaves or sawdust.

The kitchen waste seems to mostly dissolve within a few weeks when the heap is active in warm weather. Each new batch of green waste takes some more browns with it.

It's as if the browns were like bread, the greens were like salami, and the bacteria were like bachelors. They do eat up the bread eventually, but much faster if they have some salami to go with it.

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

thanks for the composting info, as i need a lot of going to mix my first batch in the fall and im kind of freaking out !!!!!

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Do not freak out! It's all fun! You can't break it!
Just give us updates and we'll steer ya.

(bachelors LOL!! best compost metaphor I've seen)

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

im thinking some brown leaves,green grass,some cardboard,and some shreaded paper ,would like to use my kitchen scraps as well just not to sure how to save them untill i start the compost with out getting them to rott before i add them,or is that ok ?

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)


Go for it! You can't go far wrong, and can always make changes if you wnat to improve something.

>> some brown leaves,green grass,some cardboard,and some shreaded paper ,would like to use my kitchen scraps

Great, that even sounds balanced. One easy way to tear up cardboard and get plastic tape off it is to soak it for a few days. Maybe in a trash can, maybe on tolp of a tarp, or maybe just spray wtgaer on it every so often. Once soaked, it pulls apart easily and tape comes right off. "Shreds" might help prevent matting together, which limits air getting into the pile. If it matts down TOO much, you might have to turn it a few timese per montgh to keep it smelling sweet and cooking along quickly.

P.S. When I say "turn", I don't really mean pitchforking the entire pile from one spot to another. I think of it as "turning the pile inside out", but with a minimum amount of shoveling or forking.

First I rake the dry outer layers to one side, for later. This outer layer has most of the big pieces and woody bits, because anything small got washed out of the outer layer and into the inner layers. Also, it stops digesting when it dries out.

Then I "split" a valley into the center of the heap, by pushing a fork down deep and then wiggling it back and forth. Also I shovel some good stuff out of the center, pushing the best-composted and most active parts to either side.

Then I drag the dry, less-digested outer layers back into the hollow center of the heap. I add any garbage or greens I have, soak it well, then cover the rough stuff and garbage with the best-composted parts. I soak it again, which washes fines and bacteria and fungi from the "good stuff" down in to the "rough stuff".

Whenever I have garbage or coffee grounds to add, I dig down to where the undigested rough stuff is in the center, and lay the garbage on top of that, like ketchup on french fries. Stir slightly, and bury it again with "good stuff". This keeps the neighbors from ever seeing my garbage and coffee filters!

But I think I'm much too fussy. I just like fiddling with the pile and feeling like parft of the process.

Many people just pile bags and bags of leaves in a heap with "whatever greens" they happen to have, and wait 6-12 months. But where's the fun in that?

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

..>>Many people just pile bags and bags of leaves in a heap with "whatever greens" they happen to have, and wait 6-12 months. But where's the fun in that

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

That is exactly what I do!LOL but then again I don't seem to know know how to post to thread either?

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

well rick ,that was some great advice,i am starting a journal on my first compost pile !!! this site is so awsome and some very smart and kind people,

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

>> would like to use my kitchen scraps as well just not to sure how to save them untill i start the compost with out getting them to rott before i add them

That is an issue, especially if you have guests or household members who don't see the charm in having one-quart yogurt tubs of "ageing scraps" on kitchen counters. I try to have coffee grounds and coffee filter, or paper napkins or paper towels, on top. But a few days or a week of that, and you're tempting flies or ants or smells. In cold weather, I'll store a few quart tubs on the cold back porch until I make a run out to The Heap.

Having the quart yogurt tubs on the kitchen c ounter at all times means I collect more scraps and paper every day.

The gardening technique that I use most often is a good one for this situation: postpone anything that takes time or money. But do immediatly whatever gets you the most benefit for the least work.

Maybe create an outdoor "garbage archive" where you "store scraps" UNTIL you have time to fiddle and tweak and enjoy as elaborate a compost ritual as you please.

Pick a spot on the ground. On top of weeds or clay is fine.
Throw kitchen scraps on that spot.
Throw enough paper or leaves over the scraps that neighbors can't see them, and local pets might not dig them up.

Leave anything elaborate for later, but start saving scraps ASAP.

To be fancy, you could surround it with chicken wire or boards bricks or concrete paving stones - anything to keep it from blowing around and make it look intentional. A plywood bin or $100 plastic tumbler isn't necessary. Home Depot has 8x16"x3/4" concrete pavers in brick red or gray for around $1 each.

As long as the garbage lays right on the ground, and something porous covers it, and it has some browns, it won't look or smell bad. Worms, AIR, aerobic bacteria and other micro-soil-critters will keep it smelling like soil instead of "rot". As long as you have enough leaves, paper or clippings to hide the garbage scraps, you're good to go.

The best way to store scraps is in a compost heap!

These photos aren't compost heaps, they're a raised bed and a temporary micro cold frame. But they show how you could "tidy up" a small pile with pavers or fencing.

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Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I find many nice people like yourself here, too. Welcome!

A compost journal sounds awesome!

It would be cool to be able to go look up how long something had been in the pile, when it fails to digest quickly. I think that rhododendron leaves have been my biggest surprise. maybe it's the waxy colating, but thjey just SIT there, even though they are dark green. Next year I'll treat them like tiwgs and mow them repeatedly b efore adding them.

Sometimes I take pictures. Just recently, I ran about 50' of 1/4" tubing from my new drip setup, just so I could position a sprayer to wet down the heap from different angles. That might not be a permanent feature, but for now it is satisfying to know that the WHOLE pile is going to be moist. It always amazed me that I could spray a heap with a hose for many minutes, but only get the olutermost few in ches wet.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

When I composting a lot of lawn grass clippings , I would grind a banana peel and a slice of onion in an old blender and throw a handful of older finished compost into the lawn grass clippings, with that.
No matter what I had done previously I had always had trouble getting the grass fiber to break down , that seemed to work pretty good .When the onion odor was gone the compost was finished.
I tried that in a bucket I rolled in the sun and it all turned to liquid , so I don't know if it would work in a tumbler as if it liquefied it would create problems.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I can't get sod to break down fast, but 3-4 months klater it see4ms to be dissolving.

I think that next time, I'll chop sod up a lot with a mattock.

>> a lot of lawn grass clippings

Maybe it needed more "browns" to keep the bachelor-bacteria happy. You know, some beer, some hot dogs, some corn chips ... balanced!

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Well you know I can't resist , Are we all invited, it sounds like FUN!!! Or am I hearing or should I say a GAS!!!

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

heck i'm ready for a nope have to work in the am...

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Sure, everyone is welcome to the Compost Party. Just one thing: Beer, yes, Soda, yes. Leaves, paper, straw, clippings & coffee grounds welcome. But please, no one bring compost tea!

Hmm - the "Compost Party". Maybe we should run a candidate for President. A balanced program of carbon and nitrogen ... representation without decomposition is tyranny!

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

oh yes rick ill pass on the compost ok back to composting once you have your pile going do you need to keep adding product or when you have the correct c/n your good to go? just wondering how much of my additives i need to save?i'm having so much trouble roaming around this site,i write things in my journal the next day i can't find

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Save pages to save info, ain't rick but I reply, yes a few additives to 'warm up' the pile is usual Unless your done and plan on using it.(the compost) If you warm it up whatever you will likely keep it going only there is the unforeseen as far as encountering difficulty.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I think either style works, depending on what's most convenient for you. But if you pile it all up, then wait for it all to digest, you might need TWO piles so you always have a place to throw more stuff.

I think you can add greens, or soft finely chopped stuff ANY time, because it will break down in just 2-3 weeks. So I add scraps, leaves and coffee grounds every week. I don't really ever expect my pile to get too N-rich.

What I aim for now is to stop adding coarse woody stuff as soon as possible. Like, after spring cleanup I mow the twigs and add them. Any other wood that comes along later, I will store BESIDE the pile for next year.

Then I add greens continuously as I get my hands on them. That might violate all "classic" recipies for composting, I don't know.

This way, I HOPE that the bigger wood chips will decompose enough to use before, say, fall. Whether or not that happens, now my plan is to just take and screen mostly-finished compost any time I need it.

It's like eating Oreo cookies: almost any way is a good way. Some browns, some greens, some air and some water: worms, bacteria and fungi will do the rest.

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

now remember i said i was just starting out in gardening ,me and my grandmother use to garden together but i was mostly /get this...pickup that ,mix this and that's NOT anyways i know she used cow manure a lot ,so i did the same thing to my plants and they seem to look dried out and brown is it to much for them should i blend with something else...and some of the plants don't seem to mind,which this plant from my grandmother loves it ..or just use to it,

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Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

Most manures if fresh have to sit a year or two,if composted, a cup around any growing plant is plenty..IT is still best when worked in during the fall for next seasons plantings.As you go along you will learn which plants are heavy feeders and the ones that aren't.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

I've never had thye problem of too MUCH manure or compost! But I've read that some people avoid letting fresh manure touch the stems of plants. And too much hot raw manure might not be great for some plants.

But nothing beats trying something yourself, and finding out that "THEY're all WRONG!"
That's how misconceptions are corrected.

And it seems to be a key part of every gardener's education to kill a few plants here and there. My first few years, I was delighted if I didn 't kill EVERYthing.

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

can anyone give me an id on this plant i know my grandmother has had them a long time,when she passed i was able to retain a few will need some more ids next year once they start blooming,,,,thanks guys for all the help!!!

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Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

near Campanula (bellflower) many of them? maybe to the plant I,D,forum try far a better I.D

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

def a Campanula of some variety

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

ok now my next issue i have read that if you fertilize your lawn you should not put it into the compost is this true ,i do mulch my grass all summer but was wanting to put my fall grass into my compost,i don't see what the harm would be?but i'm no expert at that.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I can't see what would harm- UNLESS your fert contains weed or bug killers too.

Sterling Heights, MI(Zone 5b)

i do know that there is weed killer ,but its been a while

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Then it depends on how much of a worrywort you are, or are the kind who figures that the weed killer breaks down enough with sun, rain, microoganisms, washing away.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

The first two photos are my 3 year old compost pile. I stopped putting anything in it about 3 months ago and started another one. Both are in a raised bed on the West side of the house. I use this bed as a holding garden for plants I have no room for currently or they are not strong enough to hit the "real" garden. I just kept adding and did not have time to start another one. Just was not high on my priority list. I finally made myself a note to make a new pile. I needed to move some plants. Finally got it done

Third photo is new compost bed that is now 4 months old. As you can see, each pile has an Avocado tree growing in it. I just throw the seeds in there and they just insist on growing. I give them away and friends use them as house plants.

I do spot compost when I am gardening. If I dig somewhere in the garden and find no worms, I dig a big hole and the next set of scraps go in that hole.

I always add any old potting mix into my compost pile. It was used the year before and when I renew the potting mix in my many pots I just toss the old mix into my pile.

Now you know why they call it black gold. The old pile is about 4' deep.

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Clermont, FL(Zone 9a)

When I started landscaping my yard about 6 years ago I put a piece of cow manure in the hole with every plant I planted. Dried out of course easier to handle. All the plants are still growing.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

Someone spoke out against adding a lot of compost (or, presumably manure) in typical home landscaping, "because the soil would subside when the compost decomposed".

I'm no landscape guru, but it seems to me that soil would sift into any voids, and introdcuing air voids into soil would be a very good thing.

As you say, it does seem to work well.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

Yeah.. My DH bought me a chipper/shredder for my birthday. Now we'll see if that composter works a little better. Kind of late in the season, but he wants to spread it on a strip on the lawn to see if we can get to start working over the rest of the fall and start up in the spring sooner.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

How many day of spring do you get???

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

ROTFL......we DON'T get spring --- we get breakup. oh, it isn't quite the same as down south. I guess you would say maybe two months of breakup, two months of stuff thawing out to get ready for planting. So around the first of May you might being thinking about planting the end of May

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

We have to plant spring flowers in October/November. That way the roots gets established before the heat hits in April.

(Mary) Anchorage, AK(Zone 4b)

We plant our spring flowers in the fall also. No later than October as the ground is pretty hard by then. Been to Vegas many times and doubt I could survive the heat, but a great town to visit. My first visit was in 1967; stayed at the Thunderbird down the street from Ceasar's which had been built just the year before. The next time I was there they were celebrating their 40th anniversary. How strange.

Las Vegas, NV(Zone 9a)

I have been here since 1960. I was raised in a small mining town north of Las Vegas by the Utah border.

You actually get used to the heat. It is the "high winds" I could do without.

My DH and I used to go to the Thunderbird on Friday nights for Joe's Oyster Bar clam chowder.

Anderson, IN(Zone 6a)

NEAR as I ever got to Vegas was either State Line on the Nevada, Utah border or maybe old route 66.That is beautiful country ,hot dry, but beautiful. I have always wanted to see Alaska, every since I was young, I am getting on but maybe still.

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