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Spreading truck loads of compost

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

I would like to add a couple of inches of dairy compost mixed with composted rice hulls to my garden to improve the texture and aeration. I will need a truck load, about 12 cubic yards. How does one spread that much bulk compost evenly? I'm not really physically able to spread by hand...


Charlotte, NC(Zone 7b)

David, a boy scout troop in your area might be willing to help. Or, perhaps, a local church...

You might check to be sure that the cows have not been raised on Round Up ready feed. Some vegetables are very sensitive to Round Up residue.

Everett, WA(Zone 8a)

If the dump truck driver is helpful and skilled, have him back up to onbe corner of your lot, and start dumping as gradually as possible, while driving towards the opposite corner of your lot.

Then it doesn't need to be spread as far. At leastg this way, the rest could be done by a Boy Scout Patrol, instead of a whole Troop.

In fact, if the farthest distance you ned to move it is only one shovel-throw's distance, you MIGHT be able to spread it yourself by doing it over several days. I was suprised how easy and easy just shoveling was, compared to pick or mattock work. But then my upper body is OK, its mostly my legs that are weak.

And I'm thinking that 1 or two cubic yards is 1-2 days work, but TWELVE cubic yards might be a killer.

Anyway, spreading it roughly by shovel could be followed up with plowing or harrowing, which would even out hills and valleys.

Helena, MT

David, I have been considering the same question about turning an outdoor windrow vermicompost pile. I have been outdoor vermicomposting for some time and have been reading articles which have been recently posted on the net about this very topic. It appears that Canada, China, India and Cuba have discovered the importance of making quality compost or fertilizer using compost worms. Duh! It appears that these countries have discovered what most organic farmers here already knew, the vermicompost is far more effective than straight composting.

Anyway, I have been kicking around some ideas on how to turn vermicomposting windrows instead of using bins or raised beds. I recently spoke to an old friend, Stan Brown of Brown Bear Auger Company about the possibility of making a walk behind windrower similar to a garden tiller. Stan wasnít sure there would be a market for this piece of equipment; however the seeds of thought have been planted.

Since it takes about 120 days here to process a pile of vermicompost consisting horse &/or cow manure, rotted straw or hay, wood chip fines, coffee grounds, and possibly leaves, it would be considerably quicker and easier with the use of a windrow auger. The smallest unit Stanís company makes could accomplish this on a commercial scale in a fraction of the time, but not affordable to the home gardener.

Like you Dave, I donít have the time or energy at my age to accomplish this by hand, so I will try to find some other means to achieve this if I want to completely vermicompost a row in a much shorter time. There arenít a whole lot of gardeners in my area so a co-op on one of the smaller units would probably not be feasible.


Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

David, Can you cook? There are a lot of DG'ers in your area so you might go on the Texas forum and invite everyone in your area to a Round-Up, a round up of compost that is. Say the word barbecue and you should get enough folks to spead that out in half a day.

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)


No solution yet for spreading the mulch... though a barbeque would be a good idea. I'm pretty stubborn, though, and not that much on asking for help. I have a possible idea for turning your rows, depending on how large they are. It's based on a tiller, but not with an auger. I have a rear-tine tiller that has a broken transmission-- it will go in forward or reverse, but the tines don't turn. I'm thinking of removing the tines and the shields so I can mount a plow blade, like a hiller/furrower, to build rows. There are two wheel tractors that have all sorts of attachments. You could use the hiller set to push everything one way or a moldbord plowshare, either of which would turn your rows nicely.


Helena, MT

I hear ya Dave, looks like we may have to come up with our own equipment design. The maximum height of a vermicompost windrow should not be over three feet high. Which means material can be added over a period of time until it reaches that height. If the pile remains in place until vermicomposting is complete it could take 120 days as I mentioned. The top ten inches of the old pile can be used to start a new row.since this is where most of the worm activity will exist in a completed row. Some advocate starting a new row adjacent to the existing row and the worms will then migrate to the new food.

My experience with working with large windrow augers in municipal sludge back in the mid-70's has taught me that this process applied to outdoor vermicomposting in windrows can be performed in a fraction of the time if you have the space to work. The windrow auger is simply a large screw attached sideways to the front of some sort of a tractor which in one pass will rotate the pile over leaving the heavier material on top of the pile which is generally made up of the undigested components of the pile. Worms will readily migrate to the top of the pile and begin working on this material. Aeration of the pile is the plus side, and the down side is the loss of moisture content which would need to be adjusted by some means. The windrow could be turned as frequently as ever three days thus completing the process in a fraction of the time that it would take a static pile to do the same.

As for the barbeque idea I would have no problems getting people to show up, but I couldn't count on any of them to help. Sort of like COSTCO on the weekends. A regular cattle shoot with people lined up at the sample counters. Free food brings out so many people its difficult to find a parking spot in their massive parking area. Tried hiring a neighbor teenage once...big I won't make again.

Houston Heights, TX(Zone 9a)

I was talking about only inviting DG ers not just the run of the mill person. Urban Harvest uses this technique where the members of the group pool their efforts for each other when requested by its members.

Madras, OR

rent a small tractor with a front endo loader if you have space to work one. then dump bucket loads end to end, and spread it by a rake. Once you spread the first one or two you will get the idea how much you need to provide 1-2" to each length of bed or row.. At least that is how I do it, i get 10 cu yds every year, and haul it to the beds and rake it around in the fall. You could do it when ever it works for you, high winds from the winter might blow it around or what ever. But that is one way.

Helena, MT

Nancy, not that I detest weeding but I experiencing less weeding problems last year because of the way I add compost to my garden. I use to haul in several heaping pick up truck loads and shovel it out the back end of the pickup over the garden, tilling it in with my Sears 26hp lawn tractor and tiller attachment. I purchased a 4-cycle Mantis tiller last season and applied the aged cown manjure into each individual row instead of the whole garden. Then used the Mantis tiller to cultivate between each row on occasion. A small fraction of the work as before, and considerably less manure was used concentrating it into the areas where it did the most good.

As soon as possible in the spring I plan on vermicomposting this same aged cow manure with the other items I mentioned above into windrows. When I need to plant a garden row I can simply grate out a wheel barrel full of vermicompost, returning the larger undigested materials back to the vermicompost rows. Vermicompost has far less weed problems and as I mentioned before 4 to 5 times more effective than simply aged cow manure.or other composts.

Hutto, TX(Zone 8b)

AFTER selling it, I realized that I had the perfect tool for spreading truckloads of compost. I have a small tractor with a three-point hitch, and I HAD a "box blade" which has the express purpose of dragging and leveling. I could have dumped compost at the end of the garden, then pulled it across with the box blade! Oh well. Live and learn I guess. I didn't connect since the only thing I ever used the blade for was my previously graveled driveway.


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