How to wet.....

MERCER, PA(Zone 5a)

......dry compost ingredients?
Please let me explain our problem. We have been trying to make a compost pile out of chicken manure from our hen house along with two truck loads of shredded dry leaves that our cousin gave us. We mix the dry manure with the dry shredded leaves and then we try to wet them down because the compost pile needs to be moist. Even though we water the pile when we apply a layer of only 4", we can not get the leaves or the manure to absorb the water. The top gets wet, but it is bone dry and dusty if you turn the pile. This stuff just won't get wet....not even damp! We put manure in a container filled with water and stirred it. It did get wet, but this is tedious and very impractical when working with such large quantities. Any ideas of how to moisten these ingredients as we are making the pile? I thought of putting dish detergent in a miracle gro applicator (proportioner) as a wetting agent, but as all the dish detergents are now anti-bacterial, I thought that this might hamper the piles decomposition process. ???
Please help! There has just got to be a way to wet this stuff other than in a cauldron. LOL
Thanking You in Advance,
Ron and Gloria

Orlando, FL(Zone 9b)

Sounds like quite a conundrum you've got and I'm afraid I don't know much about composting as I just toss my compostable stuff out in the bushes. No piles to monkey with.

You can find non-antibacterial dishsoaps. You have to look the the individual labels. I have Ultra Joy with Aromatic Release (Green Tea scent) that isn't AB. There is a similarly scented Palmolive. And I think most stores still carry Ivory dishsoap, which is a good one for use in the garden.

Santa Clara, CA(Zone 9a)

Maybe try mixing in some green material. This might help it retain water.

Baker City, OR(Zone 5b)

Try laying a soaker hose on it overnight. I have run into the same problem and it was a lot of work watering, turning, watering, turning but eventually it got wet enough to start decomposition. I didn't think of the soaker then, just sprayed it with a hand held sprinkler as I turned it. Also, covering it with a tarp for a few days might help equalize the moisture, but don't leave the tarp on it too long since it needs air.

St. Petersburg, FL(Zone 10b)

I agree with MaryE. Next did you shread your leave? I always run a lawn mower back and forth over my dried leaves first. If your pile was my pile at this point I would take several shovel fulls and shread them with a shreader. Break it down so it will accept the water faster. Not only that but it would compost much faster. I don't know how often you turn your pile. I always turned my every week. If that is not possible then place PVC pipe though it at differant levels. Drill holes into the PVC. You can add water that why plus it keeps air in the pile which is very important. Not to mention controlling the "cook" of the pile.
Good Luck!


Tellico Plains, TN(Zone 7b)

I love Fall,only for the reason that I have many mature trees,sugar maples and oak..I mow the grass & leaves together.....viola' good stuff!
re;......Liquid the warehouse type mega grocery stores,usually can find king size generic "White" dishwashing liquid.the cheaper the better =)

MERCER, PA(Zone 5a)

Thank you everyone...
The leaves were already shredded when we received them. The problem was that they were bone dry and "wanted" to stay that way.
We literally soaked the pile and the bottom became moist. After a day, the pile wicked up some of its moisture towards the top. We kept soaking it everyday and now it is moist (not sopping wet) throughout the pile. We are just starting to see the steam coming off of the top....we are finally on our way to a huge pile of black gold.

Winchester, VA(Zone 6b)

In one organic garden magazine I read once - they suggested
taking pvc pipe and drilling holes in it and add sticking
them in the compost pile all which way..vertical horizontial
and diagonal - and it worked but you could not turn it and it looks weird.

Another idea I have done the most is to water every layer
as you build the pile. Then it starts out wet and
subsequent waterings kept it wet. Just don't let it
dry out!

Hope that helps

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