Black gold?

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

Can someone please tell me what exactly this means in the world of compost? I finally took mine out of the black tumbler bin (where it's been "cooking" for close to 4 months), and there were still pieces of leaves, plus all these black round nuggets that fell apart when i poked at them--but one of them had most definitely been a grapefruit. Does this sound way underdone to you all? When is it DONE? And does it ever really look like crumbly earth? I have more vegetable waste than I know what to do with, and I want to compost it, but if it takes this long every time...well, I'm in trouble.

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

meg, If yolu meant it's been cooking the 'last 4 months', Then it hasn't really been cooking at all. It takes a good amount of heat to cook ( summer time heat) I usually take all my clipppings, leaves and vegetable waste and some dirt and make piles and leave them sit , I wet them down from time to time and aireat them by digging the pile a bit and turning over what I can and after a while when turning the pile I get nice rich compost ...'Black Gold' If you can, When adding things to the compost pile, Try to shred them up as small as you can before adding them, It helps everything decompose faster. hope I helped ~Iris

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Meg, I agree with IRIS. There is not much composting action in winter.
I also screen my compost through 1 inch hardware cloth.
Then I have my 'Black Gold'.
What doesn't go through goes into the next compost pile.
Andy P

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

Salut, Andy! Ca fait longtemps, il me semble...

So, 'black gold' is the stuff that looks like topsoil? I've got to start shredding--in fact, I'm trying to figure out how to do just that in my thread called, "Does this tool exist?" (check it out if you have suggestions--I'm technologically challenged and don't know how to paste the link)

Ah, well, I guess I have to learn some patience! Thanks, Iris and Andy, for the tips...

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Mademoiselle Meg, If you know how to copy & paste you can link.
Go to the thread and click on the address to highlight it, copy or cut it. Now go to this thread and paste it. Voilą! she iz done.
Andre P

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

This my "Black Gold" after I screen it, sitting in a 5 gallon bucket.
No tumblers or fancy bins.
Andy P

Thumbnail by Sarahskeeper
Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Meg, Your welcome, And yes, Black Gold looks top soil, But sooo enriched from all that was put in it! I shred all my compost veggies with a knife and shove them in the compost pile, The rest of the stuff in the pile is grass clippings, leaves, and dried stems from last years perenials ( I crunch them up to) I shove in tea bags, coffee grounds, shreded newspaper, sawdust, ect. If your going to put these things in your tumbler, Try to make sure your tumbler is in full sun to heat it up better and it would be best if you do it when it's really warm out so the heating process breaks down all the components inside.
I had a big compost tumbler I use to use ( I sold it at a yardsale last summer) I found that I had more luck putting the clippings and such on the ground, But when I did use the tumbler when I had it, The earthworms that came out with the compost were Humongus!!

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

AndyP.. Looks good, I thought it was funny to see that when I checked out this post because I was going to take a picture today and post my Black Gold too lol, I don't siff mine at all, It's just so totally loose and crumbly I dont feel I need to. Do you have a lot of it, A big compost heap thats broken down allready??? I'm always tending to start more piles for more compost and feel that it breaks down faster on the ground then it does in a compost bin ( I've tried it both ways) There is just nothing like a good heap of compost!!

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

IRIS, I have 2 compost piles. 'This years' and 'last years'.
I screen last years as I need it in Spring until it is gone, then I turn/move this years pile to last years spot and let it work until next Spring.
I chop up only the largest pieces. I add lime between layers.
A piece of 1 inch hardware cloth placed over a wheelbarrow is my screen.
I'll take a pic tomorrow.
Andy P

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Iris, I'm a ground man myself. I do very little to speed up the process and nothing to match ratios. The way I look at it is composting was happening way before people got involved. It turns to compost sooner or later and all I know is I never have enough.

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Andyp, Thanks for answereing, Thats about the way mine is too, But I have a few extra piles going now. My soil here is terrible and everytime I need to make a bed, I have to dig all the dirt and and amend it, I have a lot of rocks so I do the same thing that you do lol, I put screening over the wheelbarrel and siff the dirt and get the bigger rocks out.

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

DAve47, So true! I dont do ratio either, but it seems to break down pretty good , but, I never have enough either!!

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Andy & Iris, Did either of you notice that time went backward on this thread? (After Andy posted , I posted and it showed as 40 minutes earlier) Strange. I would have thought it had to do with DST but the time jumped in the wrong direction.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I buy my black gold as I don't have a spot for a compost heap. I do throw my organic waste onto one pile in the back, but it's a cold pile and takes awhile to breakdown

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

-Dave47, omg , I didn't notice that untill you mentioned it, Is that strange. I wonder why it did that?

anitabryks2, Thats what I do to, It's just piles that I keep adding waste to

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Very strange!

I have 2 big circles of chicken wire. The hard part is I probably have thousands of square feet of garden so there is never that much compost. Not sure if I could afford to buy it either.

This message was edited Apr 1, 2006 10:38 PM

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

wow, A Big garden,! Vegetable, perenial, Vines, trees, shrubs, ground covers????

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

I would say more like lots of gardens. Mostly perennials, although my veggie garden is the biggest. Adding roses lately but no hybrid teas. One 800 gallon pond.

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

what kinds of perenials do you have? 800 gallon pond? wow, I would love that!! Did you build it yourself??? I have a small pond with a waterfall that I built and everytime I go to the pond forum or hear of a huge pond I always get tempted to build a huge pond to but thankfully I think myself out of it ( Got enough to take care of and do)
Sometime you'll have to post a pic of your pond and garden, Wsould love to see them!

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Iris, If you keep following this you will find out about our time warp Think about the date)
http://davesgarden.com/forums/t/587946/
4 yrs ago we moved about 2 miles. I gave up my gardens but got a water garden that the previous homeowner did himself. I modified it a little( put in a bog portion) Its a nice size. Its up against a stone outcropping so the waterfall is set up like its coming off the rock.

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Got it lol! So did you give up your perenial gardens when you moved or you do have some now? ( It's late, I'm confused) 800 gals. 'is' a nice size pond and it always adds extra when it's by/against rock ~Sounds really nice, What do you have for water plants in it? Any goldfish or coi?

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

How about some pics Dave.

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Yea Dave, How about some pics???
Here is my "Last years" compost pile with the screen in the foreground. I've screened a few wheelbarrows full already. (Strawberries)
Not very pretty but it works!
In years that I feel I might run short, I add peat moss to the screened stuff as filler.
Andy P

Thumbnail by Sarahskeeper
Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Iris & Andy, My watergarden (I think Anita saw it already)

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Oops!

Thumbnail by Dave47
Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

From the other side:

Thumbnail by Dave47
New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

This is all very inspirational. maybe i'll just start a big pile. You don't get critters foraging for the veggie scraps, or lots of bugs and bad smells? (I know you want some bugs, but I'd rather not have a maggot/fly infestation in my backyard). My DH is thinking he might build me a new bin for my birthday (doubly touching since 1. he's not particularly interested in handyman stuff and 2. he really couldn't care less about composting)--any suggestions? (for his sake, keep it easy please!!)

Dave, so true: compost happens!
I just need to learn patience. I'd like to have something to put on the beds this fall, since I just checked and there is like NO nitrogen in my soil...eep...guess I'll be burying some veggie scraps this spring...

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Meg, Your DH can make an easy bin with old wire fencing. 20 feet tied in a circle will make a 6 foot bin. That's what I use for the "new" pile. Works great, but it takes a year for my way to give you good compost.
NEVER add any meat products.
I notice critter scratchings around the new pile from time to time. Usually in the Fall when a lot of old veggies get thrown in.
Andy P

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

My compost has never smelled or had maggots. I think smell happens if you don't have air. I don't care if raccoons or squirrels get in mine from time to time but its not a regular problem. That might be more of a concern in the city though.

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Andyp, Thats a nice looking compost pile! Mine's not quite like yours, I have huge pile (and some smaller ones to ) that I just keep adding to, And when I want compost, I go to the edges and push back some of the pile and there plenty of compost undernieth.

Dave47, Love the pond! Especially with the rock backing it has!! I got a gazillion ideas just looking at it!! lol! Good thing it;s not in my yard, It would be a whole new project! Thanks for posting the pics!

Meg, How nice that he will build one for you for your birthday! Those are the kinds of presents I like the most!! As Andyp suggested, Make sure you dont put any mest products in the compost bin. Whenever I add any cut up veggie's, I open the pile a bit, Put the vegies in and cover it up, I don't have a problem with maggots, critters check it out sometimes but dont really bother it too much, Dont have a bad smell either. If you start a bin, It might take a year to decompose, but, If you keep adding ( Or make a new pile, You'll have a good supply each year!

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

Thanks, folks. I'm vegetarian anyway, so no meat in this household. Good news for the compost pile. I don't mind it taking a long time, except that we produce a LOT of veggie scraps, and I'm kind of an anti-wasting maniac (that would be the scientific term my husband would use). I don't really have room for a lot of piles, but I might have to do some serious rearranging in the back (maybe I'll take a photo) and make room for two other bins. I can have a "new" pile, a "working" pile, and then I can move some of the working pile to the tumbler and maybe get it going faster.

How much ground does a 6ft bin-ful of compost cover, Andy?

Iris, do you just cover the cut-up veggies with whatever's in the pile, or do you add a new layer of leaves or whatever?

Do you folks ever add starters or whatever to your piles?

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Meg, I cover veggie scraps up with whatever's in the pile and I'm always adding to it with grass clippings and such so there is always plenty to cover it with, I don't use starters..

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Meg, The 6 foot diameter by 3 foot high bin will make a pile like the one posted above.
I keep adding to it (the "new" pile) for one year. It way overflows in the Fall, as it settles I put the overflow in, adding some lime once and a while.
How far does it go? Good question.
I have to guess on that. My main concern is for planting, the rest is used for mulch.
I use six - 4 cubic foot wheelbarrow full for the veggie garden, 2 or 3 for the Strawberries one for the Blackberries 3 for the flower beds and I usually have a 3.8 Cubic foot peat moss bag full left over for odds and ends.
That comes to about 50 cubic feet of screened compost.
I don't have enough to put down a nice 3 inch layer anywhere. I most often mix a spade full into the planting hole for things like tomatoes or broccoli.
It takes a few years to figure out which distribution method works best for the amount available.
I still have a 1/4 bag left of last years. 'just in case'.
Andy P

Southern, CT(Zone 6a)

Wow Andy! That's great. Very detailed on your composting measures too.
Meg, I would think you'll be amazed at how quickly & how much your compost pile shrinks. I can't imagine over veggie scrapping your pile.

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Yes Andy, I agree with Dave, Good detailed discription on the compost measures! I don't think I could have done that because I never counted the wheelbarrow loads, I just use it as I need it and don't really think of how much I'm taking.

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

I don't have enough sunny areas that I'm willing to give up for a compost heap - that's why I do the cold pile.

Brockton, MA(Zone 6a)

Thanks, I've been working on this property for 20 years, I've never figured out how much I use.
Anita, My piles are in a fairly shaded corner, they are cold piles too.
The sunny locations are for growing.
Andy P

New Haven, CT(Zone 6a)

This is great! I'm so motivated now. I think my husband will be worried that I want to turn the entire back portion of the yard into one big compost heap...
It's also fairly shaded back there, but it sounds like that works too. And I bet if I ever moved the piles, the old one's spot would be great for a new bed!

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Something I've wanted to try but still have not done, Is dig a large bed, fill it with new compost scraps cover it with dirt and leave it sit for a year or two and then just rototill it all and plant in it, I know people who have done this and it works out great!

Long Island, NY(Zone 6b)

Sounds like a good idea to me Iris

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