Speeding up Compost?

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by Erica, Jan 23, 2006.

  1. Erica

    Erica Active Member

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    Hi there- I can't find a composting forum- is it the soil one? If so, please move this post.

    My compost heap in the back yard is getting huge. Is there a way to accelerate it? We know nothing of composting- we just pile our lawn clippings, leaves and prunings there. It's so big I can't get any soil from the bottom- I don't even know if there is some under that mess! I would like to use the soil for Spring.
    Am I supposed to have air holes in it somewhere? Should I cover it up with dirt? Should I start a new pile elsewhere?
    Thanks for any help-
    Erica in Abbotsford,BC
     
  2. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I am not an expert on making compost but a rule of thumb I have is - one part brown, one part green. As in the ingredients to the compost. and, turn it over or get it areated somehow. check you temperature to see if it is indeed composting or just piling up.
     
  3. Anne Taylor

    Anne Taylor Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi Erica
    I can relate to your situation. I have 4 (four) Really Big compost piles. Like VW beetle sized. I was bad, just kept piling them up all last year. Garden waste from odd jobs that I was doing for seniors etc. Well I got my karm-upance! I spent 6 hours detangling a pile, sorting and sifting and dealing with chunks/sticks,over lumps/bumps,sitting on twigs/clods, and finally lovely fluff. Yes there was compost at the bottom. I made a mess, but now I have it organized. I now have a new pile, accessible for my needs, and an adjacent area which will get only the twigs/clods layered with a sprinkling of manure, and the lumps/bumps who will be broken up in some manner. No More Big Stuff for me. I'll grind,mow or otherwise crumble stuff first before I add! Of course just when I was feeling like I was in control, I started on the next pile in the other corner of my yard. Mother nature wasn't finished punishing me.... this one was devoured by broomstick sized himalyan blackberry canes. After an hour of grunting, heaving and swearing at the things biting me, I found the pile. Should have been lovely soft fluff having been there for 2 years or so. And so it was. Except fpr the 8 million miles of morning glory roots in it. i'm not sure I have the strength to peek at the other two piles just yet ... maybe tomorrow
    I shall never ignore my compost heaps again Lord,- honest.
    So jimmyq is quite right, green and brown - or nitrogen and carbon, - there are a few suggested ratios depending on who you talk to. Yes air is good. The whole thing is a micro environment. Had I got mine hot enough quick enough, I could have avoided weeds. It needs water, (but not super soggy). A large black plastic sheet helps, both for heat and eye appeal, and maybe keeping four footed compost snacking pets out.
    But actually 'turning' the heap helps. That's what I failed on too. If you watch out for the worms ( lovely little red fellas) you'll have a sense of what stage all this is at.
    If they are there, they are working, -they leave afterwards, for greener pastures (?) so to speak.
    I don't regret my toiling in my " 4 heaps of the apocolypse" as I call them. I'll have a ton of compost at the end and a real lesson learned to boot.
    Good luck rooting through yours Erica!
     
  4. Erica

    Erica Active Member

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    Thanks Anne- I never even thought about freakin morning glory roots! I bet they are rampant inside there because they have got their claws into everything else in my garden. Last summer I weeded them out every day and it sucked. Well, thanks for the tips. I will get my husband to turn it- there is no way i could. He's the one who put the large chunks of Poplar in there anyway. thanks!
     
  5. Jon MacDiarmid

    Jon MacDiarmid Member

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  6. Chuck White

    Chuck White Active Member

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    Compost does need aeration. Flip the pile periodicly or put a blower arrangement under it. Reasons: The bacteria of decomp are air breathers. They can suffocate. Temp monitoring is good. The critters will die at 155 deg. F.. A couple of shovels full of FRESH cow manure will kick start your pile, although not required to make the pile cook. You can monitor the degree of 'doneness' by watching the temp. The cooler the temp , the more complete the composting process. It is a given that moisture will need to be added. The by-product of heat is evaporation. WIth one exception, kitchen waste is good in your pile; the exception being - - no meat scraps, or protein. This can sour the pile. AS decomp takes place, so will thebacteria be using nitrogen. Add nitrogen to the compost you use for your plants to replenish this depletion(slow release- - or 'water INsoluable). Just some thoughts.
     
  7. campanula

    campanula Member

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    Why spend money on something that nature and you can do together for a few minutes of your time? Shucks, all you need is aeration and a fair mix of greens and browns. You'll need more browns than greens. This keeps the pile from compacting and going its way in anaerobic fashion. Nothing wrong with anaerobic composting, mind, but it stinks and can take quite a while. Even a neglected pile will eventually break down into compost. Everything breaks down over time, it's what you do in the meanwhile that can really speed the process. Remember, stuff fell to the earth and commenced composting long before we got around to trying it.

    The hot pile, now, there's your ticket to fast composting. All thanks to Mother Nature and a little elbow grease.

    So, add in a bit more browns, give the whole pile a spin with your garden fork whenever it starts to cool, keep it moist-about like a wrung-out dishcloth. You'll have your compost in short order.

    I don't know about other folks, but I get really excited when the pile gets hot. I'm told that a hot pile kills weed seeds so the morning glories won't have a chance at taking over-nor the blackberries.

    Chuck White offered all good points-and more clear hard fact than I did. I do use some unfinished compost in top dressing to help balance the nitrogen needs of plants. It only takes a handful of partially done compost to maintain nitrogen levels. Whatever mulch you use, too, will maintain nitrogen. Remember shredded bark or leaves are essentially unfinished compost.

    Have fun.
     
  8. Helen Leung

    Helen Leung Active Member 10 Years

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    Oh Good! I'm not the only one who gets excited when compost heats up... hee hee :-)

    I find that used coffee ground heats my pile up quite nicely. I usually go to Starbuck's and ask for it in garbage bags. I had a 20lb bag the other day, dumped it in my little bblack city compost bin and it heated up in a couple of days.
     
  9. cormac

    cormac Member

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    i've never had much luck with the couple of 'accelerators' i've tried ... as mentioned, you're just as well of making sure the mix of green and brown are correct ... throw in a layer of top soil or some manure and that really should be all the accelerant you need

    and i don't turn my compost pile too often ... physically, i just can't anymore ... so maybe three times a season i do it and i usually have a few cubic yards of compost each spring --

    and sticks and stuff are pretty awful lol -- i either take the big branches down to the town 'dump' where they chip them up or leave them to be picked up ... i had a 'bright' idea last summer of putting in a layer or evergreen branches from a shrub i took out figuring that the would easily compost ... well i was half right ... the green was gone but the branches remained -- what a pain to try and pitchfork over the pile with those things in there ... i've started a separate, non-binned pile for stuff that's kind of too small to mess with taking away but too 'big' for my compost pile proper (i have a simple 5x5x5 bin for it) ... tossing some manure on the extra pile is a good idea :)
     
  10. compost n00b

    compost n00b Member

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    i am beginning a compost pile experiment so can anyone give ideas?
    :D
     
  11. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    if starting a pile try to get some active compost from another heap to add to yours, to introduce the bacteria and microlife that might begin their process on the wastes you provide.
     

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