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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
There's lots to learn here by reading as a guest. However, if you become a member (it's free, ad free and spam-free) you'll have access to our large vermiculite databases, our seed exchange spreadsheets, Mel's Mix calculator, and many more members' pictures in the Gallery. Enjoy.

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COMPOST 101

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Post  CapeCoddess 8/7/2013, 6:38 pm

@camprn wrote:Todays haul for the compost heap. A bag of coffee bean chaff and a 15+# bag of used grounds.
COMPOST 101 - Page 8 00113

SCORE! COMPOST 101 - Page 8 3170584802 

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Post  lyndeeloo 8/9/2013, 7:35 am

@jimmy cee wrote:Lyndeeloo
I have a tumbler and picked up a few tips.
I try to dry material I add, at least not add anything soggy.
When material becomes to wet,  add browns, it will help dry.
Wet material attracts bugs.
My tumbler isnt quick, last batch I had, I placed in my compost pile.
Remember practice makes perfect...( I'll probably be gone before I get anywhere near perfect )
COMPOST 101 - Page 8 5_18_110
Thanks Jimmy Cee

I was getting depressed because it has been taking so long. The tumbler was supposed to be really fast according to the person I got it from. I'm not sure he actually ever used it.

My yard is so small I don't have room for a traditional compost pile so I thought the tumbler would be great. It was a choice between garden beds or compost pile. Gardens won out!

I have some plastic trash barrels I will use to collect the "precompost" in and then try to finish a batch in the tumbler. Thanks for the advice.
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Post  Triciasgarden 8/10/2013, 6:49 pm

Lyndeeloo, I have a tumbler and made compost with it.  I was very new at it and one day noticed it was very hot to the touch and thought something was wrong with it, lol.  My next attempt didn't get the heat and I kinda forgot about it for awhile and it dried out.  I wet it again and turned it and then forgot about it again after about a week.  I made other piles on the ground and they have finished, but I had the room.  I think reading like you have done and then making your pile will help you learn.  I have made the compost too wet in my tumbler before and I opened the vents in mine (mine has vents) and also left the lid open for awhile.  You can also just keep the door open for awhile and close it right before you turn it then open it again if it is still too wet.  Turning it and getting oxygen into it will help dry out too wet compost.  There are quite a number of people here who use the tumblers very successfully so keep at it, you learn a lot as you go!
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Post  Triciasgarden 8/10/2013, 6:50 pm

Camprn that is a wonderful haul!  Congratulations!
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Post  lyndeeloo 8/10/2013, 11:14 pm

Thanks Tricia, I'll just keep at it. Practice makes perfect, right?
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COMPOST 101 - Page 8 Empty Potato peels?

Post  PabloElFlamenco 9/11/2013, 10:47 am

Years ago I read somewhere that it wasn't a good idea to add potato peels to a compost heap, because the peels would likely be infested with viruses.  How about that? 
I've been dumping vegetable kitchen stuff on a pile for years, last saturday I turned it around and sure enough, a lot of the stuff has turned into an earthy smelling,  apparently well broken down, material.  I'm not sure if that heap ever got up to any kind of temperature, and I'm worried about propagating wild seeds. 
Should I try to add some special "starter" and give it one last go before using it, next spring, as 1/5th of my personal "Mel's Mix"?
Thanks for your thoughts!
Paul
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Post  tomthebuilder 10/5/2013, 12:30 am

i do just like you do-table scraps, grass clippings, dried leaves, manure and turn and water as needed in a heap. i don't fuss over it and it takes care of it self. good luck:)
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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 10/5/2013, 12:35 pm

My sweet husband just finished repairing my chipper shredder after a 10 year hiatus in the shed.  So this woman has been a mad chipper for the past week, chipping everything in sight!

For anyone that does a lot of composting or has a large yard to maintain and the room to store it, I really recommend one.  No matter what I have tried, my compost piles have never worked as well since not having it.  It seems I can never get the balance just quite right.

This is made up of kitchen scraps, juicing pulp, trimmed branches, leaves and yard trimmings.

I looked up the Berkeley Method of hot composting and have a pile underway.  4 days in and it is intensely cooking.  
COMPOST 101 - Page 8 <a href=COMPOST 101 - Page 8 Compost-10-1-5-13_zps458fe7df" />
That's a 6 inch meat thermometer (compost thermometer is coming in the mail next week) so it's only about 10 inches deep into the pile.

COMPOST 101 - Page 8 <a href=COMPOST 101 - Page 8 Compost-10-1-5-13-B_zpscdc625f7" />

I'll report on how long it really takes, it's supposed to be done in 18-21 days.
Audrey
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Post  sanderson 10/5/2013, 3:29 pm

Audrey,  That pile looks beautiful. cheers  We seriously discussed getting a chipper but really don't have room to store it at our city home. This stupid 160* degree cage pile I have going for 2 weeks, with perforated pvc pipes, will be the last one I make without stall wood shavings.  It stinks so bad I'm embarrassed and I can't hang the laundry outside.  My first 2 smelled "wonderful" but I did screen out quite a bit of un-composted wood shavings.  First year need for compost makes for desperate actions!!Embarassed   Here's the pipe set-up while building it.  The caps came off when it hit 140*.  It's covered with tulle to keep out flies.  The Fania and soldier flies love it.
COMPOST 101 - Page 8 Compos10
Another mistake was using septic grass clippings from the front yard that were steamed for over a week to kill seeds.  Stunk badly! I think I will use fresh clippings from my small back yard where I snip off grass stalks with seeds and pull weeds daily as I see them.
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Post  floyd1440 10/5/2013, 6:28 pm

It is good to see all the different ideas on how to make homemade compost.  The hard part is always turning the pile and unless you only have a small amount or several manageable ones, it can be very labor intensive.  Last year my neighbor and I decided to get a cyclone rake to pick up leaves and grass clippings to attempt to make compost.  You can return it within 12 months no questions asked.

Last fall we had a TON of leaves so we put them in a pile, 4 cu. yards, and today I used the rake to pick them back up and it is so fine it goes through the hardware cloth!!!  So I will pick more leaves up this fall and mix them with grass clippings in the summer for a fresh batch every fall.

I have to give a lot of credit to mother nature in breaking down the leaves over the winter and the grass clippings, r any green component, will make a nice finished compost.

COMPOST 101 - Page 8 3170584802
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Post  camprn 10/5/2013, 6:46 pm

Sanderson, to control odor, sprinkle about half an inch to an inch of grass clippings over the top of the stinky pile.

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 10/5/2013, 7:06 pm

Sanderson;
I've had a round pile holder like yours before and didn't find a need for the pipes - what do they do?  I simply turned mine once a week for about 6 weeks and had finished compost most of the time.  That was when we lived in San Diego and my oak trees lost their leaves all year round.  We had the perfect mix of grass clippings and oak leaves to make very quick compost.

My set up is made of pallets, there are two compartments side by side and a low divider in between so it's easy to pitch fork from one side to the other.  It is much easier to turn the pile when it's been chipped as there are no large stringy objects in it (like squash plants etc.)  The small chip size makes it very light and easy.  I find it equal to a good exercise work out, not hard back breaking work.  Heaven only knows I am in need of burning some calories, LOL!  I sit on my rear creating art and graphic design all day geek
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Post  sanderson 10/6/2013, 3:47 am

Thanks for all the replies on my stinky pile.  Today it dropped from 160* to 158*.

I can't believe that I have added three x 33-gallons of homemade compost to my existing squares this summer.  Far superior than my original MM with Kellogg!! Embarassed 

I wish I had a second 3' area next to the cage but there's no room.  Therefore, I can't turn cage 1 into cage 2.  I can shovel everything into buckets, dump them on a tarp, then dump back into the cage.  Last time I tried that but it never heated back up.  So after a couple weeks just sitting there, I screened it through a 1/4" hardware screen box and put the large stuff in this pile, plus all the new stuff.

I did what Camp suggested and put nice smelling grass and leaves on top but the smell still comes out the sides, and the methane gas out the top of the perforated pipes.

The PVC idea came from this Forum.  They were for a rolling barrel but I thought I would try it since I can't turn my pile.

Next summer I will have a stockpile of this fall's dry leaves.  Plus, I won't steam the grass more than 2 days.  That's about as long so it can still stay unoffensive.

Thanks again.
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Post  floyd1440 10/6/2013, 8:49 am

I have noticed a trend in that some people swear by the use of PVC pipes and others don't find they need to use them and to compound the problem I am not 100% sure of what they do.  Let me give you my theory and you can correct me?

Am guessing they are useful in adding more air and perhaps water to the pile?  And do you use perforated PVC pipe to aid in this objective and what size are the pipes.  I have two square bins 40x40x48 inches so if I was to put pipe in what size, diameter, would I need and how many?

Floyd.............
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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 10/6/2013, 12:25 pm

@sanderson wrote:I wish I had a second 3' area next to the cage but there's no room.  Therefore, I can't turn cage 1 into cage 2.  I can shovel everything into buckets, dump them on a tarp, then dump back into the cage.  Last time I tried that but it never heated back up.  So after a couple weeks just sitting there, I screened it through a 1/4" hardware screen box and put the large stuff in this pile, plus all the new stuff.
Ah, I forget city lot size... it's been since 1998 since I lived in the city. One of the benefits of living on 5 acres is room. It has its drawbacks, but having space for a garden and all that comes with it is nice :-)
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Post  sanderson 10/6/2013, 3:57 pm

Audrey,

8-16-13  Photo:  The compost cage is at the back of the photo, slightly left of dead center.  It's under the dwarf orange tree. There is a new box where the old worm tube is.  Yes, I killed the Fescue with my MM mixing operation and turning down the lawn sprinkler so they wouldn't hit the boxes.  We will reseed this October.
COMPOST 101 - Page 8 Back_y10

Floyd,  I used the PVC pipes I had on hand, 1/2."  Yes, there are 1/4" drilled holes.  Yes, they are supposed to admit air and water. Right now, they are bleeding off hot (158*) moist gas.  [If I had known, I would have added a jar of mash and st. st. piping for moonshine! Then I wouldn't care about the stink!]  I can wiggle them up and down and side to side.  I'm not the one to give advice on what size PVC you should use, or even if they should be used! Embarassed This was an experiment since I can't "turn" the compost. I do have a drill-powered 4" auger I tried in lieu of turning but it just cooled the pile and it never recovered the heat. It DID nicely mix the different composted / semi-composted layers of produce, wood shavings, grass, coffee grinds, steer manure.

Here is something of which I am concerned from a Public Health and Code Enforcement aspect:  The City is encouraging backyard composting to reduce the amount of green waste it has to deal with.  My Cage is lined with fly screen and covered with 2 layers of tulle to keep out flies. An improperly built or maintained pile (like the one I have now) Embarassedstinks to high heaven.  Some have dogs (poo) or cat liter boxes and would just toss it in their piles = breeding the house fly.  Stocked-piled grass breeds Fania sp. flies, the lesser house fly, a nuisance fly that can make summer life unpleasant. I'm thinking of one of our renters who had a hard time understanding you don't put barbeque meats in the recycle bin!!  It takes a lot of education, and enforcement, to get folks to deal with their waste in proper manner.
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Post  Marc Iverson 10/6/2013, 7:30 pm

Just within the last month or two, someone contributed a link to a site that detailed a no-turn compost bin which was made up of pallets on all but two sides (front and top) and had a 3D grid of perforated PVC pipes running all the way through it. The idea was that air got in not only on every side, but all through the middle. The PVC pipes were capped for a day or two for a burst of additional heat. The claim was that all the oxygen made compost extremely quickly; plus of course it required no turning!

It may be somewhere in this thread; I'll see if I can dig up a link.
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Post  floyd1440 10/6/2013, 7:35 pm

Maybe it is just luck but when I get a "stink" problem I just add some more browns.  I usually have smell problems when I add a bunch of kitchen scraps.

made a PVC trellis and am going to go to a conduit one so should have plenty of 1/2" pipe, just have to drill holes as you suggest and need to know if you put a cap on the bottom of it and leave the top open?

Checked the pile I made yesterday and it is 157 degrees!!

COMPOST 101 - Page 8 3170584802
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Post  TxGramma 10/6/2013, 8:26 pm

@Marc Iverson wrote:Just within the last month or two, someone contributed a link to a site that detailed a no-turn compost bin which was made up of pallets on all but two sides (front and top) and had a 3D grid of perforated PVC pipes running all the way through it.  The idea was that air got in not only on every side, but all through the middle.  The PVC pipes were capped for a day or two for a burst of additional heat.  The claim was that all the oxygen made compost extremely quickly; plus of course it required no turning!

It may be somewhere in this thread; I'll see if I can dig up a link.
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Post  camprn 10/6/2013, 8:50 pm

It is posted much earlier in this thread, but I am posting again. There is a tremendous amount of good info here.
http://compost.css.cornell.edu/

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Post  Turan 10/6/2013, 11:58 pm

@sanderson wrote:Audrey,

Here is something of which I am concerned from a Public Health and Code Enforcement aspect:  The City is encouraging backyard composting to reduce the amount of green waste it has to deal with.
My sister in Seattle told me that they have to do all composting in an inclosed bin to stay within City regulations. They also encourage worm bins. The city also does a recycloes pickup.

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Post  sanderson 10/7/2013, 1:52 am

Floyd,  I did not put caps on the bottoms except when I had to force the pipes down into the lower 10".  I would push-wiggle-in down, then pull out and remove the cap from the bottom.  I needed them "planted" in the lower 10" so that they would stand up as I continued building the pile.  The caps stayed on for about a week, 5 days at 160*.  I figured it was going anaerobic and opened the caps.  After another week still at 160*, it is now down to 156*.  But, don't take any advice from me, though, there are a lot better composters our there than me. Embarassed

Just re-read and your compost is 157*!!!
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Post  sanderson 10/7/2013, 2:34 am

I would think enclosed bins would be the only way a city of composters would work!! I wish I had a heavy gauge, rotating bin.
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Post  Turan 10/7/2013, 12:13 pm

@sanderson wrote: The caps stayed on for about a week, 5 days at 160*.  I figured it was going anaerobic and opened the caps.  After another week still at 160*, it is now down to 156*.  
It does not sound to me like your pile was at all anaerobic because those piles are cold. Anaerobic composting is a bit safer and easier for back yards actually because it is usually a simple heap layered. It does not heat up much at all which is safer and probably retains more nutrients but does not kill seeds and plant viruses either. It takes longer, but usually when it is established you can dig out the bottom layer for good compost.

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Post  sanderson 10/7/2013, 2:40 pm

I've got to read the compost book again! study 
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