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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Toplef10COMPOST 101 - Page 17 1zd3ho10

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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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  sanderson 12/1/2022, 8:57 pm

I bought this book used on eBay. It's glossy with photos and drawings, sort of reminds me of our ANSFG book.

COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Book_t16

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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  OhioGardener 12/2/2022, 10:05 am

I have both the "Complete Compost Gardening Guide", and "Let It Rot: The Gardener's Guide to Composting", in PDF format.  Both have good, useful information.


Now I am terrified at the Earth, it is that calm and patient,
It grows such sweet things out of such corruptions,
It turns harmless and stainless on its axis, with such endless successions of diseas'd corpses,
It distills such exquisite winds out of such infused fetor,
It renews with such unwitting looks its prodigal, annual, sumptuous crops,
It gives such divine materials to men, and accepts such leavings from them at last.

                      Walt Whitman, "This Compost"

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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty How to Build a Compost Pile

Post  OhioGardener 4/21/2023, 5:55 pm

While reading the Grow Your Soil book, I came upon this simple on-line guide titled "How to Build a Compost Pile", which provides simple, straight-forward guidance on composting.

https://www.storey.com/article/how-to-build-a-compost-pile/

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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  markqz 4/21/2023, 6:45 pm

OhioGardener wrote:While reading the Grow Your Soil book, I came upon this simple on-line guide titled "How to Build a Compost Pile", which provides simple, straight-forward guidance on composting.
Do you think we need to worry about Grazon (sp?) in straw?
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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  OhioGardener 4/21/2023, 7:22 pm

markqz wrote:
OhioGardener wrote:While reading the Grow Your Soil book, I came upon this simple on-line guide titled "How to Build a Compost Pile", which provides simple, straight-forward guidance on composting.
Do you think we need to worry about Grazon (sp?) in straw?

Here in the farm belt Grazon is used pirmarily for pasture land to kill broadleaf plants out of grass. I have talked with a number of local farmers, and none of them use Grazon on wheat fields during their rotations.  Almost all of them, use glyphosate on the corn and beans during their rotation since they plant Roundup-ready seeds. They can spray glyphosate on wheat that is ready for harvest since the wheat plants are already dead and the glyphosate will only be absorbed by the weeds that are still growing.  If that were done I don't know what effect that glyphosate would have on the straw, but it probably would not be good for mulching or composting.  Fortunately for me, the farmer I get the straw from does not use any herbicides.

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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  sanderson 4/22/2023, 2:31 pm

OhioGardener wrote:While reading the Grow Your Soil book, I came upon this simple on-line guide titled "How to Build a Compost Pile", which provides simple, straight-forward guidance on composting.

https://www.storey.com/article/how-to-build-a-compost-pile/
Simple little link. I like it.

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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Newbie composter adrift in too much information

Post  Guinevere 10/19/2023, 4:55 pm

I am starting SFG next spring. I would like to start composting in order to have better quality compost in the future.  But, there's so much information out there that I am overwhelmed.  How do I start from ground zero?  I don't have a large amount of anything to pile up.  I was planning to keep a can in the kitchen for scraps, and dump them on a pile in the yard, but there's only two of us so we don't produce much waste.  I thought I could keep adding material to the pile as I accumulate it, but the links I've read seem to imply that I need to start with enough material to fill a bin, and fill it in layers of specific stuff. . . . .Do I have to have a whole pile of material available to start?  I always thought a compost pile was an ongoing thing: every day put more stuff on it, and stir it.  But if I'm always adding new material, how does it ever degrade? If I don't add new material, what do I do with the new scraps every day?  How do I know if I get the proper mix of nutrients?  How does one stir a 4x4x4 bin, if I made one?  That's a heck of a lot of heavy stuff if I could ever fill the bin. 

I have read through a lot of the composting threads, but I still feel like I don't have the basic information to begin from nothing.  The articles seem to assume I have tons and tons of material to start with, and I have nothing.   I just feel at a loss, because when I read about the process, I get a mental image of people with loads and loads of leaves, grass, vegetable scraps, etc. just happily piling it up in the proper order and proportions, and I'm looking at my can with a few carrot peelings, thinking I don't know what to do.
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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  OhioGardener 10/19/2023, 5:31 pm

I merged your post with this one, Guinevere, just part of housekeeping.

You are not unique to the new world of composting, and are experiencing what we have all been through during our early years. A good place to start is to check your library or half-price book store to see if you can find a copy of The Rodale Book of Composting. It is a wealth of information, especially for beginning composting (picture below).  To answer one of your set of questions, " I always thought a compost pile was an ongoing thing: every day put more stuff on it, and stir it.  But if I'm always adding new material, how does it ever degrade? If I don't add new material, what do I do with the new scraps every day?", there is a multi-bin process to address that.  You can continue adding browns and greens to a bin, tumbler, etc., until it reaches the "full" level, then you quit adding to it and let it compost while you start a 2nd bin, tumbler, etc., and turn as necessary. For that I find a dual-section compost tumbler very useful for this: fill one side, then let it compost while filling the 2nd side.  An important consideration is to have something varmint proof, or at least resistant.

Another consideration, since you say you don't have very many kitchen scraps, is look for external sources.  For example, since I also do not have much in the way of kitchen scraps, is that I collect pulp from local juice bars to add to the compost tumbler, and add pine pellets that I buy from TSC for the browns. I also add free coffee grounds from Starbucks to the mix.

Keep it Simple, and Be Creative!  Don't overthink it!


COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Book_o11

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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  Guinevere 10/19/2023, 10:48 pm

Thank you, OG.  Your explanation of filling one bin then starting another was useful. Sometimes reading a sentence or two is better than whole blogs of information for the real beginner.

And I'm glad you put my post here, (wherever "here" is!), because like Sanderson I found your storey.com link a "simple little link" that gives just enough info. Smile

One lingering question: how long can one add to a started pile before it's better to start a new one?  If I have a 4-cf bin, for example, and I fill it slowly, the old ingredients will start composting before I have filled the bin, and the whole thing will always be semi-composted.  Should I start a new bin or pile when some amount of the material is fully composted, even if the bin isn't full?

I'm sure after a few years of composting I will laugh at my naivete and worry over trivialities, but they sure don't seem trivial in the throes of ignorance!

Edit: I just found a thread about separating good compost! Off to read that.
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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  OhioGardener 10/20/2023, 8:32 am

Guinevere wrote:One lingering question: how long can one add to a started pile before it's better to start a new one?  If I have a 4-cf bin, for example, and I fill it slowly, the old ingredients will start composting before I have filled the bin, and the whole thing will always be semi-composted.  Should I start a new bin or pile when some amount of the material is fully composted, even if the bin isn't full?

That is always a tough decision to make.  I experience having to make that decision frequently with my compost tumblers. I have two tumblers, and each tumbler has two sections. I start filling the left most section, and I keep adding to it until it is full, and they start filling the second section while the first composts. But, frequently the first section isn't quite full and I have too much new stuff to put in it. What to do, what to do?  I most often decide to leave the first section "about full" and start adding to the second section, but sometimes I split the new material and put some in the first section with the rest going into the second section.. The second part of your question about being "semi-composted" is really a non issue. Once the section is full, and you start turning it, it will all be blended and the semi-composted part will help speed the composting of the newer ingredients.


Last edited by OhioGardener on 10/20/2023, 6:38 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Clarify comment)

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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  sanderson 10/22/2023, 3:35 pm

Guinevere wrote:. . .

One lingering question: how long can one add to a started pile before it's better to start a new one?  If I have a 4-cf bin, for example, and I fill it slowly, the old ingredients will start composting before I have filled the bin, and the whole thing will always be semi-composted.  Should I start a new bin or pile when some amount of the material is fully composted, even if the bin isn't full?. . .
For composting, the clock starts ticking when the last ingredient is added. There will be semi-composted material in it but it's the last material that determines how long it will take the whole batch until is ready to screen and add to the beds.

For tumblers, they are turned periodically to mix everything and introduce more air (and check the moisture level.)

For compost cages, they are also periodically turned for the same reasons but in order to turn, the cage needs to have a removable front, usually a series of removable slats.

Some people make huge piles on the ground or a slab that they just keep adding to. After a few months, they can pull off some of the top material to get down to some really nice black gold, in some cases. The bottom layer has had plenty of time to break down and usually the worms have been churning and thus mixing and aerating that small bottom layer.

Yes, some day you will look back at this time in your composting journey. Razz


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COMPOST 101 - Page 17 Empty Re: COMPOST 101

Post  Guinevere 10/22/2023, 3:44 pm

I'm beginning to sort it out; thanks OhioGardener and Sanderson, very helpful info.  It sounds as though I may want to start with a tumbler, if I can find a small-ish one.  I shouldn't need a lot, since I have my Mel's Mix for the beds made already.  I just need compost to add when replanting. If I start now, I gather I may have ready compost by next summer.  That'll be fun! 

Probably there's a thread about compost bins; I'll go look for recommendations.
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