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Compost: Berkeley 18 day [hot] method

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Post  camprn 9/27/2014, 7:42 am

Getting stronger!

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Post  sanderson 9/27/2014, 1:22 pm

And shorter! Very Happy

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 9/27/2014, 9:27 pm

I turned my pile 12 hours early - Since we have church in the morning, then family coming tomorrow for lunch bbq and football all day, I figured early would be better than later. You were right, Sanderson - that is one HUGE PILE! I did it after moving 3 huge wheelbarrow loads of manure and wood chips. I took an Aleve so I'm not hurting too badly... at least until tomorrow :-)

I love the rich, hot compost smell. It's working so well things are much less recognizable already.
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Post  sanderson 9/27/2014, 9:40 pm

Good, you got it out of the way so now you can enjoy Sunday.   Very Happy It was 160*F so no problem.  Was it still wet?  I found that the temps would soar after the first and even the second turning.  I would turn my back and the center would be 170*  affraid   but I would have to wait until sundown because of the summer heat.

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 9/27/2014, 9:50 pm

Quite moist. It was 110 degrees after turning. I try to drop each pitchfork from 5 or 6 feet above and rock it back and forth to break up any clumps and oxygenate it as much as possible.

I'll be watching the temps tomorrow, inbetween watching my Charger game and other games anyway!
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Post  sanderson 9/29/2014, 4:44 pm

Audrey, Were you able to get out of bed this morning? When I do something unusual, it usually hits me the worst the second day. I can't wait to hear how your pile is doing. I turned mine in the chill of the evening; only one more turning tomorrow evening.

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 9/30/2014, 12:23 am

I wasn't stiff at all and turned my pile again this afternoon, in addition to hauling 1 load of horse manure & hay fines and 2 wheelbarrow loads of wood chip mulch. I'm getting a good workout now that the temps are down. My pile was 153 degrees, down to 120 after turning.

For my records I started Wed. Sept. 24th, First turning Sat. 27th (a day early), 29th,

The rest Oct. 1, Oct. 3, 5th, 7th, 9th, 11th (my b-day) and finished turning on the 13th.
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Post  sanderson 9/30/2014, 4:56 pm

Good thing you did all that work while it was relatively cool. Tonight is my last turn. Too hot to work out side this afternoon, or for the next few days while it's in the 80's and 90's.

And, since I'm not real faithful checking who is haveing a birthday (bottom of Home page) I want to wish you an Early Happy Birthday.

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Post  sanderson 10/6/2014, 2:15 am

Audrey,  How is the Berkeley pile?  I haven't turned it for 7 days and it is still at 120*.  I need to turn it for the 8th and final time but it seems that there is one thing or another preventing it.

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Post  camprn 10/6/2014, 6:37 am

sanderson wrote:Audrey,  How is the Berkeley pile?  I haven't turned it for 7 days and it is still at 120*.  I need to turn it for the 8th and final time but it seems that there is one thing or another preventing it.
at 120°F its doing fine just sitting there.

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Post  sanderson 10/6/2014, 1:09 pm

That's what I thought. The only reason I want to turn it one more time (besides what the instructions state) is that the side material is now very dry. One more turn would put the dry material into the core position. Then I would be done until spring.

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Post  camprn 10/6/2014, 1:28 pm

sanderson wrote:That's what I thought.  The only reason I want to turn it one more time (besides what the instructions state) is that the side material is now very dry.  One more turn would put the dry material into the core position.  Then I would be done until spring.
There is a simple solution. give the sides a little drink. But really, those dry bits will take care of themselves, they've already been in the middle.

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 10/7/2014, 2:47 am

I had to delay my pile turn on Sunday, just too much going on with family. However, the pile was at 145 any way. I turned today and after turning and wetting the pile a little it was a base temp of 120.

What I do love about the Berkeley method is the lack of shrinkage. My pile is very close to its original size.
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Post  sanderson 10/7/2014, 4:41 am

Sounds like it is doing great. I still haven't turned mine for the last time. Embarassed Too much cleanup has been needed to get ready for Fall. Long story. I think the straw tubes collapsed because it suddenly shrank to half size!

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Post  sanderson 10/17/2014, 3:26 am

Update on the shrinking pile.  Never got around to turning do to working at the rental house.  The core is down to 80*F.
Compost: Berkeley 18 day [hot] method  - Page 3 Compos25
The center really sank. You can see that the outer material is higher than the middle. I'm now rethinking using straw as browns. Any comments? This is supposed to be ready to use.
Compost: Berkeley 18 day [hot] method  - Page 3 Compos26

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Post  camprn 10/17/2014, 7:14 am

Let it rest a week or so and if you screen it it will be beautiful. If you don't screen it the compost is still usable.

Hurrah!!   for finished compost! cheers


Last edited by camprn on 10/17/2014, 6:00 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : corrected spelling error)

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 10/17/2014, 1:26 pm

That looks good! I don't waste time an energy screening my compost since I do no-till in all my gardens including my SFG beds.  All compost and other nutrients go on top of my soil and the only time I dig into my soil is when I'm planting.  

My monster pile finished up this week so I simply topped off all 4 of my raised beds with about 2 inches of unscreened compost to get ready for my fall plantings.  The smallest parts of the compost simply wash down and into the soil, the larger parts stay on top and continue to break down while acting as mulch.  I have worms in all of those beds and they make short work of any mulch left on top anyway!
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Post  sanderson 10/17/2014, 1:44 pm

Camp and AJ, Thanks. I feel better. I think I will top off some of my sleeping beds. (After I screen for big, fat, white grubs!) I try not to disturb the Mix except with my hands, like for pulling roots or shallow mixing of new compost. There may be worms! Very Happy

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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 10/17/2014, 3:29 pm

The more I'm learning about healthy soil, the more factors I'm discovering for healthy plant growth: fungi and bacteria being two of the most important.  Hence for me the no-till.  

Mel always promoted no till for its easy work aspect, and the concept of not walking on your beds so tilling is unnecessary, but it's also very important for building up the colonies of the above that help our plants grow and flourish!
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Post  grownsunshine 10/21/2014, 2:23 pm

Here is a pic of my compost pile. The temp is at 130 degrees about 5 inches deep. 1) there is some white ashy stuff in my compost when it turned the pile. Is this normal?  I can't be the anaerobic bacteria because the pile isn't hot enough, right? 2) I also have a bunch of ants crawling around on the pile. Are ants an issue for composting? Thanks for any feedback you can give me!



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Post  audrey.jeanne.roberts 10/21/2014, 2:29 pm

Don't worry, it's all normal.  It looks good.  What day are you on?  My pile is day 3 and at just a hair under 140.  It's so fun to watch it all breaking down so quickly and turning into black gold!

I get ants sometimes too, they don't hurt anything.
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Post  jimmy cee 10/21/2014, 2:35 pm

I don't consider myself a compost specialist, however I have 2 piles that are doing great.

130 degrees at 5 inches deep...wow...what must it be deeper ?
Just try sticking a small steel tube down in the middle, let it set for a few minutes, pull it out and feel it immediately.
That could give you a good idea of hot hot the center is.
I bet you have some manure in there also.???
As far as any bugs go, (ants) included I don't worry about them in my compost pile, their everywhere, although out where you are, is there any chance they are those fire ants ?
Your pile looks great to me.
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Post  grownsunshine 10/21/2014, 2:55 pm

AJR - almost 140?!! That's so perfect! That's where I'm trying to get to, so to make sure I'm killing all of the bad stuff. I haven't been able to get above 130. 

Jimmy - I'm on day 10. Yep, I have dried grass as my browns and horse manure, cow manure, chicken manure & coffee grounds. I also added some fish emulsion and left over veggies from cooking for my greens. Yeah. Maybe I should put my small thermometer in the middle for a bit to see how hot it's getting inside. The ants aren't fire ants, since they crawl on me sometimes and don't bite.

Thanks for the encouragement. You guys are the best!

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Post  sanderson 10/22/2014, 12:41 am

I've been occupied elsewhere. Audrey, You have already started another pile? Wow! I am such a slacker. GS, Check the internal (center) temp. You may be surprised how hot it is. A 20" compost probe thermometer is a good investment. Are you turning it inside-out, outside-in every other day?

I must get another pile going for spring, as soon as we are done with the rental.

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Post  grownsunshine 10/22/2014, 12:55 pm

Yep, I checked the internal temp last night and it was 140. Yippy! bounce   Now I'm wanting 150...LOL! Actually I want the optimal temp to kill the bad stuff.  I read one thing and someone said optimal is between 130-140, then I read something else and they said 140-150, but not 170 because that temp breeds anaerobic bacteria or something. What is optimal?

Yep, I've been turning the pile inside out about every 2 days. I checked the outside temp this am and it was low after turning it and giving it a bit of water last night. I added more fish emulsion too. I feel kinda like I should wait til every 3 or so days before turning it since after I turn it the temp is low for about 12ish hours. 

I'm composting in my 4-6 raised bed, which is working out nicely (the space and area is right). I'm not in a big hurry, cuz' I plan on planting my fall/winter goodies in my other beds and will wait til the end of winter to use this bed...so I hope to finish this pile in about a month and will start another after that. Everything should be ready to go in the late winter for spring, if all goes well.

Sanderson - I'll look into the 20" thermometer. Sounds like it's worth it, so I don't have to dig and take the temp. and will probably get a more accurate figure. Thanks!
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