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Hey there, small, hot and composty Empty Hey there, small, hot and composty

Post  markqz on 1/16/2020, 3:55 pm

Well, maybe not hot. But very warm.

I'm trying to work out a method for hot/warm composting for small quantities of material. I'm rarely able to gather more than a garbage can's worth of compost material at a time. Also, maintaining a larger compost heap takes a fair amount of effort.

After reading some links posted by sanderson, it seemed to me that the main difficulty with small compost heaps is keeping the pile insulated. Well, I know something about insulation thanks to other interests.

What I'm doing here is wrapping a trash can with reflextrix and cardboard (cardboard is a fairly good insulator) and then inserting it all in second, worn-out bin.

Hey there, small, hot and composty Sp77ZeE

Then I put a layer of reflextrix on top of the pile and then wads of packaging paper on top of that:

Hey there, small, hot and composty 7EyrT8g

Put both lids on top. Finally, I've moved the whole thing to my tiny shed, so that it gets more wind and overnight thermal protection.

Since it's a smaller amount, I will need to stir it more often, probably. I have this tool which was advertised as an improvement over shovels/forks:

Hey there, small, hot and composty HNI3gYZ

Well, I'm not so sure. I think someone would wear out their hand joints using this on a big pile. On my short stack, it only takes 10 to 20 plunges. That's still a bit of an upper body workout, which isn't all bad.

When I measured the temperature the other day, I had a brief hit of 129F and one or two of 124F. The problem is that I was using an IR thermometer, which only measures the outer surface temperature of things. On something damp like compost, that temperature plummets in a few seconds of exposure to the outside air.

Since then, the temperature has gone down, but it's still in the "active" range. I'm hoping that it will come back up after being churned this morning:

Hey there, small, hot and composty N4VrM9e
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Post  Dan in Ct on 1/18/2020, 6:55 am

markqz, I came upon this method quite by accident after reading everything I could on hot composting. My town awhile ago offered residents Garden Gourmet Composters for $15 because of some deal with our DEEP. Somehow our departments of Energy and Environment combined, we have genius politicians here in Ct., party affiliation makes no difference. Anyway, my mother-in-law gave me hers and I picked up another off of Craigslist for a total of three. Well because they are enclosed and no microbiology was added I basically had a standing 3 compartment waste dump for almost 3 years. I had also had at the same time built a leaf bin to make leaf mold, 7' x 11' x 3' which was because I had heard about the benefits of leaf mold in a book written by Prince Charles and too lazy to make over 15 trips with my pick-up. Long story short after a couple of years learned about the microbiology and added some leaf mold to the compost bins and I started making compost. A note to the wise, do not place leaf bin amongst Silver Maples, shallow rooted tree that grows its roots up into a leaf bin. Ask me how I know?

I don't hot compost, I would rather cold compost which takes me about 1 1/2 years to make good compost but after the initial delay, I now get a steady supply of compost and no matter how much you make, you can always find a use for more. Many don't realize that compost has to have time to cure to be finished compost and the other is to keep your pile aerated to the maximum otherwise you are making crude bokashi. Bad microbes live and thrive in low or no oxygen environments and great care and know how has to be exhibited to ensure any kind of usable product from such a process. 

Hot composting needs size or a certain mass to obtain the temperatures needed and then watchful observation and turning within certain time and temperature parameters to accomplish making good compost. I am a Master Composter here in Ct and I don't feel the average homeowner has enough material to build a large enough pile with a desired carbon to nitrogen ratio to hot compost. I am not the favored one to go out and give a Compost Workshop anymore. If you can, if there is a commercial or town operation nearby check it out. Our town has a large leaf composting operation and because of the size of the furrows which are at least 5' high and well over a football field long, the compost process goes all winter long and it still takes them 6 months, so they do two batches a year, one leaves, the other following the leaves, yard wastes. My theory if you want good compost now, you should have started a 1 1/2 years ago. Or better said, "Before you garden, compost.
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Post  sanderson on 1/24/2020, 7:22 pm

@Dan in Ct wrote:. . . Long story short after a couple of years learned about the microbiology and added some leaf mold to the compost bins and I started making compost. A note to the wise, do not place leaf bin amongst Silver Maples, shallow rooted tree that grows its roots up into a leaf bin. Ask me how I know?. . .
I think adding leaf mold or newer compost to a new pile can help as a starter. I never cleaned the bin or tumbler between batches.

And those pesky roots, I believe it. I had tree, bush and rose roots coming up in my beds the second year, so I have to change to table top beds.

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Post  plantoid on 1/25/2020, 1:15 pm

Put the composting bin on a 3 inch thick poured single slab of concrete base if you're able to . So the base is a foot or so wider than the bin.  It  helps stop roots & rodents trying to get in .
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Post  ralitaco on 3/15/2020, 3:15 pm

Mark,
How's your ingenious creation doing?
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Post  markqz on 3/15/2020, 5:40 pm

@ralitaco wrote:Mark,
How's your ingenious creation doing?

I should try again. It "burned" down to only half a barrel, which is way too little. At the time, I didn't have any more organic material to add. Thanks to the rains, I probably have enough now if I transfer some from my standard compost bin and add in fresh mowed grass. This will probably only last a couple weeks. Usually we have almost no precipitation from March until September.
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Post  ralitaco on 3/15/2020, 6:24 pm

@markqz wrote:... It "burned" down to only half a barrel, which is way too little...
what do you mean was "way too little?"

what did you end up with? compost or half decomposed matter?
of course, feel free to add photos...I know I speak for several folks when I say, "we love pics"
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Post  sanderson on 3/18/2020, 5:20 pm

Mark, Please don't add anything more to what you have. As Ralitaco asked, did you end up with compost? My compost piles and tumblers always ended up about half full to two-thirds full at the end.

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Post  markqz on 3/19/2020, 12:16 am

@sanderson wrote:Mark,  Please don't add anything more to what you have.  As Ralitaco asked, did you end up with compost?  My compost piles and tumblers always ended up about half full to two-thirds full at the end.

Oops. Too late. Thanks to ralitaco's interest, I've rebooted the project.

I had assume it was a failure, but maybe it wasn't. It was definitely below 2/3 the original size and maybe closer to half. But it was hot for only a day or two (as hot as 140F). Could it have really finished in a couple days?

So I added it to the regular compost, which is a bin 2.5 x 2.5 by 4 feet and started on my podocarpus experiment. But we've had some actual rainy weather, so I took the regular compost (with some podocarpus already in it) plus grass trimmings and added them to a new "hot" barrel:

Hey there, small, hot and composty FLOlPh0

So far it hasn't triggered. It may have already burned through its nitrogen, or maybe it needs to be dampened. I'm attempting to add more nitrogen, but we're getting actual rainy weather here, so it may be a day or two before I can tweak it.
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Post  sanderson on 3/19/2020, 4:47 am

Mark, it's hard to tell from a photo but it looks like the material was on it's way to being usable compost. Yes, the composted pieces are still identifiable, but it may have just needed more maturing. Every time fresh material is added, the clock starts all over again. I have one pile that didn't heat upon so I took it apart (one cubic yard) and added blood meal throughout. Maybe 2 cups worth. And watered it well. It did take off finally but I can't remember if the final results were worth writing home about.

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Post  ralitaco on 3/21/2020, 8:42 am

@markqz wrote:Oops. Too late. Thanks to ralitaco's interest, I've rebooted the project.
alrighta
I will have to leave all the technical compost stuff to folks like Sanderson and others because I don't know Hey there, small, hot and composty 4223211841 about composting. 

My compost is usually 95% leaves so this year I am hoping to do better, but we'll see because I don't know where to get dinosaurs to put in my pile...Oh wait, according to google, podocarpus is a conifer!!!! umm, never mind.
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Post  markqz on 3/25/2020, 2:25 pm

Well, the compost may not be hot, but it's still warm. So I use it at night to keep starter plants warm:

Hey there, small, hot and composty JudVsST

I've done this before, and it works well. Even though we have a warm climate, overnight temperatures are still in the 50s. The plants are warm and bathed lightly in CO2. They're probably confused why it's so much colder in the day Smile
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Post  sanderson on 3/25/2020, 8:19 pm

Clever. Very Happy

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Post  ralitaco on 3/25/2020, 10:07 pm

Ingenious!!!
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Post  markqz on 3/26/2020, 11:15 pm

The day turned unexpectedly cold and rainy. Then I had an epiphany, and you know how much those can hurt Shocked

If I put a piece of translucent plastic over the top, then the compost becomes a hothouse by day.

Hey there, small, hot and composty A36e6UL

When I checked on the temperatures under the cover, I found they were showing 95 to 100 degrees F, some 30 degrees or so above the ambient air. The sorghum and the asparagus beans should like these temperatures. Not sure about the lettuce.
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Post  sanderson on 3/27/2020, 4:56 pm

Crack a corner for ventilation?  You may make a solar oven, otherwise. I almost fried my plants with a plastic "Agribon-like" material.

Was it Sandy Dennis or Liz who said, "It gets hot under there"? Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolfe.

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Post  markqz on 3/29/2020, 5:28 pm

@sanderson wrote:Crack a corner for ventilation?  You may make a solar oven, otherwise.  I almost fried my plants with a plastic "Agribon-like" material.


Yes. I try to save my solar cooking for the actual oven.

Hey there, small, hot and composty GUUsNQp

(M&M Oatmeal cookies.  If anyone knows how to grow M&M's, I'd like to know. So far none of mine have sprouted.)
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Post  sanderson on 3/29/2020, 5:34 pm

@markqz wrote:  If anyone knows how to grow M&M's, I'd like to know. So far none of mine have sprouted.)
Those dang squirrels!

Love your solar oven. I made a solar dehydrator in 2013. I made a mistake but the idea of knowing how to make a solar oven and dehydrator is good info to know.

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Post  ralitaco on 3/29/2020, 5:43 pm

Mark,
That is awesome!
How hot does it get?
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Post  markqz on 3/29/2020, 6:22 pm

@ralitaco wrote:Mark,
That is awesome!
How hot does it get?
I stopped worrying about actual temperatures years ago. In theory 350F or more. But it's hard to get an accurate temperature reading since the the sun beating down on a thermometer raises its temperature even outside an oven. The original thermometer snapped off and I didn't bother to replace it.

What matters is that things cook. In this case, the batch of cookies took 55 minutes. They usually take about 45, but the sun is slightly hazy today.

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