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Keeping my compostables in... Toplef10Keeping my compostables in... 1zd3ho10

Hello Guest!
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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.

Keeping my compostables in... I22gcj10Keeping my compostables in... 14dhcg10

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Post  jerzyjen 2/21/2011, 12:50 pm

So I'm trying to tidy up my compost area and realized I need to improve my set up a bit. I'm using the 4 pallets tied in a square compost bin and that is literally all it is (well and a pallet on the bottom). When I turn the mix alot of times things slip out the spaces onto the ground around the outside (which I plan on surrounding with sunflowers and/or climbing flowers). It also cakes up in the bottom area of the pallet sides. I need to keep it in the middle. So I'd like to rectify this problem before high garden season begins this year. I was thinking of maybe lining it with hardware cloth, but not sure if that is the best plan or not. I have chicken wire already which I thought about using, but was afraid the openings may be still too big and let alot pass through.

I'm open to suggestions and/or experience either way.
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Post  Old Hippie 2/21/2011, 4:16 pm

Jen, I gave up with the pallet on the bottom of my compost bin. I, or should say DH, used two pallets across the back, one on each end and one in the middle which gives me a double compost bin. We left the front open so we could turn the pile easily. The pallet on the bottom kept getting filled up with stuff that I couldn't get out. The compost stays in place pretty well without a front to the bin and is easier to scoop up off the ground than off a bottom pallet.

Some stuff does fall through between the slates on the pallet but that is not too much of a worry for me. Sunflowers make a great screen around the bins as do sweet peas. Squash would work too and I am thinking of trying the watermelon there this year simply because it is so nice and sturdy.

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Post  walshevak 2/21/2011, 7:13 pm

I lined my pallet with cardboard boxes because eventually they too will compost. At least that's the plan

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Post  Megan 2/21/2011, 7:16 pm

Old Hippie wrote:Some stuff does fall through between the slates on the pallet but that is not too much of a worry for me. Sunflowers make a great screen around the bins as do sweet peas. Squash would work too and I am thinking of trying the watermelon there this year simply because it is so nice and sturdy.

Compost bins make AWESOME planters. Very Happy
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Post  Furbalsmom 2/21/2011, 8:09 pm

This past Saturday I was at a class given by Oregon State University Master Gardeners on Composting.

They suggest that bins around a compost pile are great, but your compost will have better beneficial microorganisms (bacteria, fungi and actinomycetes - which are supposed to break down tough woody debris) if your compost pile is actually on the earth rather than on pallets or any other material that separates the pile from the soil beneath.

Personally, my compost pile is next to a fence, with chicken wire creating three walls, an open front and on the ground. My compost processed faster than I thought it would, because I only turned it twice last year. Now it is soft, black, no recognizeable particles and it smells good, so I am happy. Of course my 3 - 4 ft high pile decomposed down to about 6 - 8 inches. My compost pile is not noticeable from the road or the house, so appearances are not a real issue for me.
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Post  jerzyjen 2/21/2011, 9:44 pm

Perhaps the bottom pallet is part of my problem. In 2 years I haven't had much pretty compost come out. Don't get me wrong its breaking down EVENTUALLY but nowhere near enough to actually use for a batch of MM.

I read that you needed the bottom pallet to keep air flow, but I don't know if my compost has ever really heated up like it's supposed to. It's breaking down, but slowly.....I haven't actually used any of it in 2 years. Hubby tells me to bite the bullet and buy a commercial bin, but I just can't bring myself to do it.
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Post  camprn 2/21/2011, 9:53 pm

If you ditch the bottom pallet and turn the pile each week or two that will give the pile good air.
Before I turn my pile into the empty bin I pound several stakes into the ground, fork all the compost into the bin and then I pull out the stakes, effectively making little ventilation chimneys.
Prepping to turn pile
Pile turned
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Post  miinva 2/21/2011, 9:59 pm

You could try adding some alfalfa meal to heat up your pile. Do you keep it moist? If it dries out it won't heat up, from what I understand. I'm hoping to get a better system in place this year, since composting in a broken water trough isn't working very well Smile
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Post  jerzyjen 2/21/2011, 10:26 pm

Honestly... other than turning and adding my kitchen scraps I pretty much ignore my pile. I did add manure last year and turned it every two weeks but that's about it. I just have one pile and sort of turn it up, not completely move it over like Camprn, but maybe I'll try that this year.

I think I'll also try to add more materials and check it for moisture. I have never watered my pile so I'm sure it dried out during the summer.
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Post  Old Hippie 2/21/2011, 11:57 pm

A compost heap should be kept damp.......not soaking and not dry. It heats up faster the more you turn it. Every other day is really good but it is best not to leave it longer than 4 or 5 days if you want it to work faster. Grass clippings from the lawn (as long as you haven't used any weed killer) will help it heat up really quick. But a bag of really cheap dog food works too, since it is mostly corn, or alfalfa pellets will give you some quick heat. I like to turn my completely from one bin into the other simply because it is easier to do it that way than trying to turn it in the bin it is in. Turning it more often and getting the heat keeps flies and smell down, it seems.

To be quite honest, I have not been impressed with the tumbler style. Someone lent me one once for a summer. It didn't seem to mix the stuff up good enough. It just kind of rolled around in a ball or cylinder inside the drum. Perhaps I should have chopped the pieces up smaller or something, but I have just had better results with a pitchfork.

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Post  jerzyjen 2/22/2011, 8:44 am

I've heard about that dog food trick but wasn't sure why it worked. What about the meat by products in the dog food, they won't cause a problem? I do have a nice community of worms that moved into my pile when i added the alpaca manure last year, they can handle the pile heating up right?

One of my goals this year (besides get an early jump on the garden) is to get that pile to really work so I can stop buying bagged.

I have spent so much cash on my garden I don't think I could ever recoup the cost in veggie savings... but I love every minute of it!
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Post  camprn 2/22/2011, 9:00 am

miinva wrote:You could try adding some alfalfa meal to heat up your pile.

jerzyjen wrote:I've heard about that dog food trick but wasn't sure why it worked. What about the meat by products in the dog food, they won't cause a problem?

To heat up the pile you need the air, moisture, nitrogen and the beneficial bacteria. There are some very good explanatory links in this thread Compost 101.

I have not used the alfalfa meal nor dog food to get the desired nitrogen levels. Because I have no ready source of fresh farm manure I do use dried blood to get the pile heating, if I don't have enough greens (fresh grass clippings). It is granular and I just sprinkle some every few layers when I build the pile. It dissolves easily when moistened. It has not attracted pests nor does it make the pile smell bad.
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Post  Lavender Debs 2/22/2011, 9:32 am

jerzyjen wrote:I've heard about that dog food trick but wasn't sure why it worked. What about the meat by products in the dog food, they won't cause a problem? I do have a nice community of worms that moved into my pile when i added the alpaca manure last year, they can handle the pile heating up right?....snip....I have spent so much cash on my garden I don't think I could ever recoup the cost in veggie savings... but I love every minute of it!


On containers: When I was still young enough to do this, I made a cylinder of hog wire, four feet in diameter and put my compost into them (back than it was chicken and rabbit bedding, grass clippings and kitchen scraps) When it was time to turn the pile I lifted the cylinder off of the pile, set it next to the pile and forked it back into the cylinder trying to get the outside of the original pile into the center of the new pile. It got quite warm this way. Because of the heat I did not have a problem with weed seeds UNTIL I started letting my hens (who ate commercial feed) into the winter garden. Lots of worms in the pile who seemed to be able to take care of themselves in heat or cold.

On how often: I live in the PNW. I did not turn the pile in winter unless it was a beautiful day and I needed something to do. In the spring I turned it every other week (during fishing season my boys were happy to turn it for bait). In summer, while there was lots of grass clippings, I turned it weekly. Toward the end of September I started backing off on how often. Falling leaves were the sign to start slowing down. The problem of living in a rain-forest in the PNW was keeping the pile from getting too wet in the spring. I set a large garbage can lid over the top and did not worry about the open sides. Worked for me. The heat kept the steam rolling off.

On dog food: The higher the protein, the better dog food is at heating up the pile. About meat bi-products; living in the suburbs where I no longer have hens and rabbits, I like to buy a compost activator, not just to heat up the pile but for the macro-nutrients that the activator adds. The box I buy includes bone meal and blood meal, two ingredients that are in dog food. I used to work in a small grocery store. We had dog food companies begging for the meat garbage from the butcher shop. Gross nasty yuck!! Lots of rotting blood and bones that we could not use. It was all steamed and crushed, blended with alfalfa (which also is a component of activator) with soy and corn meal, plus who knows what else. Lots of the same ingredients as activator, but dog food grosses me out after working at the grocery store (I can smell the garbage in some brands) I personally don't want to put it into my compost, even though I sure it is fine...just remember, not cheap dog food but high protein because it has a higher bone and blood content than cheap chow does. Cat food is supposed to work too. Just a handful when you turn the pile should be enough.

Debs....who tries to convince herself that the cost is balancing out over the years.
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Post  model a man 2/24/2011, 9:03 am

jerzyjen wrote: Hubby tells me to bite the bullet and buy a commercial bin, but I just can't bring myself to do it.
tonight I am going to a compost class in the town next to mine and for the people that live in the town that is giving the class they are giving free compost bins. I won't get one because I dont live in that town but the class alone should be worth it (Free Class) so check your town if they offer the same thing (free bins)


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Post  model a man 2/24/2011, 9:13 am

jerzyjen wrote: I have spent so much cash on my garden I don't think I could ever recoup the cost in veggie savings... but I love every minute of it!
I myself have spent a lot of money and most likely will not recoupe in veggie and fruit, but what hobby does. what we will benfit from is healthier food and a better mind set when we go out and work in our gardens (which is priceless). plus when our country goes belly up we will know how to fend for ourselfs. and like you I also am loving every minute of it What a Face
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Post  Lavender Debs 2/24/2011, 11:25 am

model a man wrote:
jerzyjen wrote: I have spent so much cash on my garden I don't think I could ever recoup the cost in veggie savings... but I love every minute of it!
I myself have spent a lot of money and most likely will not recoupe in veggie and fruit, but what hobby does. what we will benfit from is healthier food and a better mind set when we go out and work in our gardens (which is priceless). plus when our country goes belly up we will know how to fend for ourselfs. and like you I also am loving every minute of it

I have been watching some utube videos on a homesteading blog. You might just be able to get you money back if the speakers are even half right. Highly recommended items on the last one I saw were learning to compost (the only real way to keep a garden going strong after a couple of years), buying Mel's book and practicing SFG in both urban and acreage gardening, and growing calories instead of salad (pea's, dry beans, corn, potatoes)

Two government items could make your garden gold.
1. The republican call to stop farm subsidies which would bring prices back to what it really costs to produce. (like filling your cart with all organic food)
2. The trillions in Chinese money is about to run out. You think it’s getting wild in Madison because they are out of money? Wait until you see what happens at the local grocery store. The consumer price index has only gone up 1.5% while wheat (for instance) has gone up 78%.

The weather is a bonus. The US currently imports more food than we export. Our surplus is at dangerously low levels, we are no longer the breadbasket of the world. Your expensive garden may be your only source of cheap food even counting the cost of getting started. Teach your neighbors. We don’t have to be afraid.

Debs....who really doesn't feel like doom and gloom, but is buying sugar, wheat products and beans "just in case" and learning to save seed; while believing that the children of the righteous will not go hungry.
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Post  camprn 2/24/2011, 2:22 pm

+1 Debs!!! now if I could only grow coffee (Coffee futures also have gone up about 74%).
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Post  Lavender Debs 2/24/2011, 2:45 pm

camprn wrote:+1 Debs!!! now if I could only grow coffee (Coffee futures also have gone up about 74%).


Ha! Yes, that too. When I was young and motivated I used to quit drinking coffee every summer so that I could get up, put away my bedding and start down the trail without slowing down to brew a cuppa jo. I can’t hike anymore and I don't wanna quit again. What would one do? Buy green beans and roast them or put roasted beans into the freezer (assuming we still have electricity to run the freezer?) I have a summer tea garden, but I still like my coffee.

During Y2k when there was so much fear, a nonsmoking friend was stocking up on cigarettes and toilet paper as barter items. Wonder what she did with all the cigarettes?
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Post  Lavender Debs 2/24/2011, 3:25 pm

Rainwater harvest systems.....
Just watching feed from Christchurch NZ, clean water has become a huge problem.

Debs....back to my happy place
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Post  PaddyG 2/27/2011, 8:23 am

jerzyjen wrote:I have spent so much cash on my garden I don't think I could ever recoup the cost in veggie savings... but I love every minute of it!

LOL, I feel your pain! I am saving my receipts this year as we start our gardening... I knew that their would be some upfront costs as we gathered the necessary supplies, but I am already afraid to add it all up. affraid
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Post  quiltbea 2/27/2011, 12:52 pm

PaddyG,
True, there are start-up costs but that happens with any venture or hobby or pastime. There's always an initial investment. This one is well worth it.

You can also consider it a form of entertainment. You are home gardening instead of going to the Rock Concert or Symphony or ballgame. A few of those tickets will pay for the whole shebang, and worth every cent.

You won't get fresher veggies or tastier ones in any grocery store.

Enjoy!
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Post  jerzyjen 3/1/2011, 9:43 am

So I redid my compost pile this weekend, hoping for a better result this year.

I made the pile double wide by moving the outer pallets around, laid down a layer of leaves on the right (found out the weedwacker is broken when i went to chop them up first), then moved the pile over and pulled the bottom pallet out.

Keeping my compostables in... DSCF4514

Keeping my compostables in... DSCF4528

When I pulled the bottom pallet out, there was some really nice dark soil on the under side (you can see it on the left side there. I won't be using this in my MM, as it is more of a nutrient enriched sandy soil as opposed to composted material, but I think it will work great for spreading around the outside of my pallets to grow sunflowers and morning glories. I definatly made some serious rookie mistakes when first setting up my pile, but hopefully now that I'm more "experienced" it will get better.

Now one last problem to tackle. Hubby told me that after I walked away from my new compost setup, my garden kitty was in there checking it out. He didn't think she went potty in there (thank goodness!) but was definatly checking it out.

Here is my lil garden helper... Autumn (aka garden kitty)
Keeping my compostables in... DSCF4530
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Post  quiltbea 3/1/2011, 10:43 am

jerzyjen,
Great compost bin. I read just last week that the pile should be at least 4' wide to give it a better chance to heat up in the center.
I have a compost tumbler and keep a temporary compost pile nearby to add to the tumbler. I'd like to expand and make it a permanent one similar to yours.
Love the garden kitty.
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