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Hello Guest!
Welcome to the official Square Foot Gardening Forum.
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Post  jbh29 5/1/2011, 11:02 pm

My composting saga... Last year we bought a large tumbler, spent the summer filling it with dried leaves, dried weeds, lots of sticks (that was a mistake...) and all our appropriate kitchen scraps. It never seemed to be turning into compost. In late July or so we finally stopped adding new stuff to it and started a second container thinking that in a few weeks we'd have compost. Even by the end of the season everything was still recognizable in the tumbler.

My husband thought it go too much water, sitting under a drippy eave, so he covered it with a tarp. That still didn't seem to change anything. So, we finally stopped turning it once the weather turned cold and didn't peak at it again until just the other day.

So, it is finally resembling sompost. All except the small sticks that had been added with the leaves. The sticks were still very much sticks. (I will sift through it and pick them out as best I can.) We had been adding eggshells to our compost too. And those were still very much eggs shells too.

So here are my questions so we can start out right this year:

Do you think the compost never amounted to much last year because of too much rain water leaking in?

AND, should we not add egg shells to our pile? (they seem to not have composted over an intire year in our tumbler.)

One more... how much is too much for coffee grounds? Do they add too much accidity?

Sorry for the long post.
jbh29
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Post  shannon1 5/2/2011, 1:55 am

I realy don't know much about composting but I was wondering if your set up is getting enough sun. Is it in a shadey spot? I think it takes about six months if everything is just right but I could be wrong. general  help 601593
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Post  Old Hippie 5/2/2011, 2:07 am

Don't worry at all about the length of your post.

About your compost though........well don't worry about it but there are a few things you can do. First of all, the smaller you chop things up before you add them, the faster they break down. I try not to add sticks because they take forever to break down. Even a lot of tall, tough plants like corn, I will chop up with a hatchet. Leaves seem to take a long time to decompose too.....some kinds are worse than others. I usually put them in a garbage bin and use the weed whacker to chop them up before I add them. Egg shells should be rinsed and dried before adding because of salmonella. I always crush mine up pretty small before I throw them in. Sometimes after they are dried I will pulverize them in an old blender I have and sprinkle them in between my strawberries to keep the slugs down.

Your compost needs to be damp, like a sponge but not soaking. It is quite likely if you have it under the eave of the house that water leaks in and cools it off just as it is starting to heat up. If you want to get it hot, you need to add nitrogen rich things like fresh grass clippings, alfalfa pellets, or perhaps some rabbit or chicken manure if you have it. Human urine works too. A layer of leaves, a layer of assorted kitchen waste, a layer of shredded newspaper, a layer of garden soil or the remains of some plants and potting soil, a layer of grass clippings. Then lightly moisten everything and repeat the process until your composter is about 2/3 full. (I cover mine with plastic or a tarp to protect from the rain. I have it in a bin and I turn it with a digging fork every couple of days.) If it seems a bit dry, add a bit more water. If it is too wet, you can add more shredded leaves or newspaper. In a couple of days it starts to heat up. It should start to heat up. By about day 6 or 8 you should really be able to notice the heat. You can check it with a thermometer. Ideally, it should be at least 130 degrees. Keep turning it at least every other day or even every day to keep that temperature up so it will kill weed seeds and bad bacteria. After about two weeks, it will start to cool down. When it has cooled down, it needs to cure for about a month before it is ready to use. If you can take it out of your composter and put it on the ground under a tarp to cure, beneficial bacteria and worms will inhabit it and you will have black gold for your garden.

My DH made me a screen to screen the lumpy bit out so the stuff I put on my garden is pretty fine. I just throw the coarse bits back in the new compost pile.

Best of luck.

Gwynn
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Post  Furbalsmom 5/2/2011, 2:27 am

I think Old Hippie gave you some great advise. The smaller the peices, the better. Crush those eggshells too.

As far as coffee grounds one site I checked said no more than 10%, but two others said up to 25% of the compost pile should be coffee grounds (coffee grounds are considered green material, high in nitrogen, and once brewed are no longer considered acidic)

Worms will flock to your compost pile if there are coffe grounds included.
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Post  HPartin 5/2/2011, 9:05 am

I made the mistake of filling my compost bin with lots of uncrushed oak leaves. They are not composting. Sad. I have mixed it with kitchen scraps (all the right kind of stuff). I never crush my eggs, I don't rinse them off either and when I turn the pile I only see the most recently added ones. We use about 5-6 dozen eggs a month so one would think that I would have lots of uncomposted eggs. They seem to break down pretty fast. I order my eggs from a local farmer. I probably should worry about salmonella--but I don't.

Unfortunatly, because of my stubborn leaves, I guess, my compost pile never really seems to heat up correctly. I have mixed my leaves with horse manure, which may have already been too composted to cause heat. I have noticed that there are a lot of opinions on how wet a compost pile should be: sponge like to stink'in wet. I have no real opinion on that due to my lack of actual compost Smile. However, I did read somewhere that city water might hinder the natural rotting because it has agents that actually kill the good bacteria as well as the bad that we don't want to drink. So stick to rain water when you do wet it down. I have started unlidding mine during rainy days to catch some drops.

Heidi
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Post  jbh29 5/2/2011, 9:03 pm

@shannon1 wrote:I realy don't know much about composting but I was wondering if your set up is getting enough sun. Is it in a shadey spot? I think it takes about six months if everything is just right but I could be wrong. general  help 601593

Our tumbler sat on the south side of our house. Sun all day. I had such hopes from reading about getting compost in 2 weeks! 6 to 12 months seems more like my reality.
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Post  jbh29 5/2/2011, 9:08 pm

@Old Hippie wrote:Don't worry at all about the length of your post.

About your compost though........well don't worry about it but there are a few things you can do. First of all, the smaller you chop things up before you add them, the faster they break down. I try not to add sticks because they take forever to break down. Even a lot of tall, tough plants like corn, I will chop up with a hatchet. Leaves seem to take a long time to decompose too.....some kinds are worse than others. I usually put them in a garbage bin and use the weed whacker to chop them up before I add them. Egg shells should be rinsed and dried before adding because of salmonella. I always crush mine up pretty small before I throw them in. Sometimes after they are dried I will pulverize them in an old blender I have and sprinkle them in between my strawberries to keep the slugs down.

Your compost needs to be damp, like a sponge but not soaking. It is quite likely if you have it under the eave of the house that water leaks in and cools it off just as it is starting to heat up. If you want to get it hot, you need to add nitrogen rich things like fresh grass clippings, alfalfa pellets, or perhaps some rabbit or chicken manure if you have it. Human urine works too. A layer of leaves, a layer of assorted kitchen waste, a layer of shredded newspaper, a layer of garden soil or the remains of some plants and potting soil, a layer of grass clippings. Then lightly moisten everything and repeat the process until your composter is about 2/3 full. (I cover mine with plastic or a tarp to protect from the rain. I have it in a bin and I turn it with a digging fork every couple of days.) If it seems a bit dry, add a bit more water. If it is too wet, you can add more shredded leaves or newspaper. In a couple of days it starts to heat up. It should start to heat up. By about day 6 or 8 you should really be able to notice the heat. You can check it with a thermometer. Ideally, it should be at least 130 degrees. Keep turning it at least every other day or even every day to keep that temperature up so it will kill weed seeds and bad bacteria. After about two weeks, it will start to cool down. When it has cooled down, it needs to cure for about a month before it is ready to use. If you can take it out of your composter and put it on the ground under a tarp to cure, beneficial bacteria and worms will inhabit it and you will have black gold for your garden.

My DH made me a screen to screen the lumpy bit out so the stuff I put on my garden is pretty fine. I just throw the coarse bits back in the new compost pile.

Best of luck.

Gwynn

These are great tips and suggestions! We do plan on moving our tumbler to another south facing location where it won't get rained on from eaves.

I've been reading about brown and green ingredients but haven't found specifics of what examles of each are. Another article I found talked about nitrogen rich and carbon rich sources of ingredients. Trying to put these two things together, are the brown ingredients the carbon rich? (manure?) And the greens the nitrogen rich ? (veggie scraps, lawn clippings, leaves?) Am I on the right track?
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Post  camprn 5/2/2011, 9:15 pm

@jbh29 wrote:Trying to put these two things together, are the brown ingredients the carbon rich? (manure?) And the greens the nitrogen rich ? (veggie scraps, lawn clippings, leaves?) Am I on the right track?
Yes, yes and YES! HOORAY!! cheers
Here is a list of greens and browns. Here is another. Very Happy
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Post  boffer 5/2/2011, 9:17 pm

There have been many books written on the subject of composting. In my overly simplistic approach to gardening, I've reduced all that research and labor down to this: poops and plants. A little heavier on the former, a little lighter on the latter, throw in sufficient time, voila---black gold. It bugs the heck out of purists, but it's worked for me for five years.
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Post  shannon1 5/3/2011, 12:47 am

See I said I didn't know much, I am excited to learn. Thinking about worm composting myself. Very Happy
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Post  jbh29 5/4/2011, 4:26 pm

It's been a few days since I could sit down and catch up here. I just moved my compost tumbler to it's new home. There are a ton of uncomposted sticks which I started to pick out. Also, the entire (wheelbarrow sized) load is heavily peppered with eggshells. I'm hoping these will disappear in the new, drier location of the bin. I will also add some cow manure I bought in bags. But how much? A shovel full to a wheelbarrow size pile of compost? Maybe 2? I was also thinking about going for a hike in the woods with my girls, a bucket and a shovel and see how much deer poo we can collect.

I like the idea of getting a screen to sift out the larger chunks. I think I'll look into that myself.
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Post  camprn 5/4/2011, 5:11 pm

Just my $0.02, there is no point in putting already composted manure into the bin as it will not promote the heat needed to break down what is already in the bin. If you could get a hold of some fresh, that would be fabulous. Very Happy
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Post  Furbalsmom 5/4/2011, 8:21 pm

Good starters to heat up your compost pile are blood meal, urine or fresh manure.
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Post  jbh29 5/4/2011, 9:36 pm

Good to know about not adding composted manure. Of course that makes sense now that I think about it. How much fresh manure would I add to a wheelbarrow load of materials? Can you add too much?

And, uh, in theory... how often would one pee in one's compost bin? Wink Is one time enough to get things going?
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Post  Yaffley 5/5/2011, 6:10 am

This article may help on the micturation frequency...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cambridgeshire/8357134.stm

Y
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Post  walshevak 5/5/2011, 6:28 am

@Yaffley wrote:This article may help on the micturation frequency...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cambridgeshire/8357134.stm

Y


Love the post. BBC tried to be so tasteful.

Kay

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