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New Compost Pile Not Heating

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camprn
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Post  scmelik 5/17/2011, 11:16 am

I have never done a compost pile before but I figured why not start one. I had a TON of old leaves in a pile already anyways so I racked them all up and then started adding my kitchen scraps and coffee grounds as well as the compost that I already had and started racking up my yard clippings.

Anyways last night I went to give the pile a good mixing and put my hand down to feel it and it doesn't feel like its getting hot at all. The pile is in full sun almost all day and our temps are between 50-70 avg high right now. How long does it take for a new compost pile start getting good and heated?
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 5/17/2011, 1:15 pm

Now, just add lighter fluid and a match, and you've got it down pat. Wink

Under optimum conditions, thermophilic (ther·mo·phil·ic (thûr m-f l k) adj. Requiring high temperatures for normal development, as certain bacteria. ther mo·phile (-f l) n.)composting with frequent mixing or turning can produce useable compost within a month or two. A worm bin requires three to six months to turn food scraps to compost, and an unmanaged leaf pile may take more than a year to break down.

From my favorite gardening site: " A proper C:N ratio is the goal. Carbon in fallen leaves or woodier wastes serve as an energy source. Nitrogen in the greener materials provides microbes with the raw element of proteins to build their bodies.

The more surface area the microorganisms have to work on, the faster the materials will decompose. It's like a block of ice in the sun: slow to melt when it is large, but melting very quickly when broken into smaller pieces. Chopping your garden wastes with a shovel or a machete, or running them through a shredding machine or lawnmower will increase their surface area, thus speeding up your composting.

All life on Earth needs a certain amount of water and air to sustain itself. The microbes in the compost pile are no different. They function best when the compost materials are about as moist as a wrung out sponge and are provided with many air passages for aerobic breakdown. Adding water and turning the pile maintains efficient decomposition. Extremes of sun, wind, or rain can adversely affect this balance in your pile."

http://web.extension.illinois.edu/homecompost/building.html

Go down to the bottom of the link if you want to do some troubleshooting. Happy Gardening!
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Post  camprn 5/17/2011, 4:54 pm

oh dear, sorry to hear your pile is cool. Ideally, the pile will generate it's own heat. If you have not yet seen the thread Compost 101 it is a good read.I can offer a suggestion, do you mow your lawn? Do you have a collection bag to catch the clippings? When I mow my lawn it is usually the same day I turn my compost pile. As I turn the pile, every few inches or so I sprinkle a light layer of the fresh grass clippings and build the pile up. The green grass clippings have nitrogen that will generate the heat you are seeking., When I say a light layer I mean sprinkle enough clippings that you cannot see the layer below, but do not add clippings in big clumps. This has worked very well for me everytime!

If you do not have green grass clippings, you can use a commercial compost activator, usually sold in gardens centers or nurserys, or you can sprinkle a very light layer of dried blood every 4-6 inches when turning the compost pile. Again, this adds nitrogen. Do water the pile sparingly, every few inches when turning. Good luck and let us know what happens. Very Happy
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Post  scmelik 5/22/2011, 7:54 pm

camprn wrote:oh dear, sorry to hear your pile is cool. Ideally, the pile will generate it's own heat. If you have not yet seen the thread Compost 101 it is a good read.I can offer a suggestion, do you mow your lawn? Do you have a collection bag to catch the clippings? When I mow my lawn it is usually the same day I turn my compost pile. As I turn the pile, every few inches or so I sprinkle a light layer of the fresh grass clippings and build the pile up. The green grass clippings have nitrogen that will generate the heat you are seeking., When I say a light layer I mean sprinkle enough clippings that you cannot see the layer below, but do not add clippings in big clumps. This has worked very well for me everytime!

If you do not have green grass clippings, you can use a commercial compost activator, usually sold in gardens centers or nurserys, or you can sprinkle a very light layer of dried blood every 4-6 inches when turning the compost pile. Again, this adds nitrogen. Do water the pile sparingly, every few inches when turning. Good luck and let us know what happens. Very Happy

I have been putting as many grass clippings as I can in there but since my mower doesn't have a bagger I don't get many. I did get enough clippings to completely cover the pile but that wasn't alot. I turned it again last week and it wasn't hot at all just wet (we've had a lot of rain lately). Would it help to cover it with a tarp to soak up and trap up as much heat as possible?
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Post  camprn 5/22/2011, 9:08 pm

Hi there, we have had rain for 9 days in a row too. If the pile is sopping wet you have to wait for it to dry out a bit or add more dry brown stuff to take up some of the moisture. I don't know that covering it will help any except to keep more rain out.
When I turned my piles today, they were pretty wet too. I think we have to wait for some dryer weather. I think for me it's going to be another week of rainy days Sad
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 5/22/2011, 9:16 pm

If you are having issues getting clippings without a bag catcher, just skip a week of mowing. Let the grass get about 6 inches high. Drop the setting to your mower down to about 2.5 or 3 inches. Rake all those clippings up and you're done.

Beware, cutting off that much of the grass blade will yellow your grass for a bit. If you are like me, and know things will recover, you won't mind. If you are like my neighbor, and have a heart attack every time a leaf falls in the yard, you won't be able to handle this method.....and your compost pile will suffer.

Give and take. Sacrifice one, temporarily, to help another.

Happy Composting!
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Post  scmelik 5/22/2011, 9:19 pm

BackyardBirdGardner wrote:If you are having issues getting clippings without a bag catcher, just skip a week of mowing. Let the grass get about 6 inches high. Drop the setting to your mower down to about 2.5 or 3 inches. Rake all those clippings up and you're done.

Beware, cutting off that much of the grass blade will yellow your grass for a bit. If you are like me, and know things will recover, you won't mind. If you are like my neighbor, and have a heart attack every time a leaf falls in the yard, you won't be able to handle this method.....and your compost pile will suffer.

Give and take. Sacrifice one, temporarily, to help another.

Happy Composting!

the way the grass is growing around here two days after you mow at the lowest setting its 6 inches+ haha. I did that the last time and we I went to rack it all just kinda filter back into the grass, I did get some and tomorrow when I mow again I will get some more.

Before we got all this rain the past 3 days I went to work up the pile and the stuff in the middle felt like a cold damp sponge. I have been working on it for the past 2 months probably. I am starting to feel like a total failure with this gardening stuff, I can't keep plants alive, I can't get a compost pile to work right.....grrrrr
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Post  jymarino 6/1/2011, 2:38 pm

Wow BBG, your neighbor would not like to live by us. Not only are there leaves constantly blowing from one yard to another, we all have more henbit and wild violets than actual grass. I'm excited if I see "real" grass instead of weeds, even if it is a bit yellowed.
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Post  leahcim 6/1/2011, 4:57 pm

I have had good results with coffee grounds--whenever I have trouble getting it to heat up I will stop at a few Starbucks and ask them to save their grounds for me. They generate a lot.

Add 20 or 30 pounds of coffee grounds (according to the sticker from Starbucks the C:N ratio is 25:1, confirmed by independent test as 24:1 (http://www.sunset.com/garden/earth-friendly/starbucks-coffee-compost-test-00400000016986/)) I think that is pretty close to the ideal.

Usually within 1-2 weeks of adding the coffee my compost will be smoking when I turn it. And it smells pretty good too--now if I could just get a bunch of cocoa bean husks!
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Post  Furbalsmom 6/1/2011, 8:51 pm

New Compost Pile Not Heating 654548 Leahcim

Nice to have you join us. Coffee grounds are a great way to heat up your compost pile and I believe Mel says to add less than 10% to the volumne of your compost pile.

Is this your first year with a SFG? I know reading and implementing the method found in the ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING book was the best thing I have done for my garden. I even changed over to table top gardens and they have saved my old back and knees.

Please let us know how you are doing, and if you have questions, comments or suggestions, please feel free to post them.

Again, Welcome.
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Post  leahcim 6/2/2011, 7:30 am

Thank you for the welcome Furbalsmom!

Forgot to mention the 10% by volume--I probably have gone up to 15%-20% when trying to get it to heat up. But I continue to add other stuff, so the ratio comes down pretty quickly.

I will post an intro response to in the "welcome mat" forum.

thanks again!
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Post  cachecrashers4 6/2/2011, 6:57 pm

What happens if your compost pile is more than 10% coffee grounds?
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Post  Furbalsmom 6/3/2011, 3:39 am

You get a caffeine buzzzzzzzzzzzzz affraid

I have read of people using more than 10%, sometimes up to 20% or 25%. Remember though, you are trying to create a compost with lots of different ingredients in the pile (not really heavy on any one thing) so you will have the most rounded nutrition for your plants.

On page 96 of the ALL NEW SQUARE FOOT GARDENING book, Mel gives a list of many ingredients that can be used in the compost pile and he recommends that no single ingredient exceeds 20%, and some ingredients he limits to 10%.

I read this to say that the limit is based on your total for that pile, not what you add to the pile in one day, I might add several inches of one ingredient today and right now it might be heavy in one ingredient, but when I add other things as I am creating the pile (in my case this can take weeks) I will try not to rely too much on any one thing.
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