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Heat In Compost Pile

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Post  Bud Alexis 9/5/2011, 9:40 am

I just bought Mel's book on SFG. I had heard and have read on this site the confusion as to put green grass clippings vs. dry grass clippings. I know for sure that green will produce heat, not sure about the dry. I know that I will get mixed answers with regard to this topic, but I am confused.
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 9/5/2011, 9:59 am

What is it, specifically, that you are asking? The dry/brown doesn't contribute to the heating.

Brown components help things stay balanced. If your compost heap or worm bin has too many green components you will have a smelly, slimy mess. Mulching microbes eat green composting components. Without enough green the pile will decay too slowly.

Articles seem to vary with the ratio of green to brown. I've seen equal parts. I've seen 35:1, and higher, of brown to green. My synopsis is I don't think it's incredibly important. Just make sure you have more brown than green in there to avoid the stinks.

Common browns: Paper, dryer lint, dry grass clippings and leaves, BBQ ash.

Common greens: Eggshells, fresh grass, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds.

Of course, avoid meats and dairies because they introduce "bad" bacteria to your compost. Although, I used to toss dog poo in from time to time before I knew this....and never had an issue. And, American Indians used to swear by placing fish skin under corn plants. So, that is up to you. But, I would shy away from it based on all I've read.
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Post  WardinWake 9/5/2011, 10:22 am

Bud Alexis wrote:I just bought Mel's book on SFG. I had heard and have read on this site the confusion as to put green grass clippings vs. dry grass clippings. I know for sure that green will produce heat, not sure about the dry. I know that I will get mixed answers with regard to this topic, but I am confused.

Howdy Bud: It is recommended to let fresh cut grass dry a day or two before adding it to the compost pile. Fresh cut grass can be too wet and cause a wet mess in the pile if not mixed with drier browns.

God Bless, Ward and Mary.
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Post  TN_GARDENER 9/5/2011, 11:02 am

Iv'e heard that grass clippings can act as both green and brown, depending on if it's wet or dry.

Me, I'm too lazy to dry them before adding so I just throw them in there and let compost happen.

I do, however, like to keep a bag of used coffee grounds (starbucks) and mix in a few handfuls every time i add grass clippings or leaves to the pile.
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Post  llama momma 9/5/2011, 11:05 am

All New SFG book, Chapter 5, page 87, all the info on Mels's Mix and adresses the compost issue in detail. Bottom of page 95 in bold print says, Dry That Grass. It gives you all the details you need. Enjoy! Llama Momma
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Post  camprn 9/5/2011, 11:42 am

There are so many opinions and anecdotal pieces of information out there about composting but in fact it comes down to chemistry. Green= nitrogen, brown = carbon, bacteria, moisture and oxygen; these are the things that need to be in balance to have an active, healthy compost pile. So, you need to know what materials contain which component. The compost pile will work if you just pile what ever you find onto it and wait. But if you care to pay attention, you can help the process along a bit. Fortunately it is not as precise as baking. Very Happy
Compost basics

This book
is great for getting the basics of composting. Another source of good information and my gardening Bible is Rodale's Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening. I have a few editions on the shelf but you can also read it on the web.

To answer the OP, fresh grass clippings contain higher levels of nitrogen than dry grass clippings, but both are still considered green based on their chemical makeup. I use fresh grass clippings if I have them for the compost pile, BUT I do not put heaps of fresh grass into the pile at one time. The result will be as Ward wrote about, slimy and yucky. Dry grass clippings contain nitrogen and will heat up the pile, but additional moisture will be required.

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Post  boffer 9/5/2011, 12:59 pm

I agree with everything that's been said so far, even though some of it is contradictory!

I find it amazing how few requirements or qualifications Mel has for compost types, since it is so critical to the SFG method. I don't think he even mentions greens and browns, let alone ratios. Just worry about the wet mess of green grass. That's something you'll have to experiment with to see how the method of composting you do, the volume of your compost, and the amount of grass can handle. If you compost in a barrel, you will probably handle grass differently than if your compost pile is on the ground. Some people screen their compost and some don't. If you do, some clumps of wet, uncomposted grass aren't a big deal, they just get thrown back in the compost pile.

Follow Mel's advice and don't overthink this compost thing.
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 9/5/2011, 1:16 pm

boffer wrote:Follow my grandfather's advice and don't overthink this compost thing.

He (not Mel, fwiw) used to tell me that it all works eventually....just dump it in. If you are like me and have the time to wait, just build a nice pile and wait it out. Composting with speed (speed is a relative term here) takes precision and science. I use my energies/brainpower elsewhere...especially since it's limited...with me. Wink I just don't see the point in trying to get usable compost in 8 weeks when I get the same stuff in a full season with a lot less effort and thought. Besides, I don't need compost very often once it gets fully processed. A trowelful per square per harvest will have a 3x3x3 pile lasting me practically forever with a 2x8 and 4x12 garden.

Gramps used to bag his grass when he mowed it. He just dumped it in the bin (4x4x4 fenced). When leaf season rolled around, he dumped in the leaves. He never turned it. He never watered it. He never miticulously layered it. He never used kitchen scraps or coffee grounds. Gramps was also one of Mel's early desciples from the first book.

And, after a couple years, that stuff at the bottom was so rich and full of the biggest worms you ever saw! He would open the gate once a year, shovel some into his wheelbarrow, screen it for twigs and the occasional rock, and toss it all around his gardens. And, stuff grew!

Amazing how humans try to outdo nature. Nature works.....let it.
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Post  westx 9/5/2011, 5:06 pm

I'm with BBG and his gramps. Just pile it up and use it off the bottom when you need some. Nature sure as heck doesn't measure things out. I just pile mine in a bin and threw stuff on it as the year goes along. Once every 6 months are so I might turn it over into the next bin and then after a year sift it out into the third bin and use that when I need it. No need working harder then I have to. Do enough of that at my real job.
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Post  Bud Alexis 9/7/2011, 11:57 am

Since I am new to these ideas, let me add this. For years, I would mow my yard in the winter and blow all the leaves under the oak tree, just to get them out of the yard. Also it was a good source of worms for fishing. The leaf piles are just left on the ground. When I would have too many leaves and the piles were getting too large I would have to haul them off. One thing I noticed about the leaves on the ground was that when I would get to the bottom of the stack, there would be a web of small fine roots that would permeate the bottom layer mixed with the dirt that the leaves have made. Of course now I will not throw the leaves away, but I am worried about all the fine roots. You would have to see it to believe how thick the roots get. Could anyone tell me if the roots would be good or bad for the compost?
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 9/7/2011, 12:38 pm

Instead of just blowing them into a pile, I would chop them up using the push mower, too. That pile of leaves not only will take up much less space, but will turn into usable composted soil much faster if mixed with some grass clippings. You will still get your worms and the roots.

If the roots have any "bark" on them, I wouldn't likely use them. If they are white-ish in color, I wouldn't worry at all about using them. But, again, I would chop them up.
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Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut 9/7/2011, 1:41 pm

If you can get hold of a leaf blower/vacuum, that makes short order of "sucking up" the leaves and mulching them right into a bag or barrel.... Smile
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Post  boffer 9/7/2011, 1:58 pm

I don't have an HOA looking over my shoulder, so I use a leaf blower to pile up my leaves against about 100 feet of fence line. The leaves pretty much break down over winter and become a great mulch to keep the weeds from growing. I've been doing this 6-7 years now, and the leaf mulch got deep enough to plant potatoes in last year. cheers Once again, being lazy is often the best option in the garden.

I know what white roots you mean; they're nothing to worry about.
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Post  mijejo 9/7/2011, 3:14 pm

Boffer, I love the idea of planting potatoes in the leaf mulch. Do you think it would work for sweet potatoes too?
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Post  boffer 9/7/2011, 3:42 pm

Sorry, I've never grown sweet potatoes so I can't say.
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Post  BackyardBirdGardner 9/7/2011, 5:06 pm

boffer wrote:Sorry, I've never grown sweet potatoes so I can't say.

There was a post just yesterday (I can't find it) that says sweet potatoes are not tubers...they are root crops. Therefore, you cannot grow them the same way. More research is needed, though, until we find that post.
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Post  UnderTheBlackWalnut 9/7/2011, 5:20 pm

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Post  Bud Alexis 9/7/2011, 7:46 pm

I use my riding mower to work them into a pile, so by the time that I am thru they are pretty small. As far as the roots, they are not white, and are probably less than an 8th, closer to a 16th, and very thick. I cannot tell if they have bark or not. They are not flat like a spider web, but more like a thick matt. I tried to filter them out but it is too thick. They can be as much as three or four inches thick.
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Post  southern gardener 9/8/2011, 12:05 pm

i've been adding more water to my compost...run off from other areas, and my compost pile is at 140 degrees! Steam is coming out, and it's about 90 degrees here! wow! didn't realize how adding some water speeds things up!!
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Post  Lindacol 9/8/2011, 2:58 pm

southern gardener wrote:i've been adding more water to my compost...run off from other areas, and my compost pile is at 140 degrees! Steam is coming out, and it's about 90 degrees here! wow! didn't realize how adding some water speeds things up!!



I just yesterday did the same thing. Couldn't figure out why it wasn't getting hot enough. I had been adding water by the l bucketful a couple of times a week but a few days ago I decided to try punching holes thru with rebar and found parts of it dry. So yesterday I put the hose down in it and ran it for about 10 minutes, moving it around. Today it is at 140.



It will be about 100 here today.
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