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 Post subject: HEATING UP COMPOST PILE
PostPosted: Wed Jul 02, 2008 3:55 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 29, 2003 4:11 pm
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Location: Desoto,TX
Ok, my next question. HEATING THE COMPOST PILE? how do I do this…and how do I keep it hot? I have read that you use dry molasses. How much dry molasses should I use and should I layer the molasses between leaves -or- just dump how much dry molasses in my compost pile? :?


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 9:03 am 
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Location: Odenville,Alabama
Compost piles will heat up if you keep the nitrogen-carbon ratio so that you have a good supply of rich high nitrogen and high protein materials mixed in your compost pile. (NOTE: Assuming you got more than 1 cubic yard of compost stuff to start with!)

You must have at least 2-3 times more carbon matrerials than nitrogen materials in the pile also. The carbon will give you odor control, and also you can't produce humates in the soil without carbon materials.

You must keep the pile constantly aerated and moisturized. You don't have to turn a compost pile, but you can aerate it by poking it with a broom or stick, or using stationary aeration pipes or vents in the pile.

Make sure to manage the compost pile so that it does not have any funky smells, and keep the carbon materials on top of the pile for odor control.

I heat up my large compost stockpiles by using high nitrogen/protein, dry molasses, compost/manure teas as nitrogen/microbial activators. This way I add water, microbes, sugars, and nitrogen to my compost piles every time I use it. The microbes grow like crazy, and the pile gets hot very quickly.

Happy Gardening!

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The entire Kingdom of God can be totally explained as an Organic Garden (Mark 4:26)
William Cureton


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 Post subject: Heating Up Compost Pile
PostPosted: Sun Nov 30, 2008 11:20 pm 
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Joined: Sat Nov 29, 2008 6:27 pm
Posts: 11
Location: Rockport,TEXAS
DeSotoGrown,
Will try to answer your questions, but will have to present generalities, since you did not present any specific information to base answers on:

Your first question was: How do I 'heat' a compost pile...
You don't. Microbes (bacteria/fungi) do. Most brown and green initial raw materials should contain enough fungi to start a pile heating - how much was there, depends on how long it takes to heat up (with adequate air and moisture a 'given').
A first-time pile build should heat up on it's own, but every new-build should also have some good dirt added, or fresh compost, or fresh 'tea', just to make sure.
So the answer is, you create the proper environment (air, water and food) in which the fungi/bacteria (microbes) can profilerate in a new pile.
Dry molasses in a new build is not necessary - unless already proven that you're having trouble getting a new pile to heat up with the materials you are using. In that case, be very specific about details when asking for possible fixes - so suggestions can coincide with your materials and procedures.
Thermophyllic (heat-producing) fungi proliferate (reproduce quickly) feeding (mostly) on the sugars and carbohydrates available in new-build (raw) compost material such as grass clippings/hay and manures. Both have some carbon and some nitrogen. So this is not really a C:N ratio issue, and certainly not a protein issue. And you can't tell how much carbon and nitrogen is actually in your raw materials anyway, and chances are you don't have the means to measure ratios in volume or weight either, so don't be too concerned about ratios in the beginning. Just use organic materials at hand; read/research Mr. Garrett's and Mr. Beck's writings; ask questions and learn from making/turning piles. And have your results tested by a soil lab if you want to know about nutrient levels. Contact your local County Extension Agent and ask for a Mastter Gardener contact who is experienced with and active in composting. Don't know two people who do it the same way. And opinions range from basis in experienced/documented research - to wild & whacky. Try 'em all if it pleases you. Composting is supposed to be fun, too.

Purchase a 20" compost thermometer so you can measure pile heat. If you can't measure it, you can't adjust it with any accuracy. And not just temperature, but also time it takes to heat, is as important as the procedure and materials you used to build the pile.

At some point, pile temperature will decrease due to either running low of sugars/carbs in the raw material, or they run out of moisture (dry piles don't decompose) or oxygen (die from CO2 poisoning that builds up in the pile -because that's what they 'exhale', and it can't get exchanged for oxygen unless you turn the pile. Some folks stick holes in a pile or use pipe contraptions, but I can tell you from my 50+ years experience, that none of those methods perform adequate gas exchange unless the pile is 'too loose' or dry to begin with. Air will only penetrate a few inches into a properly-moistened biomass-high pile, and I still have the test equipment that proved it sufficiently to me. Point being, that if you want a pile to re-heat quickly, don't let the thermophyllic population decrease too much before the pile gets turned (turn it when it cools to between 105F and 110F). Turning will cool the material, but fungi populations will still be sufficient to rebound quickly.

Now about reheating a 1st-turn pile: If using the FH finish-to-harvest) method (instead of the CA (continuous-add) method, no new material is added for thermophyllic fungi food - so that's where dry molasses comes into play.
Dry molasses is used because it is a sugar and carbohydrate.
Normally, the agricultural dry molasses you can purchase from your local feed store is a pellet (compressed grain flour) sprayed with a coating of molasses. Perfect food for heat-producing bacteria and fungus. Alternatives are dark brown sugar, but using that may attract fire ants - which do not like molasses, especially dark sulfured molasses. Mostly I use dry dog or cat food, because I have a ready supply of both, and although I use dry molasses ocassionally, dry pet food works almost as well (although it does contain some salt - which I mediate with a bit of gypsum (which I keep in stock for making planting soils with clay).

Unless you use a solid bin, a 1st turn reheat is a very good thing to achieve - but if not using a solid bin, remember to "scalp" the pile, so all exterior material of the previous pile goes into the middle of the new pile, with the center of the old (heated part) pile on the edges. Still sugars and carbs in the exterior layers that did not get heated initially.
Best to turn the pile through a 2x4 framed section of chain-link fence to maximize gas exchange. Add about 1/2 to 1/3 cup of dry molasses to each 6"-8" layer of turned material, then water-in each layer. In a bin, with FH, remember to keep pile height up by adding 2x4/plywood spacers to narrow the bin (since the pile shrank from decomposition).

With the CA method, new material is added to keep the pile at proper biomass height (should be about 1/4 of initial pile material to bring it back up - which should be sufficient for a substantial (although not as high temp or as long), so some additional sugars or carbohydrates might need to be added. If a 1st turn CA pile is not meeting temperature re-heat expectations after the turn is completed, my suggestion is a quart jar of black sulphured molasses well-stirred into a 5 gallon bucket of water with a drill/paint stirrer, then poured on top of a 'crowned' pile (don't allow run-off) that has a bunch of holes poked into the top to half-way down in the pile. Monitor temperature daily and keep notes.


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 Post subject: Re: HEATING UP COMPOST PILE
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 1:52 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2003 8:09 pm
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Location: Fort Worth,TEXAS
How large is your composting area, and how much energy and time are you willing to dedicate to it? If you have a small yard, some of the information above might be overkill.

That said, the information above is good and very detailed. If you don't have the time or inclination to focus so closely on the process, be sure to do some basics.

When you add to the pile, including lawn clippings is a good way to kick-start the heating process. I pick them up from the curb when neighbors put them out in bags (there are still some folks who put those great clippings in black plastic bags).

Make a point to water your compost regularly and if you'll take a spade fork to the contents periodically to turn it over, you'll mix in new material and introduce more oxygen, in addition to reshaping and stabilizing the pile. After you've spent time working with compost you can tell by the smell and the heat coming off of it that it is in good shape.

Northwesterner

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 Post subject: Re: HEATING UP COMPOST PILE
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2009 8:51 pm 
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Location: Rockport,TEXAS
Hi Northwesterner -

Not much activity on this forum, so don't get back here very often.

Would like to hear more about your composting efforts - do you bin your pile? If so, in what kind, and do you use manures?
Do you collect/use the 'tea' from waterings?

Robert


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 Post subject: Re: HEATING UP COMPOST PILE
PostPosted: Sun Feb 22, 2009 9:06 am 
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Location: Odenville,Alabama
I prefer pallet and windrow style composting. Totally active aerobic hot composting style.
I use mixtures of horse manures, grass clippings, fish scraps, sawdust, straw, and leaves.

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The entire Kingdom of God can be totally explained as an Organic Garden (Mark 4:26)
William Cureton


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 Post subject: Re: HEATING UP COMPOST PILE
PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 5:03 pm 
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Location: Fort Worth,TEXAS
I had a nice slatted cedar bin, but it is still in my ex-husband's back yard. :cry: One of these days if he ever empties it out I'll get it back.

I've used an informally fenced area, with posts and chicken wire to confine the compost, and that worked in a space where I didn't want to actually build anything permanent or heavy to move around. I made it a rectangle and every so often when I was turning it moved it from one end of the enclosure to the other. I constructed it so one side of it opened completely so I could reach the pile easily.

I stopped that when I got dogs. They thought the compost was a great place to root for table scraps, and I couldn't keep them out once they got that habit. Boy, did they stink some days.

I have a large yard and for a while had a compost pile right out in the front yard. I wanted to build a berm in one spot where we have a street intersecting in front of the house, so any time I had dirt, rocks, clippings, etc., I tossed it in. Since it is actually meant to stay put I haven't done much with it, and lately as it sinks I've thrown dirt over the top and will one of these days plant it (lucky plants growing on that rich, well-drained berm!)

I'm back to composting in the back yard, and my dogs now have Invisible Fence collars. I don't throw on table scraps, and I keep the pile to one side in the way back where it won't bother the neighbors and where it is in the zone the dogs don't enter without getting zapped.

I took Howard's advice a while back and got a plastic bin with a hinged top and I put the table scraps in there. It's beside the garage outside of the dogs' area. One bin isn't big enough--by the time it was full it hadn't broken down enough to put in the pile and have it be an undifferentiated glob yet. So I'm working on my second bin. When it's full I'll haul the first one out back, dig a hole in the existing compost, and topple it in. Out of the dogs' way and not very appealing even to those scavengers.

This isn't scientific, but I don't have the time or income for the fancy measuring and management. I also throw dog droppings in my compost. Because of that, I let it sit for a long time before I use it, long after it has stopped with any heat. I usually have about three piles at any one time--one I'm currently building, one that is just sitting from the year before, and the one I'm excavating and sifting as I need compost.

I've made compost tea before, but for convenience in the last few year's I've bought the bottled variety. I pick up my dog food (Muenster's, of course!) over at Marshall Grain and they have all of the rest of the stuff, so it is one-stop shopping for all of that.

It still sounds like a lot of work, doesn't it? :D

Northwesterner

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 Post subject: Re: HEATING UP COMPOST PILE
PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:06 pm 
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Location: Rockport,TEXAS
Yeah - it can get to be work - and I keep reminding myself that composting is supposed to be fun - but mostly for me, it's theraputic. Takes the trauma out of life's "little moments".

And, it's supposed to be "free" too - but for me it's not, but a finished (2 cu.yard) pile usually costs only about $10 in additives, including dog food for accelerator. I buy dry molasses, bone meal and blood meal for the pile.

That way I can get really good compost in about 90 days.
Keeping it wet enough and turning takes time too, but have it 'down to a science' now - mostly use just horse manure and aged grass clippings with chopped-up stuff left from the garden. Have access to several horse stables, and since using manure, my piles heat up to 130F - 140F+ every time.

I've found that the 'secret' to fast, quality compost is in screening the pile through a chain-link fence to maximize aeration. Then the piles decompose very quickly. Usually, after turning a pile twice (3-4 weeks apart), it's ready. If going to use it for container plants, I let it go another month.

I still use a two-compartment cinderblock bin, mostly to add 'odd' things (such as pet poop, roadkill and fish carcasses - anything organic) but most of my composting is done with the Frame technique. You can see some of my piles at: http://s429.photobucket.com/albums/qq18/soilguy2469/.

As you can see from the trenches around the pad, I do collect 'tea' - it's simply the liquid "mirror-image" of the solid stuff. Faster nutrition for plants than the solid compost, and when I want 'tea', I simply water the pile. After turning a pile, I usually have 40-50 gallons of tea left over, so I give it away free to other Master Gardeners. Too danged expensive to buy that stuff, and mine's better quality and fresher.

I've tried several methods for handling kitchen scraps, since I prefer to only add them when I build a new pile. I use the Finish-to-Harvest method, so don't add anything to a pile once it's built.

I decompose our kitchen scraps anaerobically in a large tub, with scraps just covered with enough NON-chlorinated water. So much simpler than any other method I've tried. Add the whole tub to a pile at one time. Keep it covered in the meantime, so there's no odor issue.

Robert


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 Post subject: Re: HEATING UP COMPOST PILE
PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2009 8:30 pm 
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Location: Fort Worth,TEXAS
Quote:
pile usually costs only about $10 in additives, including dog food for accelerator.


Ha! I get more value for that cost--I run it through the dogs first!
Image
Pro-composters Poppy (Catahoula) and Cinnamon (American Staffordshire Terrier)

Sounds like we have a similar setup with the table scraps. I haven't added water to the bin--I found early on that it is already very wet as it breaks down. I keep the lid closed so there isn't an odor problem. And yes, pouring it into the pile all at once--no point in getting that stuff all over you more often than necessary!

Northwesterner

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 Post subject: Re: HEATING UP COMPOST PILE
PostPosted: Sat Apr 18, 2009 12:11 pm 
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