How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?
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Author:  Love My Garden! [ Sun May 10, 2009 9:55 pm ]
Post subject:  How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

I just realized that I don't know what to expect from the pile I just built yesterday. I assume it's too quick for it to be cooking. But maybe not?

How quickly will the microbes start doing their work?


I read in one of the longer posts in this forum that you can actually see steam rising from your pile when it has heated up. Is that generally true?

Quick background:
1. We want make lots of compost/humus very quickly since we've got a LOT of plans for growing food as well as making things pretty.
2. We're willing to spend more (within reason) -- both time and money -- on the front end to get the process rolling so we can stop buying compost.
3. We've got Agrispon, liquid molasses, and lots of room & raw materials.
4. We're going to have multiple piles: at least 1 active pile (no adding after it's built), a couple of "fresher" piles where we can throw weeds, fresh leaves that fall, etc., and a pile of thicker branches that need to break down and die before being composted.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your help!

Author:  plerny [ Sun May 17, 2009 6:59 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

Hello I think it starts to (cook) as the first two shovels come togather. I was working in the garden yesterday, when I noticed the chainsaw in the back round was getting louder and louder. So I walked out front and the county was cutting trees from under the power lines. As greedy as I am for bio-mass, I went right to them and noticing the truck was full of shredded wood. I asked them if they would dump it in my lower field. When they pulled out I went right over and put hands on, like always. To my suprise and delight I found it to be hot already, right out of the truck! What a blessing it didnt cost me a dime. The 7th pile of compost working (cooking) in my yard.I will put a new pic up soon. Oh it was steeming in the rain when I got back yesterday.....Ha Ha

Author:  user_48634 [ Thu May 21, 2009 9:10 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

If you have plenty of protein, manure, or urine, it can be hot before you start. What is in your pile(s)?

Author:  Love My Garden! [ Thu May 21, 2009 10:00 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

It's about 60% dry leaves/tiny twigs/dried grass clippings and 40% cow manure (bagged). I layered this on top of soil treated with Agrispon. Then I treated the pile w/diluted liquid molasses. I am keeping the pile moist and poking a few holes into it every day or so to make sure it gets air.

What am I looking for when it's "cooking" or "hot"?

Author:  northwesterner [ Thu May 21, 2009 11:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

Hot compost is just that--hot! You can feel it, and it has a distinct smell.

Don't forget to water it.

Author:  Love My Garden! [ Mon May 25, 2009 10:40 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

hmmmm :|

that's what I thought we should expect

We have no heat. Any suggestions?

I'm going to buy some alfalfa meal today and put that in... see what happens


Author:  northwesterner [ Tue May 26, 2009 12:15 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

I don't pick up the grass clippings when I mow, but that's the fastest way I know to make the compost pile heat up, is to add a lot of cut grass. My compost has more dirt in it than is probably going to make a purist happy (from hand-digging up sod for a new veggie bed). I water it regularly, turn it every so often, but the roots with dirt may have a cooling effect. It isn't usually very hot, but then, I'm not in a rush. I have made a point this year of keeping the sticks out of it. They probably don't help, they allow too much air in.

Anyway, I've contemplated picking up a couple of the lawn clipping bags that folks leave at the curb in towns that have curbside recycling (Edgecliff Village, where I live, doesn't recycle as a municipality). Trouble is, I don't know what they use on their lawns. Find someone who bags and is organic (an oxymoron, no?) and maybe that will do the trick.

Author:  user_48634 [ Fri May 29, 2009 9:00 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

This is your hobby and you can do it any way you want, but from antiquity, the purpose of a pile was to let trash decompose. You are already buying brand new products and dumping them into a trash pile.
:shock: :shock: :shock:

Okay I'll admit to buying new stuff for my pile, too. I guess we all do that to some extent. :wink: However, currently my pile is static and mostly left alone. If it heats up, fine; if it doesn't, fine. After a year it is decomposed no matter what I do or don't do. Grass clipping are heavy with protein and usually turn hot fast. Horse manure is great to heat up a pile. Used coffee grounds are available free from Starbucks and anyplace else that makes coffee in large quantities. I use coffee grounds directly as a (free) fertilizer but since it is free, you can use it in compost and not disturb the economic balance of the pile too much.

Author:  sandih [ Sun Jun 07, 2009 8:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

Sorry to butt in but I have a question about my compost pile too... You mentioned urine?? How/where do I get that? I have no access to horse or cow manure or urine. Should I buy it somewhere?

Author:  northwesterner [ Sun Jun 07, 2009 11:33 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

If you'll recall the note above, that buying new things to put in trash (compost) is counter-productive, I'd suggest that if you don't have a, um, suitable source of urine, then go without. The recipe for compost isn't etched in stone.

Author:  sandih [ Mon Jun 08, 2009 10:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?


Author:  tarheelgarden [ Fri Aug 28, 2009 6:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

how big is your pile? if it's too small, smaller than 3x3 feet it may be too small. If your quest for heat insists you buy more stuff go to a feed store or mill and get some cottonseed meal, it's high in protein, i've found 50lb bags for about $13. Mix a bag of that and 2oz of molasses per gallon of water and moisten the whole pile with a watering can. It's best to mix it in and water as you turn your pile. That way you know it's mixed throughout the pile and there is plenty of oxygen to get everything going. You will get heat within a couple of days, steam after about a week. When I first started composting I was on the same quest for heat, when I turned my first steaming pile it was a good day. LOL! But I never buy stuff to put in my piles anymore. the captain has a new book on composting, maybe he can post the link again.

Author:  northwesterner [ Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: How quickly will a pile start "cooking"?

The best thing to get a compost pile steaming is fresh, wet lawn clippings. Nothing better. I look for those bulging black bags in the neighborhood when I want to heat up the compost. Take a peek in the bag before you take it home, to be sure it is clippings, but feel free to use what someone else is sending to the landfill.

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