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PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2003 5:36 pm 

Joined: Sat Nov 22, 2003 5:18 pm
Posts: 11
Location: ,
Ok gardening wizards, I need some help as I'm new at this.

I have one huge compost pile (30' L, 5' W, 3' H) and some of it is semi warm, other spots are cold as ice. I need help on getting this puppy to cook evenly like a butterball turkey.

The compost pile is on the ground (to allow worms in and nutrients to leech out and condition the ground) and I built it in the following manner:

1. put small tree branches on the bottom (I think that was bad advice).
2. layered grass on top of the branches.
3. created a cavity and poured in shredded cedar mulch, peat moss, cow manure, humus, leaves and the occasional veggie scraps.
4. Covered it up with more grass so the nitrogen wouldn't escape.
5. Watered and turned once a week (again, suspect that's bad advice, too).
6. Poured 2 gallons of straight black strap molasses into the pile.
7. poured "beneficial micro organisms" into the soil (enough to treat two tons worth of compost).

The pile was toasty warm until I turned it, and then it never regained its heat. So I went back to the other site and it said it may be too much/not enough water/air/nitrogen. So I turned the pile, added more manure, peat moss and grass, and watered it. NOTHING. :cry:

What am I doing wrong and how can I get this pile rolling hot so it'll somewhat decomposed by the spring? I even got desperate - I went out, bought a black plastic tarp (a little shorter than the pile to allow some air flow) in hopes the sun beating down on something black would help it to cook. No dice.....

The pile will be used for a veggie garden I want to start around March with typical cold weather crops, but that might not happen as soon as I'd like if I can't get this pile to cooperate.

Thanks the to wonderful function called "EDIT", I can report some new 'additions' to the pile thanks to what's been posted in here. I hope I did it right...

Someone mentioned old jelly and lots of comments were made about cheap, jock strap filtered beer. Well, that set off a few bells - one being I have both in the fridge and cabinets AND.....I realized I wasn't the only sicko in the forum, so now I feel MUCH better. :lol:

There's something to be said about cajuns and their sweet teeth tendencies. I had tons of old, solidified honey, spagnum (sp?) and ribbon cane molasses, and old home made jellies that were just sitting around taking up valuable real estate in the fridge....along with beer from a party we threw a few years ago. So they all joined together via the magic of Mr. Blender and Mr. Microwave and started life anew in the coldest part of the compost pile.

I hope that helps, but if you have any further suggestions, please let me know.

Last edited by CCC/destiny3 on Sat Nov 22, 2003 6:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: composting
PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2003 6:14 pm 

Joined: Sat May 10, 2003 5:48 pm
Posts: 806
Location: Weatherford,TX
Check out this forum "Composting" and you will get all the info. you need; probally more than you want! Good luck!

The "soap" you use is normally chemicals, etc. Use real SOAP !!

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2003 6:14 am 

Joined: Sat May 03, 2003 10:48 am
Posts: 241
Location: Arlington
Here is a link to an online book on composting that is very informative.

 Post subject: Composting
PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2003 10:03 am 

Joined: Wed May 21, 2003 5:33 pm
Posts: 829
Location: Dallas,TX
To answer your questions more directly, let me give this a shot. As always, this is just my opinion gathered from what I have done and seen others do successfully.

1. The branches on the bottom weren't a terrible idea but the material in them compostsly slowly so you won't get much from them soon. If you used a lot of them and made a floor, you defeated the goal of attracting soil organisms.
2. Grass clippings are fine but you don't want to put anything in a compost pile in a layer. It is the mixture that makes it work. Grass clippings are famous for causing anaerobic pockets in compost because they are so dense they block out oxygen.
3. A cavity in the middle will often become anaerobic when covered, no matter what is in it. Again, mixing the new ingredients in up is the key. Try putting scraps, etc. in a bucket to decompose until it's time to turn your pile again, then add the new material as you turn. To address your listed components, cedar mulch is better used to cover bare soil in gardens, lawns, etc. Peat moss has antimicrobial characteristics so is contradictory to your aim. Cow manure fresh has lots of microbes and hot nitrogen in it. Humus...well, that's what you're trying to get so I'm not sure the reason for adding that. Leaves make great "brown" material, and veggie scraps are terrific "green" material too. Just not in a lump buried in the pile.
4. More grass is fine but not in a lump. This is a well known cause of anaerobic pockets in compost. Always mix it in well.
5. Watering once a week may be okay but turning your pile every week brings what IS going on the a screeching halt. Make it every 2-3 weeks and you'll see better results. Especially now that it's cold outside.
6. Molasses is a great microbe activator, but 2 whole gallons was major overkill. I got into the habit of adding a gallon of water with a cup of molasses to my 4'x3'x3' piles when I turned them. That works fine. Translating that to your pile comes to about 6-8 cups of molasses mixed with 1 gallon of water per cup. That will stretch out your budget and keep your microbe activity up. Any old sugars from your house can be substituted for molasses. But too much is too much.
7. Beneficial microorganisms are great. But like any living creature they need the right conditions to thrive and survive. The amount you put in was way more than you needed. In this case, less is more.

I've heard lots of arguments about covering vs. not covering a compost pile. Yes, the black plastic will heat it up by solar power but the stifling of oxygen flow will kill off the beneficial microorganisms and cause nasty anaerobic activity. I don't cover mine ever, even in the coldest weather.

Hopefully this will be helpful to you. :D
You're on the right track, you just need to fine tune a little.

PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2003 11:51 am 

Joined: Sat Nov 22, 2003 5:18 pm
Posts: 11
Location: ,
So to fine tune the work.....let's see if I've got this right:

1. Next time I turn the pile (it's been two weeks since I last did it), yank the branches out from the bottm as they're a bit useless - bad advice from another website said to do that. They said it'd help on airflow, but that doesn't seem to be the case

2. Liquid molasses needs to be diluted with water. The gallon could've treated the entire 30' long pile with no problem. I thought two gallons straight on the pile seemed very uneconomical, but there were no directions on it as to how much to apply directly to compost piles. It's also better to use liquid molasses as part of a compost tea.

3. Grass - don't layer, but mix in so it doesn't compact the soil and choke out the air. Also, less grass is more because of its ability to choke airflow. Add it gradually with each turn of the pile - keep the grass aside and let it go dry as that would help to make the mixture a little bit lighter.

4. Don't add humus and top soil to the pile - I was told you would need to on another website in order to help it along. Big lie...

5. I was also told that you cover cow manure with grass as a layer blanket to keep the nitrogen from "escaping". I was also told that if it wasn't covered and the sun beats down on the manure, it will evaporate the nitrogen and make the manure useless. I guess that's more bad website advice.

6. Peat moss acts more as a sterilizing agent in a compost pile and outweighs the beneficial side of holding in water.

7. shredded mulch really isn't a great idea and I can skip that the next time around as well because it doesn't do much to also hold in water.

8. The airflow should come naturally because the mixture should feel light versus heavy like a brick. LOL Even though the tarp is there, the passive solar heat won't do much except attract the unwanted pests to the pile.

9. The buggies need more than sugary things as a food source, which is why dry corn meal is used. Throw a couple of hand fulls in when you turn the pile. Use the same rule when using dry molasses.

I'm sort of amazed at how much misinformation is out there when it comes to composting. I used to think it was a simple process - add, layer, stir once in awhile (my parents stir their pile once a year), water on occasion and in general, leave it alone.

Guess the website did have it all wrong, but then again, they did say it'd take about six months to get a compost pile down to its soil components. I was shocked to see people were getting their piles in a few short weeks in this forum, so I knew something was very wrong with mine.

Thank you so much for your help, and next time I talk with my parents, I'll have to correct them so they can get more than one pile a year from their composting cage. Better ye, I'll just send them a link to come here and read for themselves! :D

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Nov 24, 2003 12:08 pm 
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Joined: Sat Mar 08, 2003 8:39 pm
Posts: 532
Location: Lavon,Texas
As for the grass. If you put a stack in the middle of your compost, the air will go all the way to the bottom. My compost consists about 98% grass.
I made my stack by buying a piece of 4" X 10' piece of PVC from Home Depot. Cut it in half, to make 2 stacks. I drilled many 1/2" holes around the pipe, top to bottom. Each time I turn my compost, from one bin to the other. I put the stack in the middle first, then fill grass around it, about 12" then add the amendments. About 3 - 4 hand fulls molasses sprinkled, sea weed, and water. I do this until it is full. In the summer, it will go from 4' high, my bins are 4' X 4' X 4'. down to 2' in about one week. I also turn it every 2 - 3 weeks.
Don't forget to keep it moist but not dripping wet. If it gets to wet, do to rain, just turn it. I never put twigs in unless I have shredded them first. They take to long to decay.
I hope this helps.

Converting one person at a time to Organics, the only way to go!! [ ME ]

 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Dec 08, 2003 9:14 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 07, 2003 9:17 am
Posts: 31
Location: Gainesville Tx
well heck. i just poured 3/4 of a 50 lb bag of mollasses on my pile. did i just waste a big pile of money? it's like 6 ft long and 3ft high.

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