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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2004 8:33 pm 
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Location: Saginaw (NW Fort Worth), Texas
How do ya'll water your compost pile? I have a cubic yard of materials that I have been composting for a couple of months now and they have reduced in size by about 50% so I have to think I am doing something right. Normally we turn the pile with a crank type device that screws down to the bottom of the pile and then pulls bottom materials straight up. This weekend tho we actually moved the pile and flipped the entire contents over so the bottom would be at the top this time. Well, when we did that I noticed that the bottom half of the materials aren't breaking down and are still the same general size and shape as when I put them in there. I also noticed that they were greatly water logged and had a powdery looking mildew and ANTS! (ick) growing in it. Is it possible that I am overwatering or not watering enough? I usually only water twice a week and I try to water it thoroughly til I can see it start to seep out of the bottom of the mixture.

Any suggestion? Oh, and should I even worry about the ants? I was pleased to find about five red worms in the mix but wish I had found more. Could I buy some worms and add them to the mix? Or is that a waste of time? Oh yeah, one more ? and then I promise to leave ya'll alone - for a little while anyways. :) Is it possible to add too many eggs to the pile? My mom has been giving me a dozen a week to add to my compost pile and I put them in a blender and break them down but I just now realized that I may be adding too many.

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Christina


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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2004 9:21 pm 
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Location: Lavon,Texas
Christina :shock:
Please don't leave us alone. We may get lonely (LOL).
In the winter I only water my compost pile when I turn it. My pile has gone down about 50% from when I turned it 2 weeks ago. It went from about 4' high to about 2' high. When I turn it, I water each layer as I rebuild it. Since it doesn't get hot, like in the summer, my pile doesn't need as much water. I checked it today and it was still pretty moist. It decomposes fast because I use alot of dried molasses in each layer. I also use alot of shredded junk mail, but not the glossy sections. It sounds like you may be watering your pile to much. Do you use a compost activator, like molasses?

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2004 10:32 pm 
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Location: Saginaw (NW Fort Worth), Texas
Compost activator? Hmmm, have to admit I didn't know that molasses was an activator - I thought it was just another brown component and since I began with something like 11 bags of mulberry leaves I've not tried to add too much more brown stuff. Can I ask for more info on that topic? I have been adding a handful of horticultural corn meal here and there but when I turn my pile I think I do it differently than you do. It sounds like you actually move the whole pile? Mine is pretty much stationary except for the crank turning that I do. Perhaps I need to get more into the labor and turn it completly over every two weeks?

Thanks for the help!
Christina


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 Post subject: Compost activity
PostPosted: Sun Jan 11, 2004 11:00 pm 
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Location: Dallas,TX
Nina,
I have a question about the eggs. Are you adding whole, blended up into a mush eggs? If so, you may be overloading your pile with too much protein. That will affect the way it breaks down, also.

Sugar is an easy to digest food for your microbes, which makes them get revved up and replicate quickly, making many more to do the job. Molasses is great for this, but I prefer the liquid as it is easy to spray on while you turn your pile.

In winter, I don't turn my pile as often, and take care not to expose it to the air too much when it is cold (less than 40F). You will kill off your microbes if you're not careful. Luckily, a good dousing of molasses will usually wake them right back up, but you need to take care alll the same. Turn it every two weeks or so, and no more often. Otherwise, you are defeating yourself by short-circuiting the activity of the microbes.
Same with water, too much just bogs down the process. Every two weeks should be plenty for the slowed down activity and lack of evaporation. I'd say Gar and I are pretty much in agreement except he likes dry molasses and I like liquid.

Good luck sweetie! :D
Kathe


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 12:16 am 
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Location: Garland, Texas
Nina Norman...or is it Christina...I'll admit, I'm confused :? That is not an unusual condition though, so we (or I) will move on. :lol:

You are off to a good start by the fact that you have started a compost pile in the first place. Add to that, it is working confirmed by the reduction in mass.

Now, to some of your questions. First the ants. Usually the ants I will encounter in my pile are fire ants, but that is when my pile gets a little too dry. You mention it is very wet in the location where you found you ants. I give, how about giving your pile a good and thorough turning. Adding a bit of moisture and turning the pile generally helps to move my ants along.

As for the worms, don't waste the effort or money by attempting to "seed" your pile. I tried several times in an attempt to grow a large worm population (instead of building a dedicated worm bed) and decrease the time needed to break down the pile. My guess is the pile just got too hot for the worms and they moved on.

I assume by eggs, you mean egg shells? I throw mine in without breaking them up, and they stay around for quite a while. Obviously if you rinse, break them up, they will break down much faster. If you will hold some of your kitchen wastes for a couple of days before adding to the pile, the composting will have begun already, and I don't see where a dozen egg shells per week would be too much. On a side note, if you decide to take on vermicomposting, I understand the worms really like some shells mixed in with the rest of their food.

When dealing with a compost pile that is too wet, just add some dry materials and mix. I don't spend a whole lot of time or effort "watering" my compost pile. I add kitchen wastes when I have accumulated several containers worth (Folgers plastic coffee cans or Blue Bunny 1/2 gallon sherbert buckets, or OxyClean 6 lb. buckets - I think you get the picture :D ). This can occur in three days or a week. When I add these to the pile, I rinse the containers with water and pour into the pile. That is generally the extent of my watering. Year round, I keep my pile covered with straw or dried leaves. This seems to help hold the moisture in. I may or may not throw in some dried molasses or corn meal, depending on how energetic I feel :D

As far as too much or too little watering, too much or too little turning...I will only refererence one of my favorite bumper stickers (which resides on my refrigerator and not the bumper)...Compost Happens In other words, unless you are doing this (composting) for a source of income, or you just want to complete the composting process as quickly as possible, don't sweat it. The process will work with and without you.

Have fun!

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PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 8:12 am 
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Location: Saginaw (NW Fort Worth), Texas
Kathe, Mr. Clean and Gar - ya'll are absolute angels! You DO know that RIGHT? I truly appreciate all ya'lls help! As for the name - sorry for the confusion. My parents named me Christina Norman but my godson couldn't say it so he calls me Nina and I tend to go by both.

Okay gonna try to answer ??s and ask more along the way. Hopefully I don't add to any confusion I already have in the process.

1. I am terribly grateful that compost does eventually happen!! However, I am moving into our new house in about six weeks and I am trying to get the stuff as broken down as possible for when I move it to the new house. How should I move this heavy stuff anyways? Rubbermaid buckets I reckon are gonna have to do.

2. Egg shells. The first time I used the egg shells I put them in with each egg broken into about four pieces and it took forever for them to dissappear. So now I rinse them off (is that neccessary?), let them dry out and then put them in my mini grinder and pulverize them and add to the compost pail under the sink to await the weekly dump in the pile.

3. Kitchen scraps and Household plants. Once a week before I take my kitchen pail items to the pile I place all the items in my blender with some water and what leaves and stems that I have pulled from my houseplants during the week. I do this cuz a large majority of what I put in the pail is orange peels and banana peels and again because there is a time factor here.

4. Ants. The ants indeed were inside a dry pocket amongst the waterlogged materials. I guess since we moved the materials this weekend to a new location I think they will move. (fingers crossed)

5. Moisture content and temperature. Well, I think at first I was doing something right cuz even when we had temperatures in the thirties my pile was registering nineties and had mushroom growth galore. I am thinking that perhaps this had something to do with the broken vinyl pool that I dissassembled and put mostly over the top of the pile leaving a medium sized gap for air flow. Then we went to OK for a weeklong holiday and I guess it dried out as now I cannot get temps higher than sixties. I will add molasses to the pile and see if that helps. Also, I have not been putting a top coat of dry materials to prevent moisture loss. I will try to start this practice asap.

Okay, enough for now. (whew!) Off to take the girlies to school - look forward to seeing ya'lls replies.
Christina


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PostPosted: Mon Jan 12, 2004 11:53 am 
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You really don't need to blend the household stuff but as long as you are, go ahead and put the egg shells in there without cleaning them first.

Ants and other beasts are common in compost. My pile has been taken over by roaches this year. I've never seen so many (except that first apartment I had when I moved to SA). Maybe they're keeping the ants away :D Anything that lives in your compost is doing something positive. I have little lizards which I'm sure are eating the worms, but as long as they leave their dead lizard bodies and lizard poop in the pile, that's fine. I still see worms and lots of fruit flies on the citrus peels. I usually don't bury my fruit and veggies for a day and let the flies have first crack at it.

For watering I build an inverted cone on top of my pile so when the water runs down, it runs down to the center of the pile. I have rigged up two shower heads above the pile to water with. Works great but applies too much water all at once. I'm looking for a cheap way to mist the pile for days at a time without breaking me on water bills. I'll probably get a fogger on a wand this year and plant it in the pile.

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