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 Post subject: Compst Advise
PostPosted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:25 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:01 am
Posts: 2
I am an organic gardener, originally from Texas, now in SW Missouri (zone 6 :( )......
Last year I constructed a large 3 bin, pallet style compost bin for the garden and had SOME success....I have some questions as to what I am doing wrong......
I have read a lot of great gardening books and up until today never heard the words protein or sugars when talking compost, so I will be looking at as many of your post as I can on that....it may be the missing thing??? I don't know....

My first pile was mostly fresh grass clippings, weeds, some leaves and really old, soft wood chips. that pile heated up really well, and there were a lot of worms in the wood chips and castings (which I guess is "dirt")....BUT, when it cooled, it never reheated, and I used it anyways....but you could see that there was still plenty of un-rotted wood chips....I figured that the first thing I did wrong was to use the wood chips to begin with, since they can lock up nitrogen for long periods and I have read not to do that....but you know, I had to start somewhere!! and need to move the pile of woodchips!!! I figured, that, had I stirred the pile with some more nitrogen, eventually, it would have burned up the wood chips...but I didn't wait.

I would really like to get this down pat, as they say...because I hope to use A LOT of compost in my vegetables and fruits, and if I have enough to spare, ornamentals....but my compost is NEVER up to par.

OK, so the following piles, I have left out woodchips....i have used only leaves and grass and weeds with the soil still on, as well as sod that I scrape off for new beds...I moisten the brown layers, as I go but once it heats up and cools back off and I move it to the next bin, it "dies" and never reheats, and I assure you, it is not because it is a finished product......(but I do use it anyways, I have to feed the worms in the garden, too, not just the ones in the compost) And that is the other thing that proves I have it all wrong.....the compost pile is cold enough to have worms!!! Don't get me wrong, what I end up with looks ok. Its kind of like what you would clean out of really neglected gutters.....it is dark and moist and decomposing, but you can still tell what the leaves and needles and sometimes a clump of grass are.....it just isn't done!!! It smells like soil (yum) and when wet, it drains out a dark coffee colored liquid (which I am wondering if it is more likely tannin than "compost tea") .... But there are LOTS of my eggshells and leaves and it dries out quite quickly. I have been THOROUGHLY mixing it in the soil, and allowing it to sit several weeks early in the season to allow it to mellow in and be eaten by worms, etc. But it is more mulch than compost......UGH...
I have tried layering to eyeball the ratio of C/N, then stirring it...I have been trying to add as much soil to it as possible. I have combined unfinished piles to make it larger, then added "Dirty fishtank water" to it as a source of moisture and nitrogen, still, not much heat.
I aerate, turn, stir, vent.....Usually, when I do a "build in one day pile", it heats...( I can't find a compost thermometer locally...Lowe's and Home Depot don't carry them) But I have a metal pipe in the center, and when you pull it out it is not only steaming, but it is hot enough to almost burn you...which I know is over 140......But once it cools it is done.
I would rather not buy activators, but if there was something that I might already have access to, I could add to the pile when I turn it, or perhaps I should build two piles in a day and combine them at turning time, with additional nitrogen and nutrients???


Please, shoot me a few links to your "for dummies" section on hot compost (FH) I have the time and willingness to turn the pile from bin to bin, and haul it all over if needed! I collect bagged leaves in my neighborhood to assure plenty of browns in summer, I have TONS of weeds....a .5 acre backyard full of greens in summer, and a pretty large potager style raised bed garden with a 3 cu. yard area for leaf collection and shredding......I can do this...I just need help reheating and getting "finished" compost! I have read all sorts of things....the only main suggestion that sticks out to me is nitrogen, I can't think of anything else that would prevent the reheat.....Let me know what you all think....
Thanks in advance!
:mrgreen:


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 Post subject: Re: Compst Advise
PostPosted: Tue Apr 07, 2009 7:50 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 01, 2009 7:47 am
Posts: 8
Location: Burleson, TX
As much as you told us , you left alot out. But let me say I never use any fresh wood chips. I have them in a pile of their own till they they get black and crumbley. Than use them. Saw dust is alot quicker. Dry leaves take a while sometimes, but it just sounds like your pileneeds a little more umff. I use a lot of horse or dary cow in mine and make sure it has plenty of fuel to make heat, bring it up to 150 deg F till it cools to 100 than turn it and it should heat back up. If it does not your green/brown may need more nitrogen. Horse manure works for me. Sometimes it takes time if you have a large pile. I dint use bins, and turn mine with a tractor.....
Paul


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 Post subject: Re: Compst Advise
PostPosted: Wed Apr 08, 2009 7:32 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 12:17 pm
Posts: 44
Location: wilmington,nc
I have good results (good heat) when I add some cottonseed meal and drench with a strong fish emulsion and liquid molasses mixture with a large watering can. I've had the same problem with my horse manure/bedding mix. When I got it it had a lot of bedding (ground up wood chips) in it and would only heat up after I started adding more nitrogen/protein stuff to it.
good luck


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 Post subject: Re: Compost Advise
PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2009 8:10 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:01 am
Posts: 2
I know that got sort of long, but I had made SEVERAL piles last year and the reheat frustration was a constant, no matter how hot the pile was the first build.
As for my wood chips, they were by NO MEANS fresh!! They were as you described, brown and crumbly, I would say that it was more like 10 % wormcasting, 88% really spongy, seasoned chips, and 2 % actual worms! But that was not the entirety of the pile, that time around, I used weeds and grass clippings, etc. and other organic waste. I knew when I built it that it was not going to be a huge success, but I am trying to learn why ..... as well as how to do it right.
Honestly, I have been thinking about trying to acquire some horse manure/bedding from a friend's dad who owns some animals, but at this point, the only option is loading and unloading by hand, into a trailer..and back out..which is exactly what I think I may do. It has only been the gas to haul it that has stopped me up until now.
....I would love to be able to do this without outside input...(like buying molasses, or dog food for the pile instead of the dog )
I guess i was wondering what is lacking in the process from the time I turn the pile, that is being replaced when adding those amendments to the compost??
I have no "farm" equiptment, except that which every farmer has, two hands, two feet and determination....and a willingness to learn. If you guys get the results I need (using extra stuff), then I will try it...but I am on a tight budget as far as this goes. So finding ways to reheat (like the fish aquarium water) are easier on the wallet....

I have grass ready to mow and a stock pile of leaves (shredded and wet) waiting to be compost and soil as well...weeds and all.....If I pile this up...I could get "something" but what do I need to do to get a really good compost from this? I definitely need Umff!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Compst Advise
PostPosted: Fri Apr 10, 2009 9:20 am 
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Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 12:17 pm
Posts: 44
Location: wilmington,nc
how big are your piles and how moist? I've read about using dog food too, but in my opinion there is too much garbage and toxic material in most commercial dog food, EQ BHA and such. You can probably get some good compost material from a produce market or grocery store. They throw away a bunch of goodies for your compost pile.


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 Post subject: Re: Compst Advise
PostPosted: Sat Apr 11, 2009 10:03 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 17, 2009 2:29 pm
Posts: 14
Location: Colorado Springs, CO
Time....patience.....and, perhaps, a little more time. I am pleased to see that you are employing a 3-stage compost bin approach, yes ? Oldest, younger, youngest.

At some point in time you know that you STOP adding any new material to the oldest pile. There are "activators" out there which can get things cranking again. You need to feed the microbes, and make them happy and re-productive. Dry molasses, cottonseed meal, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, blood meal are all options. Use the first with any one (or two) of the four. Are you adding coffee grinds, eggshells, corn meal ? Are you tossing in canteloupe "flesh" as a treat now and then ?

Did I miss your mentioning ?......of water being applied regularly, and deep ? Open up the pile, let air and water in. Damp and moist, good. Soggy and saturated, bad. Dry and parched, bad. Are you directly introducing some compost/manure/earth worms into the lower levels of all piles ? Let them help you get this job done sooner ?

Time.....patience.....and a little more time. Too much expectation for instant (well, o.k., not instant) gratification.

Hang in there, you can do it.


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