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<  Composting, Mulch, and Soils  ~  general composting questions

PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 8:46 am
User avatarJoined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:09 pmPosts: 191Location: Little Rock, AR
For a new beginner, what kind of food stuff do you put into a compost pile? Is all vegetables good, how about egg shells. Should you rinse the inside out and take out the lining?



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 10:20 am
User avatarJoined: Tue Jan 24, 2006 9:43 pmPosts: 529Location: Upstate New York
Hey Ginny - All plant/veggie waste (although onions & garlic are less appreciated I think).
NO MEAT, BONES, DAIRY or GREASE. Egg shells are fine, might want to crush first. I like to nukem in the microwave for 30 seconds (makes em more brittle) then squash in my hand or in the extreme, a short trip in the magic bullet (blender) - whole egg shells take forever and a day to break down.

Are you looking to hot compost or cold?
Open heap or compost bin?
Have you considered vermicomposting?

In any case, bone up on yer greens (nitrogen) and browns (carbon) as a good combination of both excites the microbes and speeds the decomposition process. Cold composting (or vermicomposting) is easier, but takes much longer. Hot composting with the right mix of greens and browns is fast, but labor intensive with frequent turning to get fresh oxygen in the heap.
You also need to keep it moist.

That's the basics. Do a google on composting as there's tons of info out there.



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PostPosted: Thu Jun 18, 2009 10:40 am
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
Nuking eggshells, eh? I might have to try that. I always have egg shells when everything else has broken down, but I figure they make the slugs uncomfortable, so I don't worry about them.

Ginny, I tear up egg cartons and put them in with the kitchen scraps, sometimes shredded newspaper too. You can toss in weeds too, but I wouldn't put any in that have gone to seed or that might spread in another way.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 2:28 am
Joined: Wed Apr 30, 2008 4:51 pmPosts: 307Location: Alaska
Hi Ginny
I also nuke egg shells & crush them, great for tomatoes (calcium to help prevent blossom end rot)
All kitchen fruits & veggie scraps. Fresh cut grass clippings, mixed in well, will start it to heat up. I don't add many weeds because the seeds don't all get broke down & sprout when using the compost. Tree leaves, dandelions with no seeds or blooms, just about any part of plants.
Damp but not wet if trying to get it "cooking" (compost term I learned from Breezy)
Just about anything of plants will break down into compost given enough time & speeds up with mixing (air) & adding a little water.



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:58 am
User avatarJoined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:09 pmPosts: 191Location: Little Rock, AR
Abbeysdad wrote:
Hey Ginny - All plant/veggie waste (although onions & garlic are less appreciated I think).
NO MEAT, BONES, DAIRY or GREASE. Egg shells are fine, might want to crush first. I like to nukem in the microwave for 30 seconds (makes em more brittle) then squash in my hand or in the extreme, a short trip in the magic bullet (blender) - whole egg shells take forever and a day to break down.

Are you looking to hot compost or cold?
Open heap or compost bin?
Have you considered vermicomposting?

In any case, bone up on yer greens (nitrogen) and browns (carbon) as a good combination of both excites the microbes and speeds the decomposition process. Cold composting (or vermicomposting) is easier, but takes much longer. Hot composting with the right mix of greens and browns is fast, but labor intensive with frequent turning to get fresh oxygen in the heap.
You also need to keep it moist.

That's the basics. Do a google on composting as there's tons of info out there.


I didn't mention we already have a compost pile but it isn't doing much. I put onions and garlic in my compost. Maybe that is why it isn't. We use grasses for the heat. Worms would be good too. But haven't used them. Mostly my husband tends it. But I'm trying to get up to speed with it too. Since it isn't working, I thought I could put my import into it also. We knew no meats, bones, grease. Maybe I'll have to break down my egg shells as I've been just putting in whole egg shells. I will google as you suggested too. We have an open heap..



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 9:22 am
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 5:35 pmPosts: 162Location: NH zone 4/5
Ginny,
A compost pile may not heat up for a couple of reasons. The most common are

1. Not big enough, four foot wide deep and tall aught to be heating up, less than that maybe yes, maybe no.

2. Too wet, if you can wring water out of a handful, its too wet, add more dry stuph.

3. No greens, "greens" in this aplication is anything rich in nitrogen. Any herbivors poop will do.

Some composters are rabidly impatient. They are reluctant to add any fats/oils citrus. Their right each will to a degree impeed composting. An' I bet they alphabetize their spice rack too.

I'm gonna tell ya, moderation in all things. Your families hair (for instance) brushed off the scalp will not slow a compost any. 6 garbage (yard & leaf) bags full not only will slow composting it will smell like you are trying to compost your mother-in-law. I won't do that again.

If a chicken leg bone gets in the bin mostly no vermin will notice. a couple chickens frost burned from the freezer can draw bear raccoons skunk, opossum and your neighborhood dogs. You may find their attention to your compost bin unwelcome.

I persist in having my compost bin visited by an opossum. s/he has become so habituated to people instead of falling over and playing dead s/he simply sits down and sighs...

The only rat I have had visit a compost bin (in 30+ years of composting) was a white lab rat some one set free. She was caught in a have-a-heart trap and trap and all went into a barrel full of water.



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 9:57 am
User avatarJoined: Tue Jan 24, 2006 9:43 pmPosts: 529Location: Upstate New York
Ginny - Hot composting is almost an art and requires the right amount of greens, browns, moisture and air. And Tomc is right (almost) - you need a volume of about 3'x3' in order to have enough bio-mass to facilitate the 'thermophile bacterial storm'. (although I've had 18g sterlite bins cook when I didn't want them to!)

However, aside from making compost faster, hot compost is a lot of back breaking work cause it will heat up, then the temperature will fall off indicating that the heap needs to be turned to add fresh O2. This will happen about every two days over a two - three week process. That's a lot of work that gets less and less appealing fer us older codgers!
I've gotten around this using my Mantis tiller with straight blades to chop/mix/aerate the heap (then pile it back up)...but it's still WORK (that makes me flinch like Maynard G Krebbs from 'Dobie Gillis').

Cold composting works every bit as well...it just takes longer ... but the race doesn't always go to the swiftest (turtle & hare). With cold composting, you just pile stuff on as it becomes available with little regard to anything other than keeping it moist. In time, you'll have compost every bit as good as it gets.

Verimicomposting is cold composting at it's best...and there is hands down no organic fertilizer better than vermicompost. Create a good worm bedding base (wet cardboard, newspaper, leaves, peat, or coir - in a sterlite bin, compost bin, or outdoor heap) add worms and pile on the waste material (kitchen 'garbage', grass clippings, weeds, leaves...)
Keep it moist and use care not to add too many greens at one time that might heat too much.
In no time you'll have a herd of worms and vermicompost that's even more valuable than regular compost in plant usable nutrients. Use it in mix for plant starting, top dressing fertilizer and/or mixed in with soil pre-planting.

However, in the end....it is all extra WORK. What (I think) we really need to do is get this whole process right IN THE GARDEN where it belongs and stop turning and hauling all this stuff back and forth! What about using much of the grass and weeds as mulch? How about a compost bin (or heap) right IN the garden?
[end rant smiling]

Hey, btw - happy retirement (even tho I have some petty jealousy issues here!)

footnote: Tomc, I can't believe what you did to your neighbors pet rat!



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 10:19 am
User avatarJoined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:09 pmPosts: 191Location: Little Rock, AR
Thanks for all the advice on composting. Yea, it is a lot of work for sure. We don't have any kind of labor saving device such as a tiller. (sigh) It is a lot of work for old coggers...(HA) but keeps us in shape instead of going to a gym. I'll see what we can do to make it a "real" compost pile. I'll have to do more prep inside b4 it goes outside, for starters. And there is a lot of "IN" and "OUT" as it is with anything. And each person has his/her own thoughts/ideas too. So what we gotta do is take all in and come out with what works for "US"

I think, Abbeysdad, from your description of "cold" verse "hot" we have a "cold" since we just pile stuff on. But I must take more steps b4 it goes out to pour it on.

I can relate to Maynard G. Kreebs "work". But it fun "WORK" compared to work you do for employment. And you can do it on your time and hours, if you don't want to do it that day, there is always 2morrow.

I've been retired now 6 months, Dec 2008. And as I look back it doesn't seem like 6 months (ALREADY) but it has. I had so many interest and hobbies I believe that why I felt into it so easy. Others who never develop interest or hobbies when working RETIREMENT can be fearful. Because what do they do with their days NOW that no one (employer) tells them they have to be somewhere. Many people asked me IF I was going to travel. And I been many places in the US and Overseas, so I happy not to do all that. Traveling isn't fun anymore to me. I digress...and so I have found gardening and etc to fill my days. Did I stay on topic (some)



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 10:36 am
User avatarJoined: Tue Jan 24, 2006 9:43 pmPosts: 529Location: Upstate New York
alas, you missed my point. I love working outside...but there's always much to do and only so many hours in the day ... so any "busy work" should be avoided...so, what if super soil enrichment can be done without ANY extra work of turning and hauling compost?
I have an idea....stay tuned.



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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 10:52 am
Joined: Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:02 pmPosts: 1927Location: PNW
The only time i mess with the compost much is in the spring, when I have lots of grass clippings to mix with the leaves from the prior fall. I only mix them once, though, since my back complains and I don't want to push my luck.

I have a couple of small bins that I got from the city and I use them for the kitchen scraps. I'll start filling the 2nd one now and let the first one finish. They never do fill up all the way.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 3:59 pm
User avatarJoined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:09 pmPosts: 191Location: Little Rock, AR
Abbeysdad wrote:
alas, you missed my point. I love working outside...but there's always much to do and only so many hours in the day ... so any "busy work" should be avoided...so, what if super soil enrichment can be done without ANY extra work of turning and hauling compost?
I have an idea....stay tuned.


Yea, I guess I did miss your point (sigh) whoa is me!!! I guess the sun has my brain fried!!!

Let me know where you can buy a remote control to turn and haul the compost from the comfort of your lounge chair. :roll:



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Retirement is the best job I ever had.
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:11 pm
Joined: Mon May 25, 2009 5:24 amPosts: 70
I think AD is trying to tell you that there may be a more efficient (easier) way depending on your situation. There are several ways to compost, just have to keep in mind what you have, how much you have, where you are composting, how fast you need it, etc. He gave a brief run down on a few of the basic methods (that's not all of the ways to compost, but he nailed the primary ones.)

It sounds like you are wanting to hot compost (implied by the complaint the compost pile isn't doing much). Tomc & AD gave a quick run down on that.

Look at what you have in your compost pile & the set up. We can guess at why it might not be breaking down as fast as you would like... but with out clear info.. they are just guesses.
General info... composting is causing, promoting and trying to maintain a microbial, bacterial and fungal explosion to promote rapid decomp.

Key factors : moisture, oxygen, temp, particle size, C:N ratio, location, amount to compost
(the other point they were trying to make is that size matters. The pile is like any environment... the smaller it is the more sensitive it is and more difficult to manage.)

Knowing what is a C vs N is key too. Like grass... fresh it is considered N... dried it becomes C. There are many items listed (what is carbon vs nitrogen) and obscene amounts of composting info on the web.

If you want compost faster... go hot. No matter how you slice it (by tiller, pitchfork, or bobcat) it requires more attention, but that is the dues you pay for speed.

So grab a pitchfork... poke around in the pile and figure out what you have and what is missing. If you don't care how long it takes.... hand pitchfork back to husband. :lol:


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 19, 2009 8:27 pm
Joined: Mon May 25, 2009 5:24 amPosts: 70
Oh.. things not to add... be super careful about what plants you do put in your compost. If the plant is diseased it is best to leave it out unless you know for sure it is not soil born. Noxious weeds that have gone to seed. Unless you are able to hot compost well enough to keep the pile hot enough and for a long enough time frame to kill off the seeds and diseases... don't risk it. Sugary stuff too... yes it composts... but also a big ol' ant magnet.

Coffee grounds, tea bags (no staples), shredded cardboard, shredded newspaper, pine needles, egg cartons, jack-o-lanterns, wood ashes, sawdust (untreated lumber), veggie peelings, (some toss in dryer lint too) etc.

I think it was someone from here that was composting old cotton & linen (silk & hemp would work too) clothes. Not sure... but the visual image of the waistband from underwear stuck on tiller tines had me laughing for quite awhile.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 22, 2009 8:08 am
User avatarJoined: Sat May 30, 2009 8:09 pmPosts: 191Location: Little Rock, AR
I didn't know about the shredded cardboard, shredded newspapers, coffee grounds, egg cartons...

Jerry says he going to dump it out, and start from ground zero. Thanks for all the imput and we will take all and digest it and come up with a plan.



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Retirement is the best job I ever had.
Just another day in PARADISE
From the Short Estate
I'm Ginny of Ginny & Jerry Short
Little Rock, AR USA
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 8:36 pm
Joined: Mon May 25, 2009 5:24 amPosts: 70
Cardboard, coffee grounds, newspapers, egg cartons are all good carbon sources to add. I just looked back over my post and realized my train of thought derailed and missed a few sentences to clarify. :oops:

Just compost over it. No need to dump it. Just remember smaller pieces compost faster. Keep moisture constant, and also oxygenate. If the pile gets stinky... most likely it means you should add more carbon. If it isn't heating up, you probably need nitrogen. The guys gave you the ballpark dimesions that is easier to maintain (the non tumbler way).

Ok, I have to go catch ladybugs now. I think someone released a bunch as every leaf of the aspens has at least one... they are all over the yard... and about 3 dozen have flown into the house.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 23, 2009 9:58 pm
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 5:35 pmPosts: 162Location: NH zone 4/5
In just about every case: if it was alive, it will rot. I would not dump compost in progress.



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PostPosted: Wed Jun 24, 2009 8:35 am
User avatarJoined: Tue Jan 24, 2006 9:43 pmPosts: 529Location: Upstate New York
That's right, no need to dump it out and start over - just keep on a going.



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