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Planet X
Dec 10, 2003

GOOD MORNING

There was chat in the Gardening Thread about composting, which led me to create this thread. Iím not an expert composter by any means, but Iíve been at it for quite some time and believe that I have it down pretty good. Iíll get started on this OP, with some initial detail and if the thread takes off, Iíll add more to it. Iím always happy to promote composting, which keeps biodegradable materials out of our landfills. Feel free to chime in with corrections or advice, your composting setups, tips and so on.

Composting can be done at different scales, so donít feel like you have to have some huge setup to get going.

TL;DR: You need browns (cardboard, leaves) and greens (veggie trimmings, eggshells) in about a 60/40 ratio. Dump these in a pile outside, turn it a few times, wait for it to decompose, then mix it into the soil.

You do have to mind the moisture and air - it can't be too dense and heavy, but has to be moist. Think of a wrung out sponge. If your compost isn't breaking down, it may be that it's too wet, not wet enough, or already broken down. You can layer it like a lasagna (brown / green / brown / green with some dry browns on top to keep it insulated)

I have an auger bit that I got from the hardware store that I attach to a cordless drill and use to mix it up, but I usually mix it up with a hand fork.

There is aerobic and anaerobic composting techniques. I can't speak to them in depth but will add to this OP if needed

Here are a few points about composting that Iíve found based on doing it for a few years:
- It helps to have a small container in your kitchen to collect scraps in before you put them on your pile. I have this one, which is a good size and has a little charcoal filter thing on the top
- Some (many?) municipalities or cities have discounted compost bins for sale. I bought the Free Garden Earth Bin for $20 or so from my city. I think some cities offer the Geobin , which isnít as nice, but it works, especially to collect and store leaves
- Collect leaves in the fall and keep them over winter somewhere so you have a stock of browns to use during the dead of winter and spring
- While you donít need to have a large pile or bin, it takes a square yard of compost for a pile to get hot
- A composting thermometer is useful to gauge pile temp.
- Compost needs air too, and to keep critters out of the bottom, raise it off the ground with a pallet and put some wire mesh on the bottom if it's open.
- You can still compost over winter, but the pile wonít get or stay hot. No worries about this, as the freeze / thaw cycle helps to break things down
- The smaller your greens and browns are, the better. Chop your food up a bit and shred your browns or leaves before you put them in. I simply run my leaf piles over with a lawnmower with a bag attachment

Staging:

Many people do a multi stage setup.
- Stage 1 is where you dump your browns and greens. After this breaks down a little, you put it to
- Stage 2, where you turn it a few times here and there to have it break down more and this goes into
- Stage 3, which is not turned at all, and is essentially settled, finished compost

About my setup:
- I started off using a small roller bin with a base but now have moved to a larger single stage compost bin
- I use my old roller compost bin to house shredded browns like leaves and shredded brown takeout bags
- I have a shredder in my basement that I use to shred brown paper bags and thin pieces of cardboard

Here is my bin:


Another picture that shows I've raised it off the ground with a pallet, and I put wheels on the bottom so I could move it out. I haven't tested this yet as the bin is very heavy right now and the wheels sunk into the damp ground. Maybe itll be easier once I collect some compost and it's not as wet out in the summer. The goal is to be able to roll it out to the middle of the yard so I can collect it onto a tarp and dry it before spreading

Here's a look at the base, and note that I've zip tied some wire mesh to the bottom to let air in and keep critters out!:


Here's my old roller compost bin without the base that I use to store extra browns


Hereís a fun video of an off-grid hostel owner in Maine showing how the shower is heated using a compost pile!


Planet X fucked around with this message at 14:50 on Feb 6, 2021

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CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




compost compost comPOST COMPOST COMPOST

I don't have any good pictures and right now everything has snow on top of it but I have a pretty chonky compost setup going.

I moved into the country this fall and I started a big compost for no-dig gardening. The basis of my compost is yard/kitchen waste, wood chips/sawdust, and coffee grounds from a local cafe. My neighbours give me their leaves and rotten apples and stuff in addition to what I have from my own yard, and I've done some additional scavenging of horse bedding and grass clippings (by the small truckload).

My approach is to create temporary boxes out of pallets and blocks - I lay pallets on their sides, wedge boards/blocks/bricks against them to keep them upright, and fill them up. This gives air flow and lets me open things up for turning when appropriate. The coffee grounds cause the mix to heat up pretty quickly, which I like because it kills weed seeds. Right now I have four of these on the go.

Earth
Nov 6, 2009


College Slice

Planet X posted:

Here are a few points about composting that Iíve found based on doing it for a few years:
- It helps to have a small container in your kitchen to collect scraps in before you put them on your pile. I have this one, which is a good size and has a little charcoal filter thing on the top

I don't have much to add other than do not do the above, it is gross and wastes kitchen counter space. Get a gallon ice cream bucket or a whatever bucket that clicks shut. When cooking stick the composting bits in this bucket and keep it in your freezer. When it fills up take the stuff to your compost. No smell to worry about and there isn't decomposing kitchen scraps on your counter where you prepare food that is so terrible smelling you need a charcoal filter to hide the scent.

As for how I compost, I compost everything except onions, garlic, meat scraps, and dairy. I turn it maybe once a year and I use this to hold the compost: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B003959G9Y/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1. Any paper that cannot be recycled I shred and compost. So napkins, sensitive documents, take out bags that get oil on them I rip out the oil parts to compost and recycle the rest. Once things open back up I want to get some coffee grounds from a local shop to get on top (I don't drink coffee so no natural coffee grounds from me). I've also read I should add amendments for how much paper I'm composting but haven't gotten around to do anything related to that yet.

While I don't have any big trees I do get leaves blown onto my property by the wind. I rake those and then mulch them with the mower and put that onto the compost as well. If I get tiny sticks I'll compost those too. I have a small yard so the above seems to work just fine for now. It's honestly impressive how much stuff gets broken down in the bin. I'll fill it to the brim with shredded leaves and a month later that will be down to half full.

Another lesson learned for people here. At my previous house I added a bunch of walnuts with their casing to my compost. Don't do this. Walnuts produce a natural herbicide and if you add them to your compost it takes a year for it to be useable in your garden. If you have walnuts you can compost them, but do it in a separate pile/bin and each year's walnuts keep separate from the previous years.

kedo
Nov 27, 2007



I'm curious, why no onions or garlic in your compost?

Bi-la kaifa
Feb 4, 2011

Space maggots.



I've been trying a couple methods since we moved into our house this last fall. It came with a composting shed thing that has three compartments for what I think is for turning and eventually just storing the compost. It also came with two of those big black bins. Kinda scared to crack one open and see what's been going on in there.

I also have one of them turning bins that I use for wet cardboard and whatever else I want broken down fast. It's also got red wigglers in there to assist.

The last thing I've been trying out is anaerobic composting, which seems more like pickling to me, but it sure speeds everything up. I put all my kitchen scraps in a big bucket with the juices of the previous bucket in the bottom. Once the bucket is full I seal it with a little airlock thing on top and let it ferment until the next bucket is full. Pour juices into new bucket, and bury what's left in the compost pile. Doesn't take long for it to break down after that. I do it because it's an easy way to limit the amount of time animals can get the scraps. I don't want rats around but I also don't want to throw good organics away when I need good compost for the garden.

Bi-la kaifa fucked around with this message at 17:06 on Feb 6, 2021

Earth
Nov 6, 2009


College Slice

kedo posted:

I'm curious, why no onions or garlic in your compost?

Apparently they can chase away bugs you want to hang around to eat the scraps and poop. Keep in mind this is what I do because I live with a small yard in a higher density living environment. Not a day goes by even in the dead of winter that someone isn't walking by my house. I don't want animals getting into my compost and making a mess, I don't want to make it too stinky and annoy the neighbors. You get the idea.

You should know there are "compost everything" believers. Just YouTube "compost everything" and there are tons of videos. One guy composts chicken carcasses and fish heads, dairy, bread, EVERYTHING. The thing is he lives in the country. If you're going to compost meat/bones, etc. you can attract animals you may not want to attract. If I lived in the country I'd compost everything, but I'd make sure to bury the things I don't want animals getting into.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




Earth posted:

Apparently they can chase away bugs you want to hang around to eat the scraps and poop. Keep in mind this is what I do because I live with a small yard in a higher density living environment. Not a day goes by even in the dead of winter that someone isn't walking by my house. I don't want animals getting into my compost and making a mess, I don't want to make it too stinky and annoy the neighbors. You get the idea.

You should know there are "compost everything" believers. Just YouTube "compost everything" and there are tons of videos. One guy composts chicken carcasses and fish heads, dairy, bread, EVERYTHING. The thing is he lives in the country. If you're going to compost meat/bones, etc. you can attract animals you may not want to attract. If I lived in the country I'd compost everything, but I'd make sure to bury the things I don't want animals getting into.

Oh right that reminds me - I have a heap of beef bones that I dried out in the bbq and smashed up a bit with a sledgehammer sitting around in a pail somewhere. I should bury those in the compost next time I turn it over.

silicone thrills
Jan 9, 2008

Enjoy Nature While It Lasts


Can we talk about vermiposting in here?

I've had a 5 tray worm bin going for about 6 months now. I keep checking the bottom tray hoping that the worms have finished out there and moved on but they're still in there doing what they do. Is there a point that you just say gently caress it, looks good, then skim out the worms and grab that black gold?

Also highly recommend worm bins. They're fascinating. I keep throwing different kinds of things in there to see how long it takes the worms to do their thing. Im pretty sure they will never eat a wine cork at this point.

Planet X
Dec 10, 2003

GOOD MORNING

Earth posted:

I don't have much to add other than do not do the above, it is gross and wastes kitchen counter space. Get a gallon ice cream bucket or a whatever bucket that clicks shut. When cooking stick the composting bits in this bucket and keep it in your freezer. When it fills up take the stuff to your compost. No smell to worry about and there isn't decomposing kitchen scraps on your counter where you prepare food that is so terrible smelling you need a charcoal filter to hide the scent.

I appreciate your perspective, but let me clarify a bit.

The green flip top pail is not necessary, and leaving the kitchen bin on the countertop can use precious counter space. The green bin, IIRC, was an impulse buy by my wife when I started composting as she likes things a bit neat and tidy. However, the green bin ended up working well for me and here's why:

- It fits perfectly under the right side of my sink
- The flip top allows me to open the cabinet, flip the top open and empty coffee grounds or throw a banana peel in there without unsecuring a lid
- I didn't realize how convenient it would be until my wife bought it, but not having to deal with a separate lid is really nice, especially since we eat a lot of veggies and have tea and coffee during the week
- The "carbon" filter is really just a piece of foam rubber, so I don't believe it truly filters out funky smells. However, since we eat a lot of veggies and such, the bin gets (half) full quickly and it's easy for me to just grab by the handle and take out - since I take it out weekly, it never really stinks. It's an easy rinse in the sink with a brush and a dollop of soap every once in a while.

Whatever works for folks. The freezer idea is a good one

Earth posted:

Once things open back up I want to get some coffee grounds from a local shop to get on top (I don't drink coffee so no natural coffee grounds from me). I've also read I should add amendments for how much paper I'm composting but haven't gotten around to do anything related to that yet.

I was at our local coffee roaster getting some coffee a few weeks ago, and they had a large free bag of coffee bean husk - which is a byproduct of roasting - available to take for free for composting, so I did. Next time you're in the coffee shop, maybe ask if they keep the husks around, as they're super light and fluffy and make for great compost filler.

silicone thrills posted:

Can we talk about vermiposting in here?

Absolutely, I just forgot to add it to the OP. I've done this before, although my success has been limited, but that's likely my doing and I'll talk more about that later.

Planet X fucked around with this message at 22:17 on Feb 6, 2021

Planet X
Dec 10, 2003

GOOD MORNING

Also thanks for the replies, the thread is off to a good start.

Bi-la kaifa posted:

I've been trying a couple methods since we moved into our house this last fall. It came with a composting shed thing that has three compartments for what I think is for turning and eventually just storing the compost. It also came with two of those big black bins. Kinda scared to crack one open and see what's been going on in there.

I also have one of them turning bins that I use for wet cardboard and whatever else I want broken down fast. It's also got red wigglers in there to assist

Wow, this has a lot of potential. How do the red wigglers survive over winter, or are you in a warmer zone?

Bi-la kaifa
Feb 4, 2011

Space maggots.



I'm in 8b, so it's more of a late fall sliding in to an early spring. Worms aren't very active through the colder months but they're still there! It's kind of dumb though because I can't imagine ever getting a useable amount of substrate out of those tumblers

Veritek83
Jul 7, 2008

The Irish can't drink. What you always have to remember with the Irish is they get mean. Virtually every Irish I've known gets mean when he drinks.


Ah, sweet. I'm in 7a and started gardening last spring. At some point the 5 gallon bucket I kept by my back door to dump fruit and veggie scraps in didn't seem sufficient, so I went to my nearest grocery store and asked to get an empty watermelon box.



At some point I started getting a lot of fly and maggot activity, even though I wasn't putting in meat or bones. Once the fall came around and I pulled up most of the remains of my garden I decided to cobble together something a little bit more permanent. The front bit isn't fully attached, so I can just pull it off to turn it.



(this was right after I built it and transferred everything over)

Most of the leaves from my yard made it in and it's pretty thoroughly broken down. I figure I'll start a smaller secondary pile in the next few weeks and use the older batch to start my garden beds in a couple months. I'll snap a picture of the current status in the next couple day

Planet X
Dec 10, 2003

GOOD MORNING

Veritek83 posted:

At some point I started getting a lot of fly and maggot activity, even though I wasn't putting in meat or bones.

If they're large, they may be solider fly larvae, which are completely natural and common in compost, from what I understand. If they're tiny housefly maggots, I'd be surprised, I've never seen those in my compost. The large soldier fly larvae definitely freaked me out the first time I started composting. Lots of dried up ones in mine.

Hexigrammus
May 22, 2006

Cheech Wizard stories are clean, wholesome, reflective truths that go great with the marijuana munchies and a blow job.


Charles Dowding has a new video on composting posted.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s71f18ila1c


If you have access to horse manure you should probably be aware of the problem he mentions of aminopyralid weed killer in horse hay.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7vr-GlzuZs

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D1idnMNKng


This might explain some problems we've had with lack of germination and stunting in certain beds. Need to do some more testing to be sure but whatever, a hearty to Dow Chemicals.

kicks forts
Feb 19, 2006

cheers

An airgap with mesh is good but you might benefit from adding red/tiger worms (I think you can get them from bait shops) to the heap as they are powerful composters and the primary ingredient in worm bins.

They do not live in soil but travel on ground looking for decomposing matter. They may make it in up and over a pallet in wet weather but they are worth adding and can be mixed back in to new bins by adding handfuls of old compost.


Edit- And regarding manure, I was taught to be very wary unless you know what's going on at the farm.

kicks forts fucked around with this message at 07:23 on Feb 8, 2021

His Divine Shadow
Aug 7, 2000

I'm not a fascist. I'm a priest. Fascists dress up in black and tell people what to do.


Our aerobic composter is kinda poo poo, it's basically frozen now in winter, insulation is not as good as it needs to be. I think a rotary one would be best, so you rotate it on occasion to aerate it.

We empty it and toss it in a heap behind the house where it can compost further.

crazyvanman
Dec 31, 2010


Here's a quick summary of a cool and productive method I've used for getting rid of cat and dog poo poo in a small, urban garden. We live with three cats and one dog - the dog is a big dog who does big shits, and one of the cats refuses to leave the house (she was an 'indoor cat' previously, before she lived with us). The litter we use is made out of old recycled newspapers, so it's biodegradable. Obviously this is all highly dangerous and toxic stuff, so we don't apply it directly.

Instead, I've built a poogelkultur bed. Hugelkultur is definitely something it would be interesting to discuss here, but basically I don't have enough space or enough wood to do it on a larger scale. What we did have, however, was a large composting bin full of rotting cat and dog poo poo that needed emptying, and the desire to do it in a way that contributed something. As it happened, my neighbour had a load of old wood piled up behind his shed, mostly just scraps of cut branches etc. that had sat there for some time.

The process was super-stinky but also super-fun. It was a bit like building a wall, because I was alternating between layers of piled up wood, filling in the gaps with this stodgy, well-rotted, worm-filled cat/dog poo. I patted this all in with the spade and then repeated, finally covering over with enough soil that the wood was buried and it didn't stink.

After a few initial waterings, I just put some spare chard plants in (not to eat, we just happened to have them spare and it's easy to spot whether they are healthy and growing) and they flourished without watering or any input from me.

If I were to expand this experiment I'd use it for as many non-edible features of the garden as possible. Like all hugelkultur it seems to have good potential for locking up stuff underground but also producing fertile, self-watering beds. It could potentially make really good flowerbeds for attracting beneficial bugs. Mostly, though, it was just a good way to get rid of an unwanted and potentially dangerous by-product.

crazyvanman
Dec 31, 2010


I'm currently listening to this podcast episode on Bokashi composting: https://www.thepermaculturepodcast.com/2020/reducing-food-waste-an-introduction-to-bokashi-matt-arthur/

It sounds interesting and maybe more suitable for a small, homescale system of composting. It's anaerobic composting that takes place in an airtight composting bin. Does anyone have any experience with this? In the episode he also explains some of the issues with aerobic compost (most relevant for me was that he says for it to get 'hot', you need 1 cubic yard of waste which is difficult to achieve on a smaller scale).

Earth
Nov 6, 2009


College Slice

Just so everyone knows if youíre going to compost sweet potato vines you might want to chop them up in a mower before putting them in. My vines are why Iím not using any of my compost this year. Going to wait till next year to put it in my beds.

kedo
Nov 27, 2007



In other news, you're going to have a bumper sweet potato crop this year...

Fozzy The Bear
Sep 27, 2009


Earth posted:

Just so everyone knows if youíre going to compost sweet potato vines you might want to chop them up in a mower before putting them in. My vines are why Iím not using any of my compost this year. Going to wait till next year to put it in my beds.

Good call, that goes with a few different plants if you aren't able to get your compost really hot. I often have tomato and squash seeds germinating in my compost.

SpannerX
Apr 26, 2010

I had a beer with Stephen Harper once and now I like him.



Fun Shoe

I'm going to set up a three bin composting area in my yard with pallets this year. Plus a separate wire bin for leaves that I'll collect at the end of the year. I do have a small green belt behind my house that I just might get what will mostly be leaf mold to get things kick started with my old composting set up, one of those black bin jobs.

CommonShore
Jun 6, 2014

A true renaissance man




Everything has thawed enough that I was able to go break apart, stir, and aerate my compost heaps for the first time since freezeover. I'm hoping that the hundreds of pounds of spent coffee grounds kickstart some hot composting and keep everything moving from here on out.

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


We have an 18-gallon tumbler for making compost on our balcony (we garden in a tent in a condo; I periodically gush about it in the gardening thread). We fill the tumbler with a combination of kitchen fruit/veggie scraps, egg shells, spent determinate plants, cardboard shipping boxes, and trash bags of dry leaves that the groundskeepers saved for us last (they're staying bone dry on the balcony, with ventilation holes poked in the bag). While 18 gallons probably isn't enough volume to produce a ton of its own heat, we happen to live in Las Vegas, so it works rapidly once it's 100 degrees out, even if we progressively add material instead of doing a whole batch at once.

That said, we did have an interloper problem, with hundreds of pepper seeds surviving in some otherwise "done-looking" compost, and they popped up left and right in the garden. I was weeding a dozen of them everyday for weeks (weeding an indoor container garden felt silly), and it was neat to see how long some of them had to grow before they emerged, with up to 5 inches of stem pushing its way upward from tiny roots before finally emerging. I kinda felt bad pulling those ones; they worked so hard!! We transplanted one of the interlopers and it grew into a cute little pepper bush, which we keep on the balcony.

Planet X
Dec 10, 2003

GOOD MORNING

It was warmer and sunny this weekend (7a) and I was really happy to pop open the compost bin, get a puff of steam when I turned over the top, and there be a (hottest) temp reading of 105. That's not bad as chilly as it's been still.

I want to invest in a small electric yard mulcher / grinder so I don't have to sift so much by hand. I was thinking to dry it out and run it through a mulcher before I spread it so I don't have seeds and chunks and stuff. I always seem to get avocado pits, corn cobs and pumpkin seeds in my finished stuff.

Hexigrammus
May 22, 2006

Cheech Wizard stories are clean, wholesome, reflective truths that go great with the marijuana munchies and a blow job.


You'd definitely need to dry it out first, small shredders will choke on a shovelful of wet material. or green tomato or corn stalks.

Squash seeds need to be roasted in the oven before going into the compost. I deeply regret having to learn this lesson.

Planet X
Dec 10, 2003

GOOD MORNING

It's warming up! I took my auger tool and aerated the pile. It had some thick, moist layers that needed to be brought up to the top and mixed in. Threw in a handful of Espoma starter, and I'm at an active temp now.

SpannerX
Apr 26, 2010

I had a beer with Stephen Harper once and now I like him.



Fun Shoe

Planet X posted:

It's warming up! I took my auger tool and aerated the pile. It had some thick, moist layers that needed to be brought up to the top and mixed in. Threw in a handful of Espoma starter, and I'm at an active temp now.



How much material do you have? I've put my 5 pallets together to get two bins (going to use my old black round one for storage when it's don) and I've got a way to go till I get the yard square they say you need to really get it going, but I'm getting there. I should get one of those thermometers.

Shine
Feb 26, 2007

No Muscles For The Majority


Now that it's heating up, our little spinner should work quickly once more. It breaks down our little batches within a couple weeks when it's 100+ outside.

Planet X
Dec 10, 2003

GOOD MORNING

SpannerX posted:

How much material do you have? I've put my 5 pallets together to get two bins (going to use my old black round one for storage when it's don) and I've got a way to go till I get the yard square they say you need to really get it going, but I'm getting there. I should get one of those thermometers.

I definitely do not have anywhere close to a square yard. I've got roughly a 32 gallon trash can's worth, I'd say, in a standard city-issue bin. Notice that the temp of my pile is "active", not "hot". Like you, I'm also under the impression that one must have roughly a square yard of material for it to get hot, but with some attention, you should be able to get it to active

The thermometer helps for sure and is a long-stemmed composting thermometer that was well worth the $25 or so.

I think the compost activator enzyme helped get it to where it is. It's not necessary, but I wanted to see if I could kickstart my compost with that and a good aeration, and it seemed to work. Helped, of course, that it's warming up (Zone 7) here. One thing I do is shred all of my brown paper so it's nice and fluffy and has plenty of surface area to mix in the greens to break them down.

I too am going to use my old round bin for storing finished compost.

Shine posted:

Now that it's heating up, our little spinner should work quickly once more. It breaks down our little batches within a couple weeks when it's 100+ outside.

Nice. I'd be surprised if you get more seedlings out of it with it getting that hot, but you never know!

Planet X
Dec 10, 2003

GOOD MORNING

Also I would love to see pictures of goon composting setups

SpannerX
Apr 26, 2010

I had a beer with Stephen Harper once and now I like him.



Fun Shoe

Planet X posted:

Also I would love to see pictures of goon composting setups

Mine 8s pretty ugly, it's just scavenged pallets slapped together, but I'm going to hunt down more for a more permanent set up over the course 9f the next year or so. One of the pallets is super heavy duty hard wood, the rest are crap, but it'll work for a while.

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Bi-la kaifa
Feb 4, 2011

Space maggots.



I turned mine a little while ago and it always amazes me how big those worms get. Big, meaty bastards. Truly blessed. I left a couple shovel fulls of the older stuff in the "in" bin so they can go after the new stuff without too much trouble. I've decided to let the old stuff sit under some straw over the summer before I put it in the "out' spot

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