Gardening: Calling all Composters!

Sep 04 2011 Published by under Uncategorized

Ok Friends, I need your help.   I was planting seeds yesterday, and in the process discovered the compost I thought I had so carefully mixed into the soil had not broken down much at all.  All there was were big, dry clumps of partially digested grass and hay, not the rich black crumbles I was looking for.

Right now, I have a compost bin where I layer used chicken hay, lawn clippings, and kitchen scraps.  I toss it in willy-nilly, and spray it with a hose when I'm around.  It isn't very scientific, and that's probably why I have such poor results.

I'd like to level up in the compost department.  Does anyone have any composting success stories to share?  The least labor intensive method will be the best for me, as the weakest link in my composting game has always been heavy lifting.  I am curious to hear and eager to adopt strategies from real folks who've figured a good system out.

I look forward to hearing from you!  If there is a suggestion that I think I can pull off, we'll put it into action and document the project.  Thanks in advance, and I look forward to seeing what happens!

14 responses so far

  • pinus says:

    how long are you letting it compost? if you are just tossing stuff in, best to wait 2-3 years for it all to breakdown. at least that is what I do, and it works. you may need more nitrogen as well.

    • suburbanstoneage says:

      Hmmm. You may have hit on a good point. I was waiting about 4 months and expecting it to be all done. I'm not adverse to waiting 2-3 years, but if I want compost faster I think I need to either adjust my expectations, my methods, or both. I am also getting multiple votes for more nitrogen, so I think you're right about that too. Thanks so much for your help!

  • Marie says:

    I'm a lazy composter, so I do pretty much exactly what you do. And, like pinus said, I wait longer - but only a year or so. If you want it to compost faster, I think you'll have to mix it up with a pitchfork once a week or so.

  • Zuska says:

    I am a lazy composter. I think giving it a good stir every so often is important. If you don't have one of those tumbler composters, you gotta stir it. I just use a shovel. Having two piles is helpful. At some point you stop adding new stuff to pile #1 & let it go to town, with watering & stirring, while starting pile #2.

    • suburbanstoneage says:

      I am really warming up to the two pile idea. I haven't stirred as often as I know I should because my little compost house is small and hard to deal with. This discourages me from working with it. If I had two piles going, and a lot more room to work, like you say, I could be adding to one while the other ages.

  • TheGrinch says:

    Worms! Have you put in any earthworms? If it is a rotating stand-alone bin, worms from earth will have no access to it, and they do speed up composting. But yeah, four months might too short. My composting methods are similar to yours— add kitchen scraps, put in dry leaves till the bin is full, mix well every weekend, and add water if it is too dry.

    • suburbanstoneage says:

      Regarding worms, so you just dump them in the pile and walk away? Or do you need a special worm farm thingy? If you dump them in the pile, will they wander? Or stay near the food? Do you have a good source for worms or can I inoculate with the worms from my main garden? Thanks! I love the worm idea, I just want to make sure I take good care of them.

      • TheGrinch says:

        Yup, just dump them in the pile and they will stay there happily munching on the what you have. Worms from your garden will be ok too, or you can always buy them if you need more.

  • seth says:

    The golden fluid male origin adds nitrogen and sPEEds up the process and it's organic .

    • suburbanstoneage says:

      I have a whole flock of males at home who, I'm sure, would pee happy to contribute to my project. 🙂

  • e sam says:

    I would classify myself as a semi-energetic composter - so you may want to avoid my system if you wish to keep your 'lazy' moniker. I have usable compost (non-smelly) in 3-4 months but I tend to use the bulk of it at the beginning of every new growing season.

    I have a 2-stage system - my primary composter is one of those black plastic drums on a roller with a modest capacity (~40l) and my secondary is just a home built 3' tall box-type 3' x 3' angled wooden slats. I have adopted my system to combat the intense interest my compost attracts by the neighbouring forest animals.

    Into my primary goes a mix of kitchen scraps and dried leaves and bark (always a ready supply for me). Since I visit the composter at least once every couple of days, I add the latest contribution and roll it so that the compost is always well mixed. The higher heat generated in my primary breaks the material down quickly enough such that after 2-3 weeks, I am able to transfer it to my secondary composter. I make a hole in the material in the secondary and fill it with the primary mix, mix it a little to aerate, then cover it over with the older mature (non-smelly) compost. This step is somewhat messy, but by then the animals don't want to touch my compost. I repeat this step about every 3 weeks throughout my composting season (for me from May to early November).

  • D. C. Sessions says:

    We're doing OK in the composting department. Here's what works for us:

    1) Use a couple of panels of remesh connected edge-to-edge to make an upright mesh cylinder.

    2) Break down what you put in it; we use a shredder.

    3) We use wood-stove pellet fuel for kitty litter. Remove nuggets, compost the wet sawdust. Awesome, and since one of the "kitties" is part serval, rodents stay far, far away.

    4) When the pile is full (takes a few months depending on time of year) and packed down, top it with a layer of newsprint and maybe 5 cm of dirt. When planting season comes around, put your tender seedlings in the top and run a drip line to them.

    5) End of season, the whole pile will have collapsed by half.

    6) We uses a sifter made of three discarded bicycle wheels (the local bicycle shops will give you wheels with the spoke holes stripped) covered with a cylinder of mesh. It sits in a frame with casters arranged so that its axis is gently sloped and can turn by hand.

    7) Break down the pile. The center is black and crumbly, the outside is dry and not particularly decomposed. Run the stuff in the center through the sifter; the crumbly stuff falls through into a wheelbarrow, the stuff that needs more time goes straight.

    8) Use the outside and the stuff that needs more time to start another pile.

    The decomposition keeps the seedlings warm in the early season, the drip line makes them happy, and their roots have the most luscious organic deep stuff to grow into. Meanwhile, the water keeps the compost from drying out.

    This year we've been growing tomatoes in ours, and they've been bearing right through a record-hot Phoenix summer.

  • Marianne says:

    Some great ideas. Never had much luck with composting, always thought it was lack of patience on my part. Will try some of these ideas! Thanks