Keep Compost Aerobic: Rescuing stinky compost

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Keep Compost Aerobic

By Anderwood
February 10, 2015

Once a compost pile goes anaerobic, it is toxic to plants.

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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Feb 9, 2015 6:48 PM CST
I agree that a compost heap that becomes anaerobic is unsuitable for mixing into soil or spreading near plants. I guess I wouldn't have worried much about using it to top-dress subsoil I was rescuing, but you convinced me not to do that, either.

The anaerobic fermentation products (organic acids and even alcohol and ketones) are very toxic when concentrated, and the bacteria that produce them are wasteful of the organic raw materials.

But I always thought that you could "rescue" a stinky heap by aerating it - turn it, add brushy stuff to hold air channels open and let it dry out.

At worst, I thought you could treat the whole stinky mass as a "green" ingredient and mix it with a lot of browns, hopefully chunky browns that would "fluff up" the mix and let air in.

Once the pile is forced back to the aerobic side of The Force, won't the toxins be digested as food for the beneficial microbes, consumed and de-toxified?

Even in an advanced case, wouldn't diluting them and letting rain leach them out bring the pH back into a range where aerobic microbes can thrive?

I know that "healthy" compost heaps work by one wave of microbes eating the raw materials, and then another wave of microbes consumes the first wave. I've assumed that the same process would eventually digest the toxins and anaerobic microbes.

But I'm willing to learn otherwise.

(I have so few sources of raw ingredients that "giving up on" a pile would never enter my mind. Except for the heap that seems to be 50% weed seeds. )




Name: Reid
North Branch, MN (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Anderwood
Feb 9, 2015 10:30 PM CST
I would think that you can rescue a pile once it goes anaerobic. I wouldn't see a problem adding this as a top dressing.

Thanks for your thoughts Rick!
Name: Terese
Central Florida, zone9b (Zone 9b)
Wisconsin Dells Area, zone4
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Butterflies Cat Lover Bee Lover
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tcs1366
Feb 10, 2015 7:08 AM CST
is spent coffee grounds considered green or brown?

I really do not have a lot of "fall leaves" nor grass clippings as we have a company that does our lawn - and really this time of the year, the grass is not growing much.

Is there a place / site where I can find a list of Greens and Browns?

I have a tumbler where I make my compost and tea.

TIA,

Terese
Terese --Leesburg, FL & Lake Delton, Wi

Name: Glenn
Chippewa, PA (Zone 6a)
Region: Pennsylvania Organic Gardener Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Composter Garden Ideas: Level 1
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vbprog
Feb 10, 2015 9:10 AM CST
tcs1366 said:is spent coffee grounds considered green or brown?


Spent coffee grounds are high in nitrogen, and are therefore the green.

If you don't lose some plants to the weather this year, you aren't trying hard enough. - Glenn Hasulak
Name: Linda
SE Houston, Tx. (Hobby) (Zone 9a)
"Godspeed, & Good Harvest!"
Region: Texas Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Master Level Canning and food preservation Gardens in Buckets
Tip Photographer Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Ferns
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Gymgirl
Feb 10, 2015 10:48 AM CST
tcs1366 said:is spent coffee grounds considered green or brown?

I really do not have a lot of "fall leaves" nor grass clippings as we have a company that does our lawn - and really this time of the year, the grass is not growing much.

Is there a place / site where I can find a list of Greens and Browns?

I have a tumbler where I make my compost and tea.

TIA,

Terese


Non-glossy shredder paper (preferably confetti shred...) can substitute for leaves. Confetti shred will not mat up like strip-cut shredder paper, which will mat up like a heavy rug!

The colored ink doesn't factor in anymore, since industry changed over to environmentally friendly soy based inks years ago. Shredder paper is a "brown."

I just realized I could put the shredder company out of business at my office building, just by taking home all these bags of excelsior...

Hmmmm.....and those shredder service collections savings could go into my year-end bonus... Glare Glare

[Last edited by Gymgirl - Feb 11, 2015 9:34 AM (+)]
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Name: Linda
SE Houston, Tx. (Hobby) (Zone 9a)
"Godspeed, & Good Harvest!"
Region: Texas Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Master Level Canning and food preservation Gardens in Buckets
Tip Photographer Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Ferns
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Gymgirl
Feb 10, 2015 11:00 AM CST
I agree with Rick, that the anaerobic compost can be rescued, reworked, and rejuvenated to something you can incorporate into the garden.

The smelly, stinky state is due to compression and lack of oxygen. Break it down, layer some branches on the ground, and at several points in between to create oxygen pockets. Add greens (coffee grinds) on top of the branch layers and water it in. Sandwich your leaves/browns inbetween these layers, adequately moisten, and that pile will be cooking (again) in no time.

Then, you can use it... I tip my hat to you.

Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Feb 10, 2015 12:49 PM CST
Anderwood said:I would think that you can rescue a pile once it goes anaerobic. I wouldn't see a problem adding this as a top dressing.

Thanks for your thoughts Rick!


Thanks. I TOTALLY agree with "keep your pile aerobic", and that's the most important point.

P.S. I've read that adding lime to a pile (raising the pH) tends to release ammonia by converting soluble NH4+ to gaseous NH3. Thus trying to neutralize acidic fermentation products with lime would STILL lose some of your nitrogen. Better to toss the pile and get some air into it.

Some people suggest building the pile around a few lengths of rebar or thick PVC pipe, so you can grab them weeks later and HEAVE or "corkscrew" them to re-create air channels.

I haven;t had a pile big enough for that since the late 1960s!



Surprisingly GREEN Pittsburgh (Zone 6a)
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crittergarden
Feb 11, 2015 7:47 AM CST
OK, I NEVER HEARD OF a slimy compost pile.
I HAVE heard that people find composting too complicated or challenging to even bother with.

Luckily, I am almost vegan so I compost a TON of kitchen scraps.
I have a big plastic critterproof bin for that.
And I always add worms when I redistribute them about.

I also have an open air pile for the leaves and trimmings, and I also put used potting soil in that one.
Also worms.

Neither of these compost areas get "slimy".

I'm ok, aren't I?
SHOW ME YOUR CRITTERS! I have a critter page over at Cubits. http://cubits.org/crittergarden/thread/view/73275/
Name: Linda
SE Houston, Tx. (Hobby) (Zone 9a)
"Godspeed, & Good Harvest!"
Region: Texas Vegetable Grower Seed Starter Garden Ideas: Master Level Canning and food preservation Gardens in Buckets
Tip Photographer Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Ferns
Image
Gymgirl
Feb 11, 2015 9:46 AM CST
You're WAY OK, lol!

I requested and RECEIVED a Geobin composter for Christmas. I'm about to order a second (and maybe a third one).

http://www.amazon.com/Presto-Products-GKL0951-6-Geobin-Compo...

I NEVER had a heated compost pile before, and, that wasn't from lack of trying. A week after I filled the Geobin with alternating layers of leaves, coffee grinds and veggie peels, my compost thermometer registered a whopping 120°! Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!

And, I've learned how to heat the pile up (didn't cover my pile before some heavy rains...) WITHOUT turning it! So, I've been PLUGGING the compost bin with coffee grinds! EZ PZ!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=48CVemo_ELM I tip my hat to you.
Surprisingly GREEN Pittsburgh (Zone 6a)
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crittergarden
Feb 11, 2015 3:28 PM CST
cool!
Thanks.
SHOW ME YOUR CRITTERS! I have a critter page over at Cubits. http://cubits.org/crittergarden/thread/view/73275/
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
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RickCorey
Feb 11, 2015 8:41 PM CST
crittergarden said:OK, I NEVER HEARD OF a slimy compost pile.
I HAVE heard that people find composting too complicated or challenging to even bother with.


I think you're a natural composter. All things in balance.

When someone reads the wrong articles and thinks it has to be complicated, I suggest that they "postpone composting" until they feel comfortable with the idea. But in the meanwhile, they can save up leaves and paper and kitchen waste so they will have plenty of ingredients ready when they decide to compost.

Of course it best to save them outdoors.
A big heap is a convenient way to save those things.

The only problem is that it may all turn to compost before they're "ready" to start "composting".


Surprisingly GREEN Pittsburgh (Zone 6a)
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crittergarden
Feb 12, 2015 6:17 AM CST
RickCorey said:

The only problem is that it may all turn to compost before they're "ready" to start "composting".




Rolling on the floor laughing
SHOW ME YOUR CRITTERS! I have a critter page over at Cubits. http://cubits.org/crittergarden/thread/view/73275/

vandamme
Feb 14, 2015 2:35 PM CST
We throw veggie scraps into a plastic 5 gallon bucket and haul to the garden when it gets full. I found that collecting rotten tomatoes and other juicy stuff will start to make the bucket pretty smelly, and thus anaerobic. (There's no problem when I put it in the mulch pile, because it is dry anyhow with brown stuff.) So I have to empty it more often when it's wet. I also peel veggies into a sheet of newspaper then wrap it and throw in the mulch pail; this helps keep it aerated and drier. You'd be surprised how strong a double thickness of wet newspaper can be. Enough to get you out to the mulch pail with it , anyhow.
Name: Reid
North Branch, MN (Zone 4b)
Garden Ideas: Master Level Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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Anderwood
Feb 14, 2015 3:47 PM CST
To quote Lee Reich, "Compost Happens". Nuff said?
Surprisingly GREEN Pittsburgh (Zone 6a)
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crittergarden
Feb 20, 2015 8:44 AM CST
like the newspaper thing.

I keep my scraps in a bag lined "drawer (a large tupperware type thing) in the freezer until that's full and then take it out.
SHOW ME YOUR CRITTERS! I have a critter page over at Cubits. http://cubits.org/crittergarden/thread/view/73275/
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Feb 20, 2015 4:09 PM CST
I was tempted by your freezer method, but I keep compost scraps in old yogurt tubs.

I also keep frozen leftovers in old yogurt tubs.

I already find that I often can't tell one leftover from another until after I've thawed it. I don't want to risk thawing aged scraps for dinner, or throwing dinner into the compost heap.

I minimize the number of trips to the compost heap, determined either by their getting stinky before they dry out, or before company comes to visit.
Surprisingly GREEN Pittsburgh (Zone 6a)
Rabbit Keeper Bee Lover Cat Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Butterflies Hummingbirder
Dog Lover Birds Plant and/or Seed Trader Bulbs Echinacea Irises
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crittergarden
Feb 20, 2015 4:17 PM CST
Hilarious!
Always a gas, Rick, always a gas!
SHOW ME YOUR CRITTERS! I have a critter page over at Cubits. http://cubits.org/crittergarden/thread/view/73275/
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest Photo Contest Winner: 2014 Vegetable Grower
Avid Green Pages Reviewer Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped plan and beta test the plant database. Charter ATP Member
Image
RickCorey
Feb 20, 2015 4:40 PM CST
Hopefully an aerobic gas, not anaerobic.

Surprisingly GREEN Pittsburgh (Zone 6a)
Rabbit Keeper Bee Lover Cat Lover Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Butterflies Hummingbirder
Dog Lover Birds Plant and/or Seed Trader Bulbs Echinacea Irises
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crittergarden
Feb 21, 2015 6:15 AM CST
Yes, "good gas" not bad gas!
SHOW ME YOUR CRITTERS! I have a critter page over at Cubits. http://cubits.org/crittergarden/thread/view/73275/

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