Ask a Question forum: keeping a compost heap airy

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Name: david sevitt
jerusalem israel
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davidsevit
Apr 22, 2015 2:23 AM CST
since my last compost heap was water-lagged i am trying this time to keep it airy.
iput newspapers in it to keep the balance of wet-dry.
but i think this time i should put in "spacers"-for example dry twigs.i was concerned before that thick things would not decompose ....now i am more concerned(after alot of help from Rick) to keep it airy.
for example if i put in small amounts of styrofoam it is good in its spacing role but then what to do with when the year is over?
how about pine-cones (bulky but organic)
stones?rocks?big branches?broken plastick toys to be sieved afterwards?does the pile have to be homogenic in its texture so the whatever is inside can move around?
Name: Jean
Prairieville, LA (Zone 9a)
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Moonhowl
Apr 22, 2015 2:14 PM CST
Hi David,
Depending on the size of your compost heap, dead /dry leaves and a shovel or pitchfork will do the trick. If the compost heap is fairly small, simply turning the contents with a shovel/fork will keeps things aired. If it is a closed barrel or drum, tipping and rolling the drum will work. If you are adding newspaper, it is best to tear it into strips rather than just heaping the paper in as the strips mix more easily. We use a shredder for personal papers and add them to the compost also.

If the compost is kept in a barrel with an open bottom, you might consider a second barrel or bin and move the compost between them to keep it aerated.

Name: Jay
Nederland, Texas (Zone 9a)
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Horntoad
Apr 22, 2015 2:38 PM CST
You a balance of carbon/nitrogen not wet/dry. The entire pile should be moist not wet. I would not add any inorganic material like rocks and styrofoam to it. Like Jean said you want to use newspaper be sure to tear it up or run through a paper shredder and mix it in real well. Wet newspaper tends to mat up and doesn't decompose well if is just thrown in all together.
To me the best way to keep it aerated is just to turn with a shovel/pitchfork or if the pile is to large use an aerating to like this.


Yard Butler ICA-36 Compost Aerator
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Name: Evan
Pioneer Valley south, MA, USA (Zone 6a)
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eclayne
Apr 22, 2015 7:15 PM CST

Plants Admin

I always add branches to the compost heap, some small, some fairly large, 3-5" dia.
Evan
Name: david sevitt
jerusalem israel
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davidsevit
Apr 23, 2015 11:44 AM CST
Moonhowl said:Hi David,
Depending on the size of your compost heap, dead /dry leaves and a shovel or pitchfork will do the trick. If the compost heap is fairly small, simply turning the contents with a shovel/fork will keeps things aired. If it is a closed barrel or drum, tipping and rolling the drum will work. If you are adding newspaper, it is best to tear it into strips rather than just heaping the paper in as the strips mix more easily. We use a shredder for personal papers and add them to the compost also.

If the compost is kept in a barrel with an open bottom, you might consider a second barrel or bin and move the compost between them to keep it aerated.

my heap is 1\1\1 meter now it is very soggy so i poked holes for air.it is very heavy to turn to lift
i was told to put sheets of newspaper to stop the flying bugs yeh but it does not decompose quickly

Name: david sevitt
jerusalem israel
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davidsevit
Apr 23, 2015 11:47 AM CST
Horntoad said:You a balance of carbon/nitrogen not wet/dry. The entire pile should be moist not wet. I would not add any inorganic material like rocks and styrofoam to it. Like Jean said you want to use newspaper be sure to tear it up or run through a paper shredder and mix it in real well. Wet newspaper tends to mat up and doesn't decompose well if is just thrown in all together.
To me the best way to keep it aerated is just to turn with a shovel/pitchfork or if the pile is to large use an aerating to like this.


Yard Butler ICA-36 Compost Aerator

thank you i will tearup the paper as i said the heap now is sogy and heavy but sinceit is the end of april i am waiting for hot weather soon
Name: david sevitt
jerusalem israel
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davidsevit
Apr 23, 2015 11:48 AM CST
i will add twigs and branches
thank you
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Apr 23, 2015 6:37 PM CST
I agree about NOT using Styrofoam, other plastics or rocks. Plastics can break down and let soluble chemicals leach out.

Thin twigs are great. I usually have some green stems that are stiff enough to help preserve air channels if I turn or even just "fork it" a bit.

I can also push a long-bladed trenching spade ("Sharpshooter spade"?) in all the way (around 16") and then lever the spade up and down to create gaps.

Since you keep saying "soggy", and that usually means very anaerobic, I would urge you to drape something loosely OVER the pile to make the rain run off. You don't want to wrap the heap in plastic - that would keep air out all by itself. Something more like a tent with open ends would be good.

If your rainy season will be over soon, that's another way to change it from a nasty fermenting mess to an aerobic COMPOSTING heap. Just be sure, once it gets dry enough to be CAPABLE of becoming aerobic, to poke holes or turn it once to break it up. And it has to stay damp enough in the dry season that "good" fungus species can thrive and EAT the bad, anerobic organisms that have taken over.

And, once it is draining and aerated, any water that flushes through the pile and EXITS will flush away most of the toxins.

That bin is as gorgeous as your beds! I think you made a great-looking garden even before you got the plants planted.
Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Apr 23, 2015 9:41 PM CST
Do you have access to straw? Some of our best compost heaps contained the used straw bedding from the rabbit hutches. Each piece of straw is a hollow tube and provided good air circulation. We did the layers of brown (leaves and straw), green (garden trimmings), adding a shovel full of manure and a handful of native soil with each layer. We usually let nature water the compost and turned it often. Ours was a 3-bin type. We didn't use newspapers or sticks/branches because we learned from experience that made it too hard to turn.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: david sevitt
jerusalem israel
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davidsevit
Apr 23, 2015 10:53 PM CST
greene said:Do you have access to straw? Some of our best compost heaps contained the used straw bedding from the rabbit hutches. Each piece of straw is a hollow tube and provided good air circulation. We did the layers of brown (leaves and straw), green (garden trimmings), adding a shovel full of manure and a handful of native soil with each layer. We usually let nature water the compost and turned it often. Ours was a 3-bin type. We didn't use newspapers or sticks/branches because we learned from experience that made it too hard to turn.


thank you for your advice i will look for straw
Name: Michele Roth
N.E. Indiana - Zone 5b
I'm always on my way out the door..
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chelle
Apr 24, 2015 7:46 AM CST
This may have been mentioned and I just missed it, but during times of heavy rainfall I temporarily cover my working compost pile. My advice is to use whatever decomposables you have handy, and then try to control the amount of moisture your pile gets at any given time. If it's already too soggy just spread it into smaller piles until it drains and dries a bit. This will slow the composting process, but it will pick right back up once it's re-stacked.

Once you get a pile up and going and you're using from it, you'll see that the process is easier than it first appears. Here's mine now. It's early spring here, so I've used from the center (most finished) area to begin feeding my plants. The center isn't filled back in yet because it isn't necessary; we're still just a bit too cold for the composting process to begin again yet this season. Having the center open while using from it lets any early rain (or snow-melt) drain away very well. Once I've used all that's ready, I'll re-stack what's left over. By that time the heavy spring rains will no longer be of too much concern, but if we do get a long spell of it, I'll cover the pile until it quits. Smiling



Thumb of 2015-04-24/chelle/0afd13

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Name: Greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
Rabbit Keeper Critters Allowed Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier Garden Ideas: Master Level Garden Sages
Herbs Region: Georgia Region: United States of America Native Plants and Wildflowers Dog Lover Composter
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greene
Apr 24, 2015 8:07 AM CST
I should probably show you my compost since I spent half the morning sifting out the finished compost. On the left is a container of sifted compost, on the right is the stuff that needs to go back for a second round of decomposition. The black plastic compost bin in flat on the ground to be cleaned and reassembled.
Thumb of 2015-04-24/greene/789385

Here you can see the hardware cloth used to sift, the plastic tray is just used to support the hardware cloth because I am too lazy to build a proper framed sifter. *Blush* You can also see the finished compost.
Thumb of 2015-04-24/greene/c00122

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Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~~"Leaf of Faith"

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