Soil and Compost forum→Compost Observations

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Name: Thomas Mitchell
Central Ohio (Zone 6a)
Composter
Composter
thommesM
Jun 13, 2020 7:19 PM CST
So my I used to be the type that tried to create compost in 30 days. Shredded leaves and grass, with some kitchen scraps turning frequently. I had master gardeners asking me why? I love to compost. I would say that the best that I ever accomplished by the end of 30 days would be a mulch that could be put on top of a bed to retain moisture. Maybe by the end of the season it would be broken down into fairly good compost. Slowed down over the years and saw perfect leaf mulch made without my intervention because I forgot I had leaves in black plastic bags for a couple years. I still love to compost, bought a compost thermometer, have four compost bins and understand what the master gardeners were saying twenty years ago.

I built my first pile this spring with last years garden waste, fresh grass clippings, leaves, kitchen scraps, and blackberry canes. Leaves where whole, I go back and forth on shredding them. If I have shredded leaves I use them, but no longer HAVE to have shredded leaves. Garden waste, such as stems, blackberry canes, twigs, are all fair game and went into the pile. I'd say I'd add a layer of cut up blackberry canes after every 10 layers of greens and browns. Six to eight weeks later? I turned that pile into an empty bin and let it continue to compost while I built a new pile. That pile heated back up to 150 degrees for several weeks with a little bit of turning the top of the pile to add air, release excess heat, add moisture. Meanwhile the new pile was built. Just whole leaves, grass clippings, and kitchen scraps. 4x4x4 bin filled, reduced to 3/4 full, filled again, reduce, filled again, etc. The pile that was left alone to cook started to cool down so it was moved into the third bin to cold compost til fall. I decided it was time to turn the new pile into the second empty bin. Not sure if the issue was I kept filling the pile back up as the pile reduced in size, but that was also done with the first pile, or if the blackberry canes/twigs made a lot of difference, but, I remembered one of the issues I had way back when I only used shredded leaves, grass clippings and kitchen scraps: compacted layers. The material was so compacted that they were matted down and very clumpy. I spent more time breaking apart the clumps of material than actually moving the pile into the new bin. I thought using whole leaves would have eliminated the matted down material and I'd say it wasn't as bad if the leaves had been shredded but there was a considerable quantity of matted material through the pile. So, I had enough material to build the third pile of the season and I added blackberry canes back into the pile. In 6-8 weeks, this pile will likely be turned into the next bin and I'll see if they canes added structure to the pile and prevented the matted down material.

Incidentally, the cold compost pile in 100 degrees with ambient air temperature of 80 degrees. The pile that was turned actually looked really good. The bottom half of the pile I'd use right now it was so well broken down, minus the parts that were matted clumps. It's sitting around for maybe 6 weeks and has already returned to an internal temperature of 150. Will be interesting to see how it is when it's ready to be added to the cold compost pile.
Everyone has something they can teach; everyone has something they can learn.

"America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success. "
— Sigmund Freud
Name: Steve
Port Orchard, WA (Zone 8b)
BrooklynStart
Jun 14, 2020 4:28 PM CST
ThommesM, very interesting post. Looking forward to see if blackberry canes help decomposition. If they do, my guess is that they help by adding air to the pile. I place my bb canes in the trach.
Again, very interesting post, also a very good one.
Name: Thomas Mitchell
Central Ohio (Zone 6a)
Composter
Composter
thommesM
Jun 14, 2020 6:50 PM CST
@BrooklynStart, yeah I suspect the same thing. The raspberry canes are actually breaking down as well. Not 100% yet, but they are very soft and I can easily see them being broken down by end of September when I apply the compost to the beds.
Everyone has something they can teach; everyone has something they can learn.

"America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success. "
— Sigmund Freud

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