Soil and Compost forum→What issues do you have composting?

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pringy
Jun 15, 2020 6:41 AM CST
Hi all, I am a design student and have been researching the whole topic of composting to hopefully design a new, more functional product for composting garden and household waste. I know very little about the whole topic other than what I have researched and read online. I have a simple large plastic compost with a lid to chuck everything in. My biggest problem is removing the compost - unless I shift the whole bin!! I have researched many different types online and see have sides for access - but I am not sure how easy that access is.

I would really appreciate as many comments as possible to help me with my research and design process. Please let me know what issues/problems you have with composting - no matter how trivial. I am trying to think of all scenarios i.e. limited space, disability or mobility issues, access.

Many thanks all in advance. Stay safe. Pringy Thumbs up
Name: Larry
Enterprise, Al. 36330 (Zone 8b)
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Seedfork
Jun 15, 2020 8:33 AM CST
Finding the time and energy to devote to collecting, unloading, constructing piles, turning, and watering not to mention the often shortage of materials are my big problems with compost. Then there is always the problem of having enough area to store and work with the materials after they are collected.
So my composting has evolved into using no enclosures, being patient and seldom turning the piles, and only watering when absolutely necessary.
Name: Thomas Mitchell
Central Ohio (Zone 6a)
Composter
Composter
thommesM
Jun 15, 2020 10:06 AM CST
I agree @Seedfork. Material collection is the biggest issue.

Really @pringy if you want to look at this topic, maybe looking into some sort of apartment system might be best. I know there's a lot of them already out there, but not sure if anything really works for a pile that would be that small. Worm posting would likely be the better alternative for apartment/condo dwelling. One possible solution for apartment/condo might be to upscale it. Instead of individual people composting their own waste, maybe have a solution for the complex. Keep it near the office or gym, some centralized location where people would drop it off. Also arrange to have a means of residents being able to use some of the material generated or use it on public areas.
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

pringy
Jun 15, 2020 11:34 AM CST
Thanks.

Several people have suggested that another problem is accessing the compost ready to use at the bottom of a compost bin. Some have access panels but 'digging' it out is difficult. The only other way is to empty the whole bin, take what is useable and recompose the rest. I was considering whether a system could be developed to almost 'cut out' the bottom section? Not sure if this is doable but do you think it would have merit? I like the idea of an apartment system too - do you mean for the different stages or for different matter? Thumbs up
Name: Thomas Mitchell
Central Ohio (Zone 6a)
Composter
Composter
thommesM
Jun 15, 2020 12:18 PM CST
what you're describing is pretty much worm composting. Primarily used with kitchen scraps and shredded paper. It's a top down system for the most part. I don't have a problem with accessing finished material with an actual compost pile. If you turn the pile and maintain it, the entire pile should be ready about the same time. If you have to have same particle size, the material can be screened. Neither bothers me. Haven't heard of anyone complaining about accessing the finished material issue unless some sort of gimmicky spinning type contraption is used. Total waste of money. They leak, are made of plastic and break, add to the trash heap with plastic disposal, and from what I've seen of them, are a total waste of money and unneeded.
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: GERALD
Lockhart, Texas (Zone 8b)
Hydroponics Greenhouse Region: Texas
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IntheHotofTexas
Jun 15, 2020 3:36 PM CST
I use separate piles and turn them with the tractor bucket, letting one finish while putting new material into the more recent pile. But that isn't of much use to people without lots of room. I hate having to always mess with a bin. I thought about separate matching modules used one after the other, but then I saw the Khamba stack.

The small system that is the most attractive I've seen is the Khamba stacked pottery composters in India. Fresh material starts in the top unit and moves down as it becomes full and down to the bottom as if further composts. No turning. Just shift the modules downward. Need more capacity, add modules. Looks nice, too. There's a good YouTube demo.

A DIY but less aesthetic version could easily be made from something like paint buckets.
Name: Lee-Roy
Bilzen, Belgium (Zone 8a)
Irises Lilies Hostas Ferns Composter Region: Belgium
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Arico
Jun 15, 2020 3:49 PM CST
I think like most amateur gardeners the problem is to get enough material in one go to make a big enough pile that will heat up and doesn't need any more input of raw material (hot composting).

Conversely, cold composting doesn't have that drawback; you just add whatever comes whenever. Downside is ofcourse that if you want to harvest any compost, you have to scoop off the non/half decomposed layers first to get a tiny bit of end product at the bottom.
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
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sallyg
Jun 15, 2020 7:02 PM CST
you are correct that those bins where you supposedly open the side and scoop out beautiful compost just do not work.

I just watched this one on a pottery stack system
https://www.youtube.com/watch?...
I like it, it's got features I have wanted. (space saving, smaller parts that can be moved/cycled, attractive. ) I have mentally toyed with such an idea in 5 gal bucket version
Now- down..
I don't like that it depends on buying coco peat for the process. Its like a composting toilet system for kitchen waste. A lot of the compost it "makes" is the coco peat.
I think it's a little more hype than actually "saving the world thru compost" .
But I don't want to digress.

My other concept is using a tray something like this, but taller, that you could stack up. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07G2VRMZZ/

Still all composting, especially smaller scale, is subject to temperature and moisture slowing the process. You put the stacking pots on your balcony in Wisconsin in December, you'll quickly have three pots of frozen crap until April. Again, I may be digressing here.

No matter what, when you want to collect finished compost, you cannot depend on it being just the right moisture and texture to handle easily.
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Name: Zoë
Albuquerque NM, Elev 5310 ft (Zone 7b)
Region: New Mexico Herbs Salvias Composter Bee Lover Container Gardener
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NMoasis
Jun 15, 2020 11:00 PM CST
Good idea about the trays, @sallyg. Kind of like worm systems.

I've lived with a small yard for the last 10 years, and space and material is the issue (previously on rural acreage. Sigh). I researched compact composting systems quite a bit (but not recently because I gave up) and the reviews were always mediocre to negative: cheaply made, fell apart, didn't get hot enough, not adequate volume, etc, or the super-duper ones were crazy expensive. So I've just stuck with my 3x3 bin and pitchfork. After recent discussions on another composting thread, I'm feeling inspired to upgrade my system a bit, and if someone designs something small and efficient, I'm interested. I think one of my objections is that most products are made of plastic. That's a tough work-around, because I don't think wood is commercially practical, and those double-sided steel tumbling units are heavy and costly.

For me, gardening is really just an excuse for playing in the dirt. Admittedly, plants are a satisfying by-product.

pringy
Jun 16, 2020 9:57 AM CST
Thanks for everyones responses. I have very little knowledge to go on other than I have a large green plastic, cone shaped compost bin which is directly sat on the ground. I chuck all my household waste from the kitchen in it as well as garden bits (not weeds, especially bindweed, as I don't want these to grow in my soil) and on an annual basis I lift the bin up, with great difficulty, to expose the soil at the bottom so I can use it in my continuers. I have a reasonable sized garden but everything i plant is in tubs and containers, including all my veg. I never turn the compost at all - is this essential? Nor do I aerate it or move it from one year to the next. On some years I move the whole lot from one location to another. This is the bit that is not only difficult but hard work and I could imagine for someone much older or with certain ailments, such as back problems, this could be a near impossible task. I wonder if there could be a system - a bit like a filing cabinet - where you could pull out the bottom to use the compost and then let the rest drop down after. Or a system that was set at an angle so you filled up from the top and emptied out a the bottom - gravity makes live easier! I haven't found anything like this on the market and it also bugs me that everything is made from plastic!! I know the reasons why and as long as they have a long life span it is not so much of an issue, however I am exploring different woods and treatments - there are wooden ones on the market. I was also considering space too @nmoasis as I do not have a huge amount of space and most compost bins take up room - especially if you are needing to turn it over. I know there are different methods of composting, as mine is plastic it does get very warm in the summer and is kept dry from the rain. I didn't realise that there were actual recipes and methods! Anyway, I am rambling now - all thougths and ideas would be greatly appreciated. Thank You!
Name: Christie
Central Ohio 43016 (Zone 6a)
Plays on the water.
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cwhitt
Jun 16, 2020 10:14 AM CST
When I had my house, I had a four sided wire bin that I liked. I could easily remove one side of it to rake out the compost, and the wire allowed the compost breathe. things composted it in fairly fast. I now live in a condo and use a big pot that tree came in. It has drain holes in the bottom that allow rain to drain out and earthworms to crawl up into. It is small enough that I can move it around to different places in the garden. The drawback is that it does not heat up very fast, so takes longer to compost. I do think that simple is best. I also think that condo and apartment dwellers need more options on composting so it is more feasible for them to compost.
Plant Dreams. Pull Weeds. Grow A Happy Life.
Name: Thomas Mitchell
Central Ohio (Zone 6a)
Composter
Composter
thommesM
Jun 16, 2020 10:20 AM CST
By the way... Welcome! Welcome!

Ok... here we gro again. No wrong way to compost. Smiling How you compost is determined by whatever your goal is and the available resources allow.

With your current situation, I commend you on not putting the bindweed in the compost bin. I do not think your compost bin would get near 140degrees which is needed to kill weed seeds. I think I"ve seen the bin that you have and there's nothing wrong with it. It keeps things tidy, I'd ask you though do you need it? Is the bin limiting the size of the compost pile? A bigger pile does generate heat easier and break down faster. If you want compost faster, you might consider lifting the bin every month and reversing the order of the material, top in first then work down through the rest of the pile. You could also harvest finished material then if you wanted. Add some water to the pile if needed. The material should be damp like a sponge, but not too wet as then it will go anaerobic and start to smell on you.

If space is the limiting factor, you could try containerposting, composting in a container, but not like the little ones previously mentioned. Plastic bags... Black would be best. Fill the bags with leaves in the fall, add water, poke a few holes. It'll take a while to break down... BUT.. I did the same thing. I have leaves in plastic bags behind my compost bins. I also haven't had the time to finish shredding leaves that were brought to me by neighbors in large cubic yard bags. They've sat there since december. Getting wet... I thought that's gonna be messy when I get to it. I got to the bags last Saturday. The inside has already broken down to almost perfect leaf mulch! I was shocked because it's supposed to take 12 months minimum. The leaves in the plastic bags behind my compost piles... still look in pristine condition. You could also add to the bagged leaves in the summer with grass clippings to make an active hot pile... Not sure... could melt the plastic though. OOOH I'm gonna test it. Smiling Basically saying that make the pile as big as you can. The finished product as you know is 1/4 to 1/2 the volume that you start with so the more the merrier.

If you don't want a larger bin due to needing to turn the pile and no where to turn it... consider a tarp. Put a tarp down, turn the pile out on the tarp and then turn back into the space for the pile.

Another idea is lasagna beds? Built a pile where you want a new bed to go.

Just some ideas to consider. Interested in other peoples ideas.
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: Thomas Mitchell
Central Ohio (Zone 6a)
Composter
Composter
thommesM
Jun 16, 2020 10:24 AM CST
cwhitt said:When I had my house, I had a four sided wire bin that I liked. I could easily remove one side of it to rake out the compost, and the wire allowed the compost breathe. things composted it in fairly fast. I now live in a condo and use a big pot that tree came in. It has drain holes in the bottom that allow rain to drain out and earthworms to crawl up into. It is small enough that I can move it around to different places in the garden. The drawback is that it does not heat up very fast, so takes longer to compost. I do think that simple is best. I also think that condo and apartment dwellers need more options on composting so it is more feasible for them to compost.


Just curious... if your condo association would offer a kitchen waste drop off option would you participate? I'm going large now, because I have several friends who have asked me about allotments. If your condo association would offer allotments, like a 4x8 bed, would that interest you? Including a community composting bin. I'm thinking that condo associations and apartment complexes really missed the boat, airplane, rocket ship, on opportunities. Club house is nice, pool is nice, but green space, especially green space they could RENT, is awesome.
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: Christie
Central Ohio 43016 (Zone 6a)
Plays on the water.
Amaryllis Permaculture Sempervivums Roses Bookworm Annuals
Composter Hybridizer Cat Lover Garden Ideas: Master Level
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cwhitt
Jun 17, 2020 9:32 AM CST
thommesM said:
Just curious... if your condo association would offer a kitchen waste drop off option would you participate? I'm going large now, because I have several friends who have asked me about allotments. If your condo association would offer allotments, like a 4x8 bed, would that interest you? Including a community composting bin. I'm thinking that condo associations and apartment complexes really missed the boat, airplane, rocket ship, on opportunities. Club house is nice, pool is nice, but green space, especially green space they could RENT, is awesome.

I would not use a kitchen waste drop off, because I want the compost. I would take an allotment though. The church down the street use to offer those (12 x 12), but that pastor left and the new pastor has not done that these last 2 years Sad . I do wish our city would offer them all over the city. The church plots were snapped up quickly.

Plant Dreams. Pull Weeds. Grow A Happy Life.

pringy
Jul 4, 2020 6:25 AM CST
Thanks for all your messages - would some of you complete this short questionnaire for me for research purposes Thumbs up THX
1. Gender?
2. Age - 20 - 30, 31-40, 41-50, 51 - 60, 60+
3. How big is your household? 1, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 6+
4. Do you compost all food waste? yes/no
5, How do you compost? small scale, medium scale, large scale
6. What type of compost system do you have? wormery, open air (hot composting), direct (in ground), tumbler, EMO (effective micro organisms/Bokashsi), combination, or mechanical?
7. What is the main issue/problem/drawback from the system you use?
8. What do you use your compost for? general, containers, vegetables, improve soil, other
9. How regularly do you require access to your compost?
10.What sort of cost would you be prepared to pay for a compost system? £30 - £40, £41 - £50, £51 - £60, £61 - £70, £71-£80, £81 - £90, £91 - £100, £101+
11. What suggestions would you make for a new compost system? e.g. size, shape, colour, materials, access, location (all ideas are welcome)

Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You! Thank You!
Name: Sally
central Maryland
Seriously addicted to kettle chips.
Charter ATP Member Houseplants Keeper of Poultry Vegetable Grower Region: Maryland Composter
Native Plants and Wildflowers Organic Gardener Region: United States of America Cat Lover Birds Butterflies
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sallyg
Jul 4, 2020 6:47 AM CST
Arico said,
"Conversely, cold composting doesn't have that drawback; you just add whatever comes whenever. Downside is ofcourse that if you want to harvest any compost, you have to scoop off the non/half decomposed layers first to get a tiny bit of end product at the bottom."
I think a shared system as in an apartment complex would have to be cold. A certain demographic would participate. But I don't think most people are that interested. And you won't really entice them by promising tiny amounts of compost at random times. If you have allotments also, you may have people putting weeds with seeds into the compost.

I work with about 20 people who all know I am an avid gardener, chicken owner, and composter. Only 2 actually bring me compost. One of the two has started her own garden, but seems to think any kind of compost pile is somehow problematic, and they haven't tried to start one. Only 1 other is also a gardener so she uses her own scraps. Another one, at lunch one day, talked about how we should have community compost required sort of like your idea. She has never brought me compost nor does she garden at all.
i'm pretty OK today, how are you? ;^)
Name: Lee-Roy
Bilzen, Belgium (Zone 8a)
Irises Lilies Hostas Ferns Composter Region: Belgium
Lover of wildlife (Black bear badge) Region: Europe
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Arico
Jul 4, 2020 3:29 PM CST

1. Gender? male
2. Age - 20 - 30
3. How big is your household? 1-2 (I do receive green waste from mother in law who lives on her own)
4. Do you compost all food waste? Only plant based and not processed
5, How do you compost? medium scale
6. What type of compost system do you have? open air, cold, bin system
7. What is the main issue/problem/drawback from the system you use? it's slow and little return
8. What do you use your compost for? mulching beds, adding to potting compost
9. How regularly do you require access to your compost? Almost daily
10.What sort of cost would you be prepared to pay for a compost system? under £30
11. What suggestions would you make for a new compost system? a better way to harvest (don't know how though.......)
Name: Christie
Central Ohio 43016 (Zone 6a)
Plays on the water.
Amaryllis Permaculture Sempervivums Roses Bookworm Annuals
Composter Hybridizer Cat Lover Garden Ideas: Master Level
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cwhitt
Jul 6, 2020 12:19 PM CST
@pringy
Thanks for all your messages - would some of you complete this short questionnaire for me for research purposes Thumbs up THX
1. Gender? F
2. Age - 20 - 30, 31-40, 41-50, 51 - 60, 60+ 60+
3. How big is your household? 1, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 6+ 1, not including the cat Rolling on the floor laughing
4. Do you compost all food waste? yes/no yes
5, How do you compost? small scale, medium scale, large scale small scale
6. What type of compost system do you have? wormery, open air (hot composting), direct (in ground), tumbler, EMO (effective micro organisms/Bokashsi), combination, or mechanical? A big pot with holes in the bottom and sometimes covered or left open
7. What is the main issue/problem/drawback from the system you use? Composts slowly
8. What do you use your compost for? general, containers, vegetables, improve soil, other all of those, but mostly for my roses
9. How regularly do you require access to your compost? Daily/weekly
10.What sort of cost would you be prepared to pay for a compost system? £30 - £40, £41 - £50, £51 - £60, £61 - £70, £71-£80, £81 - £90, £91 - £100, £101+ £30 or less - I like free! But would spend more if I needed I larger system.
11. What suggestions would you make for a new compost system? e.g. size, shape, colour, materials, access, location (all ideas are welcome) Many of the systems I see look like they are hard to empty the compost from. I would make any system easy to empty. Also one that is easy to turn the compost would be great. As for color - something that is neutral and would blend into the landscape.
Plant Dreams. Pull Weeds. Grow A Happy Life.

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