Ask a Question forum: Compost heating

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Michigan (Zone 5a)
em_ev
Jan 6, 2017 8:52 AM CST
I am working in a hoop house that has no electric; the temperature drops below freezing every night. I want to build a 6ftx6ft compost pile with wood in the hoop house and use soil heating chords to heat underneath the compost. I was wondering if anyone has experience doing this or if you have suggestions for something better. I am working with a limited budget!

Thank you!
Emily
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Jan 6, 2017 9:28 AM CST
A mulch pile. If built and maintained properly will generate its own heat.
You want pile to keep house from freezing ??? It might Shrug! depending how big house is. Try it.
It will be intersting to see !!!
I think it will.
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Southeast US (Zone 7b)
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GoatDriver
Jan 6, 2017 9:51 AM CST
I watched a video on youtube where someone was doing that with the compost in either Alaska, Canada or somewhere with cold winters ....if I can find the video I will post a link here for you. You can use black drums or buckets filled with water (paint with black paint if you have to), as they absorb heat in the day and slowly release at night...might be just enough to keep from freezing.
Southeast US (Zone 7b)
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GoatDriver
Jan 6, 2017 9:57 AM CST
@em_ev found the link Hurray! ..they are in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada - https://youtu.be/h_cfy4FOdT8
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jan 6, 2017 4:13 PM CST
I know the old English glass houses were heated with piles of horse manure composting away. Before modern heating and plumbing of course.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
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greene
Jan 6, 2017 6:34 PM CST
I agree Skip the heating coils and get some lovely fresh horse manure.
Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Philip Becker
Fresno California (Zone 8a)
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Philipwonel
Jan 6, 2017 6:47 PM CST
So i guess its off to the race track for you. Huh ???
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Anything i say, could be misrepresented, or wrong.
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Jan 6, 2017 6:52 PM CST
Shadegardener said:I know the old English glass houses were heated with piles of horse manure composting away. Before modern heating and plumbing of course.


I think that's the difference between a "cold frame" and a "hot frame".

The hot frame has a foot or two of fresh compost buried under (?) 6-12 inches of soil.

I always wondered: doesn't that go anaerobic and STINK??

Since it can only produce a small amount of heat, it will be key to prevent drafts and other heat leaks if you want to raise the inside temp more than a few degrees.
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jan 7, 2017 8:13 AM CST
Rick - yeah - I would wonder about the "aroma" too. Maybe if buried under soil, it would filter the smells? Or maybe the society at that time would be more accustomed to the fragrance?
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
Frugal Gardener Garden Procrastinator I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest
Photo Contest Winner: 2014 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.
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RickCorey
Jan 9, 2017 9:31 PM CST
My ambitions run more towards "Maybe I could build a self-regulating hoop tunnel".

Not so much in the direction of "I wonder how bad my yard could smell before I choked or got thrown out of the park?"

I bet you're right and they DID have less wussy noses back then.

Or they held their breath, lifted the cover, did their work, closed the lid, and THEN started breathing again.

To do much good, the heat would have had to to perk through the soil faster than it leaked out of the cold frame.

Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jan 10, 2017 8:24 AM CST
Hilarious!
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Jan 10, 2017 8:49 AM CST
Welcome to NGA, @em_ev !

I'm wondering if you are actually asking this question because you want to provide heat to the hoop house from the compost, or do you want to use the hoop house to allow your compost pile to keep working throughout the winter? In zone 5a I don't think the compost pile would provide enough heat to grow anything that probably couldn't be grown/overwintered in the HH without the compost pile (unless, perhaps, you were using something like fresh horse manure as someone suggested). It might be more useful to just bury heating cables under your planting beds, if you want to go that route.

On the other hand, if you want to use the HH to give your compost pile a better chance to decompose over the winter, I think that would work pretty well even without the heat cables, as long as you made sure there was enough moisture in the pile throughout the winter. On a sunny winter day the temp in my HH is often 70F and above, compared to say, 20F outdoors. Smiling

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[Last edited by Weedwhacker - Jan 10, 2017 12:48 PM (+)]
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Name: Annie
Waynesboro, PA (Zone 6a)
Cat Lover Keeper of Poultry
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LysmachiaMoon
Jan 10, 2017 11:19 AM CST
I've worked with horse manure for 30 years and I can assure you it does not smell bad and it's too "fluffy" to really go anerobic...there's too much undigested bits of hay, grass, grain, bedding in it. I've also used it to warm up soil by burying it under several inches and this does work but the heat gain is pretty small unless you have a really big amount of manure. They do use this in the UK, but you have to remember how much milder their winters are than the Northeast/Midwest US.

RE: The idea using black barrels of water. I found an improvement on this idea. Use plastic gas cans (new and clean of course), filled with water and WATER SOFTENER SALT. The highly salted water really absorbs and holds the heat better. (paint the gas cans black)
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Name: greene
Savannah, GA (Sunset 28) (Zone 8b)
My dogs love me; some people don't.
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greene
Jan 10, 2017 1:19 PM CST
LysmachiaMoon said:... improvement ...Use plastic gas cans..., filled with water and WATER SOFTENER SALT. The highly salted water really absorbs and holds the heat better...


Not to throw the thread off course but please can you provide links with more information about this excellent idea? Thanks...(okay to send it vial TreeMail to not upset the current talk.) Thumbs up

*Blush* Back to the regularly scheduled conversation. Rolling on the floor laughing

Sunset Zone 28, AHS Heat Zone 9, USDA zone 8b~"Leaf of Faith"
Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
Frugal Gardener Garden Procrastinator I helped beta test the first seed swap Plant and/or Seed Trader Seed Starter Region: Pacific Northwest
Photo Contest Winner: 2014 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.
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RickCorey
Jan 10, 2017 3:33 PM CST
LysmachiaMoon said:I've worked with horse manure for 30 years and I can assure you it does not smell bad and it's too "fluffy" to really go anerobic......


Cool! Thank you, I didn't know that. That also means it would "cook faster" than it would if it went anaerobic.

LysmachiaMoon said: ...
RE: The idea using black barrels of water. I found an improvement on this idea. Use plastic gas cans (new and clean of course), filled with water and WATER SOFTENER SALT. The highly salted water really absorbs and holds the heat better. (paint the gas cans black)


That surprised me. These would have suggested the opposite, but there may be factors other than the specific heat capacity. Also, I don't think these were mainly talking about concentrated solutions. BTW, most water softeners use sodium chloride or potassium chloride.

https://socratic.org/questions...
http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10...

Name: stone
near Macon Georgia (USA) (Zone 8a)
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stone
Jan 10, 2017 4:58 PM CST
The internet... and gardening lit is full of all kinds of ideas...

I once read about using the heat of the compost pile to cook your meals...

So...

I tried burying a water tank in the pile... hooked it up to the hot tap...

Worked for about a week... Then... cold water again.

I use horse poop in the garden all the time... never a smell... nor that much heat.

One time.... I brought chicken poop to a garden in town... the neighbors called up to complain...

So... the extra N value from the chicken poop? Not worth it if you don't already have chickens...
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
Jan 31, 2017 8:42 AM CST
Just a note - I saw a podcast yesterday - "The Curious Gardener" - about growing north of 60 degrees (Yukon) in a greenhouse. A box built in the middle of a small greenhouse holding lots of manure and straw. Pots of vegetables (like tomatoes) set on top of the pile to keep warm. It would take the pile about 6 weeks to break down and stop putting out heat. Interesting.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb

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