COMPOSTING

Discussion in 'DIY / Self Sufficiency' started by sarahr0612, Oct 29, 2013.

  1. sarahr0612

    sarahr0612 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 7, 2013
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    So I want to start building a compost pile for my garden in the spring. I was going to use a metal feed bin since I always have some. are those ok to use as long as I turn it? How do you guys layer your compost? How much chicken manure do you use?
     
  2. Dreyadin

    Dreyadin Out Of The Brooder

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    Oct 28, 2013
    It can be as simple as just making a pile on the ground. There are 2 ways of composting.. cold & hot. You don't even need to wait until spring, you can start now. I don't know what the feed bin you intend on using looks like.. but you want to make sure it has drainage. Contact with the ground is a good thing as the bacteria needed to get it going is already in the soil. You can layer- but it isn't necessary. The key is balance of materials- and keeping the chickens from spreading it out everywhere lol.

    You're essentially trying to create a big microbial culture to transform the feedstock you put in into simple materials plants can readily use. The bigger the pile- the easier it is to hot compost. You can even hot compost through winter. (We had several Starbuck's around us- and the C:N ratio of used coffee grounds is almost ideal- and used grounds are pH neutral. Fall & winter there was less competition for the grounds- so we would get big bags full. The pile would steam away and be ready to use by spring.)
     
  3. Agree with Dreyadin - and here some tips that helped me;

    - when in doubt on ratio, add more carbon material.
    - autumn / winter leaves from deciduous trees is an easy and common source of great carbon material
    - chickens make great compost managers. If you put your compost in a closed bin, they cant get at it. Have you considered building a couple open wood bins?
    - besides chickens having free range access to my compost, I also toss in the old deep litter and poo. The more the better.
    - two or three compost bins is better than one. That way, while one is finishing, your new material is being added to the next bin.


    I look on composting as one of the most important components of our little farm 'system'. If managing the soil is job 1, then composting is the first step towards that.
     
  4. Dreyadin

    Dreyadin Out Of The Brooder

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    You're so right about the soil being important. We make a lot of compost- not only our own kitchen scraps/ garden/yard trimmings/ paper/ etc... but we also get grounds from a local small cafe & hotel, and the lawn & yard trimmings from neighbors that don't treat their yards. (much better than bagging it up to set out for garbage pick up!)

    Compost is amazing stuff. Especially during the last 2 years with the drought- our garden (which was concrete hard deadpan clay to start) went strong with minimal watering- while neighbors and friends watered a lot and still struggled. When their tomato plants are 3 feet tall... and yours are over 6 feet- and it's the same strain.. they start composting too! lol

    Quick guide if you hot compost...

    if it stinks- add carbon (what you are smelling is nitrogen escaping) wet down the carbon material and mix it in.

    if it isn't heating up- add nitrogen (and a scoop of soil).. also make sure it hasn't dried out.

    Water in the compost heap does 2 things.. it's a needed element for the microbes to flourish and reproduce.. also when carbon materials are damp they help hold on to nitrogen (which likes to otherwise escape your pile.)


    Just you can go too far with carbon.. if you've ever gotten those bags of bad cheap - often labeled "organic" compost.. and seen the results- you'd know what I mean. They use a lot of shredded wood filler. If there is a lot of carbon in the compost and it isn't fully finished- cool and looking like black fluffy dirt- it can actually rob the soil around it of nitrogen as the microbes try to break it down.
     
  5. chuckle - your comment about size of tomato plants is so right on. the pic below is from this last July, Ms Beagles collecting some early season tomatoes from her tomato plants that are taller than I - and I'm 6' 3". The point being - healthy soil results in huge plants, abundant fruit, and no disease. And healthy soil starts with a really good composting program.

    We've got a small vineyard, and then buy another ton or so of grapes from outside - which results in many, many hundreds of pounds of pressed grape skins forming a big chunk of my green material. Along with the plants and cuttings from the gardens, of course. Many years ago, when i first got serious about composting, I was at a loss for what carbonaceous material to get in order to balance all that green stuff. Then I opened my eyes to the fact that we lived in an oak forest, had a few hundred grapevines, a dozen or fruit trees, etc. So now one of my 'chores' is autumn / winter leaf collecting. Much of it goes in to the run as deep litter (and eventually into the compost bin) while the rest goes straight into the compost.

    Ya know, as satisfying as produce from the farm is, I think that harvesting a trailer load of really sweet compost is possibly even more satisfying.

    BTW - perfect operating instructions you provided there - "if it stinks, add carbon. If it isn't heating up, add nitrogen".

    I'll try to scare up some pics of my composting boxes sometime.

    [​IMG]
     
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  6. sarahr0612

    sarahr0612 Out Of The Brooder

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    Aug 7, 2013
    Texas
    Thank for all of the replies! I'm the only 24 year old I know with a little farm and compost lol. I am using a tin food container for my compost, I was wondering if I could just cover the top with chicken wire or does it actually need to drain from the bottom? I just didn't want to drill holes in it, right now the lid is on it but I was told it needs drainage. I have dead leaves, chicken/rabbit manure, bannana peels , egg shells, and good soil in it.
     
  7. Dreyadin

    Dreyadin Out Of The Brooder

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    The drainage is for leachate- which happens when the materials get wet/ juicy materials start to break down and release their liquid. It also is for air flow. With out drainage- liquid will build up at the bottom and start anaerobic (without air) composting.

    Anaerobic composting produces methane and often hydrogen sulfide (hence the lovely rotten egg aroma.) It's a slower method of composting- and imo- can be intensely stinky.

    Keep an eye on particularly squishy foods that go in. If it builds up too much leachate- take off the lid for a few hours and turn it a few times to help it evaporate off. You're looking for damp sponge moisture levels.

    The smaller the pieces- the faster it goes.
     
  8. wyoDreamer

    wyoDreamer Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The problem I see with the metal bin is a lack of air flow, most bins have sides that are somwhat open (wood slats or wire mesh) that allow air exchange. The solid metal sides won't allow that air flow to keep the right bacteria working.
    The drainage is important because having your pile sittting in water will cause problems. But if you can manage the moisture so it doesn't have free water at the bottom of the pile, you may be OK. But a pile with too much moisture can turn slimey and stinky real quick. We had a really wet fall one year and I had to put a tarp over the pile too keep the rain out because it was getting too wet to compost right, and that pile was sitting on the ground/mud.
     
  9. monkeybirdfarms

    monkeybirdfarms Out Of The Brooder

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    Sep 5, 2013
    I have a compost box I built out of some scrap plywood. Nothing fancy just three sides and a roof that I nailed to the side of the barn. No bottom, I just sat it directally on the ground. I put several ventilation holes on each sideand a slanted roof. All I do is lift the roof when it's time to clean the chicken coop and everything goes directly into the compost box. I usally put my old coffe grinds and food scraps in it too. I turn the compost with a pitchfork every few weeks. When I was turning it last week I noticed it was very dry. Dry compost means add nitrogen. What's a good source of nitrogen? Should I wet the pile? I was thinking of having my boys rake up some leaves and put them in the box. Would the leaves provide the nitrogen? I could do it when the leaves are wet, ie early morning dew, maybe providing the nessecary nitrogen and water at the same time
     

  10. Autumn leaves are carbanceous, not so much a very good source of nitrogen. For nitrogen, think green.

    Couple questiona for you: what green material have you been adding? And second, do you ever wet the compost?

    You might need to add some green, nitrogen material. You may also need to moisten it occassionally.
     

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