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Joined: Sun Jan 10, 2021 5:33 pm
Location: Texas, Zone 9

Dummy compost 101

I am rank new here, and want to learn better composting - i have been doing it "my way" with great success it seems, but i know i am not doing it much by the book, so here it goes:
I have three 55-gal drum compost tumblers - vertical, with a 3" center pipe that is perforated. pretty much like the one attached, but with mine the bottom half and the lid are perforated as well to improve air flow. .

i start each with a 3/4 drum full of horse manure - it comes from a stable, where it is piled and removed over and over for many years, but you dig down just a little and get some ultra rich stuff that has been taking in leachate and stuff from above, so its like its concentrated. i add to that some fresh bedding and manure from a recently cleaned stable, adding some fresh poop and urine both.

as it decomposes and settles down i add fresh grass clippings, dead leaves, and veg kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, as well as lots of crushed eggshell. i will get a bit more of the manure once or twice to replenish, as well as adding fish carcasses and shrimp heads and peels as i live near the coast a nd fish now and then. i will also occasionally add molasses and soil activator just for the heck of it.

i tumble them several times a week, every time i add new stuff and also just anytime i think about it to keep it all aerated. i just wing it with brown/green mixes, too difficult to figure out the breakdown with such a variety of additives i use.

in 2-4 months i have a beautiful compost that has virtually no traces of anything that ever went in it. no celery stalks, onion skins, nothing. fish carcasses typically are unable to be found after 2-3 weeks save for a skull from a particularly larger fish, or maybe a small piece of corn cob.

i then sift it to break down small clumps and apply it to the surface of my beds about 2-4" thick at the beginning of each growing season, or when repotting, etc. - i have even used it to top-dress compost my front lawn. have been using this method for about 8 yrs, with no issues .


it is always cold composting, and i see where some say this would take about a year to make compost. it only gets hot for a few days if i add a good bit of green grass clippings, but that never lasts. i am thinking that since the stuff i am getting is "concentrated" as i described it has already composted so therefore no heat?

my soil is very rich, lots of earthworms, etc. have grown 3 crops of corn in one season, and get great crops of tomatos, cucmbers, cabbage, etc. , red potatoes as well. i like the level of effort i have in it as is - so should i just not fix something that aint broke? or am i doing/not doing something gravely wrong that is an easy fix??

thanks in advance!

Posts: 11624
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Dummy compost 101

It looks like it is working so it should not need to be fixed. One question that has come up, though. Have you ever tested the compost for nutrients and wormers.

This came up when our community garden was offered horse manure from a nearby stable. The piles of manure contained some manure as old as five years, but they dumped new fresh manure on top. The stable manager was queried about what the horses were fed and any medications they were given. She said, by state law horses were required to be dewormed every three months. I remember at one time reading a caveat on Attra site about the wait period for using manures and a question of whether horse manure would be considered organic because of the wormers.

According to this paper by Cornell university, the wormer does make it to the manure, but if it is composted and old enough it should pose no problem.

Your system works better than mine. I have tried adding manure to my pots and except for vermicast, it has not worked out. I have also been unsuccessful in using compost in potting mixes. I guess I need to figure out what kind of "compost" they mean, because what I have available just kills everything. I can and do incorporate compost and some amendments containing manure into my main garden as organic matter and that has for the most part worked out except that it has too much phosphorus and the pH is too high except for my home garden.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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