annafaie
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2 trashcans for "turning"? And how long before 1st

I'm a total compost newbie. I've been reading and reading all days and I have 2 questions...maybe more...let's see how my thoughts in this post transfer out of my head :wink:

1. Couldn't I have 2 LARGE trashcans that are properly prepped for composting (holes, etc). I could begin filling only 1 and to "turn" them daily I could just transfer everything into the empty can and then repeat the next day? I have minimal needs for composting (just for a SMALL garden (8' x 8') so a HUGE trashcan should do me just fine, right?

2. Some say layer brown and green...some say mix all together. Some say turn daily, weekly, quarterly. I'm so confused. My question is two-fold:

(1)On Day 1 of my composting adventure do I just start throwing my applicable kitchen waste and other compost stuff (I know what to use so that's not the issue) into the can? If so, do I wait a certain amount of time before I turn it the first time and then after that do I turn it daily? I guess I just need to know when first to turn it if I'm slowly adding stuff. And then once I turn it the 1st time how often do I turn it after that?

(2) Can I just add stuff as I have it to add? Like one week I cook a lot at home so I have lots of kitchen scraps and then the next week I don't really have that much and then 1 week we have lots of leaves and grass clippings and then not so much in later weeks, etc... Isn't that how it works?

Oh, thought of another question :D

3. Can I water my garden and/or compost pile with the water we have from changing our fish tank and fish filter? It is essentially dirty poop water but I've heard it's full of nutrients. Is this an ok water source to use for garden/compost?

Thanks, in advance, for your help!!!! This forum is so awesome for me, the newbie gardner!!!!
Thanks! Anna

rot
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It doesn't have to be hard

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Composting, bio-remediation as I prefer, can be a simple art or a complicated science. Whatever you want to make of it. You can throw things together on the simplest of notions and then observe how things go, get more info and adjust as you go along. You could also calculate values and materials very carefully and record everything you do so you end up with a whole bunch of data to analyze and then adjust as you go along.

If you’re going to make a go at it, make it fit on how you want it to work in your life. Make the compost bins or piles or barrels fit your lifestyle instead of the other way around. Don’t spend oodles of money if any at all. Use materials and ingredients on hand. Don’t stress it if you fail to turn it exactly as you planned or forgot to water on schedule. The process will kick back in when you do and in the long run, it will all break down and rot.

When researching and listening to what everyone has to say, remember that most often you are hearing what’s optimal and what works for them. Things just aren’t going to work the same in Texas as in calley forn ya or South Bend or England or wherever.

Using two trash cans full of holes can work only there seems to be less success going that route. The consensus seems that for optimal results a cu yd bin is your minimum. I have no idea what the maximum might be but I don’t think I want to deal with much larger than 1 cu yd in the back yard. I have bins that are about 17 cu ft that work just fine. I have slow bins closer to a cu yd with very little labor but are on a two year cycle that work just fine. You get to turn that sucker so keep it in mind. I’ve heard of people making trash can size volumes work so give it a shot and if ain’t workin’ for ya, try something else. You might want to hunt down the urban composting advice for making trash cans work.

Filling a bin, or a barrel or making a pile all at once will work better if you want to get those high temperatures and cook the weed seeds and the pathogens. Done that. Love it when it works well. Not necessary. If your not going to play for hot temperatures, I don’t know, somewhere like 120 to 160 F, then it will take longer and you might get a few weeds in your garden. Weeds in a garden mulched up like all get out with compost come out really easy by hand. No tools necessary. Pathogens? Wash up afterwards if you’re worried.

I stopped striving for the perfect hot compost and I just try to digest all our organic cast-offs. Once a week I empty the jar of kitchen scraps in the current bin and then cover it up with, ideally, a mix of greens and carbons. The kitchen scraps will attract vermin and the cover keeps it out of sight and smell. Putting the kitchen scraps in the middle of the pile means they will digest faster than the rest further mitigating the attractive nuisance factor.

Getting that right mix. I can’t remember what the optimal C:N ratio for fastest, hottest compost is. Maybe someone could remind me. Green wet stuff generally is nitrogen, like grass clippings and kitchen scraps, and dry brown stuff generally is carbon, like leaves, shredded paper or sawdust or wood chips. Mix generous portions of each. Layer when you start or just mix it all together. It should get all mixed together once you start turning anyways. Mixing up front will facilitate the process a little. Probably not enough to worry about.

Keep moist. The standard is keep it is as moist as a damp sponge. If that level of moisture makes sense to you, please explain it to me and maybe I’ll be able to communicate that to others one day. Too wet and things slow down. It’s bad when it gets smelly. Too dry and things slow down. It’s bad when critters start nesting.

Turning is for air. You want air for the oxygen because that’s what the desirable little bacteria thrive on. No oxygen and it gets smelly like a septic tank and the process really slows down. Very unattractive. Unhealthy too. You can dig out 50 year old newspapers in conditions like that and still read them. Generally when turning, mix the exterior stuff into the interior and conversely, the interior stuff to the exterior. No need to make a science project out of it though. Just mix it all up into a new set of clumps and things will hum along just fine. Once your barrel is full, maybe start out turning once a week and see how it goes. Maybe you’ll want to turn a little more frequently when you see what happens and maybe you don’t. I don’t know about barrels. I’m thinking more frequently but see what happens.

Things like eucalyptus or black walnut leaves that they tell you not to compost will be OK if you apply the ten percent rule. Don’t stress it. It is a bio-remediation process within limits.

Animal products and pet manures are doable but I think you want to stay away from that stuff until you really know how it’s all going to work and what kind of trouble you’re in for. You can easily set yourself up for a health hazard mucking around with that stuff. Next year or the year after maybe.

If the process slows down or stops, you can kick it back up by turning more or watching the moisture or maybe adding more greens if seems like browns aren’t digesting or maybe browns if things smell a little. The longer you keep adding, the longer it will take to all digest.

Yeah throw the aquarium water in there. My theory, not anybody else’s theory mind you, is anything fish safe is compost safe. Store it if you have to because that fish crap will have good stuff for the compost.

Make it work for you so you don’t have to work for it. Worst case scenario is you spill the tired mess in some empty corner somewhere and it will eventually rot there. Forget about making compost in a few weeks. Think more of a few months. Years if you don’t want to put any labor into at all. I’ve got some slow bins that I just feed and water. At some point they just keep reducing about the rate I keep feeding. At some point I stop feeding and just keep watering. After about a year after the last feeding it’s basically done. The worms move in and make thorough work of it all.

Wood chips and sticks will take a long time to break down. Some people sift that stuff out and throw it into the next bin. I’m too lazy to sift and I just mulch. I’m too lazy to mix it into the soil too. I just spread it around on top. Works fine for me.

have fun

two cents
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Whoa, that's more than two cents. Excellent post!
8)

rot
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fun happy web sites

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Some web sites that might help. Sorry but I don't have anything urban that might address the trash can issue. Do web search and a little patience will turn up something if I remember correctly.
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Basics:
https://www.compostinfo.com/

Ingredients. Grass clippings will be about the greenest or the nitrogenny you'll want to get and wood chips are about as brown or as carbonny you'll want to get so use it as a relative measure.
https://compost.css.cornell.edu/OnFarmHandbook/apa.taba1.html

More information on the process than I want to know:
https://compost.css.cornell.edu/Composting_homepage.html

Good stuff but I'm not going to tell you to go in that direction. Applicable to basic composting though if you ignore some of the ingredients:
https://www.jenkinspublishing.com/humanure.html

two cents
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rot
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whoa

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Whoa. Too fast for me to reply to the reply webmaster.

thanks
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annafaie
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Joined: Mon Dec 08, 2008 3:40 pm
Location: Richardson, TX

Thanks for the GREAT info! Can you tell me, on average, how long do I have to wait to start turning? Like if I throw in a weeks worth of scraps and some leaves and sawdust then do I wait 1 month before I turn the first time or do I start turning the next day?

Also, can I expect roaches? B/C for me, roaches are a deal-breaker. I can handle mice, rats, ants, etc....but not roaches. If roaches are a deal breaker then should I only compost my leaves and yard clippings and stay away from kitchen scraps?

Anna
Thanks! Anna

David Taylor
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Location: Crest California

Annafaie, I worry a little about how hard its going to get to pick up the trash can and dump it into the other one, but maybe not. I built a two bin composter from wood pallets lined with chicken fencing, and I simply toss the compost back and forth between the two. Its big, though.

Roaches, kitchen scraps. Dig down a little into the compost until you get to the hot part, then stick the kitchen scraps in, cover up. Wife tossed a whole onion the other day, I don't know why, big one, and I just put that onion into one of my bins toward the center. I turn every third day or so, and when I turned that onion up, it fell apart. A hundred forty degrees for a week, and anything gets cooked, especially living things like mice and roaches. Keep turning, and all the creatures stay away. They can't successfully nest when their would-be bedding keeps getting tossed. If you want to test for it, put out some Roach Motels, and see if anything turns up.

When to toss. My experience? Depending on the material and the outside temperature, the compost is cooking anywhere from one to three days. I wouldn't turn it for the first three days, but go ahead and toss it every time you have the urge. You can't overdue it, although I remember Organic Garden Magazine had a thing for a while there, where people were writing in about how quick they could get their compost to finish, and I bet some of them burned so much gas in their chipper/shredders, and so much time turning their compost, they had no time to garden and no money for seeds. Their is a point of diminishing returns. Rot said something about fitting it into your lifestyle. I'd like to second that.

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smokensqueal
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WOW ROT really got into details.

I like to keep it simple. When starting if I have enough material I add enough greens to have the pile moist feeling and enough browns to keep it fluffy. As it's working I continue adding to it with no particular process just what ever I have I throw it in. During the fall I do end up with to many browns but I throw them in anyway and at the end of summer I run a little heavy on the greens but in that case I throw in some cardboard and newspaper. Layering is typically used just to keep portions in check that's all.

As far as turning if you want it perfect you can messure the temp and as soon as the temp starts falling then your turn it so it starts heating back up. Personally I turn it when I'm board or when it's nice outside in the winter. So the summer time I turn it a lot some times a few times a week and in winter maybe once a month.

I've never heard of a cockroach problem. The most I've heard have been ants and rats/mice. Ants really aren't an issue. Mice are really fine but rats you really don't want those with the possible diseases they could carry but some don't worry about that. But if you are doing this in trash cans with lids then there really should be any way they can get in anyway.

And about the trash cans I've heard that's been a bit harder to control then others. Just because they are usually to small or to heavy to turn. I have a 55 gallon drum that I use to throw kitchen scraps in until they can be tossed in the big open bin because I had problems with rats. I turn mine with a little auger or better known as a bulb planter that goes on the end of a drill. Then when time comes to empty it I just tip it over and use 5 gallon buckets to transfer the good to the open bin.

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Gnome
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annafaie,

I usually end up with one good hot pile a year but I don't obsess over it. It is only hot in the beginning anyway. I have never bothered with barrels or tumblers. I simply set up a cylinder of chicken wire on the ground and layer my materials. I don't make too much of an effort to get ratios correct either, some browns, some greens, some water then repeat.

When it is time to turn it just take the cylinder apart and set it back up next to the old pile and turn the pile into the cylinder.

Norm

rot
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season to turn

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I don't start turning until the bin is full. Now that I've gotten lazy, that sometimes takes a while. Others check temperatures and so on.

There are different methods to turning. I use a plastic cylinder that I slide off the bin and set down next to the remaining pile and shovel the pile back into the bin. Others use those auger, corkscrew type things. I never used them so I can't speak to that. Some people swear by pitchforks. I've broken two using them not the way they were meant so I'm not running out to buy another.

I use pallets to form my slow, cold bins. They sit on pavers over bare ground and I don't turn them at all. They are on two year cycles - one year to feed and another to rot. The worms come up from the ground and do all the work the bacteria doesn't get to.

I've heard of people using their barrels with tight fitting lids so they will just turn the barrels on the side and roll them around like a tumbler to turn their compost. A real pain if the lid pops off though.

I haven't seen or heard of a problem with roaches. Like a lot of critters, regular turning should keep them away. Keep kitchen scraps buried in the center until they are digested sufficiently and that will keep the vermin out of your hair.

I wouldn't stress over it. Have fun with it.

two cents
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