firstimegardener
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Composting questions...lots of them

Hi

I may be asking stupid questions. I did look but didn't see anything that really answered what I am wondering.

Ok, so where we live we aren't allowed to have a compost pile because of HOA rules (stupid, I know..we can't hang out our laundry either) Moving because of this isn't an option, so we are looking at getting a composting bin. So:

1) Which are better, the ones that just stand in place and don't tumble or the tumbling ones.

2) What's the point of tumbling?

3) I have worms in my worm bin. Should I add some of these worms to my compost bin. And if I do get a tumbling one, will it make the worms dizzy? (told you, dumb question....)

Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks :)

cynthia_h
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Have you read the Stickies at the top of the Composting Forum? Those will give you some ideas about what can go into a compost pile.

We refer to "compost piles" here, regardless of the actual container or lack of same, because it's just easier to talk about them that way. Sounds like your HOA doesn't want an uncontained heap. Various members here have used the Earth Machine, the BioStack bin, and other square/rectangular containers.

Very *few* members have had happy experiences with tumblers, however. A search of the forum on the key words

compost tumbler

will show you the depth and breadth of the unhappiness: lack of air circulation, necessity of a second "collection" container while the tumbler plods along with its first batch, icky dripping out of the tumbler, etc. -wall-

As for hanging out clothes, WHAT KIND OF HOA IS THIS? You're *required* to use fossil fuels in 2012, when energy consumption is a major political--and environmental--concern? Maybe an indoor-mounted "clothes dryer" like [url=https://www.vermontcountrystore.com/store/jump/productDetail/For_The_Home/Household_Solutions/Laundry_&_Storage/Wall-Mount_Wooden_Clothes_Dryer/29887]this[/url] will help....

Happy composting and happy gardening, despite the HOA. :)

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

firstimegardener
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Hi!
I have been reading the stickies. I am learning a lot! I will look into the square containers. The main issue is it needs to be contained and covered.

As far as what kind of HOA it is, it's the kind that if you leave your trash cans out more then 15 hours (not 15 hours after it gets picked up, but a total of 15 hours) you get a nasty letter. They are very VERY appearance driven.

Luckily, we are only renting. In a few years, we well buy our own house, hopefully with land, that I can do whatever I want on!

I do have a bar in my laundry room that I hang stuff on, but with six people in our family, it gets full pretty fast :wink:

Thanks so much for the ideas!

cynthia_h
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I was so stunned re. the HOA (BTW, what state do you live in right now?) that I completely forgot to address your question re. the worms. :oops:

I don't know how anyone would manage the worms in a tumbler. The temperatures reached inside that mythical structure, "the successful composting tumbler," would exceed temps where worms will survive. Worms aren't comfortable above 75 deg. F, and (I've lent my Mary Appelhof book out) don't survive above something like 85 deg. F. So no go for worms in a tumbler. Not only would they get dizzy, they would get dead. :(

I have a Worm Factory (purchased at a discount price from the county) for my primary worm population, and I also have happy worms in my BioStack Bin. The Worm Factory lives in permanent shade in the carport under a blanket, which helps moderate the temperature flux. The BioStack gets as much sun as anything in my yard can get, which is a maximum of 4 hours in the morning + 1 to 2 hours in the afternoon of sun. I run, perforce, a cool (vs. warm or hot) compost pile. Stuff takes a while to break down, so if I'm in a hurry, that's just too bad. *sigh*

The composting worms are Eisenia foetida (E. foetida), also called "red wigglers." Appelhof recommended these above all others, and they do a really great job. There are all kinds of instructions on the Web on how to make your own worm bin, so it depends on your personal DIY comfort level and space available inside the home--yes, worm composting can take place indoors--as to whether you want to pursue making one yourself.

There are many, many discussions here at The Helpful Gardener re. worm composting and the "ideal" worm habitat. Key terms to use in Search the Forum will be like these:

worm composting
worms compost
vermicompost
vermicomposting

Hope I didn't overlook anything *else* big like that! :lol:

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

firstimegardener
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I have a worm bin going. They live in my garage (much to my husbands shock when I first got them!) They just cannot keep up with the amount of grass clippings and such that we produce, so I need something added. I never thought about the heat issue with the worms in a tumbler. Would the issue apply to a square or rectangular one as well?

I live in Western Washington. We have no growing season according to others I have spoke with, but I am determined to grow something other then weeds. We are going organic as a family and getting rid of all prepackaged foods that we can possible get rid of. But organic veggies and fruits are much more expensive, so I am trying to grow whatever I can to help in that area. I also don't want to put anything on the ground that will eventually cause harm to our ecosystem. I'm still learning, and I have a lot more to learn, but I will get there :)

Many HOA's have rules about hanging out laundry, especially around here. Some people have challenged the rules in court and have won, but because I'm a renter, I don't want to stir the pot. Honestly, we are getting a good deal on this house, and I don't want to have to move until we can buy our own place.

cynthia_h
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Worms will not deal with grass clippings. Nope. Not a chance. They want food: yours. Kitchen scraps. Your local library should have a circulating copy of Mary Appelhof's Worms Eat My Garbage. This is THE book on composting with worms. There may also be used copies available online or at used bookstores, if such exist in your area. (I think I may have officially lost two copies of this book now via lending them out....)

Ms. Appelhof has very extensive lists of what worms like to eat. Grass ain't one of 'em; sorry. The bedding for worms can be shredded newspaper, if that's one of your waste products, and some people have reported the use of shredded leaves (which I don't have access to on a reliable basis). Worms also like coconut coir for bedding, but since that's a bought product, I don't recommend or use it. My personal ethos about compost is that I don't pay for stuff that goes into the compost; it's just silly to do that.

There are also lists all over the Internet of what worms will or won't supposedly eat, but since Ms. Appelhof researched and observed, and recorded her observations over two or three decades, I give her my respect by following her guidelines.

Re. living in Western Washington: do yourself a favor and become acquainted with the Sunset Western Garden Book. The Sunset climate-zone system beats the daylights out of the USDA's "hardiness zone" system. Sunset takes into account max temps in the summer, annual precipitation, prevailing winds, altitude, and a host of other factors. There are 24 Sunset climate zones in the western states and provinces alone (vs. 11 in all of North America in the USDA system), plus 3 in Alaska and 2 more in Hawaii, for a total of 29.

Hmmm. 29 Sunset climate zones in the west vs. 11 USDA "hardiness zones" for all of North America. Which is more likely to describe the geographic regions more accurately? :wink:

Sunset provides the growing season for each climate zone and, under the list of plants one might want to grow, gives the conditions in which the plants are most likely to be successful. For example, here's some language from the Western Garden Book (7th ed., 2001) on beets:

Raised for their edible roots and tender young leaves, beets grow best in relatively cool weather. In hot-summer climates, sow in early spring or late summer so that plants will mature before extreme heat sets in. In mild-winter areas, you can also plant in late summer for fall and winter harvest. To harvest beets over a long season, sow seed at monthly intervals. (p. 219)

Re. zones in Western Washington, the map on p. 36 of my edition shows WA divided along a north/south line running roughly from Maple Falls SE to Darrington, then to Skykomish, Mt. Rainier, and Packwood to the Oregon state line. West of this line, there are four Sunset climate zones: 1A, 4, 5, and 6. You'll need to look at the Sunset maps to see which one you're in. Note that the on-line maps are particularly inaccurate in the Puget Sound and S.F. Bay areas; evidently there was some idea among those who set up the on-line maps that fine detail wasn't important. Or something. :roll: :x So find your "personal" climate zone in the "green bible," read its description, learn about the growing season, etc.

Sometimes copies of the Sunset book are available at the library just like the Appelhof book, but there might be very good deals on used ones right now, since the 9th edition was just recently released. :wink: Which reminds me...it's time to get my own new edition. I usually purchase every other update, so I skipped the 8th edition, but it's time for me to get the 9th! :oops:

Cynthia

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rainbowgardener
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Cynthia has taken a lot of time to give you some very good advice. I'm just going to go back to the original questions a bit.

To me the biggest difference between compost tumblers and regular bins is that tumblers are batch composting. That is you load it up and then you let it sit and tumble until it is done, and don't keep adding stuff (unless you have to to get the balance right which apparently sometimes happens). Because it tumbles and mixes, if you were adding new stuff, it would get mixed in with the old, so you could never separate your finished compost out.

That means you have to have some where to store compostables, while you are waiting for one batch to finish. So you would have to have a regular bin or something anyway. Some people have solved this by making two chambered tumblers, so you can be loading one side while the other one works:

[url=https://www.google.com/products/catalog?hl=en&q=two+chambered+compost+tumbler&ix=h9&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_qf.,cf.osb&biw=1251&bih=747&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=shop&cid=7054601802466344364&sa=X&ei=HavIT_DyBJC50]2 sided compost tumbler[/url]

It's a brilliant idea if you don't mind spending $500 on a compost tumbler that may not work real well anyway... cynthia is right about lots of people reporting problems with them.

The point of the tumbling is to keep aerating the stuff. Mixing more air in helps it "burn" hotter. The tumbling action also helps break the clumps of stuff down into smaller bits, which also helps it burn hotter and quicker. The idea is that you are supposed to be able to get finished compost a lot quicker that way. Again, based on user reviews, it does make compost quicker, but not as dramatically different as the ads suggest.

If you have a regular compost bin and it sits on the ground without a bottom, then you don't have to add the worms, they will come.
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leofff
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I read something recently about the effectiveness of tumbling or turning your pile. Some scientists actually did a study of the oxygen levels inside a compost pile. Essentially it's about 1% oxygen. And even when you turn the pile to aerate, the oxygen level returns to the 1% within the hour. They basically found that compost piles are self aerating.

I turn my pile just because I like to see what's going on and it's fun to see the steam coming out. And the maggots fleeing from the light of day.

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farmerlon
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Another option is to just reserve a spot (or row) in your garden for trench composting (aka sheet composting).
Just dig a hole or trench in the garden (about a foot deep), either in advance or every time you have a collection of stuff to compost. Pour your compostables in the hole and then cover them with about 6 inches of soil.
The material will decompose ("compost") and enrich that area of the soil. And, since it's "hidden" in your garden, the HOA will never know.

toxcrusadr
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Off topic but I couldn't help commenting on the laundry thing. We don't really have an HOA (it's not really organized or active) but there are Covenants in our deed prohibiting various things like parking an RV in your driveway for too many days, and laundry lines. I've ignored the laundry one by putting up a retractable one attached to the back of the house. Heck with em. If they wanna stop me saving energy in 2012, they'll have to organize an HOA as required by the covenants, THEN sue me. It doesn't seem to bother my neighbors, and certainly not enough to go to that much trouble! :lol:
Tox

firstimegardener
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Thank you so much everyone for the information. I will definitely be looking for those books at the library! I have been reading here, and learning a lot as well. We will probably go with a square compost bin now that I have really gotten feed back about the tumblers. Now, I just have to wait for hubby's bonus from work :)

RE the HOA, because I rent, if I break the HOA rules, I break the lease, which means I can get evicted. And the people in my neighborhood (well, actually just one or two) report everything to my property management. It is what it is. When I have my own land, I am puttin up a darn laundry line just out of spite :)

cynthia_h
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Re. hubby's bonus/compost bin: check with your solid-waste provider, whether it's a city, county, private company, or public/private partnership. Ask whether there's any discount program for compost bins *before* you spring for the full retail price for one. There were tons of such programs about two years ago; I don't know how much inventory still remains, given the budget blood-letting most places have experienced.

But I got the Worm Factory in 2008 or 2009 at approx. 50% retail, so it's worth checking. :D

Cynthia

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rainbowgardener
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Yeah, I got my Earth Machine compost bin

https://www.earthmachine.com/purchase.php

for $30 when the county had a truckload sale on them.
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GomoIsGardening
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I have the 2 sided tumbler. The thing is a monster, so it takes quite a bit to fill it. A suburban lot may not be able to provide everything you need for one batch, let alone the other side. A standard sized wheelbarrow does fit under it, which makes moving the compost easier. It's critter proof and it's never smelled. I purchased mine because I was renting at the time. If I had to do it over again, I might have been able to get away with this set up.

https://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?p=56092&cat=2,33140&ap=1

The company also has a dual compost bin which is definitely more reasonable.


https://www.leevalley.com/en/garden/page.aspx?p=69083&cat=2,33140&ap=1

It has a learning curve. Make sure as you load it you give it a couple of turns & spray with the hose so everything starts mixing evenly from the beginning. It only needs to be damp. The good news is if you use too much water it can be set so the excess will drain out. The smaller stuff is chopped up, the faster it works. Don't fill it more than 3/4 full.

I don't recommend purchasing the compost activator they may try to sell you. It never worked in mine.

Cynthia has given the best information I ever come across concerning worms. I knew about citrus but not about onions.
And, Rainbow thanks for the avocado tip.
MaryAnn

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rainbowgardener
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Wow!! That's a way better price than the 2 sided compost tumbler I linked to above. For that price I might almost be willing to try it.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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