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pinksand
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Where to begin?

I picked up a free "compost bin" from our county office. The "bin" is actually rolled up stiff plastic mesh that is essentially a fence to go around an exposed compost pile. Now I have a few questions....

1. Should I dig up the grass where the pile is going or just smoother it with the pile?
2. What is the best tool for turning the pile? What do you use?
3. I've been collecting vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, cardboard, grass clippings, and plants that I have cut back... do I just start throwing these all in at this point? I know that I have to balance my browns and greens, but I just want to be sure that I start this process correctly. Is it okay to just... start?
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pinksand
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Thank you Marlingardener! I think that since this section of the forum tends to contain lots of questions from people who are having problems with their compost I've been intimidated. Of course no one's really going to post just to say "hey there, my compost is nice and healthy! Just wanted you all to know ;)"
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rainbowgardener
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Agree with MG, just start throwing things in. Mixing browns and greens is better than layering them, but whenever I throw kitchen scraps in, I make sure to cover them with a good layer of weeds/ leaves, etc.

I agree moisture is really important. If your pile dries out, it stops working. Not a disaster, because it will start again when the rain comes, but still you would rather it kept working. When ever it is dry enough for me to water the garden, I always water the compost pile also.

I don't know if you have much trouble with critters, like especially raccoons, but also opossums, etc. I can't have an open top composter, because the raccoons and whatever dig all the kitchen scraps out of it (even though they are 6" down) and pull them out and have a party and then leave the remains scattered all over the yard.

But apparently I have more critter issues than some, even though I am 4 miles from downtown. Evidentally some people can have open top compost bins.

If you need to have a top, you can use more of the mesh stuff and just tie it down with twist ties.
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pinksand
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That's good to know... I didn't even think about animals being a problem! We definitely have deer, foxes, loads of squirrels, and "Georgie Porgie" our resident groundhog. I haven't seen any possums or raccoon but it wouldn't surprise me if I saw one. Don't tell my husband though because the first time he saw a raccoon he screamed like a girl and hid behind me calling it a possum. Poor guy, I think I laughed for a week straight. I need to come up with something to steak the fencing in. It's very thick and heavy plastic, but it just sort of collapses into the middle right now. When I look for something to hold it up with I'll see if I can also find something to make a lid of some sort as well.

Thanks for the heads up!
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rainbowgardener
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Wow, you sure know some wussy people, MG! :) You're sure there wasn't a coyote in the distance that she thought was going to eat the Pomeranian?

pinksand, sounds like your husband wouldn't like our place too much. Our raccoons are so bold, they will come right up on the deck with us. When we yell and stomp our feet, they waddle off, but they don't exactly look terrified!
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tomc
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rebar or stakes help act as stiffener for flexible fence.

If your having a Martha Stewart morning you could put some cardboard down first (but it won't really metter).

I have a four tine and seven tine fork that (along with) a five tine clam fork get used to stir stuff around in my bin.
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rot
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I can dig it

..
If Georgie Porgie is a digging type critter, or maybe others around you, you might want to put your new bin on top of pavers or paving stones. That'll keep the tree roots out and you certainly won't be worrying about the grass underneath.

Easy to read, easy to look up guide for composting can be found at:
https://sarasota.ifas.ufl.edu/compost-info/

Somebody better tell her what to expect in the winter being up there in MD. I wouldn't know here in So Cal.

Composting should be easy and there are many ways to go about it. Make sure it fits you and you don't change yourself to fit it. Worst case scenario: it takes longer. No major disasters no kidding.

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..

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rainbowgardener
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OK winter... I do continuous composting, throw in what you have whenever you have it. In winter, the pile freezes solid, but it doesn't matter. I just keep throwing stuff on top, which freezes too. As soon as the weather warms up, it starts working again.

I really don't do much turning my compost. Every couple months through the warm season, I turn it over. That is I move the top half down to the layer where the earthworms are to a new spot, to be the bottom of a new pile, being sure a bunch of the earthworms go with it. The bottom of the old pile is finished and nearly finished compost. Stirred up a little and exposed to the air, it finishes up fast. So I keep two piles, one that's building/working and one that's finishing/ being used. Some people keep 3: building, working, finished. For me, it's not as important that the finishing/ being used pile (which you won't need until spring at this point) be caged. It no longer has any thing in it that the macro-creatures are interested in.
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pinksand
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Thanks everyone for the helpful information! It's good to know to anticipate some dormancy over winter, this way I won't be all bummed thinking that I did something wrong when it isn't steaming in the snow lol ;)

After work I'm heading over to try to find some rebar (didn't know what this was called so thanks... now I know what to ask for) and a pitch fork. Then I'll steak the fencing down, and get this pile started! YAY!
USDA Zone 7a, Sunset Zone 32
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vermontkingdom
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I have a three bin system of composting. I have found that if I transfer the cooking contents of the first bin (4 x 4 x 5) into the center bin around the middle of November, the contents will continue to maintain a cooking temperature well into the winter (late January). The fact the last few winters in Vermont have been particularly mild has also been instrumental in keeping the compost working so late. Starting in early October, I start putting together the contents for that winter-working compost by combining garden refuge, saved kitchen remnants, horse manure, and lots of shredded fall leaves.
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Halfway
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I use a three bin system as well.

As rainbowgardener said...just pile it up!

[url=https://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/825/compostbins7nov10300kb.jpg/][img]https://imageshack.us/a/img825/7752/compostbins7nov10300kb.th.jpg[/img][/url]
Zone 4a.

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pinksand
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Wow! That 3 bin system is impressive :) That's a great idea so that you aren't pouring anything fresh onto a pile of nearly finished compost. Lol looks like I need to run back to home depot tomorrow for some more supplies! I completely forgot the pitch fork... I get so distracted by all the possibilities at home improvement stores! I'll add a digging fork to the list while I'm at it!
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ReptileAddiction
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pinksand wrote:I completely forgot the pitch fork... I get so distracted by all the possibilities at home improvement stores! I'll add a digging fork to the list while I'm at it!
I do that all the time! I will just start wandering around. I love it!

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8)

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rainbowgardener
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You definitely want a mix of browns and greens, but it isn't rocket science. My pile tends to be heavier on browns in winter when I have lots of fall leaves saved up* but not a lot of green stuff in the garden and heavier on greens in the summer when the fall leaves are mostly gone and there's tons of pulled weeds, but it works either way.

*I go around the neighborhood and pick up yard waste bags full of fall leaves that people set out at the curb and bring them home. Usually end up with a dozen or so, that I use for mulch and feed into my compost pile a bit at a time all season. If I run out too early, I by a bale of straw to use for browns.
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