buddylee375
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At what point do you stop adding to your pile?

Hello, I have been casually reading through this forum for about year now. I'm finding myself getting slightly addicted and what I thought would be just a 10 minute browse turns into an hour or so.... I'm sure this has been brought up before but I failed to find it so I come looking for suggestions from those more experienced.

Anyway, I have two separate composting bins set up by my garage, roughly 4'x4'x4' that my wife and I have been adding to for a couple years now. The first year, I didn't put too much effort into it as it was going to be more of a project for her, however since then I have kind of taken over the composting duties.
I understand the ideal mixture of greens and browns and while I try to keep a pretty good ratio, we mainly just throw in our veggie and fruit scraps, coffee grounds, and then some dead leaves, paper, grass, and plants. We don't get to crazy with it, just use the normal stuff from the kitchen and yard.

What I had intended to do with the two bin system is fill one bin up and then let it do it's thing while we work on filling the other pile up. The problem I have is that I find it hard to throw out things I know can go in the compost pile so we've kind of just been adding to both piles and keeping those bad boys plum full. I guess I'm just wondering if it's better to have one bin as a working bin only and then just add to it if needed. I feel like the only way I'll ever have a "finished" pile is if I stop adding to it at some point but just would like to hear your thoughts.

Thanks!

Bobberman
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I have one bin enclosed in wire at the top of the garden so the rain washed compost tea into the garden while I just keep adding to the shrinking pile! I throw a shovel of garden soil on top about once a weekwhich seems to add worms around the bin.
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Making a compost bin above a wire mesh about a foot off the ground or just removing dirt from the sides of the compost is a way to get compost all the time!. Making a bin with pallets and moving one to dig out bottom compost is another way. After a month you should start getting some compost. I always add some garden soil like a shovel once a week which will turn fast into rich compost tea soil!. I even like to strain some dirt to add with a little sand or anything shredded mixed!
. The garden buffet is up to you but make use of it all the time.
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EEven different compost is a good idea. One with maybe manure or burnt wood ash... Pine needles or most type of leaves. Buying a small bags of blood meal or any kind of nitrogen mix put on in small amounts will make the compost work better! Rabbit manure is excellent! I like all kinds f skins and coffee grounds even the filter! There is compost material all around all you have to do is look and cook!
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A garbage container will make a good compost. If its a 50 gallon drum you can roll it once a week with the lid on! You can
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In a perfect world I fill one bin, one rots, one is done. (thats in a three bin setup).

The done one gets opened and only the most obvious 'chunky' stuff gets tossed back on top of the fill-bin.

Everything else gets forked onto beds and turned in. It disapeares soon enough.
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rainbowgardener
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I have a two bin system. I have one bin I'm filling. During the growing season, every couple months or when I want to use compost, I make sure all the finished compost is dug out of the non-working bin. Then I take all the stuff off the top of the working bin, down to the layer where the earthworms are. Put all that to be the start of a new pile in what will now be the new working bin. The rest of the stuff left in the old pile in what was the working bin is finished or mostly finished. Exposed to the air and stirred up a bit, it finishes up quickly. That becomes the non-working bin. That's all the turning I do to my compost piles.

You will find when you do that, the bin with the new pile is considerably less full than the old one was. But yes, if you want to get and use finished compost at some point you have to stop putting fresh stuff on top.

I have trouble filling up a compost bin. It may be full one day when I do a bunch of weeding/clearing etc. But in a few days it has sunk down significantly, so I can just keep adding.
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toxcrusadr
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Ditto. A multi-bin system works best if, when bin 1 gets full, you turn that over into bin 2. New stuff ONLY goes into bin 1. The turning will help the first batch get homogenized and finished. When you use that (or when bin 1 gets full again and you're forced to do something1) then bin 1 gets turned into the now empty bin 2, and the process repeats.

Putting fresh stuff into both bins does not make the best use of multiple bins.
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Dillbert
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I am the world's leading laziest composter.

I have _one_ bin.

I dump everything in it - except weed seed and tomato greenery. kitchen scraps (no meat, fats, dairy)

I don't turn it; I don't water it; I don't shade it; I don't talk to it.

at the end of the season I till whatever is left into the soil.
some things of "whatever is left" - like broccoli stems / orange peels - I recognize. but I figger dug in they decomp faster - so "What me worry?" - toss it in the heap, dig in under......

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cedillamuerta
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Right now I only have one continuously added-to compost heap, but in the future when I have some land I plan on having at least two. I'll have one large heap that just about everything will go on for cold composting and simple waste removal. Then I'll have one or more piles with measured out ingredients for hot composting and quick retrieval.
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PunkRotten
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I only have one bin and never have waited until it was 100% composted. I usually use stuff that is mostly composted. Works fine for me though.

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Jardin du Fort
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It looks to me that the question is not so much when to stop adding to the pile, but more when to start taking out of the pile.

:roll:

rot
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I guess it all depends on what you want to do

I guess it all depends on what you want to do
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If you’re trying to make compost to use in the garden, the short answer is you stop feeding the bin sometime before it’s done, let it finish and then, harvest. If you’re in no particular hurry and just adding things as you go along, you just might stop feeding that particular bin when you first top it off and then start a new one while the first one finishes.
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If you’re trying to make the most compost you can as fast as you can, then you’re assembling your pile or bin all at once and maybe top it off one more time after that. Then you’re monitoring the temperature and just after the temperature peaks you turn everything in the bin and mix it up and watch the temperature rise until the next peak. Repeat the process. Somewhere along the way you’ll notice it’s about as finished as you need it to be, maybe somewhere when it’s about two thirds to half the maximum volume.
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There’s one more approach that’s less popular. If your aim is to simply digest stuff so it doesn’t end up in the trash and gawd knows where after that then a good 4 x 4 foot print set at a suitable height and just keep feeding it at about the rate the volume reduces and you could go a long time before ever needing to have to harvest.
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I had several bins going where I was getting rid of some stuff that I just didn’t want to turn so I’d feed a 3 x 3 x 3 foot pallet bin in a careful fashion once a month always covering it up carefully and watering it once a day. It’s dry country ‘round here so I’d water a little bit each day to conserve the water. When I started, I’d feed it for about 6 months topping it off several times and then let it reduce for 12 to 18 months. I remember the first one when I opened it up. Because of pattern set by the pallets, it looked like a chocolate layer cake. It really did.

Somewhere along the line, I got a mushroom culture built in and the reduction rate kicked in until finally on my 6th one I was feeding if for 18 months before I stopped. I’m sure I could have kept going for years as long as I didn’t push it. I did watch one of those bins reduce down to nothing after over a year or so never harvesting that one in the far back awkward corner.
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What works best is what works for you. Set up the operation to cater to how you want things to work. When they don’t work out quite the way you hoped, observe what’s been going on and adapt some changes – maybe more water, or less or a bigger bin or smaller ones in greater number. Make it work for you and not the other way around.

to sense
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Lucius_Junius
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I have three bins, made of pallets, all together. The two on each side are one-pallet wide, and they recieve stuff daily. Then, one one gets full, it goes to the middle, which is two-pallets wide. There, it gets turned once a week for a couple of months until it's good, crumbly compost, and then it's carted away to grow food. This means one of the other bins can now be moved to the center to get turned frequently. The two side-bins are really just to "store" compostable material until there's room in the middle for it to get some good treatment. It definitely composts while waiting, but I find that once I start turning it weekly it becomes useable much, much quicker.

buddylee375
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Woa, thanks for all the replies!

While part of the reason for my composting is to constructively use most of my kitchen/yard scraps, at some point I would prefer to have some finished compost for use. I guess that ultimately means I may have to be a little more mindful of the ingredients I put in to each bin and sticking to a dedicated "starter" bin and a dedicated off limits "finishing" bin.

Who knows, maybe if I actually stick to this method, the finished compost might be ready to use just as fast as the second bin fills up so I won't have to throw away anything useful. Regardless, it'll be fun to see how things progress this summer.

Thanks again.

estorms
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I used to put all my weeds and grass in a wide row at the edge of my garden, adding kitchen scraps and leaves in the fall. In the spring, I tilled it all in and planted my tomatoes there and put the weeds and grass on the other side. No enclosure, no turning, no watering, no science, just great tomatoes.

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rainbowgardener
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buddylee375 wrote:Woa, thanks for all the replies!

Who knows, maybe if I actually stick to this method, the finished compost might be ready to use just as fast as the second bin fills up so I won't have to throw away anything useful. Regardless, it'll be fun to see how things progress this summer.

Thanks again.
Don't throw away anything useful! If you have to, go to a three bin system, many people do that. Two bins is sufficient for me, because most of the time, I'm not generating huge amounts of compostables at once, but maybe it isn't sufficient for you. Compost bins are not hard to either purchase or make...
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ElizabethB
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I use a 2 bin system. I have titanium in my right arm and can not turn a single bin. With 2 I can toss from one to the other. I never stop adding to my bins even over winter. Not much happens over winter but as soon as the weather warms up my bins start cooking. I add rabbit manure to keep it hot and water the bins during the summer. I generally toss once a week from one bin to the other. Lovely stuff.

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buddylee375
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rainbowgardener wrote:Don't throw away anything useful! If you have to, go to a three bin system, many people do that.
Well unfortunately I live in the city and my two 4x4 bins are already taking up a bit of room beside my garage. I guess I could just start throwing stuff into an old garbage can if I needed to until I can empty one of the bins.

My problem tends to be I end up with more greens than browns so it takes a little longer to finish. I saved all the dead leaves last fall and mowed them pretty finely so that should help out once it heats up. During the summer however, I can't say I take the time to tear up paper or cardboard or anything and don't really have a significant source of browns besides that. Maybe ill just start saving some paper and then use the mower to shred that too!

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rainbowgardener
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I collect bags of fall leaves that people put out for pickup. Bring them home and use them for browns a bit at a time through the season. If I run out of fall leaves, I buy a bale of straw and feed that in. Either way, I always have some browns on hand, just waiting.
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