tomc
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Posts: 2665
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:52 am
Location: SE-OH USA Zone 6-A

What is finished enough?

Each year this question gets nibbled on (and around) in the spring as compost bins get opened and spread on gardens. Below are my take on my compost needs. YMMV

Q., Do you need utterly decomposed and homogenous compost?
A,. No, but there is a chunk size I find inadaquate to my need. If I find a leaf stem or twig its probably going direct on the new bed, and getting turned in.

There are woody bits like brussel sprout stems that are just too brushy to go to field, and will get tossed back on the pile for another at-bat.

Q,. Do I need to screen my compost before using?
A,. I do screen some of my compost that will go into soiless mix I make up. But I suspect this has more to do with my esthetic, than my plants needs.

Q,. At what point will critters leave my compost alone?
A,. Probably never. Mostly its not the kitchen scraps that visiting fox, voles, mice, dogs, possums are after in your compost. it is the indigenous micro herd that they fancy as snacks.

My solution has ever been to enlarge the buffet, rather than to limit access. I will use a closed can to decompose kitchen scraps by using a steel can*, before adding them to compost bin. I always put some finished compost out on the lawn.

After many years of observation only bear have the potential to endanger humans. Everybody else is looking for a clump of earth worms for a late night snack. And prefer their worms where they can watch the neighborhood.

*Tankage*
By precomposting kitchen scraps it mostly liquifies and adds nicely to the center mass of your compost bin. I started doing this to get a neighbors dog out of my compost bin. I got tired shoveling up the second-hand compost he ate.

It did not matter if I added or withheld food items from the compost, Ferdinand the great dane would try to eat his own body mass of compost till I started precomposting kitchen scraps.
Think like a tree
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hendi_alex
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 3567
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2008 11:58 am
Location: Central Sand Hills South Carolina

I have a large, covered worm bin. All of the kitchen scraps go to the worm bin. When the worm bin reaches capacity, I move that mostly composted material, worm casings, and earthworms to the compost pile, leaving about 1/3 behind in the worm bin. Then the worm bin is gradually refilled with composting leaves and table scraps, until time to repeat the process.

This year since we now have some chickens, chicks at this point, the compost pile will start getting some manure again.

As far as when to use. My compost almost never makes it past the partially composted stage. At that point is usually get blended in with potting mix in large planters, or is used as mulch in the beds which have lost a little mass from one year to the next.
Eclectic gardening style, drawing from 45 years of interest and experience. Mostly plant in raised beds and containers primarily using intensive gardening techniques.
Alex

imafan26
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Posts: 11269
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Its a worm eat worm world we live in.

Compost is a living thing, home to millions of critters, bacteria and fungi eating the products of decomposition

There will always be other critters centipedes, millipedes, sow bugs, worms, grubs, beetles, lizards, cockroaches, ants, mice, and spiders who are attracted to the buffet.

Cats, dogs, mongoose, egrets and other large critters come to eat the other critters.

When the compost is finally finished, most of the critters move over to the fresher pile where the pickings are better.

By the time compost is finished, there aren't that many critters left in it, but some actinomycetes may still be active. We incorporate the compost on or in the soil to grow our crops

The crop residues, fruit and vegetable wastes go back into the pile and it starts all over.

Someone said "compost happens". I think it happens because its the way God planned it. "The cycle of life goes on; life happens"
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

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