mrsjtak
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Can rocks frame a compost heap?

I recently bought a house with a lot of dead hacked up plants and a huge back and front yard. There are several large rocks scattered throughout the property, like river rocks. I think they were meant to be decorative. As I am digging the ground up and preparing to plant, I have collected several of these rocks.

Could I use these to frame my compost heap? I seem to see that wood is most often used. I've never even seen a compost heap in person :eek: so I feel a bit silly asking. Also, how tall are compost heaps usually? My rocks would only make like a 6" tall border, I am guessing that isn't tall enough?

I live in a hilly area, with large possums and raccoons nearby, so I am also wondering if I should just do a container type of compost area instead. Any tips on containers would be VERY helpful, as I said, I've never seen a compost area before!
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

No, you want a pile that is 3-4 feet tall, basically a one yard/meter cube. It doesn't compost well if you can't pile it up. And it wants air to circulate through it, so rocks aren't best for that. Check out the composting basics thread here:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 35&t=56881

They are easy to build with lots of plans available on line:

Image
]https://img2-2.timeinc.net/toh/i/step-by ... t-view.gif

you can build them out of wooden shipping pallets that are often available free

Or they can be made of chicken wire or wire screening:

Image
https://activerain.com/image_store/uploa ... 050149.JPG

or you can buy plastic compost bins, just be sure like this one, they have plenty of ventilation holes:

Image

Now you know what a compost pile looks like! :)

Congratulations on your new home and garden! Sounds like you didn't just buy a house, you bought a new hobby/ avocation.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

Incidentally, I also live in a hilly, woodsy area with lots of raccoons, possums, woodchucks, etc. Plastic bin works fine, or anything else that is sturdy AND has a top. Some people have compost bins that are open on top or even one of the sides. That does NOT work for me. The raccoons pull all the kitchen scraps out and spread them around. Come out in the morning and it looks like there's been a raccoon party. I expect somewhere in the bushes there's hungover raccoons sleeping it off! :) So you do need to be able to tightly enclose it.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

Just as examples, I have two compost bins. One is plastic about like the picture shown. The other is wire grid about like this:

Image
https://seeds.sunriseruby.org/wp-content ... poster.png

where the "wire" is like steel bars. Mine has bigger squares/openings, but still works. The wire grid one was very cheap when I bought it 20 years ago, but they are hard to find these days, especially with a top.

Having two is useful. I have one that I am filling and then one that is finishing/ being used. Some people keep three piles, but two works ok for me. Once all the finished compost is used, I switch them. Move all the fresher stuff to where the finished compost used to be, turning it upside down in the process - so the freshest stuff on top becomes the bottom of the new pile. Once I get down to the layer where the earthworms are, all the stuff below that is finished or nearly finished. Once it gets exposed to the air and stirred up a bit, it finishes quickly and then I start using it. I do that every three months or so in the growing season.
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mrsjtak
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

Oh my goodness, thank you all so much! I love the pictures, that is super helpful!! I'm thinking we might go the plastic bin route. My husband and I aren't very handy at all :roll: and the bin might be best for all the critters we have around!
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Naytcher Boi
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

I would suggest just getting wood planks. stack them up and fence them around the pile until it's at least 3 foot and 4 inches, so you can place a top. You could use a compost tumbler, and then just place the compost directly.

Naytcher Boi
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

I would suggest just getting wood planks. stack them up and fence them around the pile until it's at least 3 foot and 4 inches, so you can place a top. You could use a compost tumbler, and then just place the compost directly.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

Not sure exactly what was meant about the wood planks, but if you use boards, it is important to leave air spaces between them as in the first picture I posted.

Compost tumblers are sold as a way to make compost quicker by being able to easily aerate and mix it. If you are very handy, you can make your own from 50 gal drum. Otherwise you can buy them:

Image
https://www.self-sufficient.co.uk/OtherI ... umbler.jpg

Often people have trouble with them, because they don't have enough air holes, so you might have to add some. But the main thing is, it is batch composting. Once you have filled it, you can't keep adding stuff, because the old stuff gets all mixed up with the new and you never have finished compost. So that means you have to have some where to collect new stuff coming along for a new batch. That can be just a regular compost pile, but if you have to have a compost pile, why bother with the tumbler? Or you could have two, one to fill while the other is working. Or best solution, just a bit spendy is that they now make two chambered tumblers, just because of this problem.

Image
https://images.hayneedle.com/mgen/dynima ... ill=ffffff&

So you can be filling one side while the other side is working. If I were to buy a tumbler, it would definitely be one like this.
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ElizabethB
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

Mrsjtak - When I first started composting - many years ago - I had a loose pile. Not good. A big mess and almost impossible to turn. I now have 2, adjacent bins like Rainbow's second picture in her first reply. G made them for me with scrap lumber and chicken wire. They are 4'x4'x4'. The back and 2 sides are 4' tall. The front is only 12" tall. Very easy to turn from one bin to the other. The chicken wire allows the air flow needed yet contains the material. Since you have a problem with critters. Make a frame with boards and chicken wire for the top and the front. Hinge it to the box frame and put a latch on both the top and front. You can keep the critters out and still have easy access.

MY problem with containers is that you are very limited on the amount of compost that you can process.

G helped my neighbor make bins from pallets that she got for no $ from a big box store. Some screws, chicken wire, and staple gun were all that was needed.

I have a live oak that sheds in March. G puts the baggers on his mower and mulches the leaves. We bag them and store the bags in back of his shop. I have a ready supply of browns for the entire year. By mid year the leaves in the bags are partially composted. I also have access to cured horse manure and fresh rabbit manure. Kitchen scraps and grass clippings take care of the greens.

Because of health issues I did not maintain my bins for the last 6 months so I am starting over from scratch. No compost for spring. I have a sign on my butt that says "Kick Me". :>

One of the things I love about this forum is that you will receive lots of good advice. Take what you like and leave the rest. No hard feelings.

Composting - like all other aspects of gardening, lawn care, horticulture..... are all an on going learning process. There are no definitive answers.

Good luck

BTW - once you start composting you will be HOOKED!
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meshmouse
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

Mrsjtak -

I think you’ve got some very good input from the above posts and here is something else to consider. This is how I open pile compost (anyone comments or suggestions on how I might improve are much appreciated).

I also live on a hilly plot. Mice, moles, rats, possums, raccoons, hedgehogs, dogs, cats and deer all live in abundant harmony. I know any one of them would love to have a go at my compost pile.

I store up my kitchen scraps for a week or two (stowing in a covered 5 gal bucket in the shade if need be) and when I have enough stuff and the time, I puree it all in my food processor, adding water as needed to slurry. I usually have about four or five gallons when done. I then add it to the top of one of my ‘open’ piles, add a few browns (mostly leaves, maybe some well rinsed seaweed), five or ten gallons of fresh, untreated grass clippings, some more leaves, then water gently and move on with the day.

On occasion I have seen one animal or another checking it out but I’ve never seen one make a habit of it. They might scratch ‘n sniff and poke around a little - looking for the source of that wonderful smell - but all they’re really doing is helping me turn my pile a little bit. There’s nothing for them to grab onto and they leave unsatisfied.

For me, the main flaw in this program is that there are things that I don't or can’t puree. Onions, garlic and citrus (being anti-bacterial/microbial I'm told) as well as corn cobs and husks (they just don't puree easily, same with onion and garlic paper). The onions and garlic can also leave an odor for a day or two which might be offensive to my close neighbors. At this point I am throwing these things out, which I know is wrong in theory, if not in practice. I'm looking for a better solution.

I am very fortunate to have an endless supply (for my needs anyway) of leaves. Come fall, I rake my leaves from high ground to low (into the backyard). I draw from that pile as I add and layer the next year. My neighbors also know where my leaf pile is and rake or haul theirs down into mine as they see fit. It is easier for them than bagging and hauling to their front yard for the garbage crew. Gravity works.

So, I’ve got a big pile of leaves at least 8 x 10 and 6 foot high more or less (mostly more) and off to the side I have one, two or three working compost piles taking up another 8 x 10 foot space (I try to keep them 4 to 6 feet high). It’s very informal. I’ll water a bit now and then, and once a week or two, I’ll go out and turn one onto the other, whatever seems to makes sense. When I get to the bottom (where the worms are) I’ll screen it out and harvest what I need (and maybe spread a little on top of the other pile/piles), then I start adding new to the part just emptied. I’ve harvested at least forty gallons this year which I attribute to last year’s efforts. If I needed to, I'm sure I could get another 20 or more gallons with what’s out there right now. I actually give some away to friends in need (which of course, often gets them started).

I use a thin tined, long handled pitch fork to turn. Kills fewer worms than a shovel and when I can’t fork up anymore, I know I'm in the good stuff. Anything that makes it thru my 1/2 inch mesh screen, I consider ‘compost’. Depending on where it’s going, I might pick the worms back in or take them with me.

In this neighborhood, it blends right in. Not very scientific and not very slick - I know, but it’s quick and easy, effective and cheap – which is all I need.

Hope this helps.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

Puree-ing stuff is OK, besides keeping it from the critters, it makes things break down very fast. But to me it seems like a lot of kind of unpleasant work - I keep a bucket for kitchen scraps under my sink and I know what it can smell like when you open it in the summer. And not necessary as long as your compost pile is in some kind of enclosure like the ones shown earlier in this thread.

No reason at all to throw away onions and garlic. Just throw them in your pile. Critters won't want them. As long as you cover it with leaves and whatever after you put them in there will be no noticeable odor.
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meshmouse
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Re: Can rocks frame a compost heap?

Hi rainbowgardener

Uhmm, I guess it is work, but it doesn't seem unpleasant to me. And the work seems little compared to constraining things in constructs. I mean, now you have to be sure your bin is tight to keep pests out. Also, isn't it more difficult to turn one bin up and over the center wall than to turn one pile on top of another? You know, no walls to get in the way. Or is the wall removable?

I guess I also like that I don't have to build, repair or replace anything as well.
Not that I would ever skin a cat, but I hear there is more than one way to do it. So hey, whatever works, it's all good stuff.

The only time I’ve ever experienced general odor issues is in the high heat of summer and then only after more than a week or so. I am more likely to do the deed once a week at those times. I keep an eye (actually, nose) on it and process accordingly. It doesn’t take long. A half hour or less.

You're right that it accelerates the process. I've definitely noticed an up tick in activity since I’ve been pureeing. No pests, quicker compost. No cost (ok, a little electricity), no maintenance. For me, it’s a win win.

When things are pureed, I don't really care what the critters care for as it is unavailable to them in a form they can bite into.

Regarding the onion/garlic/citrus thing – I keep reading all these references to anti-bacterial/microbial properties that are detrimental to a healthy biological pile. But I know nothing for certain. With that being considered and the odor issues, I choose to opt out for the time being (until I know more definitively one way or the other).

You are right tho, that adding a layer of leaves or whatever on top will reduce the odor but it is still quite pungent to me for a day or two. Not that I mind it, just that my neighbors might (who are very close by). I think the onions might smell more because they’re pureed. You know, more surface area, etc.

I guess I could trench compost them whole, covered with leaves, etc and see what happens. Corn husks as well. But when it comes to corn cobs, it’ll still be a big no for me. I can just see some dog digging up and eating a cob and suffering an intestinal blockage. They can ‘bloat’ and die within hours, or if you are lucky enough to get them to the emergency Vet in time (and it always seems to happen in the middle of the night – end of the BBQ scavenging I suppose), and many thousands of dollars later, the dog might live. It has happened to more than one dog I’ve known. And they don't all live. So for me, cobs are out.

So as not to close on a bummer thought, I want to thank you for your response. It was my first post here and yours was my first response. I’ve read a lot of your posts as I’ve lurked here over the past few months and I know your heart is sincere and your compost sweet. Thank you.

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