User avatar
MockY
Full Member
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed May 06, 2015 9:30 pm
Location: Sacramento, Zone 9b

How do I harvest compost when things are continuously added

I spent the last months or so reading book, utilizing Youtube and other online sources, and I'm very comfortable with starting and maintaining an active compost. But something that is not address, or at least IU have yet to find it, is when to harvest the finished compost.

The option that is most straightforward is to make a proper pile in a Geobin type of compost bin/net once leaves are abundant and maintain that until spring when it's all composted, and then use the entire goodness in the garden.

However, how on earth would I go about and add kitchen scraps and yard waste throughout the year without getting into the issue of having ample amount of things not yet composted?

Simply put, what on earth am I going to do with my kitchen scraps and yard waste I produce on a daily basis? Again, if I add that to the already prepared pile, I will at some point have to stop if I'm going to have JUST finished compost in the spring.

Starting worm bins is not really an option as I can't have it inside, and in Northern California where I reside, it gets way too cold for them during the winter. Furthermore, I can only add so much to the bins without overfeeding them. I produce way more kitchen scraps than a single of a double worm bin setup would consume.

Do I need two piles? One with the initial pile I make in the fall and one for the continuously added material?

I need some guidance here before starting my composting adventure.

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

Well sort of two piles, but it doesn't have to be batch composting.

I do continuous adding to my compost pile as stuff comes along, kitchen scraps, yard waste etc. Since all that tends to be "greens," I also keep a supply of "browns" handy - bags of fall leaves I collect when people put them out at the curb, shredded paper, a bale of straw if needed. Every time I add a bunch of green stuff, I cover it with an equal or more layer of browns.

When I need some compost and it's been a few months since the last time I "harvested" any, I basically turn the pile upside down. I take all the not composted stuff at the top of the pile (because I am always adding to the top of the pile) and make it the bottom of a new pile. You can tell how far down to go, because if your pile is sitting on the ground, the actively working part will have a ton of earthworms and the part below that will be mostly or completely composted. Exposing it to air and stirring it a bit and all that will finish up quickly.

So I do keep two compost piles. One is the one I keep adding things to and the other is the pile of finishing up, being used stuff, which eventually becomes a bare spot where that pile used to be. In my garden "economy," the bare spot, which was the old pile, will soon become the new pile again, so they just alternate spots.

Hope that is clear. It is a very simple concept in action, but a little hard to explain in words....
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

toxcrusadr
Greener Thumb
Posts: 969
Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 8:50 pm
Location: MO

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

Ah, grasshopper, you've discovered the ultimate question. Yep, two piles. I too save my fall leaves (in wire fence circles or piled in the garden and held down with tomato cages). I also use shredded wood, sawdust or wood shavings from my shop, straw I come across, etc. Always have some browns ready to layer in with your kitchen scraps, etc.

I have at least two batches going at any one time. I used to have three - a triple pallet bin, where all the fresh stuff went into bin 1, when it was full it got transferred to bin 2, then to 3. There was almost always finished compost ready to use in bin 3.

If you have a plastic bin type of composter, when it gets full you can remove it from the pile, set it in a nearby spot, fork the fairly new top part back into the bin, and harvest compost from the bottom. Or let it sit for a bit to finish some more while you add new stuff to the empty bin. I have a cylindrical Home Composter that comes apart in two halves so I just remove them and the cylindrical pile stands up pretty well.
Tox

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

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

1., Some tower composters load at the top. With withdrawls at the bottom.

2., Bin composters often get set up in banks of two or three. Load one, let one cook, with draw from the last one.

3., Toss off the not finished compost onto a tarp. Shovel out the good stuff.

4., Give away tumbler composters...

Thats what I did, an' I'm sticking to it.
Think like a tree
© 2016 Invisable Inc.

User avatar
MockY
Full Member
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed May 06, 2015 9:30 pm
Location: Sacramento, Zone 9b

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

Thanks for all the advice.
I'm probably going to use Geobins. Not terribly expensive, perfect dimensions, and it appears as if they last a long time.
https://geobin123.com/cart/order

From the sound of it, it seems to me as two bins is the minimum. Once every 3 months or so (depending on season), I would move all the non compostable top layer (regardless of how deep it is) into the other bin which in turn would , well, turn the pile, and if there is any compost I can use, I would use it. That would leave me with one empty bin at all times and one active bin.
Or is it better to take this compost that is available when I move the material over to the other bin, and put that in an additional bin and cover it with straw or something to further cook?

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

I do fine with just two bins and you probably could manage with just one.

When you are turning and harvesting, you would move your bin to the new spot and then put all the uncomposted stuff from the old pile in to it. That will leave you with a pile of finished or almost finished compost, which will be a much smaller pile, since the material shrinks a lot in the composting process. As noted, exposed to air and stirred a bit, everything in that pile will finish up quickly.

I don't mind leaving the finished/ almost finished stuff sit not inside a bin. The main reason (besides keeping stuff neatly stacked up) that I need to have a bin is that otherwise raccoons and other critters get in to the pile looking for the kitchen scraps. In that process, they eat the good stuff out of the pile, dig through it, scatter stuff around the yard.

But the finished compost is no longer of any interest to the critters and so it can sit in the open.
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

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

I just looked at the picture of the geobin. How's your critter situation? Some people seem to do just fine with bins with no lid. Given the critters I have, especially the raccoons, which are very dextrous and persistent, I have to have a lid on mine and they have to be sturdy.
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

User avatar
MockY
Full Member
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed May 06, 2015 9:30 pm
Location: Sacramento, Zone 9b

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

I would venture out to say that we have no issues with any critters. Even though majority of our backyard is facing a large unattended field with usually tall grass, with only a fence in between, I have never seen or experienced rodents. Granted, we have 3 cats, but their hunting skills are subpar at best. I doubt they make any difference what so ever. I've seen a raccoon as close as one mile away once, but that's the only sighting I've done in the last 4 years for the entire city of West Sacramento where I reside. I do have at times a huge snail/slug population, and it may be a bit early yet, but this year I have only seen a handful. Even my tiny salad seedlings that are popping up all over in my raised beds haven't lured them out yet. But that may be an issue later.

Fruit flies is always an issue in our municipal green waste bin, but kitchen scraps and spent grain from my home brewing is rarely covered once it's placed inside the bin, so that may not be an issue for composting if I make sure the greens are always covered by browns.

User avatar
MockY
Full Member
Posts: 35
Joined: Wed May 06, 2015 9:30 pm
Location: Sacramento, Zone 9b

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

6 months later and my first pile is ready to be applied. I have 3 GeoBins. 2 active piles and one that is always empty and used for when one of the piles are turned.

It turned out fantastic. Very dark, smells incredibly earthy, and the texture is fantastic. After lightly sifting, I applied about 5 cu. ft. of this homemade black gold on top of my beds, and that was about 1/3 of the pile. I wished it was ready a little earlier so that I could have added much more and incorporated it into the soil when I prepared for fall planting, but 2-3 inch layer around the seedlings and plants is better than nothing I suppose. There are still some straw in the finished product which I hope won't rob the plants of nitrogen as they decompose in the bed. As the top dries out over time, I'll use my hand to rake most of the small pieces of straw away. You can see some of it in the pictures below.
2015-11-22 08.04.02.jpg
2015-11-22 07.55.45.jpg
2015-11-22 12.33.16.jpg

User avatar
rainbowgardener
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 25303
Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

Beautiful! Good work!
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

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11126
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: How do I harvest compost when things are continuously ad

Beautiful plants and soil. We have something like the geobin at the garden as a compost demo. It makes the best compost of all the systems. We do stop adding to it once it is filled and add the new material to a different compost pile.

The barrel composter is rusting away, not in use, it did not make good compost. We have a small open pile compost which makes the best compost, the round plastic composter (similar to the geobin) , another square composter which comes off in sections, and a top loading composter that you don't have to turn and there is a door to get compost out of the bottom. The last bin is the easiest to use but it is small, makes very little compost, and because there is no turning, you have to cut everything up very small, it works best if you mix up the greens and browns before adding it and it takes the longest to make compost.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

Return to “Composting Forum”