HomeGarden
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First compost heap

Hey guys,

This is kinda crossed between Organic and composting but the whole process starts at compost so i thought best to start here. All my life i have been buying compost in bags and groceries from the store and it needs to stop. I have been looking more and more into starting my own compost heap and then growing some organic vegetables, but i don't know where to start. With the compost heap, what would you do. Either make a large wooden box in an unused area in the garden or do i get one of these new compost tumblers? I have learnt the old way is the best way with many things in the garden but is this? has anyone got any experience with the compost tumblers? Then what would you suggest for me to grow as my first veg? Looking forward to some answer everyone!

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gumbo2176
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Re: First compost heap

My compost heap is just an open air one. I once had something similar to what you are doing and used old wooden pallets that were in a dumpster from a local lumber yard. They were glad for me to take them and free up space in their dumpster.

What I do now is head to the local police stables and gather up a pickup truck load of their stable waste. It is raw and can't be put into the garden right away with all the urine soaked straw in it. I'll make a pile with this and add any garden waste unless it is from diseased plants(which gets thrown in the trash), any organic kitchen waste like coffee grinds and filters, egg shells, vegetable peels and cutoffs, leaves I collect from people cleaning up their yards, etc. and mix it well. I'll keep it somewhat damp so things get cooking and I'll toss it every week or so to keep it loose and well mixed so it breaks down quicker.

As far as what to plant, that all depends on where you are, what your weather is like now, what will grow in your area this time of year and what you like to eat. I put a post in your intro and mentioned I live in New Orleans. I currently have cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, several salad green in loose leaf variety, Swiss Chard, turnips, red and white onions, garlic, beets, overwintering hot peppers and several herb plants I use fresh in cooking. Our winters are usually mild and this year is no exception. People in Wyoming are clearing snow, so they aren't growing much except muscle aches.

tomc
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Re: First compost heap

Over the years I have had three or four different compost tumblers. None were bought new by me (which in and of itself should be foreshadowing). At no time was one tumbler adequate to my need.

I like a box built of pallets, or rather a series of three boxes. One too cook down, one to fill, and the last to hold bags of autumnal leaves. Build them side by each.

If I was shopping for a factory made composter, I'd be looking at tower composters vs tumblers. Fewer moving parts. Needing less attention.

And a good set of by-pass pruners to give a rough chop to brushy-sticky yard waste.
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Springfever
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Re: First compost heap

Seeing your picture looks like you have a great start. What ever works for you in your situation is better than not starting at all. Applause to you as far as planting. Plant what you eat. Patience is definitely a virtue in gardening. We are here if you need us. Tata for now

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digitS'
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Re: First compost heap

Many years ago, I used a 55 gallon barrel and built a tumbler. It was too small to do a good job. My brother gave me his. Plastic, it was quite a bit bigger. Still didn't work well. I left it with Dad. He didn't like it. I think that rule of thumb on 4' by 4' as a standard for bins might also apply to tumblers :-| .

Depending on your climate and soil conditions, I find that a semi-subterranean bin is the best here. I dig down about 8". That soil is used later in layers and to cap the compost at the end of the season.

The soil here drains quickly and the climate is semi-arid. I leave it for 12 months or longer, without turning.

Steve
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Springfever
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Re: First compost heap

also quick note the higher the pile the harder it is to turn. Not as much work. And radishes will give you fast results to get that satisfaction of growing.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: First compost heap

Have you read the intro to composting threads here:

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 35&t=29022

and here:

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

Good places to start.

I really think compost tumblers are mostly a gimmick. To start with they are batch composting: fill all at once, then close and tumble. To have something to do with new compostables that come along, you really need two, one to fill while the other is tumbling. But many people have written in here about difficulties with keeping them balanced, not too wet, aerated enough etc. And they aren't really big enough for a good diverse hot compost mix.

Start a good compost pile now and you will have some finished compost for the spring.

Start preparing your garden plot now for spring. The foundation of a good garden is good soil and that takes some working at and building. Till your ground now (with good management this may be the only time you ever till it) add some good organic amendments (bought compost, fall leaves, manure*) and till them in. Mulch it over well with fall leaves, straw or whatever organics you have.

In the spring, turn the mulch into the soil, hoe the soil as fine as you can get it, rake and plant.

What to plant depends a lot on where you are, which you haven't told us. But one of the first things to learn is the difference between cold weather crops and warm. Cold weather crops are planted early, are frost tolerant, but mostly don't like heat and give up when it gets too hot. They are all the leafy greens, broccoli and cabbage, and most root crops like carrots. Warm weather crops die if frost hits them, but thrive in warm sunshine. They are tomatoes, peppers, corn, squashes, etc.

So start in early spring with cold weather crops. Many can be planted as seed as soon as the ground can be worked, which for me in zone 6 was about a month prior to my average last frost date. (You need to know your first and last frost dates; if you don't you can look them up by zip code here: https://davesgarden.com/guides/freeze-frost-dates/ ) A lot of the knack of gardening is knowing what to plant when. You can find planting calendars for your location on line which will at least give you a starting place until you know your own garden better.

Best wishes and keep us posted on how your new compost and gardening endeavors progress!

*(any stable will give you as much free manure mixed with straw bedding as you are able to haul off)
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HomeGarden
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Re: First compost heap

Hmm i have a lot to take into consideration. I think the tumbler is a no go, i was thinking what you guys wrote... But on the plus side i have plenty of family and friends to get some extra household waste. I live in Northern Ireland so as you know the weather is terrible here, potatoes grow well ;).

ACW
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Re: First compost heap

Living in the UK as you do you may get cheap plastic compost bins from your council,I am running 3 of these in my small inner city garden.
i go the lasy route ,layer of leaves if in season ,layer of freebie newspaper in summer ,topped with kitchen waste ,weedsor grass mowing,
another layer of leaves/newspaper.
Keep adding layers and the unbroken down materials from the earlier bins,seived through a mushroom box.
Add local resturant vegg waste ,coffee grounds (starbucks give them away).
The hard work is the seiving ,my 3 bins keep my beds and growng pots supplied just with minimal effort.
A gardener with a small shady back garden and a balcony with containers ,
biggest problem not enough sunshine !

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Re: First compost heap

Loads of good information guys! Thanks! So ounce i have decided which root (boxed or aired) and i have all my raw materials mixed in. How long do i keep this process going before the heap turns to compost (safe to use)?

So much help guys thanks

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rainbowgardener
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Re: First compost heap

How long it takes varies widely, depending on ambient temperatures, the ingredients and C:N ratio in the pile, how often it is turned/aerated, the size of the pile, how moist it is, etc.

I do lazy composting where I just keep adding layers on top. I occasionally punch a hole down through the layers with a stick for air circulation. Otherwise I only turn my pile when I want to get to the finished compost at the bottom. In the summer, the bottom third or so of my pile will be finished compost within two or three months of when it was last turned/piled. In the winter, slower. I just let the pile sit (but keep adding to it) all winter from say Nov to Mar. It will have finished compost at the bottom in Mar, when I want it for spring planting.

You can recognize finished compost because it just looks like rich, dark brown to black, crumbly/fluffy soil. The ingredients it came from should not be recognizable in it, except for maybe a few eggshell pieces. It should have no odor, except a slight earthiness. (See picture of finished compost spilling out of the bin below) Assuming you put only good organic materials in your compost and no meat, then it is "safe to use" at any point. Some people don't bother with compost piles and just bury their kitchen scraps in the garden. Seems kind of gross to me and if you have raccoons or anything in your yard, they will unbury it, but there's nothing unsafe about it.

I'm not sure what you mean by which route, boxed or aired. Composting is an aerobic process. It is a slow way of burning your compostables and like other burning/ oxygenation processes, it requires oxygen.

You can use a bin

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or a wire cage

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or pallets or whatever, but air HAS to be able to circulate (note all the louvers in the black plastic bin).

The point of the bin is just to keep your pile compactly piled up and keep critters out.

Someone else here described their compost pile as a "low maintenance pet." :) It is like a living organism and like any living organism, it requires air, water, food. Don't forget to water your pile if it isn't getting rained on. (If it is dry enough for me to water my garden, I also water the compost pile.)
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ACW
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Re: First compost heap

https://getcomposting.com/profile/login
could be the UK source for bins.
A gardener with a small shady back garden and a balcony with containers ,
biggest problem not enough sunshine !

HomeGarden
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Re: First compost heap

I'm liking the look of the compost bin the the open bottom to let the Compost out, its nice compact and clean. I only plan on using vegetables, coffee and things like that, no meat. So far we haven't had any critters in the garden and hopefully not using meat to compost will keep it that way. I'm off to the local garden center in the morning to see what they have to offer, then i will be back with my final decision. Thanks guys and HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

tomc
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Re: First compost heap

HomeGarden wrote:But on the plus side i have plenty of family and friends to get some extra household waste.;).
Kitchen waste should be the smaller part of what you compost. Yard waste the greater.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: First compost heap

Yup. I gave you links to the intro to composting threads.

"Browns" need to be at least as much by volume as "greens." If you are doing add-as-the-materials-come-along composting, you need to have a supply of browns handy. I usually collect a dozen or so yard waste bags of fall leaves and feed those into the compost pile through the year, covering each addition of green materials with a good layer of leaves. If I run out of leaves, then I get a bale of straw and gradually use that up in the compost pile. Having the compost "browns" around is handy for mulches as well.
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toxcrusadr
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Re: First compost heap

One thing you will likely find is that as soon as you have one compost bin/pile you need a second one. That's the fastest way to get finished compost. A dual pallet bin is good, or even a triple. When the first bin gets full, turn it into the second and start a new batch. Turning speeds up the process, and stopping the addition of new ingredients to the batch allows it to 'finish'.

Keep some fall leaves, sawdust, paper/cardboard or straw at hand to layer with your additions of high nitrogen stuff to the piles.
Tox

toxcrusadr
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Re: First compost heap

Some people don't like the doors, they are more trouble than they're worth. What I do is, when the bin gets full and I need space for more stuff, start a pile next to the bin. Fork some of the stuff out of the bin and pile that there too. Then lift/remove the bin from the old pile, and set it over the new one. Continue removing off the top till you get to usable compost. Voila. This also lets you improve the soil in different spots since the compost pile improves what's underneath too. Also reduces reaching down to the bottom all the way from the top, which is hard on your back. If I don't use the finished stuff immediately, sometimes I put a garbage can lid over it to keep the rain from leaching it out.
Tox

toxcrusadr
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Re: First compost heap

One thing about those plastic bins with the doors at the bottom, the doors are kinda useless. Don't count on using them to get compost out. Even if you can, it's hard to reach all the corners from the door.

A better strategy is, when the bin gets full or whenever you want to harvest compost, move the bin off the pile. First fork the upper un-finished part into a pile next to the bin. When it gets hard to reach in, lift the bin off the pile and place it over your new pile. If the bin is the kind that comes apart in two halves, so much the better. Then fork any remaining unfinished stuff back into the bin until you get to the usable compost. This strategy also allows you to move the bin around which will help enrich every spot that it sits on.
Tox

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ElizabethB
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Re: First compost heap

Hi HomeGarden,

Welcome to the forum.

I have been away for awhile and did not have the opportunity to chime in earlier.

My opinion - any and all commercial compost bins, tumblers, towers - whatever - are a big waste of your hard earned $.

Please reference the links sent by RBG. Very important stuff if you want to have a successful compost bin.

I keep all raw vegetable kitchen scraps, egg shells, coffee grounds and filters and tea bags for my compost bins. My husband has a bagger on his mower so grass is a given. We had an enormous oak tree that provided all of the browns needed. Unfortunately it had to be removed. Now I troll the neighborhood for bags of leaves. My sister and BIL raise horses - lots of cured manure.

Rule of thumb for bin size is 4' x 4' x 4'. My bin is made from scrap lumber and chicken wire. The back and sides are 4' x 4'. The front is 2' tall with a removable board for access. I am lazy and do not turn as often as I should. Having 2 bins adjacent to each other facilitates turning. My neighbor built her bins using pallets. Works great. Whatever contains your compost and allows lots of air flow will work.

The crazy thing is that composting becomes addictive. Because of physical limitations it has been over a year since I have had a garden. I still compost.

Good luck and happy gardening.
Elizabeth - or Your Majesty

Living and growing in Lafayette, La.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant. ~Author Unknown

toxcrusadr
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Re: First compost heap

Looks like I posted the same advice 3 weeks apart there. haha at least I'm consistent.
Tox

tomc
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Re: First compost heap

The first reply came the day after the OP last visit. None of this has ever been seen by eyes it was intended for.
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