jrcmillett
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Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Hi All,
I am starting with a brand new composter--plastic, no bottom, easy-open top, no turning mechanism, 3 feet tall x 2.5 feet wide.

Can I start now or should I wait until Spring? Temps here are now consistently below 50F and last night was first night of 30F; light snow possible during Dec./Jan (southern France in sheltered valley, about 1000ft of elevation).

I have plenty of freshly fallen leaves, recently chipped olive branches and leaves, and appropriate kitchen scraps.

What do you suggest?
Thanks! I am looking forward to my new garden and to participating in these forums.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Start now! I am in a colder climate than you and I compost all winter. I collect a whole bunch of fall leaves while they are available. I keep a compost bucket (with a tight lid!) under the kitchen sink. When the bucket is getting full, I take it out and dump it on the compost pile and cover with a good layer of leaves. In the winter, that is pretty much all that goes in the pile. It freezes, but going through the freeze-thaw cycles helps break stuff down too. Once warmer temps come in late winter/early spring, the pile starts working again. Through the winter, I don't try to do any turning, just keep adding stuff as it comes along.

Once spring comes, I move all the stuff from the top of the pile to be the bottom of a new pile, down to the layer where the earth worms are. Everything below that is finished or nearly finished compost. Once exposed to the air and stirred around a little, it finishes up quickly.

Congratulations on starting to compost!! Welcome to the Forum!
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pepperhead212
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Welcome to the forum!

I continue throwing scraps in my composters throughout the winter. Not much really happens to it, however, until it begins to warm up. It all eventually breaks down! I have far too many leaves for those, but I do add a few finely ground ones to balance it out - most go to mulching garlic, and some herbs that have died off.
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imafan26
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

The composter is a little on the small size a pile should be 3x3x3 minimum to hot compost. It will work for cold composting. If you are cold composting it takes longer especially at this time of the year. If you want the compost to be ready in Spring, now would be the time to start. In fact, I don't think there really is a bad time to start composting, it all rots eventually.

The only way I can ensure a hot pile myself is to build it in a day layering browns greens with some soil or compost and fresh manure added on top of the green layer and watered in. Building the pile in the sun and covering it with a plastic sheet keeps the rain out and holds the heat in. When I take longer than a week to build the pile, it pretty much is cold composting and it took me awhile to realize that the pile would never be finished as long as I kept putting more stuff on it.
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jrcmillett
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Oh Thank you all!!
These thoughts from you will keep me on the right path until Spring.

imafan26: It all rots eventually.

Rainbowgardener: Start now!

pepperhead212: I have far too many leaves for those.

jrcmillett
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

I have begun my composter!
First, 6-8" of dry and damp leaves (mostly oak because that is what I have).
Then, 2-3" so far of kitchen waste (celery leaves, carrot tops, potato peels, coffee grounds, tea leaves, clementine peels, and the like)
Also, coffee filters and tea bags, some wet paper towels.
Then some more leaves and twigs.
Onward to the digging of the tomato plot ( with a border of good-sized stones from my rockpile)

A few flying things inside but otherwise fine. Not too smelly.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

YAY!!! :clap: :clap: I am betting once you get your first batch of lovely, dark, crumbly, fresh/ earthy smelling compost you will be as hooked on it as the rest of us! :)

Honestly, I got in to growing veggies just to have something to do with my compost. I started composting because it seemed too wasteful to be putting all those rich veggie/ kitchen scraps down the garbage disposal.

Oak leaves aren't the best for composting, though like anything else organic, they will break down. But they are kind of hard and waxy surfaced and acidic. Through the composting process, the acidity will get neutralized as well, so your compost, unless it is mainly oak leaves, won't be acid. But still in the middle of the process, if you have a whole bunch of oak leaves it can slow the process down. Just be sure you have lots of other ingredients. In general we say it is best if no more than 10% of your pile is any one ingredient and oak leaves would be one ingredient. (Fall leaves can be more than one if it includes oak, and hackberry, and catalpa and beech and whatever, each of those would be one ingredient.)
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jrcmillett
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Thanks rainbowgardener! I have been wondering about the oak leaves. I will try to balance it out with plenty of other things.

What about quinoa and french baguette? (though I try to eat it all, there are sometimes a few leftover bits...)

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ElizabethB
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Welcome to the forum. Yes build your pile now. Your container is a little on the small side. You also need holes cut in all sides to allow for air flow. More holes than plastic.

Since the late 1980's we had a lovely live oak which was the source of my browns. Unlike other trees it would shed in March. Unfortunately we had to have it removed. Another story. I have 2 4' x4' x4' bins made from scrap lumber and chicken wire. The front is open from 18" off of the ground so I can easily toss from one bin to the other. All of my kitchen scraps go into the bins. Also grass clippings and fully cured horse manure from my Sister's horse farm.

I still have a few bags of leaves from last spring. IDK what I am going to do for browns now that my tree is gone. Guess I will have to ask my neighbors to allow me to go into their yard with G's lawn mower with the baggers attached and collect their leaves.

Once you get into composting you get hooked. I would compost even if I did not have a vegetable garden. I have lots of patio plants. Every couple of years they need to be re-potted or potted up. I use the existing soil mixed with compost 50/50. Happy plants.

Good luck.
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Make up or save a few big bags of leaves. You can add them bit by bit after several dumps of kitchen scraps.

Start now, it takes on average a couple years to catch your supply of compost up to your need for it.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Elizabeth - RE "I still have a few bags of leaves from last spring. IDK what I am going to do for browns now that my tree is gone. " I drive around my neighborhood and pick up bags of leaves that people put at the curbside for pick up. I usually try to pile up a dozen or so yard waste bags (though this year cold and snow came so early, I didn't manage that). I feed them in to the compost pile gradually, covering every addition of kitchen scraps/ greens with a layer of leaves.

In the summer if my supply of last fall's leaves runs out, I buy a bale of straw and use that as my main brown to cover greens with. It doesn't break down as quickly as the leaves, but it works.
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ElizabethB
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

RBG - the problem with picking up yard waste is that we have yard waste disposal bins. Yikes - I can just see myself rooting through the bins. Like dumpster diving. I think I will just ask neighbors to mow/mulch their leaves. They will be glad to have their leaves picked up.
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

jrcmillett
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

HI, I have returned to France where my composter has been cooking away during the late winter. I am back on this forum looking for any advice and ideas you may have.

I have forked up the bottom of the pile to the top and stirred things a bit. I now have a separate large pile of olive tree chippings, which I have been told to leave where it is to cook. I am inclined to throw a fork or two of these chippings into my composter with this week's kitchen things. What do you think?

Also, since the composter is a "closed system" should I sprinkle on some water?

Thanks again for all your help! Jrcmillett

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Sure your tree chippings will be good "browns" to go with your "green" kitchen scraps. But your compost pile has been working for months, I wouldn't put new stuff in it. Start a new pile. The way I do it is I take all the stuff off the top of the old pile that hasn't composted yet and use it to be the bottom of a new pile, down to the level where you find a bunch of earthworms (assuming your pile is sitting on ground). Then add your new stuff to the new pile. The rest of the old pile is done or nearly done. Exposed to air and stirred a bit, it will rapidly finish up.

You can tell about the water. Closed systems may well stay more damp than open, because it keeps condensation in. Just feel the stuff in the pile a couple inches down. If it feels damp, like a wrung out sponge, then it is fine. If it feels dry, add water (sprinkling won't get it, pour a bucket or two of water on it).

But air circulation is vital to good composting. Does your "closed" system have enough air holes?
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jrcmillett
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

Thank you rainbowgardener!
Although my compost has been working for several months, it was woefully small. I did not understand the benefits of filling the container. Now it is full as I have added, in layers, the olive chippings and some kitchen scraps of nearly rotten veggies. I think the veggies I added will provide some moisture. I checked for air holes, they are built into the plastic bin along the bottom, at the middle and near the top. I think I am ok. I will now be away for a couple of weeks so it will be left to its own devices.

It seems to be a bit like a cheese souffle, opening the door to check on it too often can be a big mistake!

toxcrusadr
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Re: Can I start now or should I wait until Spring?

It should sink down (unlike a soufflé!) as it decomposes, so keep adding material as you have it. After awhile - maybe a month or two, shorter if it heats up, longer if it doesn't - it will be time to turn and mix it. If you can remove the bin from the pile easily, set it down next to the pile and fork the pile back into it. Usually when I do this, by the time fall comes I have compost. At some point you will need to stop adding material, and that's a good time to move your bin off the pile again and start a new batch in the bin. Whatever did not decompose from the last batch, you can toss in there when you harvest the compost.

As you can see, the problem with having a compost bin is that pretty soon you need a second one. :-()
Tox

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