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JennyC
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Wet wet wet compost

So, I have more of an ongoing compost heap than anything that could be termed a 'bin.' This means I have no cover on the thing, though I know I should. Now, though, we've had a ton of rain, and the heap (smallish; mostly kitchen waste of my own) is soaking wet and I'm afriad to even partially seal it. Right now, my best cover options would be a tarp or a flattened cardboad box, though I have some pallets to build a real bin with as soon as I have time. So what should I do about its soaking wet self? Hope for sun? I don't have any sawdust or bark or the like. Will it hurt anything for it to stay exposed for a couple of weeks until my deadlines are out of the way?
Jenny C

cynthia_h
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Do you have newspaper that you can shred and "stir" into the heap? I've used shredded newspaper as a brown many times, due to the irregular availability of leaves, etc. And I do mean shredded--through an office paper shredder!

Placing a cover over the heap needn't necessarily mean depriving the heap of air: A painter's tarp (canvas) as opposed to an outdoor tarp (plastic/oilcloth) will allow air to pass through, while preventing most of the rain from penetrating the heap.

It's a little late in the year, but wood ash from fireplaces/wood-burning stoves will also help restore balance to a compost pile. My girlfriend used to use her fireplace for house heat but now has a pellet stove, and I've lost the wood ash I used to get from her. :(

Cynthia H.
El Cerrito, CA
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

bcomplx
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Of course your compost will wait for you! Life is hard enough without worrying about what's happening with your kitchen waste heap. Those things tend to improve with neglect anyway. Seriously, it's not like you have a lot invested in some fabulous bunny manure or something. The sun and warmth with dry it out soon enough. Maybe you can mix some grass clippings into it when you do have time. That should get things moving along nicely.
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opabinia51
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You don't need to cover your compost but, it definately needs some browns addded to it like Cynthia said. Cocoa bean hulls are another option, you can buy them from nurseries and big box stores. They come a brick and you have to soak them in water. Add some dry newspaper as well (black and white articles only) to soak up some of the excess water.

Mulched up leaves are the best stuff to add but, are few and far between this time of year.
Feed the soil, not the plants.

cynthia_h
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Opa, although cocoa bean hulls are a wonderful material, I think that I need to remind people (in case they've forgotten) that these are TOXIC TO DOGS AND CATS.

So, folks, if you have dogs or cats in your yard, or if your neighbor's cats come into your yard, please be aware and protect the compost/whatever other plants from such critters.

Cynthia H.
El Cerrito, CA
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

opabinia51
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Ah this must be the second post that you were referring to befor Cynthia! Yes, thanks for pointing that out. I'd be curious to know what the chemical is in the hulls that is toxic to Cats and dogs.

If it is toxic to them, it would most likely be toxic to other mammals as well. Perhaps hold off on using cocoa hulls for now folks. We need some more information on Cocoa Hulls before we continue.

Cynthia if you could share your source with us that would be great.
Feed the soil, not the plants.

opabinia51
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In the meantime I have answered both my questions right here:


https://extension.usu.edu/smac/files/uploads/Safety/CocoaBeanMulch.pdf


So, I'm going to stop advising people to use this product if they have dogs or dogs in the neighbourhood.

The toxin is Theobromine and has some very nasty side effects even causing death.

Thanks Cynthia for bringing this to our attention.

If you could still provide us with your source that would be great.
Feed the soil, not the plants.

cynthia_h
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https://www.snopes.com/critters/crusader/cocoamulch.asp contains a discussion about the toxicity of cocoa-bean mulch, including the sad story of a Labrador Retriever whose fate confirmed such toxicity. :(

I'll read your links, too. I once cared for a Keeshond who had been poisoned by being given (:x :evil: :x) half of a very large chocolate (Costco-sized) muffin by a completely CLUELESS house-sitter. The dog actually survived, but it was touch and go for a while...he only weighed 38 lb.

Cynthia H.
El Cerrito, CA
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

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JennyC
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My 55 pound Aussie once bit and spit out a wrapped Reece's mini cup, and she had major gastrointestinal distress for several days (don't ask how I know that!) All things chocolate are very dangerous.

The SPCA has an animal poison control center on their website -- they say that the toxic thing about chocolate is the caffiene, and warn about tea and coffee grounds, as well. The coffee grounds are another reason I need a good cover on the compost pile, though it's outside the dogs' fence.

Here's the SPCA site: www.aspca.org/apcc

Thanks for the idea on shredded paper for browns! That's a great idea, and I don't have much in the way of brown (does aged manure count? But I can use that directly in the garden). I've been using the newspaper for mulch, but more comes every week! I have a call in to the paper to see if their color inks are soy-based, but no word yet, so I'm not using the color pages.
Jenny C

opabinia51
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Do you want to hear something really interesting? When I was a child our neighbours had bought these chocolate treats for their dogs, they were made for dogs. Of course, we all ate them and gave them to the dogs as well.

Who knew? My link says that eating chocolate can even cause death.

Given that my uncles dog sometimes likes to romp in my veggie garden I don't think that I'll be sheet or regular composting with cocoa bean hulls anymore.

Thanks again for the heads up Cynthia!
Feed the soil, not the plants.

cynthia_h
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Jenny, I know that you're recovering from the nasty Barbed Wire Incident, but I wanted to know whether the compost ever dried out a bit for you.

I had forgotten to mention that, when I shred newspaper, I only use the black-and-white pages. No color Sunday funnies, no advertising/magazine inserts. Just B&W texted newsprint.

For many years, this was/has been almost my only "brown" source. Now that the rabbit waste comes with so much hay, my compost is running to the dry side, but I'm just adding water more often and newspaper less often. (And I water carefully, since we're on water restriction here, but hand-watering is fine, given how little gardening room I have.)

Hope all is well, or as well as can be, with the nasty Barbed Wire Incident...

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

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JennyC
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Thanks, Cynthia. I've about recovered from the B.W.I., I think. A bit sore but no more black eyes (they never got very bad, so I was happy about that).

The compost has dried out some, not because I ever got around to doing anything about it, but because it's been hovering close to 100 and dry for nearly a week. I did know about the color pages, but thanks. I've called the paper to see if their inks are soy-based (my guess is no), but they've not called me back. I'll have to be really careful with the browns also -- all of north Georgia is under a complete outdoor watering ban, with direct application to food plants one of the few household exceptions.

Do you know if shredded office paper is okay? I'm sure there's got to be something wrong with it or everyone would be using it.
Jenny C

cynthia_h
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I've never used shredded office paper, but most pure-white paper has been bleached--with what, I'm not sure.

I also don't know whether it would be absorbent in the compost pile or how long it would take to decompose.

If you have a wood stove or a functioning fireplace, those might be ways to deal with office paper "centuries" from now :wink: when it gets cold again.

Cynthia H.
USDA Zone 9, Sunset Zone 17

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