NCGreens
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Compost gone bad... Help!

Hello! I am getting my first large garden ready for planting and have a large compost tumbler I am using.

I intended to make very strong compost fertilizer to spread thinly over my soil to till it in when I form my rows. To do this I used about 1/3 aged horse manure mixed with stable bedding and the rest I filled up with new supplements. I added in:

50lb Cottonseed Meal
50lb Kelp
25lbs Bat Guano
1 bags composted chicken manure
2 bags steer manure
2 bags gypsum
4 bags mixed dairy manure.
3lbs Natural Compost Activator

I bought the extra manures as filler to fill the compost tumbler high enough to do a high-temperature composting.

I didn't add any greens to the mix, I was hoping to use it more as fertilizer.

I forgot to hydrate the goods before I loaded them up into the composter so everything was mixed dry in the unit. Water was added by hose, then mixed, then added until the moisture level was attained. It is clumpy inside but I can ALMOST force a drop out but not quite.

The temperature outside has been around 60 degrees but the compost isn't going above 85 after 4 days. The smell has gotten awful, very rotten + foul with a strong smell of sulfur. I have been turning it once a day with 6-7 rotations.

What can I do to fix the problem to get ready for the new season? I was going to plant no later then mid-may.

Should I start over completely and pre-hydrate + use a proper brown:green ratio?

Should I take some out then add in some dry material to try and save it? What can I add that can be purchased?

I am hoping to having SOMETHING ready in the next 3 weeks if it all possible...

Thanks for any advice!

-NCG

cynthia_h
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First of all, it's almost impossible to generate compost in such a short time frame.

Second, your mix is almost entirely "greens" (nitrogen sources). Compost needs "browns" (carbon sources) as well, to work.

Please look through our Compost Forum for the many discussions we've had on greens, browns, tumblers, bins, hot vs. cool/cold composting, etc. Making compost is actually simple, but there's a lot of information go to through to get to the "simple" state of mind.

Here's my take:

:arrow: Greens + Browns + Air + Water = Compost, sooner or later :!:

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

The Helpful Gardener
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Shredded paper makes a great "brown"...

Seems a lot of inputs; are you doing a very large quantity? That amount of cottonseed meal and bat guano is likely where you got into trouble: a quick boom and bust cycle for the bacteria, as they starve, they die and as they die, they start anaerobic cycles. Not to worry as that is a natural cycle too, just not one we want in contact with our food... we can save this compost

The bad smells are anaerobic digestion and yep, it's gone bad. Do not use it in the garden until it ha gotten back to an aerobic (sweet smelling) state. Turning is mixing in aeration and key to getting back the good guys (anaerobic culture gives off methane and alcohol and that isn't good for our air breathers either, so it needs to gas off). The poop smell is sulfur dioxide and that is another thing that we need to off gas (another greenhouse gas too, so we should minimize these bad experiences).

It can get complicated, but Cynthia's mathematical formula is pretty good. SO add shredded paper, sawdust, chopped leaves, and turn obsessively, and this should come back better than plain old compost (studies being done on just this anaerobic/aerobic type of composting, but the either or contingents are entrenched).

HG
Scott Reil

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smokensqueal
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Ya with out research all the exact values you really have a very heavy nitrogen mix. That with adding water is going to really stink. I agree add some heavy carbons and continue to turn till things start smelling less then I wouldn't turn so often because every time you turn your interrupting the cycle. You only want to turn if things get to hot or when they start to cool down. Also, I'm not sure how bulky that material is but if it's really fine you may want to add a "bulking" agent to the mix. Just something larger so it can hold air pockets in the mix. Something like some corn cobs or some small sticks.

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The new industrial model is multiple turns the first day, two turns the second day, daily for the rest of the week and then once or twice the week after (roughly, based on temps). This allows industrial composters to turn over completely in tw to three weeks, weather depending. As we want to stop anaroebic digestion and reestablish aerobic cultures that were blown out by the toxic stew of methane, ammonia, and sulfur dioxide, lots of air is key, so turning often might hurt fungal development, but it will benefit the bacterial side and the air will benefit the fungii in the long run...

HG
Scott Reil

NCGreens
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Great advice on the frequency of turning.... I will keep that in mind.

I'll go ahead and replace the greens with browns into a proper ratio.

I was trying to make heavy fertilizer-like compost but my lack of research led to my demise. Hopefully I can get things going here pretty soon now that the sun is comin out!

Thanks for all the info!

-NCG

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Lighting up the bacterial side should be easy; it's the fungal side that might be harder now...

Try cocoa mulch as one of your browns: I hate it as mulch for the same reason I value it as compost material or soil amendment; it funguses out nicely. Mixed with local leaf duff I have found it to be a great source of fungal mass in composts...

HG
Scott Reil

cynthia_h
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The Helpful Gardener wrote: Try cocoa mulch as one of your browns:...
Be sure to verify that no dogs or cats can come into contact with the cocoa-bean hulls until they're fully composted.

The concentrations of theobromine in these hulls are deadly to both cats and dogs (www.aspca.org Poison Control page).

Every spring, there are many deaths of both cats and dogs across the United States (I have no statistics about other countries), because the commercially-available bags STILL DO NOT BEAR A WARNING LABEL. :x

Cynthia
Last edited by cynthia_h on Tue Apr 14, 2009 5:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

The Helpful Gardener
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Another good reason to keep it in, not on the soil...

Scott
Scott Reil

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I've a bag of those I bought around 4 yrs ago thinking the chocolatey smelling material might be fun to use under the swing set for the kids -- bought 2 bags, tested with 1. We quickly found out that they either blow away in the wind when dry or turn into a SLIPPERY muddy mush when wet AND hold the moisture forever -- not at all useful under the swings. :roll: THEN we got cats so I couldn't use them anywhere else either.... :?

NOW I know what to do with that darn bag especially with the high-green low-brown season coming up! :wink:

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Mix your brown mush with your green mush... :lol:

But that's how Mother rolls... :flower:

HG
Scott Reil

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