pickupguy07
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Can't get temps up

I tagged this question onto a different thread, but I never got any answers.. probablu got overlooked.
ANyway... I have been working on my composting pile, and a couple weeks ago I got a thermometer to check the temps and see what I might be doing wrong..
It's been two weeks, and I can't get the temps up over 115*

I know initiall I had too little water in it.. it's been real dry.. so I just wasn't keeping it wet enough. I am turning it about every four days, and really don't see any steam coming out of it.. but I do at least have it wet now (not 'overly' wet)
SO then I figure.. maybe it needs more greens. SO I've added quite a bit of greens... coffee grounds, things from the garden (leaves from lettuce, cabbage, etc etc, and even added stable horse manure and made sure I wet it as to not dry out the pile..
I've even put in so MANY greens I TRIED to make it stink JUST so I'd know it was wet enough, and had enough greens. Never got any smell out of it either. Last time I turned pile I looked over what was in the pile, and my greens / browns ratio is about 2 /1 So I have almost twice as many greens as I do browns.

So no matter what I have tried.. I can't get the temps up to a nice working level. SO I'm stumped.
I Do have the pile in a shady spot due to the fact I live in GA, and I read on here that prolonged high temps in the area tend to dry out the pile. So I got it in a shady spot.

I'm open for suggestions.. I was hoping to get a nice pile composted and be able to work it into the garden this fall... at this rate I'll be lucky to have ANY by spring. :cry: :?:
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

tomc
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If its been chopped up enough for it to be possible to turn, it'll break down enough to be usable for fall.
Think like a tree
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Moley
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Most use a 4:1 Brown to Greens, just keep adding em it will heat up

how big is your pile? is it on the ground?

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rainbowgardener
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Yeah, I was going to ask about size. It's a lot harder to get a small pile to heat up. Generally they say about a cubic yard works best.

Also size of the stuff you put in. We just had a thread here

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=209857#209857

about someone whose compost pile actually caught on fire. It was full of very fine particles of stuff, sawdust, grass clippings. As I said in that thread, my pile heats up most when I add duck weed skimmed from the pond, which is also in very fine particles.

If you have large, coarse stuff and want your pile to run fast and hot, run the stuff through a chipper or run a lawn mower over it first.

But as tom said getting up to high temps really isn't necessary. My pile usually doesn't run any hotter than yours - warm but not hot. Works just fine, creates good compost in a reasonable time.
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toxcrusadr
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Maybe you are turning it too often, because that can redistribute the hot center to the outsides.

Also, if it's kinda half-cooked (partially composted, then you added more to it), the resulting compost that is building up is not going to produce much heat no matter what you add to it. I find a pile heats most when I make it out of 100% fresh materials.

But, really, what's the worry anyway. 115 is fine, you know you have a good mix, air and water, just relax, have a cold drink and let it do its thing. 8)
Tox

pickupguy07
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ok thanks folks...
I'm going to have quite a bit of greens to add soon. Stalks / leaves from cabbage, brussel sprouts, brocolli, etc
Sounds like I just need to throw the stuff out in a line, and run the lawn mower over them.. then throw them in.

I'm still wondering about water.. pile just seems "dry".. so I guess I'll learn as I go.
Oh I meant to say.. the isze currently is about 1 cubic yard. 3 1/2 x 3 1/2 x 2 1/2... roughly
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

bogydave
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My best source for greens that really heat up the compost pile quick is fresh grass clippings.
If the pile is too dry, it will still get hot, but not for a very long period.
3 foot is minimum size, larger is better. I cover mine to hold in moisture & heat.
Turn every 2 weeks +, or add air pipes (I'm lazy so I use air pipes)
115° is a good temp, means it's working (cooking) just not hot enough to kill seeds.

I'd just add air pipes, not worry about getting hot hot. You pile is working.
If you want to get it hotter, mix in fresh grass clippings & mist some water as you mix it in, cover it & let it go for at least 2 weeks. Understand that it is not going to stay 140° forever, after about 2 weeks the nitrogen in the greens (grass clippings) is gone. The air (oxygen) is gone in a day or 2 after it starts cooking. let the pile finish composting & start a new batch. If you keep adding & mixing the pile, how can it ever be done? You'll always have stuff in the pile that takes a few months to break down.
Mix the pile one last time (just mix & mist with water, don't add anything)

If it's ready (done) by next spring, which it should be, you'll be in good shape. But I suspect it'll be done by the end of Aug if you don't mix in more stuff. I just add to the top of mine, so the bottom is "done compost" & anything not broken on the top is the best additive for a new batch. It has all the microbes & bacteria needed to get a new batch working quick.

Air pipes:
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Bottom 3/4 of the compost bin is "done compost) Anything not "done compost" is the best thing I add/mix in, to a new batch.
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pickupguy07
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yeah I saw your pipe to add air in another post.....
Couldn't tell what size the pipes were, so I bought 1 1/2 inch pipe.
I plan on making a few of those tubes like yours...
I do have some sticks and twigs in the pile, so I kind of think it is getting air.??

I know all you folks like to add grass... my problem is - well - I don't have any. I cut my grass every two weeks and I never have enough clippings to pick up... and I throw all my grass 'in' as I cut. (of course I don't have a grass bagger)
No one I know saves their clippings either. Wish I had some, or know of where to get some.
My dad cuts his yard and three of his neighbors.. no grass clippings (also no bagger) SO I'm kind of out of luck when it comes to grass clippings unless someone has a suggestion I hadn't thought about yet.

Now, I just come back from a week long vacation... Temps are 100* (or slightly less) in the pile... outside temps have been 95* or better every day while I was gone... so warm temps outside isn't a problem. (also got no rain)

On one hand it would seem to be too dry.. but on the other it would seems if I add water it'll cool it off (of course there has to be water to decompose)

I still have quite a few leaves that hadn't done much, and some greens that haven't broke down much.
Maybe if I turn the pile, and pull out anything that seems kind of "big".... then run over it with the lawn mower. That will help.
I have three 7 foot rows of corn that will be done producing this week... SO I plan on pulling up stalks, etc, and mulching them all up wuith my lawn mower to add to the pile.
hhuumm.. sure would like to get the temps up to 140+ so I could kill the seeds.
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

bogydave
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Need to let your grass grow taller before you mow :), No grass clippings in Georgia?? :) lol. Golf courses? clover real high in nitrogen. fresh bailed hay. Lowes here had some 22-0-0 (Urea) fertilizer which will definitely light up the heat in your pile.
The chopped up corn stalks may be just what you need to get the pile cooking.
1-1/2" pipe is what I used, now 2" electrical PVC because it lasts longer & UV resistant, either is fine.
Get a good hand full of the compost pile, dip your handful in a bucket of water for a bit till it's well soaked & then squeeze the water out, that wet is perfect. (Actually wetter than you think because any dry stuff absorbs quite a bit of water, but sopping wet is bad but the pile will let you know if it's to wet by the smell after a few days.) Air pipes help if it gets to wet.
You're on the right track, it will just take a little tweaking to find what works for your conditions.
Your pile is composting, you just want to speed it up some. What you have will probably be good compost by the coming spring.
Mine takes a full year, but is frozen for 5 months.
If you add the cork stalks, it should still be good compost by spring in your area.
Good luck.

pickupguy07
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thanks..
I've never had my pile "wet".. can't seem to keep enough water in it..
I dumped in 5 or 10 gallons a day for a week,.. and then waited a few days to turn it just to see what happened... no steam.
Last time I turned it I turned about 1/3 of the pile, added water,.. then tuened another 1/3, added more water,.. turned the rest and added more water to the top... Never got over 115.. I would thyinki it should of heated right up.
Never had any smell at all since I started.
thats why i have been bumfuzzled
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

toxcrusadr
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IMHO returning grass clippings to the lawn is the right way to go anyway. Unfortunately the proliferation of mulching mowers has cut down on our opportunities for free greens, but it's not really a bad thing.
Tox

pickupguy07
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question...
I see some type of clear covering in your pics.
I was curious if I put some sort of clear plastic over my pile it that might help heat it up... or if it would dry it out faster.??
Wanted to ask since it seems to stay to dry already.??

If not clear plastic,.. what about black.
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

bogydave
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Covering increase the heat & moisture retention.
For me here, the few degrees warmer is key, + I don't have to add water as often. I even have the sides protected from the wind, they can get air but 3 side of the bin are wrapped on the outside of the pallets to help with heat & moisture.

CTx
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My latest compost pile is comprised of chipped straw, alfalfa pellets and lots of water. I layered the straw and alfalfa, then let it have plenty of water. It was not in a squared bin, but in a pile. The original pile was ~3' tall and allowed to cascade down naturally along the sides. This was last Thursday (6-30). Today is 7-6.
I took the temp today and it went to a whopping 120 at 7 PM. Today's high was ~101. I'm not worried because it has plenty of white mold in it.
I'll flip it in a week or two, depending on how it's looking inside. It should be more than ready by VERY EARLY spring.
I would think that being in GA, you would be able to achieve the same if you were close to or south of Atlanta. My latitude is about equal to Montgomery AL.
I checked the water today and there's plenty on it.
The point is that at 115 or 120 if you chip up the straw/hay/leaves and it has enough N and moisture it will decompose quicker.

vermontkingdom
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Pickupguy, that seems like a lot of water. IMO, five to ten gallons a day for a week is too much. When I turn my bins (4 x 4 x 5), I use a sprinkler can with rain water to moisten things. I probably use 15 gallons in the turning of the entire bin. The temps in my bins normally run between 140 and 154 although last week, after adding some chipped brush, lawn clippings, and chipped bones, I got a couple of days of 165. However, it's been back to 145 for several days now.
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toxcrusadr
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That's a good point - heating up 5 gallons of water from spigot temperature to 120 degrees taks an enormous amount of heat - in other words it will cool off a pile in short order. And the excess will seep out the bottom into the ground, taking heat and nutrients with it. You're looking for 'damp', so use only enough water to achieve that.
Tox

pickupguy07
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to me it seemed like a lot of water also..
but when I turned it, a week after I added all that water; it was 'moist' for the first time since I started. Not so wet that it dripped,.. it just wanted to stick together a little. (Actually I'd have to add water to get it to drip) lol

Just did the whole process yesterday.. then covered it with plastic. I'll see how the temps do
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

toxcrusadr
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I'm not sure how your adding water but if it's poured on the top all at once, water will find 'channels' in the pile and run rapidly through the path of least resistance to the bottom. Areas only inches away may not be wetted. So, it may seem like you're adding a lot of water and the pile isn't getting very wet. The best time to water a pile is while it's being turned, because you can spray everything evenly as you're turning. You can also stab it with a fork or stir up the top layer a bit, or make holes in it. The slower you can add water the better it will soak in to the materials.
Tox

pickupguy07
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good point about the watering process...
I did that when I was watering every day I did use a pitch fork to stab holes in it as I watered... but I also just poured it on top.

The last couple times I have watered it has been when it was turned, and I'd pour on some water as I turned.
Neither way seemed to make much difference however.
Anxious to see what happens now that I covered it with plastic.

OH.. how long should it take to see the results (warming up). A day, a week, what.
The pile IS in the ahe to help keep it from drying out since we have such long hot dry summers.
I've never heard the "cycle time" mentioned anywhere. Time it takes to warm up from a low temp.. up to the max temp, and then cool off.???
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

toxcrusadr
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A fresh pile will start to heat up within 24 hours, and will take a couple days to reach max temp, then a few more days as it slowly declines. The heat leaves long before compost is actually 'done' and ready. I used to make hot piles in a triple bin, and turn each batch twice, and finally use it several months after it was started. But the heat only lasted a few days.

If this pile has been cooking for awhile, it may soon exhaust its ability to heat.
Tox

pickupguy07
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toxcrusadr wrote:If this pile has been cooking for awhile, it may soon exhaust its ability to heat.
This pile has been created about 5 or 6 weeks..
Each time I turn it, I add in new browns and greens. I turn it about once a week since I have been having problems getting the heat up.
I also seem to have been ading more greens than browns since I have no heat...
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

john gault
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When I first started composting I always heard about temps; everyone was saying, "you gotta get your pile to this temp for this long..." However, my pile never heated up to those high temps, best I could get was just under 100.

I've read many books on the subject from my local library and one of them finally answered my question of why I couldn't get the heat up and it's all about size. I could, if I really wanted to heat up my pile by containerizing it and putting it in a sunny location, but really there's no need. I have large decomposers doing most of the work and they don't really like the heat anyway, especially the worms, which I have tons of.

Bottom line, I don't worry about temps anymore.

toxcrusadr
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Pickup, if you want to actually get some compost out of this pile, it is a good idea to stop adding at some point and let it 'finish'. Otherwise there is always going to be uncomposted material in there. You probably knew that but I thought it might be worth mentioning. You can always start a fresh pile with your incoming material.
Tox

rot
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Cut bait

..
6 weeks old means you've got about all the heat you're going to get. Not a major disaster. One, 115 degrees F sustained probably killed off a bunch of seeds and pathogens. Two, with all that moisture you've been adding, I bet you killed a bunch sprouts with the subsequent turns. Three, should some weeds pop up where you apply the finished stuff, I bet they can be just plucked right out of the ground real easy like. Weed like I vote: early and often.

OK so this pile takes a little longer to finish. It will finish. Start a new one and apply your observations in the making of a new bin. Adjust as you go along.

For max heat and fastest composting time, assemble your bin/pile all at once. Not too much water, especially at first because it won't have a great capacity to hold that much water at first. I think you'll find your 6 week pile holds a lot more water than your new one. If you really want to see, try building it on a concrete deck and watch the excess water run off. I add a gallon a day to a new pile that size. Out west whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting over - don't waste the water.

When you assemble your pile, mix well and rough things up a bit.

Turning - I'm sure once a week will be fine. If you want to make it a science project, monitor the temperature and as the peak temperatures trail off, turn. One of those studies determined optimum time was otherwise once every 4.5 days. I can never quite fit 4.5 days into my calendar.

So you don't get 160 degrees F. I got that once. 130 F for even a couple of days will do the same thing.

Don't stress it. Don't go bending over backwards to make it work. It works for you, not you for it. Make it fit into your way of doing things and adjust things like air and moisture to make it work better as you go along. the bin will do the work if you let it. Consider weeding instead of turning that bin one extra time. I think you'll find you will still get compost.

If you've got limited space and little patience then maybe you want to work it. I think you'll find that if it takes a little longer you'll be just as satisfied if not more so because of the conservation of energy. Work out that work/compost balance.

to sense
..

pickupguy07
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toxcrusadr wrote:Pickup, if you want to actually get some compost out of this pile, it is a good idea to stop adding at some point and let it 'finish'. Otherwise there is always going to be uncomposted material in there. You probably knew that but I thought it might be worth mentioning. You can always start a fresh pile with your incoming material.
Yeah I hear what you are saying.... and thanks for pointing that out.. some folks may not kind of put that together.
I am wanting to get some done.. and to be honest all I plan on doing is tilling it into my garden this fall before Winter comes.
SO if it's not 100% done at that point,.. it will be by spring
What with all this extra greens starting to accumulate now is probably a good time to start a second pile. Corn is finishing, stalks need to be put someplace, I have tons of Gladiolas that have bloomed and need to be snipped off.. lots of tomatoes, beans, etc all just getting done... and tons and tons of watermellons, cantaloupe that will produce many many rinds.
Last edited by pickupguy07 on Fri Jul 22, 2011 3:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

HunkieDorie23
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I have never been able to get a hot compost pile until this year. I even have a thermometer too. The big things that made a difference were the size of the pile and honestly fresh grass. My husband added some grass to my yearly compost pile and a few days later I went to turn it and there was steam I about fell over. I also went to www.composting101.com and it had a lot of info that was helpful.

If your pile is 6 weeks old and you are getting 110 temps it may be cooked down enough that the temps won't get hotter. I know you are adding to it each week and that's what I did when I had a cold pile, but one of the tips I read was that when you feed your compost pile feed it big, which is what my husband accidently did when he added the grass. It about doubled the size of the pile. I have a second pile now (because the first is about done) and I turn a 3x3x3 pile into a 4x4x4 which more than doubles the cubic ft of my pile. I was getting temps of 140 when I made the addition, I haven't checked it but I know it is at least 150+ now. I will have to turn it in the morning and will check temps them.

Maybe instead of feeding each week keep it in another spot and add a large amount at a time. It makes a difference. Good luck.

pickupguy07
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still not having any luck with getting temps up...
They were about 100.. now they are down to 80*
Temps outside are in mid-90's. hhuumm

If I'm not mistaken I ned to get the temps up bexcause I have been throwing my watermelons (and seeds) in the compost pile. If the temps don't get up will these seeds volunteer next year..??
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

rot
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Not a major disaster

..
A month ago the pile was 6 weeks old so now it's closer to ten. I don't think you're going to get much more heat out of this sucker. Keep turning and mind the moisture level and let it finish.

If the watermelon seeds were added while you were still getting 110 F or so, I'll bet you killed most of them. I think you'll find that some seeds will still be around but they will be dead. The seeds themselves can be tough to break down. By design I suspect. If a couple of watermelon plants pop up, I can't imagine that to be major disaster.

Time to start new bin. I bet the next one will get hotter than all get out.

to sense
..

john gault
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If you really want a hot pile sounds like you're going to have to increase the size, especially in the height dimension. Doesn't matter how much stuff you have, if you don't pile it high enough the temps won't build up. Your length and width dimensions sound fine, but you should concentrate on building the pile higher.

pickupguy07
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thanks guys.. I appreciate the input.
I started a new pile about 10 days ago.. (maybe I should of added them to the old pile to make it bigger)
The watermellon seeds are in the new pile.
Lots of greens added lately. Dad makes wine and jelly, and he has a lot of peach, apple, fig, etc peelings when he makes batches. twice he has brought over three 5 gallon buckets full. I do suspect I need some more browns right now. Unfortunately none to be found, except newspaper. I am wondering if that'll take too long to break down (I did run them through a paper schredder)

My melons seem to be "late". They were planted on 4/27 and should of taken about 90 days, and I had about 10 good size ones about a month ago. I have picked about 6 of them as they ripened, and since then I have had about 20 more sprout out.
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

toxcrusadr
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Newspaper will not take that long, especially shredded. It will disintegrate pretty easily when it gets wet. Just distribute it throughout and don't put big wads in, because they will stay in big wads.
Tox

pickupguy07
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Drought is so bad here in the south that leaves are falling early.
Today I picked up 3 wagon loads of leaves, and layered them in my compost pile.
The pile had gotten to where it stayed at about only 80*. Heck the outside temp is 95 every day...
In any event, I took the second pile I had started and layered that together with the leaves on top of the older pile.
I now have a pile that is 4x4x4.
Pile I moved on top was moist, but not wet. I still haven't decided if the pile isn't heating up because of too little water or too much... (or too small pile)
Maybe with all this combined I'll get better results.

This is the time of year DAD is canning apples, pears, etc and making jelly, wine, etc. SO I have LOTS of greens from the peelings, cores etc. He usualy comes every 10 days or so with two big 5 gallon buckets full.
Hoping I get SOMETHING to happen to point me in the right direction to go.
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

john gault
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If you're not sure if there's enough water than you probably need to add water. Water is absolutely necessary for the mico-organisms to be active; without water eveything goes dormant.

Too much water is really only a problem if your compost is submerged in water (even just paritally) or organic matter is being carried away while watering.

yoseph
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Hi pickupguy07. I think I'm in almost same effort with you to temp up our compost. :lol: I want to temp up my compost pile caused of the main material I used is cow manure. I wanna surely myself to kill the danger E. Coli that maybe there. And I want my compost pile done faster too (around 2 months).

Two days ago I made my compost pile with fresh cow manure, sawdust, rice bran, and rice hull ash. My three Carbon materials are all powder. I mix all together form a heap and uncovered. Today, I monitored the temperature and got disappointed result. The temp. only 34 Celsius (the outside temp. is 33 Celsius). I think I made a mistake. My pile was too compact. Is it true?

So I added some grass clipping and dry leaves to give some space in my compact pile.

Then I'm wondering. Does manure release its nitrogen so fast so that it doesn't have nitrogen anymore? Does grass clipping release and keep its nitrogen longer than manure? So please advice what materials should I use to make my hot and fast compost?

Thanks :D
There are nature destroyers, there are nature guardians. But how awesomely some nature changers.

pickupguy07
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I'm not sure how fast nitrogen is released.
Maybe someone else with chime in that is more knowledgeable.
I "assume" the nitrogen stays in the pile, ot the compost wouldn't help too much..?? but thats only a guess
Life is great..... but if you get lemons - compost them :-)
Near Atlanta GA... newbie to gardening & Composting

toxcrusadr
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You may be onto something with the powder problem. A hot pile consumes a LOT of oxygen, so if it's too compacted and dense, it can't get the air to create that much heat.

Also, it can take more than 48 hrs. to heat up. But I think you are on the right track by adding some fluffy materials.
Tox

yoseph
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Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:59 am
Location: Indonesia

After I added more grass clippings and leaves, my compost pile could get temp up. I was happy at that time. But the temp is disappointing now, same with outer temp -wall-

My grass clippings dried. I think the nitrogen lost, so fast? :?:

I don't know what should I do? Please help me, must I let for the next few months with this condition? I know my pile is in 3' x 3' and only 2' height caused of I can't collect the materials easily.

Pleaseee... nutz:
There are nature destroyers, there are nature guardians. But how awesomely some nature changers.

toxcrusadr
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Joined: Thu Sep 09, 2010 8:50 pm
Location: MO

Grass clippings retain their nitrogen when dried, as many green materials do (such as leaves harvested when green, then dried).

I do not think your manure pile lost its nitrogen in a couple of days.

How is the moisture content? It should be damp but not dripping. Dig in and check the middle.

And if it's compacted down again, consider turning it so it gets plenty of air.
Tox

yoseph
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Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:59 am
Location: Indonesia

Okay Tox, thanks for info. I'll pay attention about the moisture.

Now my pile consist a lot of grass clippings, green leaves and dry leaves. I think my temp down caused of my pile have shrunk and buffeted by many winds (My pile structure is Freestanding Compost Pile). It's good, means that my organics decomposing :)

In struggle work, I always collect grass clippings, green leaves and dry leaves day by day and shred manually with grass cutter. I want to collect until 3' of height. Now my pile is 40" x 40" x 23".

Thanks all folks :D
There are nature destroyers, there are nature guardians. But how awesomely some nature changers.

yoseph
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Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Sep 12, 2011 4:59 am
Location: Indonesia

Hooray, this morning my inner compost temp is about 105F. Now, I know about insulating in compost size, thanks all folks.

My Freestanding Compost Pile had shrunk from 40" x 40" x 32" to 40" x 40" x 24" in few days. Let me ask about optimal size in hot composting process. The optimal size of hot composting are 3'x3'x3' until 5'x5'x5'. Is this optimal size valid just in the early of building a compost pile? What should we do about the size after this pile have shrunk caused of decomposing?

Thanks for advise :)
There are nature destroyers, there are nature guardians. But how awesomely some nature changers.

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