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Sammys_Garden
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Some general questions about compost..

I am brand new to all of this, so patience might be required when chatting with me :wink:

As I posted in my introduction post, my husband has agreed to build me a raised garden this year! My dad has been gardening for 3 years now, and started a compost pile last year. I think the idea of making a compost is really neat, but I was wanting to know more about it.

I have read through some of the lists of ingredients, and was wondering what the purpose is of adding ingredients like cardboard, sawdust, etc..

Also, my husband is a Barber in this hick town that we live in, and said he could get me some chicken manuer from his customers if I want some. Is this something I could just add to the compost?

Finally, I was also wondering if it is possible to keep the compost in buckets or maybe a big barrel? My dad has a tarp on the ground with his compost piled ontop of it, but the hubs doesn't want to do it that way if possible.

Thanks for your help!! :)

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Some general questions about compost..

Sammys_Garden wrote:I am brand new to all of this, so patience might be required when chatting with me :wink:

As I posted in my introduction post, my husband has agreed to build me a raised garden this year! My dad has been gardening for 3 years now, and started a compost pile last year. I think the idea of making a compost is really neat, but I was wanting to know more about it.

I have read through some of the lists of ingredients, and was wondering what the purpose is of adding ingredients like cardboard, sawdust, etc..

Also, my husband is a Barber in this hick town that we live in, and said he could get me some chicken manuer from his customers if I want some. Is this something I could just add to the compost?

Finally, I was also wondering if it is possible to keep the compost in buckets or maybe a big barrel? My dad has a tarp on the ground with his compost piled ontop of it, but the hubs doesn't want to do it that way if possible.

Thanks for your help!! :)
Composting is wonderful! It's like magic how you turn garbage and yard wastes into lovely black nutrient rich humus. You would be well served to do some reading in this Composting Forum, there's tons of info already here. This thread: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=201818#201818

has links to several good introductions to composting.

The purpose of the "browns" (sawdust, cardboard, etc) is to balance out the "greens" (manure, kitchen scraps, etc). That is your compost pile to work well needs a balance of browns (high carbon, hard, dry stuff) and greens (high nitrogen, soft, wet stuff). Too much brown and it doesn't do much, just sits there and takes forever to break down. Too much green and it can get all nasty and stinky and slimy. More or less half and half by volume (it's not rocket science, doesn't have to be precise) makes a good balance. And then your finished compost has a good balance of all the nutrients the plants need.

Yup, just add the chicken manure in.

Nope, can't do it in a bucket or barrel. Bucket will be too small. Composting works much better with a good amount of stuff, like preferably a 3 x 3 x3' cube to start with. Barrel isn't aerated enough. Composting is an aerobic process, a bit like slowly burning your organic materials.

So you need a pile of mixed greens and browns, with moisture (it should stay as damp as a wrung out sponge) and air, and some way to contain it, so it stays piled. If you have critters like raccoons and such around, you need a way to keep them out of your pile, too. Most people use some kind of bin, that has plenty of openings for air circulation. They can be purchased or you can make your own. Homemade compost bins are often done with wooden pallets you can get for free.
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rainbowgardener
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Here's a thread about homemade compost bins

https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=219187#219187
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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Sammys_Garden
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https://video.about.com/greenliving/Homemade-Compost-Bin.htm

What do you all think of this idea?

I am hoping my husband will make me two 4 x 8 x 12 raised beds. I'm thinking about buying as many bags of potting soil or miracle grow, and mixing it with a truck load of dirt to fill my beds with. My dad said that one year he made the mistake of making too much compost, and said he actually had more compost than actual soil. So how much compost should I make, and will I want to mix it into my soil when I am filling the bed?

I will continue looking through threads, and appreciate you guys posting them for me to easily access them. :)

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Sammys_Garden
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I should have clarified that. My Dad said that he believes that he used too much compost in his raised garden, not necessarily that he made too much. Do you think it would get better air if I left the lid off of the garbage container?

dustyrivergardens
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I like plenty of air circulation in my compost pile. I just use pallets works great.[img]https://i272.photobucket.com/albums/jj163/hunt-john/gardening/IMG_1761.jpg[/img]

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Kisal
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I don't know about the garbage container. I made one in 2009 and it never did produce very good compost. I ended up dumping the contents into my regular compost bin, and within short order, the stuff turned into beautiful compost.

I don't know what the problem was with the garbage can compost bin. I put plenty of air holes in it (used a 1/2 inch drill bit), cut the bottom out so it sat on the ground to allow the earthworms to enter, kept the ingredients moist but not soggy, used the right mix of ingredients, turned the ingredients regularly, etc. In other words, I treated it just like I did my regular compost bin, but the ingredients just sat there. Very disappointing. :>
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rainbowgardener
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The barrel or garbage can is basically a homemade compost tumbler. But from what people have written in here, I've never heard anything much good about home made or commercial tumblers. And one thing to realize about them is that they are basically batch composters. That is you collect your ingredients, fill the barrel up and then leave it (turning it if it is set up that way). But you can't keep adding stuff to it, because then the old stuff and new stuff are all mixed together and you have no way to get finished compost out. So you have to have a compost pile somewhere else to collect your ingredients while the first batch is working. Since you have to have a compost pile anyway, why not just use that? My compost pile I just keep throwing stuff in it as it comes along.

I'm with the never too much compost crowd. I don't understand what your dad meant Plants grow happily out of the compost pile, living in pure compost. It's not like synthetic fertilizer, it can't burn them. I built a new raised bed in my front lawn this year and filled it with almost pure compost. Everything has been growing great. Pure compost doesn't work real well for containers, because it can be too dense. But if your raised bed is directly on the ground, you automatically have drainage and dirt mixing with your compost.
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2cents
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If you haven't heard of lasagna gardening :idea: , you might look at this thread;
https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=228011#228011

Others here can explain this technique better. I like using what is available, as well to keep it out of the landfills. But careful with using too much hair. It mats and doesn't break down as fast as most of us like, when planted deep, it will disappear in a reasonable time <1 year.

I like building my new beds with deep layers of "browns" and thin layers of "greens".
I would start this >2 months before planting to allow worms and other microbes to get a good start. Old hair is a green, but mats when wet and does not break down quickly. I suggest an inch of old "barber" hair(on bottom of bed only) to start your raised bed. then completely fill the bed with leaves and paper or other "browns".(sticks < 1 inch thick). Then an inch of the chicken manure would help weight the browns and prevent wind blowing it away. Let the rain water the chicken manure in.
Give that a month to break down & put >two inches of dirt on the top, I even like it to be mostly clay(it will be okay, with your humus level from the broken down organics), it will give your new soil some other textures.
Get ready for planting.

also I like my beds less than 3 feet wide, easier for working around without stepping in them.

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Sammys_Garden wrote:https://video.about.com/greenliving/Homemade-Compost-Bin.htm

What do you all think of this idea?
A barrel is a place to start. If you produce much in the way of yard waste, it may inadaquate to your need. A single bin made of wooden pallets serves me better. A three-bin bank will come for me in time.
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