fatherofsix
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New to composting. need some help

Hello. I am a father of six and want to start a small garden. So I started my compost pile by stacking some twigs and sticks on the ground. On top of this I added leaves and pine needles pretty evenly. We squeezed some juice this morning so I cut up all the peels from grapefruit and oranges and spread them evenly over the leaves. It didn't cover the leaves completely.

1. Should I just add more on top of the leaves to make a complete layer?

2. I do not have enough green to make my compost tall enough so right now I have my partial compost pile covered with a tarp until I can complete my green layer. Is this right? Should I water it now?

3. I have my pile covered and a bin of leaves covered because it is supposed to rain in a couple of days. And I want to control how wet my compost pile is and keep dry leaves. Is this ok?

4. What is my next step?

Thank everyone so much!

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to composting. need some help

You have mostly all ingredients there that some people would say never to put in compost piles. Pine needles are full of resin and break down VERY slowly. They are not good in compost piles, because they slow everything down. Citrus peels are also oily and somewhat resistant to breaking down and are acidic. I do put them in my compost pile, but only in small amounts, mixed in with other stuff.

When you say "leaves and pine needles," what kind of leaves? Are you talking about fallen autumn leaves from deciduous trees? Those are Carbon rich, "browns." (Please check out the greens/browns thread in this Composting forum: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... =35&t=9089).

Along with your fall leaves, to get the compost pile working, you need a bunch of "greens." (Nitrogen rich, soft/ moist stuff) Where's all your kitchen scraps? With six kids to feed, one would think there would be a ton of kitchen scraps. Keep a bucket in your kitchen with a tight fitting lid and put all your kitchen scraps in it - anything left over from cooking, onion peels, potato and carrot peels etc etc plus all the plate scrapings. If you are a coffee drinker, be sure to put all your used coffee grounds in the scrap bucket - very nitrogen rich, very "green" despite the color. If you are having trouble getting enough greens (hard to imagine with a big family to cook for) you can go by Starbucks or any place that serves coffee and collect grounds from them. When the bucket is starting to get full or stinky when you open the lid, dump it on the compost pile and cover it with a good layer of the fall leaves.

All the weeds you pull from the garden go on your compost pile and are greens.

You haven't told us where you are located. Is it spring where you are?

Compost piles work better when they are bigger. You want some kind of cage to keep everything contained and help you be able to pile it deeper.
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applestar
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Re: New to composting. need some help

Great advice from rainbowgardener. :D

For what you have now, the citrus scraps will mold and stink rather easily so mix into the leaves rather than making solid layers, and I also add a little soil (just scrape up from around the pile) to help keep the odor down -- in fact dumping the citrus stuff one the ground then mixing into the pile helps to do that. Winter is my citrus rich season so I do end up with more in the piles then, but it all evens out eventually.

I also use paper products from around the house except colorful and printed ones.

...when you say "covered" do you mean completely? The compost pile needs to breathe, so some kind of "roof" to keep out heavy rains is good but you don't want to envelope the while thing.

A stacked log cabin border of branches can help to support the sides of the pile so materials won't tumble down. You could also make wattle fence kind of side supports with flexible branches and/or vines. They will slowly decompose and become part of the compost pile eventually.
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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to composting. need some help

PS. I just made a new composting basics thread here: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 35&t=56881

Also when talking about "anything leftover from cooking" and all the plate scrapings. That is true for me, because I am a vegetarian. If you are not, be careful not to put any meat scraps in the compost bucket. They don't break down well and they do tend to attract all the critters in the neighborhood, cats and rodents and everyone else...
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fatherofsix
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Re: New to composting. need some help

I a m located in twain harte california. A town in the Stanislaus forrest.

I do have a little bit of table scraps going into my pile. Also coffee lots of coffee grounds. We have a bowl for now and I bring it out when it's full. It fills up slow though. How much greens should I have compared to all my leaves?

I have fallen leaves from black oak trees. A little bit of needles not much. Last thing I put in my pile was blueberries, strawberries, celery, potato peels, lettuce, asparagus bottoms, green onions. I put more leaves on top and a little dirt.

My compost is in a barrel that has no bottom and I have a plywood top if needed to keep it from getting soaked by the rain. Thanks for your help.

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to composting. need some help

Did you read the composting basics thread, I wrote partly because of your questions?

You are still off to a very slow start, unfortunately. Fall leaves are good in your compost, generally, but there are leaves and then there are leaves. Oak leaves are very tough and have a lot of tannic acid. That makes them very slow to break down (tannic acid from oak leaves is used to tan leather, to preserve it and make it more durable) and acidic. If you want them to break down in your compost pile this side of a year or two, they would need to be shredded. You can run them through a shredder if you have one (they are handy garden tools), put them in a bag and stick a weed whacker in, put them on the lawn and run the mower over them (and then rake them back up) or maybe even put them in a bag and run your car over it a few times. But unshredded, I think you will be very disappointed in the results. Not only will they not break down in any reasonable amount of time, they will slow down the compost process of everything else in the pile.

And if you read the composting basics thread, you would note that the first requirement of the composting process is AIR (as applestar said above, it needs to breathe). So no, a solid barrel with a plywood top doesn't really cut it for composting. If you could drill a bunch of air holes in the barrel, it would work.

All the food scraps are great, but it still sounds like you may be well short on greens. People suggest a Carbon to Nitrogen ratio in your pile of 25 or 30 to 1. But since even "greens" tend to be higher in Carbon (see the greens/browns sticky at the top of this forum), you can get this ratio, by making sure the volume of greens in your pile is at least equal to the volume of browns, or anywhere up to twice as much greens as browns. (Browns tend to be "fluffier," with lots of air. So if you have shredded or packed browns, it would be twice as much greens, otherwise with fluffy browns, you could go with equal volumes.) If you are still having trouble coming up with enough greens, you could look around to see who has a horse near you. Bring a load of horse manure home with you and pile it somewhere and feed it in to your compost pile a bucket or two at a time to make up the volume of green you need. Very "green" and will really help break down all that tough stuff you keep finding. Otherwise, keep checking starbucks kind of places for bags of coffee grounds.
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fatherofsix
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Re: New to composting. need some help

Hmmmm. Sounds like composting in my area is not good. Maybe I'll just go another route. Thank you everyone

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to composting. need some help

Well, I hate to see anyone give up on composting. Home made compost is the best thing for your garden AND it keeps so much stuff out of the waste streams. You know some localities are now banning garbage disposals, because putting all that garbage down the drain is so bad for the sewer system.

If you don't have appropriate leaves, there are lots of other choices. In my office we shred lots of paper and I can bring shredded paper home if I want. That works as a brown as does sawdust. You can get a little shredder (they are cheap) and just shred your junk mail. Once you actually have a garden, you will have tons of pulled weeds and garden trimmings for greens.
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fatherofsix
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Re: New to composting. need some help

I actually looked up these leaves and they are white oak not black. Does that make a difference?

I do not want to give up on anything that is good for the environment. I can shred paper and put it in there. As far as the table scraps and everything we cook to not have leftovers and have no waste from the kids. We throw the peelings and everything in the compost but it adds up so slow. But I can't substitute my peelings with shredded paper right?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: New to composting. need some help

no, still oak leaves. As I said, the oak leaves will work in your compost if shredded. I think the run over it with your car is a pretty easy shredding method, if you don't have a leaf shredder (not the same as the paper shredder I mentioned before :) )

Shredded paper is "brown," kitchen scraps are "green," so one doesn't substitute for the other. There is a list of greens and browns here: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... =35&t=9089

this article lists 163 things you can compost (not divided up by green and brown)

https://www.plantea.com/compost-materials.htm
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applestar
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Re: New to composting. need some help

Father of six you said -- one way to make leaves smaller is to put crunchy dry leaves in a pile, then cover with sturdy canvas or tarp, and have the kids play on it.

:-() :-() :-() :-() :-() :-() (Make sure there are no sharp sticks, etc)
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fatherofsix
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Re: New to composting. need some help

Awesome thank u guys

Susan W
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Re: New to composting. need some help

Just adding a couple more 2 c.
Composting isn't rocket science. People have recycled food waste, stems, peels etc since before written word. With trial and error, lots of both, figure some things and ways work better than others, and there is no one-size-fits-all.
1st thing is KISS (Keep it simple--).
2nd, your situation. With your family presume buckets of peels, veg & fruit trimmings. Just no meat product. Coffee grounds including paper filter. Cardboard t-paper tubes get thrown in (I presume you have more than me-single!!) Some people tear those up, but not me!
3rd is your yard situation. Some, like me, just have a pile. Others build bins with pallets.
4. Getting it hot (kills those weed seeds) or more casual (me).

I just have a pile in the back corner, urban lot. I dump the bowl from kitchen near daily and have dirt from containers going in. I just add and turn pile, at least top few inches when I add stuff. I try to cover the scraps, and turn in the t-paper tubes. Now that it is a bit warmer the worms are busy and making more worms. I usually turn in leaves in fall-winter. This year lazy as weather so crappy, and didn't do much. These are oak leaves, and just turned in. Hopefully I'll get more raked up this week and turned in.

Just some thoughts.
Have fun!
Susan

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