zoogardner
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Stalled compost?

I have never composted before but have tried to do my research and read books and online sites to get the best information. I've built a sturdy tumbler at my work to use primarily for all the produce scraps created in the kitchen. Over a period of 2 months I've put 200lbs of material into the composter. Of that, about 18lbs was in the form of aspen shavings, newspaper, shredded paper, and dead leaves. The rest was fruits and veggies.

I feel like my materials have stalled in the biodegrading process. At first, everything seemed to break down quickly until I had a moist, brown homogeneous mess. And it's been like that for almost a month and it's been 2 months since I stopped putting new material in. I thought the moisture was too high so I let it sit with the lid off for a few days. It still drips a little "tea" out every day.

It might just be it needs more time but I'd like some opinions and other people's thoughts on it. The attached picture is the latest I've taken. I've tried to document it each week for research.
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Krasus3
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Re: Stalled compost?

@zoogardener - I to am somewhat new to composting. I am under the impression that when you add your "greens", that you should always add some "browns" as well to keep the moisture level in check. This is at least what I have to do with my worm compost. Hard to tell from the photo, but does it seem quite wet? Also, does it seem as if it is getting hot anymore?

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Stalled compost?

zoogardener has greens and browns - aspen shavings, newspaper, shredded paper, and dead leaves for browns (assuming the dead leaves are autumn leaves that fell), fruits and veggies for greens. But I'm not sure they are very well balanced. 18 lbs of browns and 182 lbs of greens. Generally you get an appropriate C:N ratio in your compost pile by adding 2 parts green to 1 part brown BY VOLUME. It can be anywhere up to 1:1 by volume.

So then we have to translate volume to weight. Browns tend to be fluffier and less dense, so that equal volumes of brown and green, would come out to be the equivalent of 2 parts green to 1 part brown by weight. Or looking at it from the other direction equal weights of brown and green would translate to 2 parts brown to one part green by volume, that is too much carbon. So at a rough estimate, maybe by weight you want four times as much brown as green. But in fact you have 10 times as much green as brown.

So, you want lots more browns in your pile. The lack of browns is why your pile is staying too wet.
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toxcrusadr
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Re: Stalled compost?

You're also going to need somewhere to unload the tumbler to so you can start a new batch. With a continuous source of inputs, you'll never get compost unless you have two piles. That's called a continuous batch process. I would suggest a simple open bin - a circle of wire fencing for example. Now that the food scrap is mostly decomposed, it will not draw critters and varmints. An added advantage of an open bin on the ground is that it can dry out and drain. Mix in some browns (not too much) when you transfer it and then let it age and see what happens.
Meanwhile, start a new batch in your tumbler and use more browns next time.
I've been composting 5-10 lb per day of coffee grounds and fruit/veggie scraps from an office building in black plastic ground based bins for over 15 yrs. We layer sawdust/wood shavings or chips with each addition and it works great. We empty the bins every 6 months into a concrete block bin to finish aging, after harvesting the compost placed there last time. So the age of material in our final compost is 6-12 months.
Tox

zoogardner
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Re: Stalled compost?

Thanks for the advice everyone. I know I need to add more browns so I'm starting to do that as they become available to me. I cannot move the compost I have to an open pile because of rules at work. Everything I do has to do contained to reduce pests. It's hard to say if the compost is heating up by itself because of the heating of the whole bin during the day and I'm not around it at night to check. The reason I started composting in the first place (or attempting) is because I am producing anywhere from 2-5 pounds of scrap produce daily that is normally just thrown away. We are working on a long term compost solution with outside help but I thought I'd try my hand at it now. Still going to chug along and try.

Does anyone know if just adding more browns at this point will help it begin composting again?

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Free Zucchini
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Re: Stalled compost?

zoogardner wrote:
Does anyone know if just adding more browns at this point will help it begin composting again?

Guessing it can't hurt. I'm playing with a pile of lawn clippings by mixing shredded paper in to keep it from getting too gooey. :()

toxcrusadr
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Re: Stalled compost?

That stuff does look too wet. How does it smell? If it is too high in N/not enough browns, plus being wet, it should stink to high heaven. If so it needs browns. However, I can see bits of leaves etc. which indicates browns that have not broken down. That's why I'm asking for more details about the conditions.
I compost 5-10 lb/day of food scraps and coffee grounds at work. We use black plastic bins and layer with sawdust or wood chips. Twice a year we empty the bins into one large 'finishing' bin to cure another 6 months. You might want to find a way to do that. A more open bin that can get some air (like a chicken wire circle) would let that stuff dry out and cure. Meanwhile begin a new batch in the tumbler.
Tox

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