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Indian Summer 02-23-2008 06:36 AM

We've got a compost bin in our garden, and we've been putting kitchen waste in it ever since we moved in last summer. Also some leaves and grass cuttings.



I'm not sure it's working so well. The good thing is that it doesn't seem to get full, so I guess some what we put in there must be decomposing after all. The bad thing is that I can't actually see much properly decomposed matter ... Not sure how that is possible!



My concerns are firstly that I'm not sure it stays warm enough. The bin is made from plastic (about 5mm thick), but as we live in England and don't always have so much sunny weather this time of year, I suspect that it's just not warm enough in there. The compost bins I've seen before (in Norway, i.e. even further north) were built from wood and were insulated with styrofoam (polystyrene).



Secondly, the previous tenants had evidently chopped up their Christmas tree and put in the bin, and that is still far from decomposed. I've been taking out bits and pieces every time I check the state of the bin contents.



Thirdly, we collect kitchen waste in supposedly compostable bags in the kitchen. When they are full, we throw the entire bag into the bin. Would it be better to open the bag and empty the contents directly into the bin? Or does it not matter?



Finally, I don't really have a clue. If anyone has any experience and advice about composting - this is the thread for you!

bluegold 02-23-2008 06:48 AM

IS what size is the bin , does it have ventilation holes , how much grass clippings do you put into it (thickness of layer ) , how thick are the layer of leaves , are they damp or dry when you add them ? and yes , its better to to bust open the your kitchen bags .



Weather has little to do with it , in the old days the British aristocracy use to grow pineapples with snow around in the middle of winter .

Fritemare 02-23-2008 06:50 AM

Well, we compost. I have a hole in my back yard with some fencing around it to keep animals and babies out that I toss kitchen scraps into. Mine seems to be working just fine. I don't use bags at all though.

abroadinSacto 02-23-2008 06:54 AM

zikes - that tree ain't helping! I'd tear the bags open before putting them in. That way it'll mix better when you turn the compost.



I've always had luck with plastic bins, but I've always lived south of you. I partially buried mine once, and I think it helped things tremmendously. I guess the most important thing there is that you allow for some ventilation.

abroadinSacto 02-23-2008 06:56 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fritemare View Post

Well, we compost. I have a hole in my back yard with some fencing around it to keep animals and babies out that I toss kitchen scraps into. Mine seems to be working just fine. I don't use bags at all though.



Yeah, babies don't compost well at all!

Indian Summer 02-23-2008 07:03 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluesand View Post

IS what size is the bin , does it have ventilation holes , how much grass clippings do you put into it (thickness of layer ) , how thick are the layer of leaves , are they damp or dry when you add them ? and yes , its better to to bust open the your kitchen bags .



Weather has little to do with it , in the old days the British aristocracy use to grow pineapples with snow around in the middle of winter .

Sizewise it's roughly about a meter high. It's barrel-shaped with a diameter of roughly 0.5 meter. So that gives us a volume of about 1m*3.14*(0.25m)^2 which is approximately 0.2m³.



No ventilation holes except the hatch on the bottom where I can rake out composted matter. I can't seem to close this hatch completely, Maybe that's a good thing.



Grass and leaves: There isn't much in there now, since it's winter and I haven't been cutting any grass or raking leaves.



You might be right about temperature, although I'm still not convinced on that one ...



Thanks for your advice!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fritemare View Post

Well, we compost. I have a hole in my back yard with some fencing around it to keep animals and babies out that I toss kitchen scraps into. Mine seems to be working just fine. I don't use bags at all though.

Lucky you! I'll start opening up those bags, I think.

Indian Summer 02-23-2008 07:09 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by abroadinSacto View Post

zikes - that tree ain't helping! I'd tear the bags open before putting them in. That way it'll mix better when you turn the compost.



I've always had luck with plastic bins, but I've always lived south of you. I partially buried mine once, and I think it helped things tremmendously. I guess the most important thing there is that you allow for some ventilation.

Thanks ... I might go looking for a new bin, since ours doesn't seem to have much in terms of ventilation. Or I guess I could poke some holes in the one we have ...



My boss told me he has three bins. The waste first goes into bin #1, then proceeds to #2 and finally bin #3. I guess this way one is sure that the compost gets mixed around somewhat etc.

IamJen 02-23-2008 07:31 AM

re: the bags, that's only about 1/3 of our kitchen waste, so while it may not help, I don't see that as the root of the problem. I check it every now and then and try to stir things up with the shovel, but it not decomposing very much, even the "free" waste.



In talking earlier, I said that I suspected the lack of "brown" stuff is part of the problem. I'll have to do a bit of raking on the front lawn this week and toss that in.



I've wondered too about adding some worms. We had a compost bin (very small) at a school where I once worked, and the worms were a big part of the decomposition process.



Thanks for the tip about ventilation. I've not seen that on any of the sites/directions I've read. Our form of bin seems to be pretty commonly used too, so I wonder if people are poking holes in the lid perhaps. Hm.

abroadinSacto 02-23-2008 08:25 AM

My bins have come with a couple of slit vents on the side near the top. They're not terribly obvious looking down from the top.



Grass clippings are great because they are loaded with nitrogen which has obvious benefits as a fertilizer. I understand that nitrogen also helps keep the temperature up in the composting process. I read of one case (I think it was in Rodale's Book of Composting) where a small tropical community was composting chopped up saplings using their own urine as the primary nitrogen component. It worked so well the compost was ready to use in just over a month. Of course, if you choose to use this method, please be discreet.

bluegold 02-23-2008 01:16 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Indian Summer View Post

Sizewise it's roughly about a meter high. It's barrel-shaped with a diameter of roughly 0.5 meter. So that gives us a volume of about 1m*3.14*(0.25m)^2 which is approximately 0.2m³.



No ventilation holes except the hatch on the bottom where I can rake out composted matter. I can't seem to close this hatch completely, Maybe that's a good thing.



Grass and leaves: There isn't much in there now, since it's winter and I haven't been cutting any grass or raking leaves.



You might be right about temperature, although I'm still not convinced on that one ...



^ Well in some ways your concerns are correct about the temp . Temp generated is a big part in composting and outside temp might slow it down slightly .



The size sounds o/k





Holes in the side might help for more ventilation . But best not to put holes in top of bin . The only thing I have found with those bins (a good one is very efficient ) is that the mice get in them ...they love them , you might have to mesh up the vents if you think it will be a problem . So you come to getting the compost out the bottom hatch if its not closed and you have mice nests coming out with the compost .



Worms have a freeze point so I don't know the temp where you are , so maybe it might not work . You can build a worm farm in a shed (non smelly) and freeze point wont worry them, there are no end on designs on the net .



Its best to layer your compost , branches , coarse material at the bottom and layer it different material to the top , about 20 cm each . Fulling it up with grass clipping is not the greatest of ideas .



To accelerate the composting (if you have a rotor mower ) just run the mower (with catcher on ) over clippings , even leaves . It really saves space and helps with the composting .



Two to three bins is an excellent idea . you can pick them up at garage sales cheap



best of luck

Byzantea 02-23-2008 01:19 PM


Indian Summer 02-23-2008 01:30 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by abroadinSacto View Post

Grass clippings are great because they are loaded with nitrogen which has obvious benefits as a fertilizer. I understand that nitrogen also helps keep the temperature up in the composting process. I read of one case (I think it was in Rodale's Book of Composting) where a small tropical community was composting chopped up saplings using their own urine as the primary nitrogen component. It worked so well the compost was ready to use in just over a month. Of course, if you choose to use this method, please be discreet.

Re: urine ... The parents of a friend of mine were experiencing some troubles with their compost. I guess the dad had been hearing stories about the benefits of this method, and so he tried it. And supposedly it worked really well!

Indian Summer 02-23-2008 01:42 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Soy 6-Pack View Post

HEre is a good composting troubleshooting guide

Hm... I think I'm going to try some of that. I'll try to chop up the contents better, and maybe see if there's some grass that needs cutting.



I'll have to see if I can shut that hatch properly as well. Don't want little rodents nesting in there! On the other hand, the neighbourhood has a huge cat population...

Gita 03-31-2008 03:11 PM

I see this thread is relatively fresh. Tomorrow I am going to the hardware store for 2X4s and chicken wire to make a big compost bin with 3 separate sections. I had a lot of garden waste in the yard and decided that this was the year to begin to compost. I already have some "leaf piles" that have yielded nice black leaf mold.

bluegold 04-01-2008 01:51 AM

IS ...was going to mention it when you originally kicked of the thread , but did not know if the idea worked (I was there when they built them ) any way , have heard back that the idea does work . That is , to use a couple of old freezers with holes drilled along the bottom for air circulation and liquid (smelly ) drainage . You use the liquid as a feeder for your plants . Because of the insulation , they have fast heat generation and break down . You use the second one to shovel the contents of the first one into .

The base inside is best to be made pallet like or the first layer a very course mixture , otherwise , you wont get air flow .

Indian Summer 04-01-2008 04:59 AM

Thanks for that ... um, not sure I have that many old freezers lying around, but at least this seems to indicate that heat and insulation are factors to be considered. And the base thing too. I'll try to take all this into consideration whenever I set up a new composter.

Gita 04-01-2008 04:35 PM

Hi well, I got some wood and some hardware wire today.



I was just reading that grass clippings (I guess during certain times) burn way too hot, and need to be dried some. (nitrogen vs carbon in the right combinations). We have explosions here of dry corn silos that kill people. A lot of people tend to forget that this stuff is chemistry and very powerful.

LucidAnne 04-01-2008 05:15 PM

gita...grass clippings are fine to use, you just want to mix it in well w/ your carbon materials. its about keeping the ratiio. keep it aerated by turning it often and you should be safe.

Gita 04-01-2008 07:41 PM

They are very nitrogen-- If you have a lot it is recommended to dry them a bit. This is all

Subjective. How much is "a lot?" who knows.

LucidAnne 04-03-2008 05:55 PM

i guess "a lot" would be when your compost blows up in your face!! lol.

Gita 04-05-2008 02:36 PM

Quote:
Originally Posted by LucidAnne View Post

i guess "a lot" would be when your compost blows up in your face!! lol.





So where's the part where I can run my light-bulbs off this? Do I just plug them in?

DLS 04-07-2008 08:24 AM

Suitable compost ingredients include:

Animal manure, straw or hay, grass clippings, leaves, shredded stalks and bark, kitchen vegetable scraps, floor sweepings/ contents of vacuume bags, seaweed, mushroom compost, shredded newspaper, weeds, and sawdust are a few. Idealy you should layer your compost with green stuff {kitchen scraps, grass clippings etc.}and dry stuff {leaves, hay etc.}

I grow comfrey beside my comopst and add the leaves, comfrey acts as an activator




Indian Summer 07-12-2008 03:56 AM

I think we now officially have a fly problem. I opened up the bin to throw in a banana peel, and a whole swarm of flies came out of there. I threw the lid back on as fast as I could, but the sky was already visibly darker. I feel like I'd opened some sort of Pandora's box.



Is this the whole green vs brown issue? Because we just don't have that much grass to throw in there. So what can I do? Get more toads?








cinders7 07-12-2008 05:06 AM

The compost in my bin is quite clumpy and some of the food hasn't quite decomposed but after a year i put it on my garden regardless and my plants grow like monsters.Pee is a good activator aswell as beer(not sure what beer is veg*n as i don't drink the stuff lol)Mice get into my bin and i keep meaning to put a thin wire mesh at the bottom,instead i just bang on the bin first in hope they'll ran off.I live in the uk too.I also add shredded paper to mine,vacuum bag contents veg peelings.My hedge trimmings i put around my bushes to act as a mulch to keep the weeds down

bluegold 07-12-2008 05:59 AM

IS , you could try and put a layer of soil over your compost , about 5 cm .

Indian Summer 07-12-2008 06:34 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluesand View Post

IS , you could try and put a layer of soil over your compost , about 5 cm .

Thanks bluesand, that sounds like good advice. I'm guessing the soil will suffocate the little devils, or at least keep them away from the compost. I'll try this later.

cstadt 07-12-2008 06:58 AM

My townhouse development says no composting for me I've always wanted to try it..

Michael 07-14-2008 06:06 AM

I've recently become interested in composting and I think I'm going to start a composting forum. I'll post more once it's ready for members.

Indian Summer 07-14-2008 06:23 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by bluesand View Post

IS , you could try and put a layer of soil over your compost , about 5 cm .

I had an almost full bag of flower soil lying around, so we threw that in there along with some cardboard and a newspaper. It seemed to cover it up, so hopefully that will solve the problem.



Hm, so how long before we can throw kitchen waste in there again?



Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael View Post

I've recently become interested in composting and I think I'm going to start a composting forum. I'll post more once it's ready for members.



Ooh, this should be interesting...!

bluegold 07-14-2008 06:31 AM

Quote:
Originally Posted by Indian Summer View Post




Hm, so how long before we can throw kitchen waste in there again?

..!



Well just layer some damp newspaper over the kitchen waste if you think you will have fly strike again.


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