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Old 10-14-2009, 05:43 PM
 
Location: Bellevue, WA
20 posts, read 64,940 times
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I've been reading up on composting, and want to get started. I keep reading that "heat" is a necessary part of the process. Is this external heat (ambient air temperature) or internally generated heat from the composting process? If I start composting now, will I have useable compost for spring planting, or does the process go dormant over the winter (I'm in zone 7, northern Alabama). Thanks for any advice!
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Old 10-14-2009, 05:49 PM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
32,105 posts, read 39,155,933 times
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Internal heat generated from the decompostion process. Where you are you should have useable compost in the Spring if you: 1) start now, 2) incorporate a lot of green material, 3) turn that pile once a week religiously. Be aware that you'll lose 90% of the volume as the pile cooks.
Keep the pile moist, not soaking/sopping, but moist.
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Old 10-15-2009, 12:57 AM
 
Location: Sound Beach
2,160 posts, read 6,536,426 times
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The addition of green material is probably most important. Grass clippings are good...but chopped up leaves are very good also. One thing I have done that works...is make two separate piles. Green materials in one...and all your food clippings mixed with soil in the other. In the dirt/food pile...add dozen or two earthworms. They will chew through the pile and really speed up the break down. Once the grass pile is composted (in the spring)...mix the two together.

I'd imagine you will be able to have progress all winter where you live...unless you get some freakish snowstorms.
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Old 10-15-2009, 01:02 AM
 
Location: McKinleyville, California
6,413 posts, read 8,853,968 times
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I raise both chickens and rabbits. I also maintain on average 12 yards on a regular basis. I bring home the grass clippings and leaves and add that to manure from my animals. I layer my heap starting with leaves or straw, then manure, then leaves again till I get the heap about 4 feet high. I sprinkle the heap with a garden hose as I am layering it. I also add vegetable scraps, egg shells and coffee grounds. I turn the heap once a week and each time it is about 1/4 smaller. I also take a garden stake and stab the heap to stimulate and improve air circulation. I have had a heap get over 160 degrees in the core. My current heap started out a few months ago and it is down to about 3 cubic yards now. I have it surrounded with wire to contain it in a 5 foot by 10 foot area. I also add a few buckets of rabbit or chicken manure every time I turn the heap, it is like throwing gasoline on a fire. It is a sure way to kill weed seeds in your compost, other wise all the weed seeds will just germinate when you use the compost later.
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Old 10-15-2009, 10:10 AM
 
Location: Bellevue, WA
20 posts, read 64,940 times
Reputation: 28
Default Thanks!

Thank you all for the fast and informative replies. Getting started now...
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Old 10-15-2009, 10:12 AM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
32,105 posts, read 39,155,933 times
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One thing I forgot, you may want to make a screen to sift it. Just some 3/8" hardware cloth on a 2 x 4 frame maybe 3 ft. by 2 ft. to fit over your wheelbarrow. Shovel some into the screen, work it around and get out any big chunks that need more processing.
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Old 10-15-2009, 11:21 AM
 
Location: Albemarle, NC
7,730 posts, read 12,445,614 times
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I live in the same zone and I can say you most likely will not have usable compost by spring unless your pile is huge. It takes a lot of greens and mass to keep the compost going through the winter here. Mine usually shuts down about December and starts to wake up again in April. One additive that can help, and yes I am being serious, is urine. It contains urea which is a great source of nitrogen and can speed the process. It also helps keep the pile moist. It helps to collect it and add lots at one time rather than a little here and there. You also have to keep it turned as stated.

If you don't have a lot of green grass clippings, you can add coffee grounds too. Tea bags are also another source of nitrogen. Worst case, you can make compost tea in the spring and spread the finished compost in the fall. Best case, you sift out half of the unfinished stuff in spring and spread what did decompose.

If you have a manure source, add it to the pile along with all your leaves. Shredding the leaves first will help a lot. Horse or cow manure will be fine, but again, it must be turned often.

Good luck. I've started a new pile this fall too. I'm going to get a truck load of manure in a couple weeks to add to mine once I start collecting leaves.
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Old 10-15-2009, 11:26 AM
 
Location: McKinleyville, California
6,413 posts, read 8,853,968 times
Reputation: 4190
Quote:
Originally Posted by North Beach Person View Post
One thing I forgot, you may want to make a screen to sift it. Just some 3/8" hardware cloth on a 2 x 4 frame maybe 3 ft. by 2 ft. to fit over your wheelbarrow. Shovel some into the screen, work it around and get out any big chunks that need more processing.
I have two screens, one is made of heavy hardware wire and is 2 1/2 feet by 3 feet and a smaller one that is 2 by 1 made of doubled 1/4 inch wire for making finer soil for cactus and potting mix. I also use the small sifter to sieve rabbit manure through to make a mix that resembles commercial boxed dry fertilizer, with 4 rabbits I get enough to make up to 4 five gallon buckets of sifted manure that I use on my lawns. I also use a short piece of 2"x4" to push the compost or manure around in the sifters and to break up clumps. You can keep your heaps heat contained in bad weather by covering it with a tarp, if not, you risk losing the heat in the pile to over saturation of rain.
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Old 10-17-2009, 06:15 PM
 
Location: garland tx
14 posts, read 25,166 times
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Default Composting

Quote:
Originally Posted by herbgarden View Post
If you really want to do composting, you would need to do that during summer. That 's the ideal time to do it due to external heat. Save some for the cold season if you want to do indoor gardens...
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garden herbs indoors
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I tend to agree with herbgarden. Most of my composting takes place in the summer months when it is hot.
It gets really hot in the summer and so the compost works (breaks down) much faster. My composter is more or less dormant in the winter, but I still continue to "use it" meaning adding stuff and stirring it up on occasion
The temperature drops so the "composting" takes longer.
I was not aware that it did MUCH in the winter months. However; I still add and stir on occasion.
I would like to hear more from others on WINTER composting.

.
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Old 10-18-2009, 03:57 AM
 
Location: North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake
32,105 posts, read 39,155,933 times
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Mine stays warm enough that the snows melts on it and you can see it steam.
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