How long does it take compost to decompose?

Composition: dry brown leaves, green grass all mixed with chicken shit and a bit of sod. The pile is about 4x4 feet wide and 2 feet tall. Would it be realistic to expect it to rot by the next year?
I will be adding more stuff as this year goes on, and would like to know if at some point I should stop adding to the current pile and start a new one, to have one pile ready to top dress the lawn and add to the garden. The pile is located in shade in the bushes (to be out of sight).
i
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chicken shit

year?
like to

and
and add

be out

I keep adding to a pile until it is full. I then start on the next. When I need compost, I remove the top, uncomposted material and add it to the second pile. Then I take the compost. Continue adding to the second pile till it is full, then repeat the process.
Bob
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What do you mean by "full"???
i
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They say that 3' X 3' X 3' is ideal. Personally I don't pay much attention. My compost pile, too, is in shade and therefore composting is slower. So I work on the basis that this year's compost will be available for next year. I have configured my composter (made out of stick-in-the-ground wire fencing) as 2 bays -- last year's stuff and this years. I've been saving last year's for some planting I still have to do but I'll use it all and that will give me 2 bays this year. The size of my bays is larger than recommended. If I'm energetic (rarely) I turn it about every two weeks -- nasty job but it does speed up the process as does adding spring lawn fertilizer (for the nitrogen) if your proportion of fall leaves is too high. I think the recommended ratio (somebody can correct me here) is about 2/3rds brown material (carbon) to 1/3 green (nitrogen).
The bottom line in answer to the question you last asked, is there is no such thing as "full" provided you are prepared to turn) mix) the pile regularly. Do that and basically your pile can be as large as you want.
Jim
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No more will fit in the bin.
Bob
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On 5/26/04 8:37 AM, in article c92dkd$3ep$ snipped-for-privacy@pita.alt.net, "Ignoramus29645"

Your pile sounds like mine...Is your pile hot? Mine is steaming. A hot pile will shrink as it decomposes. This is what I do. I keep a rubber mat on top and cover the whole pile with a black covering originally used to cover lumber (obtained from a lumber yard). They just throw them out and are glad to donate to a worthy cause. My pile is in the sun and the heat from the sun (on the black cover) helps to increase the temperature of the pile which in turn helps things break down. Each time I cut the lawn I have to remove all the coverings. I then use a fork to stir the upper layers by lifting out and loosening as far down in the pile as I can. Level the surface then add the new grass cuttings on top levelling them. I have a drum full of dry chicken manure. I sprinkle it on top of each full lawn mower bag of cut grass. My grass has lots of moisture in it so I have no need to add water. You may have to depending upon where you live. The moisture in the grass wets the chicken manure. The nitrogen from which helps to break down the grass. I think that keeping the rubber cover on top keeps the ammonia (nitrogen) in (and the heat) where it can work on the grass. Stirring the grass before adding new grass clippings allows oxygen into the mix. The added grass seals the heat already in the pile and the new chicken manure I add on top gives the nitrogen level a boost. I keep the top of the pile flat...not sure why...I was told to do it! :) On occasion I will put in a layer of soil but not too much...about 1 or 2 inches. Grass will mat so the soil helps reduce the matting effect especially when I 'stir the pot'. So, in summary: You want a hot pile; you want to hold the heat in; rubber cover on top; added heat from the sun helps-black cover; added manure gives more nitrogen to help in breakdown; not too wet or dry; turn or mix the top levels; add a little soil; keep the top flat. How long does it take? It depends upon how hot you can get the pile. The hotter the better. If you just piled the grass without all the above then some of it would be ready for next year...but maybe not for the lawn. It would be too lumpy. For a veggie garden you could use the whole pile broken down or not. You would have to dig it in in the fall (or in the spring-about two weeks before planting) and let the worms eat it over the winter. It will breakdown in the soil as well. I have never used compost on my lawn. I get chicken manure from a local farmer (dry manure mixed with sawdust) and in the spring, when it is still raining lots, I spread it on my lawn a shovel at a time. (throwing it in the air with reckless abandon...to spread it out). Any lumps that are left on the lawn the rain softens them over a week or two and I kick them into submission with my west coast cowboy boots (rubber boots). :) Sorry for the long post...and you asked such a short question...:) Gary Fort Langley BC Canada
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thanks for your outstanding post. Not sure if my pile is hot or not yet...
i
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As long as there's moisture, decomposition should happen. I (and others that I know) take a lazier approach to composting: Throw it all in the pile and forget about it. My pile is about 7 feet in diameter, and the wire fencing is 3 feet high. I've occasionally got the pile to about two feet high (maybe just a tiny bit more), but it shrinks back down before too long. The top six inches don't really undergo decomposition in my pile, because they dry out, but underneath where it's warm and moist, nature takes its course. Others that I know who take the same lazy approach as I do tell me that their experience is pretty similar.
With a relatively hot pile, you can get things pretty well decomposed in as little as a few weeks. In a cooler pile, it could take a year. It all depends on how quickly you want it to happen, and how much effort you're willing to put into it.
steve
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I have the same philosophy, I like things like that to run their course almost by themselves.
i
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On 6/3/04 5:22 PM, in article c9ofcq$2nt$ snipped-for-privacy@pita.alt.net, "Ignoramus23878"

Yes, it can be done with no effort at all...now that is good! The main thing is to not send it to a landfill. That is a waste; a loss of good growing soil and it costs to get it there. Composting slow or fast; either way it bodes well for dinner! There is nothing like fresh potatoes, fresh lettuce or carrots from a garden! Do you want flowers like your mother had? Use the compost. It will surprise you...and your mother! :) Gary Fort Langley BC Canada
To reply please remove...yoursocks...
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Last week, I already reduced production of non-recyclable garbage to a bare minimum (mostly diapers). All food not suitable for chickens goes into my bin and will go into the middle of the compost pile when I turn it. Or, I will mix layers of rotting food with compost from my pile, in the bin.
Will that work? Say 6 inches of rotting food, 6 inches of half rotted compost, alternating, all "fermenting" in a plastic garbage bin with a tight lid.
I am trying to think of best solutions that require little work. Some things I have are such solution, for example my chicken coop is very efficient and my fishtank requires almost no maintenance. I want something easily workable for my rotting food, as well.
My feeling is that alternating rotting food with garden compost will reduce the stink, especially if the bin is tightly closed.
i

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A great deal of the stink is whether the decomposition is aerobic or anaerobic - anaerobic decomposition can create some very nasty-smelling gasses!
steve
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but they stay inside the bin/...
i
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rotted
with a

The bin you suggest will not allow oxygen to reach the compost. The resulting anerobic compost will smell bad. The bins I use are open to air penetration on the sides, and open on the top, preventing this problem. Watering the top of an open bin will speed the decomposition of the top. I usually don't worry about. I just fork the top few inches into the other bin when I need to use the compost.
Bob
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Thank you Bob. This food waste may be not worth composting.
i
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