Having moved from 12 acres of land to a house with a 35'x 35' garden, a
large compost pile is something I can no longer have. I've never used
any sort of container and I'm not sure how to go about it. I read all
sorts of info about there being percentages of "browns" and percentages
of "greens" and seen lovely diagrams with a large lower layer of twigs,
etc covered with a layer of greens, etc. But that seems unworkable - I
want to add stuff to is continually. Are these folks just making it
seems harder than it is?
I'm used to having a huge pile of stuff, in fact a pile of horse manure
onto which I'd toss anything haphazardly. I'd add stuff to the south end
of the pile and after a year or so the north end of the pile would be
lovely black compost.
So how can I make lovely black compost in a small garden? And do I
really need one of those specialized containers or can I just cut the
bottom out of a trash can?
Ellie -- I began years (and years) ago to pile up grass clippings and
leaves and leftover potting soil and kitchen veg scraps on an almost
completely bare and solid area of clay on the other side of my
driveway. The area is now a jungle of forsythia and mint and small
trees and almost everything else that grows. Ciompost Happens. Whether
in a specialized container (fast?) or in a small, cold, pile on the
ground (slow). My biggest problem is that now I hate to dig into my
pile and mash all the earthworm who are so busy. I (no expert) didn't
know about balancing 'greens' and 'browns' -- just heaved all the
organic yard waste, dirt, sand, coffeegrounds, potato peels, & melon
rinds in the same direction. I expect a container of some sort would
be quicker and perhaps more manageable. A casual pile will eventually
break down, too.
Yes; it seems to be an American thing :-) In the UK, we're blissfully
unaware of all that green/brown ratios angst.
My regular compost piles are made of 4 wooden pallets tied at the
corners into a cube, about 3ft by 3ft.
I've been experimenting with compost pies, using a tube made from a 50
gallon plastic barrel. The hope is to make compost exactly where I want
to use it around the veg garden, and never have to shift it, while
gradually enriching the light sandy soil. I dig a hole a slightly
smaller diameter than the tube, as deep as I can be bothered, and stand
the tube over it. When it's full of compost material and the contents
have heated and sunk down, slide off the barrel like making sandpies,
and start a new pie elsewhere.
If you know someone with horses and who feeds them hay, get a few
of last year's hay bales (we usually GIVE them away in late
spring after the grass is in), stack them to form an open cube .
and pile your compost-to-be inside. The depth of the cube
depends on how many bales you get, but three tall is nice. The
bin decomposes right along with your compost. Gets nice and hot,
too -- especially if you can add a little of the horse manure in
with the greens. ;-)
Jim Lewis - email@example.com - Tallahassee, FL - Only where
people have learned to appreciate and cherish the landscape and
its living cover will they treat it with the care and respect it
should have - Paul Bigelow Sears.
I do indeed know someone with horses - me. My horse now lives at a
stable in the next town, not at home, but I do have access to manure and
straw. THe hay bales we have here (in France) are the huge round ones.
Way too big for my tiny garden. In fact, even the typical rectangular
ones wouold be too big here. Too bad - I love the idea of the container
rotting along with what it's containing. Maybe I could do something
similar with old logs. (And where, I wonder would I get such things.
Ahhh. I'm so used to living on lots of land, with access to bits of
woods and fields and whatever.) Maybe I'll try the trash can for this
year and be on the lookout for odd objects to use for a more interesting
one. Since this garden is our whole "outdoors" I don't have the luxury
of having one bit of the garden devoted to all the ugly bits. :-)
Good. I never in my life worried about such a thing; I thought perhaps
it was necessary if one was using a container instead of just having a
wild, unruly pile - which is what I'm used to having!
So you just toss stuff into there until it's full and then wait? Seems
like there would always be uncomposted stuff on the top, and compost on
the bottom (well, after a while of course). Anyway, it all sounds like
something I can just play around with.
I'm going to try this scheme. I'm guessing that I'd just cut the bottom
out of the barrel, so that it can drain, and then start throwing stuff
into it. Sounds easy. And since I have a horse in the next town I can
also add some rotten manure to it just to keep things cooking.
Well, when one cube is full I usually cap it with a layer of grass
cuttings (wet with pee) or manure followed by plastic sacks, (which
gives it a good heat up) and start filling another one.When the filled,
capped bay has cooled and begun to sink, I add a shovel full of
brandling worms to speed things up.(The kind of worms that live in
manure heaps). When I come to use the compost, there might be a little
bit on top that's not quite ready, so I just sling it into the current
heap...it's full of microscopic activity and will boost decomposition.If
I turned the heap, I'd avoid that little bit of less-ready stuff at the
top, but it's a lot of effort for not much benefit.IME composting
happens well enough without sweated labour :-)
Like you I'm adapting my composting from a larger scale (4 acre garden)
to a much smaller one (half acre garden).I'm also planning ahead,
adapting what I learned in high-energy high-stamina days, to lower-input
methods suitable for our dotage. Hence the compost pies, and a worm-bin
(also home-made out of a plastic barrel).I've only been running the worm
bin for a year; my intention was to recycle a lot of old newspapers
through it, but have to admit I'm rather bad at remembering to add stuff
to it.Partly because it's in the garage out of sight. The worms are
certainly active and multiplying, but haven't yet produced enough
compost to bother emptying out. They do produce a good supply of very
rich concentrated liquid plant feed which I can draw off from a tap at
the bottom (needs to be diluted for use). You might find that useful in
your smaller garden.
Here's what I've done over the years....get a large metal or plastic
barrel - 55 gallons or more in capacity. (ummm...that's something like a bit
more than 200 liters.) Remove/knock out the top and bottom so you
essentially have a tube. Make a small stand about 18-24 inches (45 - 60 cm)
high consisting of two walls (mine are of concrete blocks 8x8x16 inches -
20x20x40 cm) slightly greater than the diameter of the barrel apart from
each other. Place a number of metal pipes/rods spanning those two walls
with about two inches or so (5 cm) between those pipes/rods. Then place the
barrel vertically on top of these pipes/rods, which serve as a grate.
Finally, add your compost material into the barrel and water as needed. It
will take time, but the material will be composted and sift downward through
that pipe/rod grate as you water from the top. If you want to speed things
up, turn the pile...I used a metal rod to poke down and leverage up the
material. I've found that adding plain ordinary earthworms significantly
reduces the need to turn the pile.
You can, of course, have more than one of these going at the same time. You
will find as the material composts and falls through the grate that the
level of the material in the barrel will drop, allowing you to add more
fresh material. And I've learned to bury the kitchen scrappings/trimmings
deep as well as to cover the barrels to discourage the neighborhood
contains these words:
On Tue, 17 Feb 2004 17:41:15 GMT, Janet Baraclough ..
Everything's GREEN in England isn't it? :-)
I did that too, however, it seemed to get too much air and just dried
out more than decayed. Probably didn't have stuff to put into it
There's always sheet composting. Just spreading out grass clippings,
straw or whatever you can lay hands on, and lay it down on the ground
to keep weeds down, and just pull it back to plant. Ruth Stout's No
dig gardening or something like that .. famous book. I just searched
on Google, with Ruth Stout and gardening, and there seem to be several
reissues under other names, and I guess they're calling the technique
"lasagna" gardening now.
If I had a pickup, access to some sturdy and quick teenagers, I'd go
out in fall and gather up leaves that people don't want, and shred
them or just mow them up and use them as mulch on the yard. If you
live in an area with acidic soil, they usually say don't put oak
leaves in your compost.. which told me that I should search out oak
trees as the soil here isn't acidic!
Leaves are good because they pull up nutrients deep in the soil, and
they work well with the grass clippings/garden and kitchen waste if
you want to get into that brown/green stuff. I have also been known
to search for spoiled hay/straw piles that no one wants (not a good
idea if anyone near has mold allergies) and I covered the garden area
by pulling off flakes of the hay or straw and laying it down across
the yard, overlapping the seams. I also go find farmers/stables where
I can haul off horse manure and straw bedding to mix in with compost
or to mulch with. Yeah it brings in some flies depending on when you
bring the stuff in, but you can sprinkle out the fly parasites to
knock 'em down. Once it's into a compost pile, or covered in the
sheet composting, the problem of odor/flies decrease, then disappear.
Someone with dogs in their yards they don't clean up after will draw
flies too, but it's a more long lasting problem there.
I was a bit of an obsessive but I just kind of feel like the more
varied the materials you can put down, the more nutrients there are
for the plants to access, and the more nutritious your food will be.
I figure things grown with commercial fertilizers are probably missing
a lot of trace elements after a few years growing on ground that's
fertilized like the vitamins we take, .. only what they've proven you
need, with maybe a few things that might be a good idea. What about
all that stuff they've not figured out yet?! More compost.. More More
More!! <laughing maniacally again > hahaaha.. ;-D
Not always..with climate-warming, southern England has had a run of
summer droughts with everything parched dry and brown for months on end.
I'm in Scotland, where it's always wet, I mean green :-)
I do that too, especially good for making new beds. I start with a
base layer of cardboard (flattened packing cases) which smothers any
weeds, and pile on top layers of anything organic and free that I can
lay hands on. This morning we fetched a load of strawy horse manure from
a stables. I also use a lot of seaweed collected from the beach, and in
summer a local gardening contractor delivers all his (untreated) grass
clippings here. In the previous garden I used a lot of bracken and hay.
It's amazing how fast the worms take it all down and turn it into rich
soil, and of course it suppresses weeds.
Me too. I even collect stuff like river grit and crushed seashells,
for the trace minerals.
When I read about the greens & brown ratios, it really did make it seem like
it's a lot more work than it actually is. I just throw organic stuff in my
compost pile, too. The only thing you really need to know about greens and
browns is basicly this- If it stinks, add browns. If it's not heating up,
add greens. That and to keep it damp. If you don't have any problems with
waste breaking down, don't worry about it.
If you have a green, gooey mess, add more dry/brown matter. I let
lawn clippings dry for a day on the lawn, then use these as dry
matter, or fall leaves.
Stacked used tires, garbage can as you describe, fifty gallon barrel
from local rural supply store, 4x4' wire pens, wire cages, pallets set
on their edges and made into a rectangle, or open heap will all
suffice. It is nice to have a stack for this year, last year, and the
year before - this is what goes into the garden, but your space may
not allow this. Don't forget, though, that using a container of some
sort will let you use vertical space more efficiently.
On Tue, 17 Feb 2004 15:56:58 +0100, Ellie C wrote:
Several years ago, someone gave me a 25' roll of welded wire fencing that
was 5' in width. I used it for tomato cages and to protect some
blueberries. Last season I made two large (4-5' diameter) circles with
the wire and started to put the garden scraps in them. By the end of the
summer, I had some pretty good stuff. The only downfall is turning the
compost is more of a challenge. It might work to start with one bin and
then rotate the stuff to the other so everything gets mixed. The bins are
there but not unsightly.
My best frame was built out of scrap 2x4s and plywood pieces scavenged
from a construction site. - Avoid the treated stuff.
I built a loose frame, with lots of space for air to pass, in a closed
C shape - a rectagle with an opening in the middle of one of the long
Would pile stuff on the left, later toss it over to the right, etc.
Roy - Carpe Noctem
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