My landlord is redoing the mulch around his trees. He is removing
Cypress Mulch that has been down for a couple of years. I am starting
two new, 5 cubic yards, compost containers.
Do you think putting some of the old mulch in the bottom of the
containers would help air flow and drainage ?
I do not understand your reply. Yes the mulch will be removed if I
empty the container. And yes then I will have to put something else in
it, (or replace the mulch). But that is what composting is about. Right
My main concerns are about the chemical make-up of the mulch and it's
ability to let air in from the holes in the bottom of the compost
Maybe I'm assuming your NOT going to remove your compost all at once, or
you're assuming that you ARE. My compost boxes are about 4' high. I add to
them constantly. The entire amount is NEVER ready to remove all at once. I
remove maybe 1/8 to 1/4 of the total at a time. Most of the time, when the
stuff at the bottom is ready, the upper half needs another month or three.
This is why I'm wondering if you plan on emptying the whole thing regularly.
It doesn't fit with my own experience.
As far as aeration, don't your composters have thin gaps in the sides? If
yes, you don't need to worry about aeration, especially if you mix the
compost from time to time. If the stuff gets compacted, it's usually because
it's too wet.
Do you have an aerating tool like this?
Assuming there IS compost ready, it'll be at the bottom. A tiny bit of
finished compost will stick to the tool as you pull it upward, but that's
OK. That helps distribute beneficial bugs & bacteria upward to where the
fresh stuff is. The finished stuff will be nice & brown, and if it's really
done right, you won't see any recognizable plant parts. This doesn't
necessary matter that much, unless you're tossing weeds into the bins. In
that case, you really need to make an effort to make the process work
perfectly, helping the compost reach the right temperature to kill weed
seeds (and roots). Most of the time, you're better off not putting weeds in,
In addition to the instructions that came with the boxes, search for a few
web sites and sort of average all the advice.
Pay special attention to moisture. You may tend to forget about the compost
bins and let them get dry. Figure out a way to check them a couple of times
a week. I can't really explain how moist it should be. I try and make it
similar to the environment in the box where I keep fishing worms in the
refrigerator. Not soggy, not dry. Gotta keep the worms happy in the compost
Everything composts faster if it's chopped up, since there's more surface
area exposed. This is especially true of tough vegetable scraps, like kale,
collard & broccoli stems, or chunks of the giant zucchini from your neighbor
who lets them get as big as baseball bats so they're useless as food. As
you're preparing some foods, put the stems in a pile, and before you toss
the cutting board in the sink, chop all the tough stuff into smaller pieces.
If you need to keep the scraps in the house until you collect enough to take
outside, do NOT put them in a sealed container. This invites anaerobic
bacteria and the stuff will really stink when you open the container. Pick
up a small live bait bucket with perforated lid at a tackle shop.
Do not compost anything that's been in contact with dairy products, grease,
or meats & fish. That smells great to raccoons, flies and other visitors. If
the after dinner plates are a mix of gravy, meat scraps and some vegetables,
don't bother trying to compost the vegetables. Not worth the trouble.
You can still put scraps into the bins in the winter. Nothing will happen to
them when it's really cold, but the process will catch up quickly in the
Finally, dried leaves are a great addition to the pile, in alternating
layers with green stuff like grass clippings and plants you pull out of the
garden. If you've got a bagging attachment for your mower, run over small
piles of leaves to turn them into flakes. And, if you intend to use the
compost on food plants, do NOT add grass clippings from lawns that have been
treated with chemicals. Some wanker's gonna come along here and say it's
safe, but he's wrong.
Thank you for the discription of the process. I plan on putting tree
leaves into the container in the Fall and using the compost in the
Spring. The type of container I am using can be rolled. I do not intend
to use lawn cuttings due to seeds and fertilizer. I can add compost
starter and Slow Release Nitrongen as nessassary.
I guess my last question is , Do you think that if I use a small amount
of Cypress mulch in will hurt the process ?
Thank you for your help.
Autumn leaves and wood chips. You're going to have to add an awful lot of
green if you expect to make compost out of that! Slow release nitrogen isn't
going to do much good. You'll have a cold pile that'll take a couple years
to breakdown to compost no matter how much you roll it.
Right - what Warren said. Have you ever put lawn clippings into a trash can,
and then noticed the heat it generated a day later? You need some green
mixed with the leaves. 4-6" alternating layers of brown & green are about
right. Lawn fertilizer doesn't hurt things, assuming it doesn't contain
pesticides or herbicides.
Didn't these boxes of yours come with instructions?
The way to get the green component needed to heat up the pile is to use
alfalfa meal. I used to use rabbit food, but now I buy a 50lb. bag from a
feed store for $10. I take a big scoop, put it in a 5 gallon bucket of water
and let it soak while I rake open my pile of usually fall leaves. I pour the
slurry about 2/3rds down and cover. In a day or so, it's steaming. Great
I also make alfalfa tea and apply it directly to the garden as a nitrogen
Using the trash can full of grass clippings as an example, the bad smell
comes from deep in the contents, not the surface. You won't be putting a
layer that deep into the compost bin. This is also why you can sprinkle a
1-2" layer of grass clippings alongside plants as a mulch, with no smell.
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