Compost Questions

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by cgaengineer, Apr 16, 2008.

  1. cgaengineer

    cgaengineer LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 15,783

    Composting is new to me.

    I have just started a compost pile a few weeks ago and its a raised bed type (4'x8'x12"H). I had a ton of leaves that I shredded, added a couple weeks worth of kitchens scraps (tea bags,coffee grounds, bannana peels, apples, anything except meat) and I also added some rich top soil from my property. I am trying to get this thing heated up but cannot seem to get enough nitrogen to work. I currently do not have much greens (Nitrogen) to apply to the leaves (Carbon) so I used some straight fertilizer (34-0-0) to try and get it going...still cold. I have kept the bed as wet as a wrung out sponge, churned everything in with my Stihl Kombi tiller head. I am currently looking for a place other than HomeDepot to get composted manure but if that would work I would use it.

    I have picked up a book on composting and have been reading and it seems as though I need a 2:1 ratio of C/N (2 parts leaves (Carbon), 1 part nitrogen (green grass clippings).

    Can I use fertilizer instead of grass clippings to get this pile heated up? Would composted manure from HomeDepot get this thing going? The leaves are turning black so something is happening.
     
  2. moose203

    moose203 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 122

    I am by no means a professional composter but i have had several compost piles over the years the heat will come from mostly the green byproducts breaking down( that is the way i understand it anyway ) also if your pile is only 12" deep it may be to thin to build any heat. the manure would help some IMO. Try doubling the depth and reducing the width for a while. not sure if the fertilizer will help things but i am sure some one with more knowledge will step in

    Jason
     
  3. cgaengineer

    cgaengineer LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 15,783

    Thanks for the tips moose203...

    I was wondering if the raised bed was not tall enough even though I have it piled kind of high. Maybe I will just do away with the raised container all together and just pile it. My thoughts were that I could keep it contained so I wouldn't lose any precious compost. We are still not cutting much green right now, but will be in a few weeks so I will have plenty then as I will bag my own lawn and apply to my pile but since its bermuda right now its just now starting to fully green up.. I may cut some of my neighbors fescue this evening to get the pile going. I may have to remove some of my leaves so that I don't run out of room in my bin.
     
  4. moose203

    moose203 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 122

    maybe put some 2 ft side boards on it. the raised bed is a good idea but it just needs to be a bit taller. only use half the bin until you can fill it up

    Jason
     
  5. cgaengineer

    cgaengineer LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 15,783

    I'll do that. I have ton of 2 foot sections of fence board left over from my fence project.
     
  6. Daner

    Daner LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,308

    Your on the right track...But IMO...build your piles deeper...try to get them up to 3' high...The compost manure wont give you that kick start your looking for...some fresh manure will get It going...remember not too wet...just damp. If you have a small loader to flip It....you can put 4 fence posts In and wrap It with page wire fencing...keep the front open...or put 6 posts In and make It a 2 compartment composter
     
  7. cgaengineer

    cgaengineer LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 15,783

    OK, after adding several handfuls of 34-0-0 yesterday I finally got an ammonia smell out of it so now I know I am getting closer as no smell yesterday before adding. I will add a few more cups of the 34-0-0 to my pile and see what happens next. If I can find some fresh manure I will use that along with some grass clippings. As I read ammonia smell means not enough nitrogen to carbon ratio.

    I have not felt good all day today so I will call you tomorrow Jason.
     
  8. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,911

    ok simple, the fert killed the herd, there's no N in the pile to speak of even the fert burned of and you only get to use 60% of what comes out of the bag to start with. now on to the carbon nitrogen ratio. the rule of thumb is 2 parts green waste to 1 part brown or around 22-30 to 1 depending on the air inputs. now to size and shape, a low flat pile will not work, what you need is a tall pile that will pull air in on its own like a chimney( hot air rises)a wire ring is good or a few pallets in a box with one pallet under it(for air to rise into the pile).now the water, the moisture content should be 55- 75 % by weight ( try a scale and a micro wave).amonia is a sanitizer happy composting
     
  9. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,911

  10. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,115

    cgaengineer
    The ammonia smell is a sure sign of anaerobic bad guys being produced, not enough air and the anaerobes take over. The anaerobes suck all of the nutrients out of the pile, in the end it may look like compost but it will have very little nutrient value. It is known as putrified compost, not a good product in fact it may do more harm long term than good.

    At the first hint of ammonia turn the pile, listen to treegal

    Mass is everything in composting not enough mass and it doesn't work, minimum is 3 x 3 x 3 feet to even start a decent compost pile. I took a piece of 4 inch PVC and drilled a bunch of holes in it, I stand it up on end and keep it in the center of the pile so that it can breathe.

    Make sure you put some old compost in with the new compost pile
     

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