how to go about making a compost pile.

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by lawnwizards, Nov 8, 2004.

  1. lawnwizards

    lawnwizards LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,439

    just wanted to know what the best material to use to make a compost pile... anything i should avoid? thanks

  2. lawnwizards

    lawnwizards LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,439

    hell, i knew it was a lame post, but i've never seen anyone like it before... would love to get some answers on it though... thanks. :)
  3. mbricker

    mbricker LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 505

    1) Pile it up. Leaves, grass clippings, etc. If stuff has been chopped up, the process goes faster. Best results if the pile is somewhere in the neighborhood of a cubic yard or more. 5' ft. or higher cone, in other words.

    2) Soak it. Unless the stuff was dripping wet when you piled it up, it will need more moisture. Set a small sprinkler on top of the pile and let it run slow for a couple of hours.

    3) Turn it. About every 2 to 4 weeks, use a pitchfork, tractor front-end loader, or other device to pick the pile up and aerate it. If you see it has dried out some--and it probably will--set the sprinkler on it again.

    4) Expect the process to give you fairly finished compost in 8 weeks if no new material is added, really crumbly finished compost is 4 months or more.

    Here's what you are doing: There are micro-organisms in decaying organic material that eat and digest the material. In addition to food to eat, the organisms need water and oxygen. As they digest the organic material, they also give off heat. A certain size of pile is needed so the heat doesn't dissipate into the air too fast, because more heat means faster growth of the micro-organisms, and faster digestion of the material you are composting. The heat of course also causes evaporation of the moisture, so that has to be replenished. The organisms also use up their oxygen supply, so turning the pile gets more oxygen into the material.

    Some people put additives, or partially finished compost into a new pile to get things started. I don't bother anymore, as it seems the organisms you need are already found in just about all organic material, and start to work as soon as the material is no longer living plants.

    When you pile the stuff up, within a couple of days you should be able to stick your hand a few inches into the pile and feel heat. Solmetimes a great deal of heat, enough to burn you if you left your hand in the pile several minutes. If you did not turn the pile, within a few weeks the organisms will use up the oxygen and moisture available to them, and go dormant. The pile will then start cooling off, and the material will stop changing to compost. However, if there are earthworms in the topsoil your pile stands on, they will invade and multiply in the cool pile. Over time, they will eat and digest the organic material, giving you worm castings, which are even richer than compost. But that takes a lot longer.

    When your compost has completely broken down, the pile will be much smaller, there will not be recognizable leaf or grass particles, and it will look a lot like bagged potting soil.

    The process emits odors, especially if the pile is turned a couple of weeks later than it should have been. Don't situate the pile next to the open window of your bedroom. Some people say not to put weeds with seeds in the pile, but I think the stuff I compost makes enough heat to kill weed seeds. Some also say not to put diseased plants in, I think the heat also zaps the disease germs. One thing I sometimes find is reptile eggs laid in a compost pile. If you have snakes or turtles, you might discover you have created a hatchery.
  4. lawnwizards

    lawnwizards LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,439


    that was an excellent post.... thank you so much..... :)
  5. mbricker

    mbricker LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 505

    You're welcome. Wanna buy some compost? You load, the price is VERY cheap.
  6. twwlawn

    twwlawn LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 283

    I have two compost tumblers, Best time to buy these is during the winter time, prices go down. I use these to make great compost. I use grass clippings, leaves, wood chips, left over plants from the garden, I put everything through a shredder. mbricker has good info in his post. I make alot of compost for my customers gardens and flower beds. With these compost tumbler's, it takes two weeks or less, making sure there is the right moisture and temp is around 160. Hope this helps. twwlawn
  7. Kelly's Landscaping

    Kelly's Landscaping LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,731

    I got around 5000 yards in my pile at the farm nothing beats a free dump site

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