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Building a compost pile

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Building a compost pile

Post by Sonshine on Wed Jan 18, 2012 12:21 am

Woven wire animal fencing (like chicken wire), snow fencing, cement blocks, bricks or scrap lumber can all be used to enclose a compost pile.
The enclosure should measure at least 3' x 3' x 3' for efficient composting. For square shaped enclosure may need supports if you're using wire mesh fencing. You can use metal fence posts to anchor the corners or build 4 simple "picture frames" from 2 x 4s to attach the mesh fencing to. Hinge the frames together with door hinges and make a square box. It's not necessary to enclose the bottom.

A small round enclosure made of snow fence will need little or no support. If you use bricks or concrete blocks to build an enclosure, there is no need to use mortar, but you will need to leave enough space between the blocks to allow for adequate air movement.

If you use lumber for any part of the enclosure, you can expect to replace it every few years as decay sets in. Treated lumber may last longer, but it can also leech harmful chemicals into the soil and compost.

Still another idea is to use a 55-gallon barrel (drum) with a hinged lid. You'll need to drill or hammer several rows of _ inch air holes in the sides and bottom. The barrel should sit on concrete blocks to allow for air circulation.

For maximum efficiency, the compost pile needs to consist of the right carbon/nitrogen (brown to green) ratio (between 25:1 to 30:1). If your bin is not completely enclosed on the bottom, use the following recipe:

Bottom Layer (directly on soil):
2-3 inches of chopped brush
Second Layer (browns):
6 to 8 inch layer of leaves, straw, hay, sawdust or other brown.
Third Layer (greens):
Add a layer of vegetable waste, grass clippings, etc.
Final Layer:
Add a handful of commercial fertilizer or a 2 to 3 inch layer of manure. Finish with a couple of shovelfulls of soil. Soil contains the microorganisms necessary to get the process started.
As you build the pile, water each layer until it's damp (like a wrung out sponge). Continue to add layers as you accumulate them, adding a thin layer of soil to the top of green layers and making sure the whole pile stays moist. Turn the pile with a shovel every few weeks to add air to the pile

From e-news letter thriftyfun.com

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Re: Building a compost pile

Post by Mississippi Momma on Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:18 am

We used untreated pallets that the vo-tech dept. were throwing away at the school where William worked. They've worked wonderfully. He has three different bins set up to move the compost from one bin to another.

He also set more compost bins in the pasture area. These are made of tin. He puts leaves, chicken and rabbit manure in them along with any grass clippings he collects when he cuts the yard.

The compost sure comes in handy when we're getting our garden ready in the spring. We use it to refill the raised beds. Also as fertilizer.

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Re: Building a compost pile

Post by Sonshine on Mon Jan 23, 2012 8:32 am

We do deep bedding in the winter for our goats and chickens. In the spring, when we clean out their bedding it goes straight on the garden. It has made a huge difference in our soil.

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Re: Building a compost pile

Post by 12acrehome on Sat Jan 28, 2012 3:48 pm

Ok this is the second time I have seen the phrase "add commercial (or synthetic) fertilizer to the compost pile..." or something similar

Where is this coming from?? Synthetic fertilizers break down into various salt compounds, and cause acidity in not only the compost, but the soil. This leads to the leaching of nutrients (plant nutrients do need some acidity to be water soluble so that the roots can take up the nutrients) most of the time this is also followed with add lime... Why??? Properly made compost does not need to be messed with. It is a natural plant food and considered to be a fertilizer in it's own right.

So where does this come from?? and why are you adding man made petroleum based fertilizer to something that is a natural and wholesome fertilizer??


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Re: Building a compost pile

Post by Sonshine on Sat Jan 28, 2012 11:46 pm

I'm not sure shy they use sythetic fertilizers unless they can get it easier than fresh. I know the fertilzer our chickens and goats make does wonders for our garden and that's all we use. I know that my Dad use to put lime on his gardens. We don't use anything except what we get from our little homestead. Forerunner has a post here about composting that is pretty good. Just search the threads for it. He goes really indepth about composting.

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Re: Building a compost pile

Post by 12acrehome on Sun Jan 29, 2012 12:11 am

Ok, I seem to have misunderstood the use of the word fertilizer. In that context I would use the word manure, but that is just my use of the words.

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Re: Building a compost pile

Post by kfander on Mon Feb 27, 2012 1:06 pm

I have a home on a half acre of land, as well as a cabin on a hundred acres of land a few hours north of here. At home, I have two compost piles, and would establish a third on if I lived here year-round. As it is, we move north for the spring, summer and part of the fall, moving home after the snow comes, since the road into our property up north becomes a snowmobile trail in the winter.

In my home compost, I add pretty much everything that is compostable, including kitchen scraps (yes, even including meat and fats), leaves, and anything that goes bad in the refrigerator, whether solid or liquid. I shred all of our junk mail, cardboard boxes, and magazines (even glossies), and add that to the compost. Used paper towels and tissues are soaked in water and added to the compost pile. I use a fifty-fifty mixture of clay clumping litter and a compostable cat litter in my kitty litter boxes, so I empty them into the compost as well. Since I use my compost to build up the soil in my yard, seeing as it has a base of coal ash from an old paper mill operation, rather than using it on food crops, so I'm not concerned about any problems that may be associated with composting cat litter. I make a point of adding some small cardboard boxes whole, or filled with scraps, as this creates air spaces within the compost, the problem with shredded paper being that when too much of it is placed in one spot, it compacts so tightly that it takes awhile to compost. When the compost pile is a few feet high, I add a large flattened piece of cardboard, which creates a large space beneath it and allows the compost below to continue composting on into the Maine winter. Throughout the winter, I make daily trips to the compost, adding everything compostable to a compost pile that grows very high, considering that it includes snow and ice. By spring, the pile is nearly too high for me to be able to reach the top of it.

Before moving north, I loosely cover it with a tarp. We do make a few trips back home throughout the spring and summer, spending a day or two at a time here, at which time I will uncover and continue to add compost to the pile. But once spring comes and the snow and the ice melts away from the compost, the pile shrinks rapidly. In the fall, I leave the first pile covered with a tarp and begin adding compost to the second.

I should mention that, at the base of my compost pile, I put a layer of compost bags filled with leaves raked up from the lawn. This also creates air pockets at the bottom of the pile.

By the following spring, the first pile is completely composted. Or nearly so. There may be some areas where the shredded paper has clumped together too tightly, and some of the tissue paper may not be fully composted; that I will just add to my second pile.

Meanwhile, I have a hundred acres of mostly wooded land up north. Rather than transporting compostable wastes to be taken to a landfill, I create compost piles in my woods as well, where I can even add things like popsicle sticks and wood scraps, since it has an eternity to compost. Up north, I will pick an area in the woods where I'd like to have the land built up a little higher, rope it off, and use that as a compost pile for a season, establishing a new area the following year. In my woodlands compost area, I don't have to bother shredding the paper or cardboard, although I generally tear or cut it into smaller pieces.

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Re: Building a compost pile

Post by 12acrehome on Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:51 am

I shy away from meats and meat fats being added to my compost. Sources say that can introduce the wrong bacteria into the soil unless it has aged a couple years. Others (myself included) say that the smell draws unwanted visitors to the pile. My first compost pile was destroyed three times over until I kept the meat and blood out of the mix. Yes it does enrich the soil and will break down, but it tends to be anaerobic and stinks. Coyotes, rats, raccoons, and possums all are drawn to the pile with meat in it.

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Re: Building a compost pile

Post by kfander on Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:45 am

That all depends on what purpose you have for the compost, and what your setup is. I have two large compost piles, so it does compost for two years. Plus, I use it to build up the soil in my yard, not on food crops. As for smells, I don't have that because each time I add to the compost pile, it is covered with shredded paper. I'll get a raccoon in the compost every now and then, but haven't had any problems with it. If what I had was a small compost bin in the backyard, I would also stay away from meats and fats, and if I were here year round, I'd add a third compost pile, allowing everything to compost for three years.

When I add paper towels and tissues to the compost, as I do daily, because I use paper towels to clean out the cat's bowls every morning and afternoon, I soak them in water. Consequently, throughout the winter, the whole outer part of the compost pile is encased in ice, which not only keeps any odors down but it allows the compost beneath the ice to continue composting throughout the winter, which is why it collapses so dramatically in the spring.

In the woods, I set my compost area up across the road and well away from our cabin so I don't much care if the bears, the raccoons, and the other critters begin the compost process for me. My woodlands compost stays right where it is, as it's intended to build up the soil in lower areas.


Last edited by kfander on Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:52 am; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Adding a bit)

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Re: Building a compost pile

Post by 12acrehome on Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:37 am

in those two instances then yes by all means throw on everything that ain't plastic bounce

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