Sunday, October 14, 2007

Compost-Troubleshooting a problem bin/ sifting and using a finished product

Bill Shores was our class instructor Saturday as we went outside for a hands on lesson. First we took a look at a couple of bin options. The black plastic bin is considered rodent resistant. It has a lid,a bottom with holes, many slits less than 1/4 inch wide on the sides and a door at the bottom where finished compost is to be removed .
The single Wooden Urban Bin has the bottom, sides and a fitted lid covered with wire mesh.

The third option was a three bin wooden system. It was here that we found the compost that we as a class would troubleshoot. Two of the bins were filled with plant debris that was very dry and not looking much different than when it had been added. The decision was to remove the material and start over. Since it is the end of the garden season there was plenty of green material to be cleaned out of the vegetable garden. So with hose and clippers in hand we got to work.

We clipped and chopped the dryed out brown plant debris and wet it good as it was returned to the bins in layers with the fresh green material.

Many hands clipped barrels full of the still green vines,stems and leaves.

It was important to fill the bins completely as the minimum size for an efficient pile is 3ft x 3ft x 3ft. The pile needed bulk as well as green to achieve maximum heat.

If we did not have extra green material to hand we still would have removed the material chopped it into much smaller pieces, about 6 inches or so in size to expose more edges, then wet it well as the material was returned to the bin. It would possibly then be a cool compost, depending how much nitrogen was still present in the plant material, that would just take a bit longer than a hot pile to become finished compost.

Here you can see we ended with two batches of what we hope to be hot piles. Next week when the temperature is recorded we will see how well the trouble shooting worked.

The third bin had plenty of good finished compost from last season. We dug it out, sifted through a large screen into the wheelbarrow and bagged it to take home. There was plenty for everyone.

Homecomposting UIUC EXTENSION

I took a couple of close-ups so that you could see the quality.

If you click on the pictures to enlarge you can even see the worms and a few insects crawlings. I compressed a handfull to show the moist crumbly texture.

Next week worm bins and vermi-compost...


Blogger firefly said...

I started a pile in the spring with a snap-together black plastic square thing originally designed by Smith & Hawken and now marketed as a Miracle-Gro compost bin.

There seems to be plenty of finished compost in it. Lots of worms, centipedes, and spiders, and it "cooked down" 4 or 5 times to about 2/3 full even though I kept adding kitchen scraps, weeds, and clumps of sod. It's a great place to empty the bird bath when you fill it with clean water every day or so. Turned it every few weeks.

But, as it has to be sifted to be used (some things haven't broken down yet), and I have yet to purchase a sifting screen, I'm just letting it go until next spring.

16/10/07 4:21 PM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Hey firefly, that's what our instructor called an "Add as you go" compost. We have "Batch" compost built all at once with gathered material, "Passive" compost(never turned or tended), and "Hot stuff"(where size does matter...LOL).
Sounds like you have been very successful with the plastic bin.

18/10/07 5:34 PM  
Blogger Angie said...

I was wondering about the size of the mesh used to sift with. How small are the holes? Obviously it can't be too small if worms made it through. I have never used a sifter when collecting my compost, just shoveled it up and used it.

22/10/07 7:01 AM  
Blogger Gloria said...

Angie, 1/4 or 1/2 inch will work.
I use compost without sifting in the garden but when I use it in a seed starter mix or potting soil then I sift.

In the organic demonstration garden at the Garfield Conservatory a plastic crate was easy to use for sifting compost.

26/10/07 12:20 AM  

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