PDA

View Full Version : Does anyone know about compost?


Der Cute
01-02-2013, 12:58 AM
I'm trying to compost my food waste and make some good soil for later use, in spring. Well, right now it's sopping wet with bout 4 inches of water in the box.
I'm using an old plastic tote box (the kind you get your store shipments in, the 2 flap tops). When I started this box back in August-ish, I tossed old soil in it, as much food waste as I could, eggshells, everything EXCEPT meat.
Since I live in Seattle, one of our main things here is rain. I accidentally left the flaps open and now the box has 4 inches of black water. This thing smells like wet plain garbage, not as earthy as I expect.
I'm adding a lot of shredded paper, as much as I can. I have now covered the box (over the top) with black garbage bag for heat. It's still ventilated, trying to keep the water out of it.
Anything else I can do for it? Is it SUPPOSED to smell like wet garbage?

Shpepper
01-02-2013, 01:37 AM
It does sort of smell like wet garbage. If there is a way to do it, you may want to put some drain holes in the box to let some of the moisture out. When I did compost,l I used a slatted wood bin in my yard. There was air flow and water drainage space. it made the best dirt I have ever used. I was out on the Olympic Peninsula in P.T. when I did this. So I am pretty sure it will work for Seattle too. So, drainage holes, air flow and keep it covered from the loverly liquid sunshine we have here.

dalesys
01-02-2013, 01:41 AM
Add 1/4 well :chipper:sucktomer.:D

Der Cute
01-02-2013, 01:47 AM
Water/holes in the bottom. I'm scared everything will wash through (all the good stuff!) Maybe nail holes? Give me a high five though, I'm cutting a lot of stuff up to smaller parts, and every time I see worms coming out from other areas of dirt, they get volunteered to live in the compost box :).

I'll find a way to get holes in the bottom of the box. Should I elevate the thing off the ground?https://www.rshughes.com/products/39280_grey.htmlhttp://. The top is covered with a black bag (for heat, hope it works), flaps are a wee bit open, and rocks are holding the bag down. I'm so high tech doing this, lol.
Thanks for the tips!

AccountingDrone
01-02-2013, 01:59 AM
try here - a friend of mine at our local co-op swears by these guys.
http://howtocompost.org/

dendawg
01-02-2013, 02:05 AM
Water/holes in the bottom. I'm scared everything will wash through (all the good stuff!) Maybe nail holes?

Some fine mesh on the bottom of the inside, such as the kind that goes on screen doors, should prevent any dirt from coming out through the holes.

Pixilated
01-02-2013, 04:54 AM
dendawg got there first ... :D

I tried composting in a plastic bin myself years ago and the results were pretty gross. That's how I learned drainage is a major component of composting.

It probably wouldn't hurt to elevate it, if you can -- can you find bricks, flat rocks, anything like that to set it on? The black bag on top is a good idea, although many many years ago I had a compost heap that was basically open to the elements -- surrounded by nothing more than chicken wire -- and it worked OK. I think the only difference is that it slows down 'composting' considerably in cold weather.

First time I went to 'donate' to the compost here at Mom's house, I noticed somebody had tossed -- wait for it -- Kraft Dinner into the composter ... :eek: Not a lot of it, thank goodness, but ...

ArcticChicken
01-02-2013, 02:07 PM
Every compost bin I've ever encountered has had some kind of drainage/air circulation. You also wanna make sure you put dry stuff in there, too. I don't know about paper, but straw is good, leaves are fantastic, and compost really loves coffee grounds. My bf's mom has an arrangement with a local coffee place where she takes some of their coffee grounds away and puts them in her compost.

Shpepper
01-02-2013, 06:03 PM
I was going to suggest the fine mesh screening to cover the holes, adding leaves, straw, grass or other semi dry materials and You do live in the land of Coffee... Check with the local baristas and ask if you can pick up coffee grounds. You do not need to do it on a regular basis, but a lot of the indy shops will keep a bucket or two of grounds for people to grab for composting. Also, check craigslist for either an old pallet if you have space for it, or a couple bricks to put under the bottom of the bin. No sense in paying for something if you can get it free.

sms001
01-02-2013, 08:49 PM
And don't forget to mix it occasionally!

protege
01-03-2013, 12:28 AM
When I was in college, one of the labs made their own compost. IIRC, the container was some sort of plastic barrel. They'd mounted the thing on a horizontal rod, with a handle on one end. Cut into both sides, were access hatches...and lots of holes. Mesh was installed to keep the soil from coming out. Every so often, they'd rotate the thing so everything rotted 'evenly.'

Der Cute
01-03-2013, 12:30 AM
Oh yeah, it gets stirred. So the tasks now are to get a pallet/part of one. Elevate Le Box. Make sure there's some holes in the bottom of it (I do try to keep the flaps open, under the black bag.)

I added a bunch of shredded paper and that soaked a lot of the water up, and I'll try to add more paper soon. I will say it's pure black gunk though! That makes me think it's healthy gunk. Okeydokey!

MoonCat
01-03-2013, 03:45 AM
Oh yeah, it gets stirred. So the tasks now are to get a pallet/part of one. Elevate Le Box. Make sure there's some holes in the bottom of it (I do try to keep the flaps open, under the black bag.)

I added a bunch of shredded paper and that soaked a lot of the water up, and I'll try to add more paper soon. I will say it's pure black gunk though! That makes me think it's healthy gunk. Okeydokey!

Good compost will smell like clean soil, that lovely earthy smell you get when you dig into the ground to plant something.

Der Cute
02-25-2013, 09:55 AM
Update on my compost project:
I dumped more veggie stuff in it today, and it is really starting to smell earthy. At least earthier than it was when I posted. I added a lot more shredded brown paper bags a week ago, and those are already starting to break down. Today was minced dead veggies not good for food use. Opening the top, it smelled pretty good earth wise. Put the veggie stuff in, mixed it up, and it smells a LOT like poop. Earthy poop, kind of like horse or cow manure? Don't know another way to explain that. The black bag is still on the top, sides are ventilated as well as possible, and I hope this redneck contraption works. Next year it'll be a better setup, this was spur of the moment let's see if it works. I was also thinking hmm get a cheap blender and process/break down some of the food I put in there making it easier for the anerobic bacteria/worms to do the job. Smoothie for compost, anyone?
Of course, the weeds are coming out already. Fuckers.

PepperElf
02-25-2013, 12:26 PM
i've never done this myself - closest we had was a pile of lawn cuttings in the back "wood" area.


however don't forget to check it for heat. IIRC they do get hot when they start breaking down - that's where stirring it comes in handy too IIRC.

they had some experiments at my last college - specialized compost bins for some of the science classes I think. might have had a rotating part built in for hand cranking.

Seshat
02-25-2013, 02:09 PM
You can put some sort of container under the drainage holes, and take the liquid away to use to fertilize plants. Dilute it first; it can be too concentrated for some plants!

Good compost contains both nitrogenous stuff (leaves, fruits, flowers - the 'soft' parts of plants) and carboniferous stuff (sawdust, paper trash, small sticks, chopped up bigger sticks, nutshells: the 'hard' bits of plants). You can add ground eggshell, too.

You can add meat, blood, bone, milk etc; but (a) that might attract unwanted carnivores, and (b) it takes a while for that to compost down to something you'd actually want to touch! Ground up meats, including organ meats, can be added and stirred in without causing those problems: but only in small amounts relative to the amount of compost. And give the heap time to 'digest' it before adding more.

You can also add the contents of a litter tray, birdcage tray, or other pet doings: the urine is nitrogenous, so make sure the litter itself is carboniferous. The kind of litter (or piddle pad) made of recycled paper is perfect as carboniferous content.
Note that clay litters and some of the synthetic litters will affect the resultant compost-loam, and may make it turn out badly. Clay litters, for example, will produce a clay-loam blend, not a true loam.


What you're trying to produce as the output is loam: if you've ever been in a rainforest and felt the first five or ten centimetres of stuff under your boots, that's a particularly rich kind of loam. It's water and leaves and sticks and insects and worm-poo-soil and it smells like ... I don't know how to put it. It smells like both rich-life-green and death-rot-returntosoil. At the same time.

If you've ever forgotten about potatos in the cupboard until they start to rot, you'll know the death-rot aspect of the smell. And the rich-life-green aspect is .. is the ground after a long soaking rain, when the grass is growing and the world is full of life.

A good loam, to me, smells like both of those mixed together. More of the life smell than the rot smell; but without the rot smell, you wouldn't have broken-down loam ready for plant roots to take-up the nutrients. You'd just have a bunch of too-large chunks of plant matter.

lordlundar
02-25-2013, 02:24 PM
you guys are seriously over complicating this. The most reliable compost bins are 4 walls. A lid to keep things pretty but don't have a bottom. let any water that gets in drain naturally. If you do have a lid you will need aeration holes on the sides to keep airflow going. Remember that materials decompose faster when there's air flowing around them.

Der Cute
02-26-2013, 06:29 AM
however don't forget to check it for heat. IIRC they do get hot when they start breaking down - that's where stirring it comes in handy too IIRC.

It's so cold outside (aka 45, 55* F) that there is very little heat happening at all. The black garbage bag over the top of this is my attempt to warm it up a little bit (and stop rain from coming in so damn much)
What you're trying to produce as the output is loam: if you've ever been in a rainforest and felt the first five or ten centimetres of stuff under your boots, that's a particularly rich kind of loam. It's water and leaves and sticks and insects and worm-poo-soil and it smells like ... I don't know how to put it. It smells like both rich-life-green and death-rot-returntosoil. At the same time.
If you've ever forgotten about potatos in the cupboard until they start to rot, you'll know the death-rot aspect of the smell. And the rich-life-green aspect is .. is the ground after a long soaking rain, when the grass is growing and the world is full of life.
A good loam, to me, smells like both of those mixed together. More of the life smell than the rot smell; but without the rot smell, you wouldn't have broken-down loam ready for plant roots to take-up the nutrients. You'd just have a bunch of too-large chunks of plant matter.
Oh, I know what that smell is and I miss it so damn much. Fall is when the rot/wet starts really kicking in - to me the forest smells like cranberries - sharp, acidic, wet, rotty. I grew up in AK and we had that stuff allll over the place. Didn't know the name, loam; to me it's just really rich dirt. I did take some of the standing black water in there and put it into the sage's box. Hopefully he'll like that. I still haven't found a way to drill holes in the bottom for drainage, I think I'll just wait this out til this stuff's gone.
I know the ratio is 2 browns for 1 green; so 2 units of paper for every unit of plant. I've decided to not put any dairy in there except rinsed eggshells already crunched up. Just plant matter, sticks, shredded recycled paper and some news paper. Coffee grounds are occasionally added, but I try not to for the pH to be balanced (note to self get to UW Extention for testing). So far so good, I just noticed today smells like earthy poop, a LOT like horse shit. I think that's good.
Went weeding in the garden too, plucked a few plants and found worms in there. They got volunteered for the compost box! Plucking the weeds was fun and soothing at the same time. Smelling that wet wet dirt was so good!
Spring is here - another clue - bugs are starting to show up! Woohoo!

Der Cute
03-13-2013, 08:30 AM
Well, it now smells like cow shit. Very shitty cow shit. I'm adding more newspaper to it and turning it over as much as I can. Keeping the black bag on it, keeping the heat as much as I can. This it totally a learning process aka jury-rigged doohicky.

Ghel
03-13-2013, 03:36 PM
I started composting about 4 years ago, when the county was selling plastic compost bins cheap ($15, I think) in an effort to get people to throw away less trash. Mine is basically a 2 1/2 foot square by 4 foot tall box made of plastic slats with small holes at the bottom of each slat. So there's air and drainage holes all the way up the sides. And it has a lid.

The main problem I have is keeping it wet enough. I suppose I could leave the lid off when it rains. I leave it on for the heat, since we don't get much heat here in northern Minnesota. If it gets dry, I drag the hose over and soak it down.

I also have a problem with weeds growing in it, since it sits right on the ground. Turning it frequently helps with that, though.

I feed my compost with weeds, mown grass, spoiled veggies, used coffee grounds, shredded mail or newspaper, and sometimes eggshells (although not much, since they take forever to break down). I try not to put meat, cheese, etc. in mine, since we have stray cats and dogs in the neighborhood.

When I go to use my compost, I run it through a mesh screen made of 1/2 inch chicken wire. Any bigger pieces, like sticks that haven't broken down, get caught on the screen. I throw those back in the compost bin.

I'm not doing anything with the bin this time of year. It's buried under a snow drift. :rolleyes:

Yfandes
03-13-2013, 08:40 PM
I was trying a patio type compost system (a bag with holes in a bucket), and it really didn't work - soupy rotten mess. A friend of mine told me it had to be in touch with the soil so I set up a bottomless bin over a patch of dirt and its been happy ever since. Compost needs air as much as it needs to be moistened. Mines all wormy goodness and in the spirit of the super lazy I simply plant my tomatoes around the compost bin - works out well for everyone.

bhskittykatt
03-14-2013, 01:52 AM
Never actually tried this, but this site gives instructions on how to build a worm bin that could give you some ideas since the basic principles are pretty similar. It also gives some troubleshooting advice towards the bottom that may be helpful: http://whatcom.wsu.edu/ag/compost/easywormbin.htm

It says a stinky bin could be caused by inadequate ventilation, adding too much food, or having too much moisture.