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 Post subject: Composting
PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2011 4:33 pm 
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We recycle everything that is possible to be recycled, and we have to pay by the bag for trash pickup (which I think is a good thing). For my family of four humans and two dogs, we go through 2-3 medium-sized kitchen bags a week, which fill one purple bag (the bags we buy for trash pickup), but so so much of that trash is food stuff: odds and ends of veggies, etc. I'd like to reduce our trash even more by composting. Problem is, I know nothing about it. I know I can search online for info and I will, but I was hoping for personal stories and ideas, too. So, tell me about yer compost heap/bin/whatever-else-can-be-used. Any tips for beginners would be great, too.

Not sure if this matters, but I do have a big back yard and it is fenced in, so not too much to worry about as far as critters go (does this even matter or happen?) . My dogs go out back a lot, but I assume a compost heap would be cordoned off in some way anyway...

So...whatcha got?

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 10:04 am 
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ol' garly cooch
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like gardening, composting is all science. here are a couple of articles written by my colleague. basically you have a couple of choices: vermicomposting or outdoor composting. let me know if you have further questions:

http://www.wormsway.com/articles.aspx?t ... osting.asp

http://www.wormsway.com/articles.aspx?t ... ing101.asp

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 10:07 am 
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We have one of those black bins you can buy at Home Depot (or a similiar store). It has a hinged lid on the top and little "doors" at the bottom where you can take dirt from the bottom as it fills up. I think it cost around $40. Tiny lizards are always running in and out, but we don't have much else as far as critters in central Tucson.

It is in our backyard and our two dogs ignore it. I don't notice any smell -- most of what goes in is vegetable trimmings, coffee grounds, and dead flowers. Sometimes bees come over to check it out, but nothing significant. We don't garden, so I can't speak to the quality of the soil, but it looks good (black and rich). It's one of the easier things going on in my life right now.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 1:55 pm 
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Occasionally a critter, usually a opossum or bird, will grab something from my compost pile. But there's not a pest problem. And you can mostly stop this by covering any food with a pile of leaves/grass/newspaper, if you're less lazy than I am.

My compost is currently in chicken wire, but I've used bricks and concrete blocks in the past.


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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 7:22 pm 
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I've done a lot of composting and it is super easy to do. We also had one of those black bins and they work really well.
So basically composting happens all on it's own, but with a little help from you, you can avoid some problems.
Like mollyjade said, when you throw in food scraps, cover them with dried leaves, grass or shredded newspaper. Covering the food scraps keeps the insects to a minimum. Composting speeds up if the food scraps are cut up small. Every week or two, turn the compost to make sure some air gets in there. Your compost should be wet, but not too wet or it will probably start to stink. If this happens, add some more dried stuff and get some air in there. Forgot to say, placing your composter in a sunny spot helps to speed up the process.
We have cold winters so I would empty my compost in the fall, and just keep adding to it all winter. It usually freezes, but that's ok. I've never completely filled a bin over the winter. In fact frozen scraps will compost very quickly in the spring. In the spring, the compost will probably be wet & stinky, so toss it up and work some dry stuff into it.
You'll find that worms will make their own way into the bin to help out with the process.
I also had a rolling composter but I didn't feel that it worked as well as the bin.
You can also make your own, there are tons of instructions online.
Good luck! Once you get the hang of it you'll love it!


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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Fri May 06, 2011 7:27 pm 
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We have a corner of our yard designated for compost, no fencing, we just try and turn it every so often...I thought about getting a bin or making a fence but since we don't own the house I haven't bothered...We haven't had any problems with critters that I know of. I use a small bucket that I got from Home Depot with a nice tight fitting lid that I try to empty each week.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 11:01 pm 
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If it stinks, you're doing it wrong. It seems like a no brainer, but we get calls almost daily from people wondering why their compost smells like garbage.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 9:13 am 
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Wow, thanks for all the info. I'm going to go to Home Depot today to get a bin and get started. I hope I don't make a total stinky mess of this!

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 11:49 am 
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We have a compost wheel and the two times I've tried to really use it were both super fails. Once was on a balcony in the Seattle area where it didn't seem to get enough sun and never really composted. In San Diego we tried again but I think it got too MUCH sun and not enough moisture and also just dried out and never turned to compost. So I am tempted to give it another try but really given all our moving I'm just kind of giving up. Go for it but make sure it's easy to clean up and pitch if it fails massively would be my advice!


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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 11:54 am 
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ol' garly cooch
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stinking=anaerobic bacteria. stir it up baby, stir it up.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2011 8:49 pm 
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I am having a horrible problem with mine! It seems compost woes are following me around North America. I have one of those black plastic heavy duty composters in the yard, it has a lid. it's supposed to be secure. Anyway, some rodent has tunneled in from the ground and is pooping over everything. Granted, I can't turn it due to my frozen shoulder, but i definitely layer it up all the time. I think it's a rat with really big pooping skills. A very well fed rat. So I won't even be able to use this on my veggies, it's gonna have to go on the flowers, if it ever breaks down.

:-(

Anyone have experience to share about making compost tea with an aquarium pump? I'm about to build a system and buy a big bag of worm castings to make it happen. Feeding a vegan garden is hard!!!!

xo
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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 1:09 pm 
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ol' garly cooch
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boo yah! here you go, kittee--
http://www.gardeningblog.net/2007/11/01 ... the-cheap/

just use your vegan ingredients and you should be good to go.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 6:18 pm 
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I have two bokashi bins a friend gave me, I emptied them at my parents recently so I'm going to start again & then I just need to pick a spot in the garden to bury it once it's ready.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Mon May 23, 2011 7:04 pm 
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i have a pile going now, i find that in the cold season here my pile gets too wet. (also we don't have leaves to put in the pile, just wet veg scraps.). I try to put whatever dry stuff i can get (newspaper is a good deal) and put some urea fertilizer granules every once in a while, it makes the thing get hot.
once my garden gets going, though, I will throw the scraps right into the garden (i have small plants that might get squished by an errant orange peel right now).
i have tried the worm thing and found that they didn't eat the food scraps as quickly as i can make them. we did have a heck of a lot of fun with those worms though, and they were later liberated in the garden.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 9:32 am 
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ol' garly cooch
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torquie- i don't know about brasil, but red worms are an invasive species in the US. they'll eat double their weight each day, and you can expedite the process by chopping or blending the scraps really well. they tend to not want to eat really spicy or acidic things.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 10:10 am 
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the worms can't be bought in bulk here the way there are in the US, at least not that I know. We had about 100 worms that came with a bag of worm poop dirt (yes, i got them from sifting through the bag), and that was all. i have no idea what the heck type of worms they were. they did reproduce but rather slowly, and they sure didn't have ravenous appetites.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 10:18 am 
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ol' garly cooch
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sounds like earthworms. red worms are champion eaters and poopers.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 4:25 pm 
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Our compost box outside is just a plywood box with two compartments my husband's father built us. I think the two compartments are for moving the compost back and forth? I don't know. Growing up our compost heap was just an area enclosed by chicken wire.

I keep a compost pail on the counter and toss my scraps into it while I cook, and then carry that out back -- daily if it isn't raining. In the winter I don't compost though because the bin fills with snow, and the yard fills with snow, and my freezer isn't big enough to deep freeze all our fruit/veggie scraps 'til spring! We also put some leaves in it and yard waste when we have it. Oh, and things like Feline Pine cat litter (poop scooped!).

The squirrels enjoy the compost buffet and occasionally will pull things out of it -- corn cobs are a favorite. I just toss whatever is left back in. It isn't a huge mess or a big deal.

The two of us fill one kitchen trash bag with trash either once a week or once every other week. There's an extra bag about once a month when we empty all the small trash cans around the house (bathrooms, offices, etc...) The rest is recycling and composting. I also try to reduce waste coming in by buying things in bulk in my own containers where I can, and reusing things rather than tossing them.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Tue May 24, 2011 11:44 pm 
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One of my friends has the most awesome compost pile that I've ever seen. They have a hill on their backyard and they just throw it all up there and leave it. They have a little container on the kitchen counter to throw food pieces into, when that's full they put it in a plastic bin in the garage and when that's full they bring it up to the hill and throw it there. The compost from outside (leaves, weeds, grass clippings) they just throw in a wheel barrow and throw it onto the pile. They've had it for years and it's huge.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 11:56 am 
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Heh, I don't know if I would call 'huge' 'awesome'... seeing as how the point of composting is to break all that stuff down. Sounds to me like what they think is a compost pile is really just a pile.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 10:30 pm 
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Mars wrote:
Heh, I don't know if I would call 'huge' 'awesome'... seeing as how the point of composting is to break all that stuff down. Sounds to me like what they think is a compost pile is really just a pile.

Um, I know what compost is and like I've said they've had it for years, this is why it's huge. I also think that two scientists can figure out the difference between a compost pile and "just a pile."

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2011 11:22 pm 
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I never thought i'd have to mod the composting thread.

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Thu May 26, 2011 9:13 am 
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Kitteh wrote:
I have two bokashi bins a friend gave me, I emptied them at my parents recently so I'm going to start again & then I just need to pick a spot in the garden to bury it once it's ready.

I have a Bokashi too! I really like it. It's not strictly composting I guess because you feed it with microorganisms and it 'ferments' down. Smells nice and vinegary. I pour it into my garden bed and my containers, along with soil and whatever else I'm using (I've experimented a bit with vermiculite and peat moss ala Mel Batholomew), the plants that have had Bokashi seem to do better than those that don't. It makes the soil look nice and healthy (I'm not really a gardening expert, I just know that I see wormies and other critters in it, which is a good sign for soil).

ETA The reason I chose a Bokashi is because I rent and don't have much space. Also, I'm impatient and you can use the Bokashi pretty quickly. It sits in your kitchen so you don't have to worry about taking the compost outside (I know this wouldn't take much effort, but I'm sure I'd make excuses not to take it out!)

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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 6:39 am 
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I have two indoor worm bins and an outdoor pile. As vegans, not throwing any animal products in the pile should reduce pest problems considerably. I sometimes get skunks digging in my pile (and my garden) looking for grubs, but I don't consider that a big deal. Not as annoying as the neighborhood cats using my raised beds as litter boxes! :-p

My outdoor pile is not contained in any way. A pile will break down without turning, though it will be slower and may not get rid of all weed seeds and germs in the pile since it doesn't heat up as much as an actively managed pile. My outdoor compost is really great for getting volunteer plants in my garden. Sometimes I like getting surprises, sometimes not.

I've never had a compost tumbler however, I think they have a few flaws. One, by continually turning the compost, you are losing nitrogen and the resulting compost is lower in nutrition. Two, ideally a compost pile is 3 ft x 3 ft x 3ft and most bins hold less material than that so they don't break down as efficiently.

I'm really pleased with worm composting because the worms break down food scraps for me year round whereas my outdoor pile slows down a lot in the winter. A worm bin is a little trickier to manage because it is essentially an encapsulated ecosystem. Also, fun fact, the scraps are mostly broken down by bacteria so putting a lot of garlic or other anti-bacterial spices in your worm bin is not the greatest idea.

One last thing: I would strongly advise against putting any kind of pet waste, even used cat litter with the poop removed, in a compost pile if the compost is going to be used on food plants.


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 Post subject: Re: Composting
PostPosted: Fri May 27, 2011 9:39 am 
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ol' garly cooch
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I've never had a compost tumbler however, I think they have a few flaws. One, by continually turning the compost, you are losing nitrogen and the resulting compost is lower in nutrition. Two, ideally a compost pile is 3 ft x 3 ft x 3ft and most bins hold less material than that so they don't break down as efficiently.

I'm really pleased with worm composting because the worms break down food scraps for me year round whereas my outdoor pile slows down a lot in the winter. A worm bin is a little trickier to manage because it is essentially an encapsulated ecosystem. Also, fun fact, the scraps are mostly broken down by bacteria so putting a lot of garlic or other anti-bacterial spices in your worm bin is not the greatest idea.

One last thing: I would strongly advise against putting any kind of pet waste, even used cat litter with the poop removed, in a compost pile if the compost is going to be used on food plants.


YES, YES, and YESSS!

I heart our worm bins. Not wild or sold on the tumblers. Because we specialize in urban gardening, the company I work for is going to be carrying the Bokashi bins in the near future. I am so excited!

At home I have my compost in a giant pile, two of them to be precise. One that's ready to go to amend the soil, and one from last season. If you're really wondering how efficient your piles are, you can always get a compost thermometer. I'm personally a fan of surprises, but hard core compost nerdy mc dorkians will say, "You're getting that plant because the internal temperature isn't hot enough." For those of you wanting to get a leg up on compost activators, beware: they are usually just blood or bone meal, and likely sourced from god knows where. Grass clippings are a great source of nitro.

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