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the second and subsequent "cooks" (not getting hot enough after the first turn)  RSS feed

 
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Hello All, Could you kindly advise me how to get my compost piles heating up again after the first turn? I don't have a thermometer but I am almost always successful in getting my finely processed leaf mould to heat up in the bin after drizzling with urine & woodash and liberal amounts of coffee grounds. It's the subsequent cooks that don't seem to get hot enough after turning (i typically turn after 96 hours). I remedy this by adding a small amount of additional carbon ( around 20 percent more chopped-up leaf mould) but then I worry that the 'cook' will be uneven and some parts will always remain uncomposted. Thanks!
 
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Hi Pusang,

I'm no expert (I assume an expert will chime in pretty soon) but my guess is that you're running out of nitrogen too fast. The urine is boosting all that microbial activity the first turn, but since it's liquid it is quickly used up. Leaf mould can have a relatively small amount of nitrogen itself, so I would suggesting getting more greens, like kitchen scraps or grass clippings, or a bunch of manure. They're loaded in nitrogen, but will release it more slowly throughout the compost process.

Good luck!

Nathanael
 
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To get your compost heating the first go round you mention adding urine and wood ash along with coffee grounds.
But you don't mention making these additions after the turning, which is all you need to do.

Redhawk
 
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Leaf mold is primarily carbon based (assuming they are dry leaves) so having a balance of nitrogen based feedstock (green stuff, food scraps, coffee grounds, manure) will help the pile stay balanced and hot.
 
pusang halaw
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Thanks to everyone. I do add urine & woodash after turning (limited coffee grounds though) but strange how additional nitrogen doesn't always get things heating-up again. At least not as hot as the first cook. Could I be burning thru the carbon too fast before the first turn? Or perhaps it went anaerobic and 4 days might be too long to wait?
 
Bryant RedHawk
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hau Pusang,  any heap of vegetative material that goes anaerobic will let your sense of smell know as soon as you open the heap up.

Most likely you are simply experiencing what happens in the process of decay in a compost heap.
Leaf mold is a little different than a compost heap, in a leaf mold heap there are very few if any green organic materials introduced, that makes it hard for a second heat to get up to the initial heat and subsequent heats from turning will probably be lower in temp than the one just prior to the current turning.

Nitrogen is only one part of the heating equation in composting by the hot method.
There are sound reasons for the 1/3 rule of thumb for building a compost heap (1/3 brown matter, 1/3 green matter, 1/3 manures and soil).
In a standard heap the green matter is what provides the nitrogen and some of the moisture needed, but you also have to have a good amount of oxygen (air) in there as well as potassium and phosphorus to get the top heating effects.
In a leaf mold heap the big three have to be added and the O2 needs to be introduced and usually we have to reduce the amount of moisture if the leaf mold is decaying as it should.
Turning can do most of this but generally in a mostly browns situation we want to simply introduce O2 instead of turning the heap.

Keep in mind, it isn't necessary to have more than one high heat session when making compost, unless you are composting animals most of the pathogens will be dealt with in the first heating.
The fungi will come and populate from there and fungi will remediate any left behind pathogens if given the time to do so.

Redhawk
 
pusang halaw
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:hau Pusang,  any heap of vegetative material that goes anaerobic will let your sense of smell know as soon as you open the heap up.
...
The fungi will come and populate from there and fungi will remediate any left behind pathogens if given the time to do so.


Thank you very much again, Professor RedHawk. I am so relieved because my bins smell nice and earthy and have not gone anaerobic at all since i started this batch. There is some kitchen waste but safe to say it's 90 percent chopped up dry leaves. I'm also very pleased to know how my compost might be fungi-dominated. Here's a photo to give you an idea how far along i've gotten (will turn again tomorrow):
 
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I know this is basic but i have over watered after turning it, basically putting the fire out. I have also underwatered it or allowed it to dry out. I turn mine with a skidsteer and i can feel the heat and see the steam when i turn it. Thats always a good sign. Mine is so manure heavy (use what i got) that restarting never seems to be a problem
 
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I’m going to ask: Why are you turning your compost at all?

Turning compost does speed the process considerably, but if you don’t turn it at all it will breakdown just fine given enough time. We don’t turn our at all, but it typically stays in place for 12 months before using. We have two big bins that we alternate with.

Your fear that “it will never compost” if it doesn’t get hot is unjustified.
 
Nathanael Szobody
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Michael Cox wrote:I’m going to ask: Why are you turning your compost at all?

Turning compost does speed the process considerably, but if you don’t turn it at all it will breakdown just fine given enough time. We don’t turn our at all, but it typically stays in place for 12 months before using. We have two big bins that we alternate with.

Your fear that “it will never compost” if it doesn’t get hot is unjustified.



Hehe, and i don't even compost at all. I just put it all down as mulch
 
pusang halaw
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wayne fajkus wrote:I know this is basic but i have over watered after turning it, basically putting the fire out.

been there  many times.

I have also underwatered it or allowed it to dry out

not a real problem, right? can always start over with additional material. At least that's what i would do.
 
pusang halaw
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Michael Cox wrote:I’m going to ask: Why are you turning your compost at all?

lots of reasons. My heroes (Elaine Ingham and Geoff Lawton, etc.) tell me to, so do the good folks here - i want to emulate them. Also because I mainly do container gardening and I'd rather make my own, as fast as i can.

Your fear that “it will never compost” if it doesn’t get hot is unjustified.

It would really be wonderful if this would apply to my needs but I need lots of compost - NOW 🙂 🙂 🙂
and there's a tiny bit of dog poo (maybe some cat too) among the leaf mould and i want to kill all the pathogens  - is that enough justification?
 
Nathanael Szobody
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pusang halaw wrote:...I need lots of compost - NOW 🙂 🙂 🙂
and there's a tiny bit of dog poo (maybe some cat too) among the leaf mould and i want to kill all the pathogens  - is that enough justification?



Love it

Just FYI, I've done lasagna beds in containers and it works great, especially with worms.
 
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