We have a pit in the woods where we've been dumping leaves, clippings, sticks, and garden waste for decades now, so I want to go through it and turn it into a real compost area. The bulk of the pile is already heavily broken down, it's quite dark, but some sticks and logs remain. I've sifted some of it already, and I've made a small pile where I've been adding kitchen waste and brown leaves for the past week or so, but I'm wondering if I should bother doing it this way. I dont get a ton of waste from our kitchen, but I seemingly have an endless supply of brown leaves in our woods. I'll have some stuff from our gardens in the fall, but for now there's not much. Also I mulch the grass instead of bagging, so I dont really have any clippings until the leaves start falling in the fall.
Should I keep going using some of the existing compost like I am, or should I start from scratch with a small pile of mainly kitchen waste and brown leaves? Thanks for any kind of tips you might have
Welcome to Permies! I would definitely add the kitchen scraps. Thats adds some nitrogen greens, to the carbon rich brown of the leafs. The kitchen scraps will also provide more diversity of nutrients to your compost pile, also being fast available food for composting worms. Assuming your pile won't get big quickly, based on the amount of material you described is available, so, this means it won't heat up. The moist leaves make a good worm bedding, and the compostable kitchen scraps make good worm food. Keep it moist during the dry season, and it sounds like a good home for some red rigglers. The adult worms most likely won't make it through your cold winters, but their eggs will. So once they build up population by early summer, your kitchen scraps will be eaten as quickly as they come, plus the leaves will slowly get eaten, and you'll be left with the best compost money can buy. You have enough space to do a windrow style worm bed. So once it builds up, you keep adding to one end of the pile to make a windrow; then as the other end with nothing added, will be left with just worm castings, you harvest from the old end, and the cycle continues on. You can build your windrow to travel like a very elliptical circle, so it can continue on moving without interruption.
How far out is your pit in the woods? If it’s too far or inconvenient, you’re less likely to want to schlep those kitchen scraps out there, especially in bad weather.
Perhaps you might want to consider placing some kind of bin in a spot that is convenient to your kitchen. You could throw the scraps in there along with some browns to balance it out. If the compost doesn’t finish up nicely in the bin, you could empty it into a wheelbarrow every now and then and take it out to your pit.
I have to ditto what Trace said. What you have is pure black gold, ready to be used in a garden for example. If it were my pit in the woods, I wouldn't bother sifting it and I'd gather it as is.
Leaves dumped into a pile and left to decay yields what they call leaf mold, and it is in a category of its own from traditional finished compost, even if it's only different by ingredients and process but yielding a very similar end product. It's most excellent for use in gardens and soil amendments. Traditional composting is carbons (brown stuffs) and nitrogens (green stuffs) and microbial (predominantly bacterial) actions decompose it all, generating a lot of heat in the process. Leaf mold is predominantly a fungal driven decomposition. Traditional composting can happen rapidly, whereas making leaf mold is much slower and can take a couple years to break down into that dark, crumbly, fluffy, smell good goodness.
If I may offer a suggestion, what is there is ready to use, or, be left as is until you're ready to use it even if it's not this year. I would choose a small spot within this pile of garden ambrosia, perhaps at the front for easy access, and add the kitchen scraps. The scraps will happily decompose. If the kitchen scraps start to smell foul or putrid, things are going anaerobic, and that's not the kind of decomposition that is desired for anything to be used in a garden. A quick lifting, mixing and turning with a shovel or other tool will incorporate a lot of oxygen, tilting the balance back into aerobic decomposition.
"Study books and observe nature; if they do not agree, throw away the books." ~ William A. Albrecht
Location: New England
posted 3 months ago
Wow thanks for the great replies. The pile isn't so far, the lot is less than an acre so it probably only takes half a minute to a minute to walk there, I'd like to keep it going through the winter, especially since southern new england winters arent really too bad these days and I like being out there when its cold :)
The sifting is mainly because we weren't so picky with what we threw in there over the years. Most of what I take out are medium to large size rocks, but I've also pulled a fair amount of plastics like plant tags and some garden twine and stuff.
You seem to have a zone 1 function taking place in a zone 3 location.
Use that amazing compost that exists in that pit. It's ready to incorporate throughout your garden. As others have called it, Black Gold!
I'd find a way to compost your kitchen scraps without having to walk so far. Perhaps a simple compost tumbler located just a few steps from your back door?
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
Location: New England
posted 3 months ago
So I've made quite a bit of progress. It only took a couple weeks for me to realize how much food waste we actually have, combined with some trips to starbucks for their bags of grounds I've actually been able to get a decent compost pile going. Still tinkering with the proportions, but its been up to 130 degrees inside for a couple days now, so I'm pretty happy with my early results.
While the composition of it was probably better before, I've had to clean up my leaf mold pile because of how lazy we were with what ended up in the pile, but as you can see I've cleaned up quite a bit of it so far. Its very light and fluffy now, but no longer has junk or rocks in it.
My question now is what I should do with this light leaf mold and what I should do with the compost as it gets closer to being finished? Is incorporating the two a good idea? I would think it would give it better structure/nutrients/etc., I just don't want to make too many bad decisions if I can avoid it.
I'm a little intrigued with compost tea as well, but I don't know how motivated I am to spend money to mess around with that quite yet.
What you have been doing is working very well, I wouldn't change the method, perhaps just think about location and perhaps it will be found it is best to have two areas for composting/leaf mold making.
Leaf mold is a bit different from compost but the microorganisms are the same for both, leaf mold generally leans more towards the fungal side than compost so if your doing a veggie garden using the compost on the soil and leaf mold as a cover for that compost mulch layer works great.
All it takes to make compost tea is a bucket (or larger barrel type container) and either some sort of paddle or an electric drill powered pain stirring rod to get air into the water you are brewing the tea in.
Just stir the bucket into a vortex several times a day for three days and presto, you have compost tea.
You can bag the compost so it is very much like brewing a cup of tea or you can just add it loose to the brewing container, both ways work, the bag just makes it easier to use the tea in a sprayer since your "mess" is "in the bag".
If you have an old aquarium air pump and stone, using that set up to get air constantly into your brewing tea is great, the microorganisms will love the extra oxygen and multiply like crazy.