I am new to gardening and composting. I am trying to figure out when is the best time to start a composting pile. From what I am reading online to have a successful compost you need lots of sunlight to break down the organic matter. However, if I start composting in Spring and if it takes me 4-6 months to successfully compost, how will I use that for the summer gardening? If I start now, it makes sense that I will have something ready by early Spring so I cant start using it in my garden. Can someone please explain the timing of when to get started with composting? thanks!
hau Sahil, where on planet earth are you located? Do you know your growing zone as defined by the USDA?
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Typically you can build a compost heap any time of year, if you do it when conditions are great for compost, it will sit there similar to how chickens lay an egg a day until they have a full clutch, then they activate the eggs by sitting on them so they will hatch all within hours of each other.
Give me some more info on your particular situation and location and I can and will give you specific ideas and suggestions.
I'm not at all a master gardener nor expert composter but I'll give you my thoughts. There's no better time than the present to start composting because really, what are you going to do with material you intend to compost otherwise, throw it in a landfill? I would expect that depending on where in the world you are located there are better and worse times for the material to actually break down, but I don't think that needs to stop you from starting a pile.
Depending on how much material you would be composting there might be better options though. Paul and Shawn's new book Building a Better World in your Backyard instead of being angry at bad guys has a short chapter #20 called "Not Composting". One of the threads here on Permies they link to in the book is this one on the downsides of composting. They are suggesting instead to just tuck the material under mulch in areas around your garden, or perhaps if you have issues with critters like Raccoons to dig a small hole and bury the material in your garden. This in theory helps incorporate more of the nitrogen and carbon into your soil where we want it, rather than letting it break down and go up into the atmosphere.
That said, for myself, I'm using a sawdust composting toilet so I have larger quantities to deal with. What I did was create a composting space with multiple piles. I don't remember what time of year I started this, but it didn't really matter. I just began the pile and kept adding to it, including over the winter where things are frozen and not breaking down in my region. Then in the spring I began a new pile, letting the old pile have another full year to break down and compost before using that material. Essentially I always have 2 piles going, one I'm actively building on and using, and the second that is not being actively added to, breaking down over a whole year. I'm sure there are faster ways to compost, but I work on this annual cycle.
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You are almost in the same range as my farm so anytime you can build a heap, do it. I recon that we will get another warm spell before long and that will help kick start a compost heap.
If you have some milk, spoiled is best for this use, you can use about a cup (for a 4 x 4 x 4 foot heap) of milk to get some bacillus into the heap, that will get it going nicely.
If you also added some "bad" mushrooms or a mushroom slurry, that will give the exterior portion of the heap fungi which will kick start another portion of the heap, that usually is last to be decomposed (unless you were to turn the heap, which I don't do anymore).
Great to have you here Sahil, we have a great group of folks that can answer most questions posed.
The best time to start a compost pile was 3 months ago.
The second best time to start a compost pile is today. In 3 months, you'll be glad you did.
"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
David, Bryant, and Marco, thank you so much for the answers! This helps immensely. I will get started this weekend on the first compost ever.
@Bryant this is specifically for you since we are in the same range. I am planning on planting some leafy greens this weekend that are supposed to do well in colder weather, such as variety of different lettuces, spinach, kale and some daikon radishes. You think it's a good idea this time of the year?
Thanks everyone for all your help with the composting questions. I successfully started a compost and its been doing pretty well.. I have been adding lots of organic material to it!
Here is me showing it off: My first compost tumbler
Additionally, @Bryant or anyone else
I planted two lettuce types along with few other veggies around October 26th and I harvested some this morning to make a salad for lunch and they taste bitter. They are supposed to be sweet variety or at lease that is what the review says. I am a totally new to gardening and would take any help I can get in understanding what might have gone wrong.
hau Sahil, those bitter tasting lettuces probably need more cold than what we have gotten so far (consistent cold seems to help our lettuces become sweet).
Wolf had decided back in October that she wants all the garden beds redone for next spring, so I have a lot of raised beds to build and fill now.
I tried to make a compost pile off the ground at first. Because i had read compost piles can get too wet. I sat it on a mash. Then it got really dry. And no worms ever got in it. Then i changed the set up just on the ground. Loads of worms live in it. They do the turning for me. I just feed them lots. The bigger the pile the better i found. At first i really wanted the compost so badly i was impatient.
If my salads are bitter, i add an apple or red beets or some raisins nuts oil and vinegar. Delish!
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