Hello all! This is my first post. I am the new Agriculture Supervisor for a rehab that is partially a working farm. My job is to work with the residents - teaching them good work ethic in the context of growing food and flowers. I was in charge of the 2018 vegetable gardens as a 'servant-leader' (a live in mentor for the residents) under the previous Ag manager and I was asked back to be on Staff to take his place for all the gardens.
I have no degrees or schooling - just a passion to grow and serve others while learning.
In 2018 I implemented a very sad 3 bin composting system made of old deck wood I convinced the facilities manager to let me have. It took some convincing on my part to get anything at all in place (it went out in the boonies) . I was gone just over a year and the bin is still here - just slowly disintegrating. Since then the ministry has seen a benefit in composting. I now have access to more compostable materials - not just from the kitchen.
All that to say I need advice on a new onsite composting system that is large enough but cost effective. I have looked at a LOT of plans and a lot of them seem too small. We have a kitchen that feeds all the residents (I was getting up to 2 full 5 gal buckets of food waste a day - sometimes more depending), I have a gigantic pile of leaves already from this past fall (raking from about 30 acres that the campus sits on), I'm allowing staff families to contribute if they want and there are all the debris from ground maintenance besides leaves (grass clippings, saw dust etc), cow manure and possibly horse manure from someone local. Any suggestions?
at the university i work at we layer leaves and scrap in low 3ft mounds about 4ft wide and so far about 30ft. long. we just keep adding to the pile. the older end we use the tractor to turn it into another 4ft. row. in about 9 months its compost we sell to the locals. no need for bins. the ground contact helps the pile compost more quickly.
Here is a compost system that might fit your situation: its an aerated floor, no turn structure. But there's a lot of other methods out there that are completely different but seem to work just as well.
I've always used recycled/repurposed materials when making compost bins. Pallets are my favorite, and they can be painted/stained on the outside if you want/need them to look professional. The spaces between the slats allows for aeration of the pile, and I will, either, staple wire along the interior or use cardboard to line the interior, which acts like a "net" to keep the contents from spilling out. You can line the pallets side by side to create the desired length; and I will also use the smaller pallets as dividers to create sections for the piles I turn.
I've also used recycled poultry/rabbit wire that was just staked in place like a cage for the pile. That isn't as sturdy or pretty, but it's easy to move around if you need to compost in a temporary area.
Sometimes I just make piles on the ground without a "bin" around them. Personally, I like to have the "order" and edges the bin creates, but the process still works the same. This could be an issue, however, if you have varmints or domestic animals that may want to dig for food in the piles.
Congrats & best wishes on your project! It sounds like an exciting venture!
I started with a cattle panel ($20) made into a circle with a layer of weed cloth zip tied on the inside. Used a piece of wire on the top and bottom to keep it together. When it needed turning, I would undo the wire and take the cattle panel hoop off move it next to the pile and transfer and add water. I upgraded with a hog panel ($40) which costs more but has smaller holes. My next upgrade will be to use ground cloth which is thicker.
"Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning." —Albert Einstein
Ah!!! I might see chickens in your future. They are great for running through compostable materials. And with the addition of horse or cow manure, they will eat any bugs or intestinal worms shed through the manure, too! It may seem counterproductive to add animals to the composting mix, but I love how they work together. From personal experience (not because I am an expert by any means), my best composting success was to simply create a 5 foot wide diameter circle of 4 ft tall chicken wire and start piling everything in there in layers and watering with a hose. I was going to make a second circle, but then realized all if have to do is lift up the chicken wire circle, move it over a few feet and refill it to turn the pile. Super easy and it heated up nicely. If you do decide to run chickens in your compost, they will pull apart piles from a three sided pallet compost pile. That's the design I have so I make more "chicken feed" than I do "compost".
Good luck! Have fun! It sounds like you're doing great work.
Thank you so much for the responses! I was scoping out suitable places on the property for the compost. I am considering doing smaller kitchen composting in wire bin type containers because in the winter the places I am looking at might not be accessible - so building up my compost in the spring, summer and fall until snow prevents me from getting back there. (we have over 350 acres and my boss prefers it to not be near people's homes) I have a 4 wheel drive mule that might help me get back there until a certain point.
A friend sent me a pic of his in Indiana but I am thinking of just keeping it in open piles like someone suggested in this thread. I meet with my supervisor tomorrow and I am going to run some of these ideas by him.
Our farm needs a lot of help and has been a bit neglected from being understaffed for a few years but I am excited to build it all back up again.
I agree with Steve bossie's suggestion to simply build large piles or windrows. As long as you layer the food scraps with dry leaves, woody debris, and manure you will get great compost with nothing but patience. Remember to mix in a bit of soil and you are good to go. For no turn compost piles some biodynamic practitioners recommend making a clay/straw/manure plaster to cover the outside of the pile with, at the very least this would help reduce the smell and moderate the moisture
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