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Best method for no turn compost with loads of good microbes please!

 
pollinator
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We don't have a lot of time and turning compost takes time. And we're getting older! So which no turn compost works best and how to best inoculate? I don't want a compost tumbler, it is way too small for our garden. We have a big compost at the moment, four bays.
 
pollinator
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I don't know if there is one "best method" to achieve your goal. I produce both no-turn and turned (actually churned with a Mantis tiller as opposed to turned with a fork or shovel) compost. The compost that visually appears to be most active plus generates the most heat is that which has finely chopped ingredients (run over with a lawnmower) and generous layers of fresh manure. Moisture content has a big influence.

I don't have a microscope so I can't say for sure that there are lots of microbes. Perhaps Bryant Redhawk could chime in here.
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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We don't have access to fresh manure. And what I need to add that we are in cool temperate climate (-5C to + 35 or more).
 
pollinator
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Well, somebody has to do the work, right?
You can compost in place- micro's doing the work (mulching, trench composting and such). You can get as creative as you wish. General rule, though, try to hit a larger area with raw materials than what you would with finished compost. You can lay compostable stuff in one area, let it be for a season or two (you can plant compost friendly veggies during this time period, such as potatoes or winter squash/pumpkins); then you can plant the following season. If you have access to heavy equipment,  trench composting is the best!
Second alternative to ask help from natural compost maniacs; chickens and/or pigs. I dont know much about pigs, but chickens I do know. They work hard. You can create a gravity fed chicken compost run. Basicly it is a chicken run on slope. You feed chickens with compostable stuff from the highest elevation. There are checks (50-60 cm high barriers every 2-3 meters) on the slope. Chickens level out the first pile, you remove the first barrier (wooden or such),  chickens try to dig -and move to the second area. Compost pile gets trapped in the second area and piles up. You remove the second barrier, compost moved to the third area and so on. Like a waterfall. If the system were not on a slope, then ypu will need to pile compost up, while chickens level it. This way gravity does the work. 25 chickens can produce roughly 3, maybe 4, cubic meter of almost-finished compost a year.
Another way is what charles dowling does. Please check his youtube channel. It still requires some hard work,  though I should add what he does is probably the least work required not-complicated hot-compost system.
Hope it helps!
 
pollinator
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I use several methods of no-turn compost, but I think the answer to which is best would be "it depends."
Trench composting is the easiest if you are doing it in the areas where the compost will be used, since it is basically a "bury it and forget it" method.
I love my vermicompost system, but it can take a while to finish, and it does take time to harvest the finished product.

My pigs & chickens are good for composting, but it can be messy to clean the coop/paddock at the end of the season.

Even just piling the stuff in a bay and leaving it for a year will work, but it takes time to finish. In that system I tend to empty the nightly urine containers into it for a source of nitrogen.

There's also the fermentation, but I would think it would be impractical if the tumbler is impractical.

Ultimately, they all have benefits & drawbacks. Typically, in my experience, you get what you put into it... So the more work & time you put into turning a hot compost pile gets you results faster, but it requires the time & energy to turn it. But without the time/energy, you still get a good product; it just takes longer for it to finish by itself. I don't know if there are any "shortcuts" in the natural decomposition process...
 
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Check out the bioreactor:
https://www.csuchico.edu/regenerativeagriculture/bioreactor/bioreactor-instructions.shtml

I haven’t built one myself, but it’s on my wish list.
 
gardener
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Clumps of compostable materials dropped on the soil and covered in woodchips works very well for me in my forest garden.  The worms come up, eat it, drag it back down into the soil and leave it down there as worm castings while opening up the soil structure.  My understanding is that worm castings are better than compost.  After this all breaks down the soil just looks gorgeous.  To me this better mimics nature than using a compost pile.
 
Angelika Maier
pollinator
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Thanks for the input! I read once of an old lady and she had a no turn compost during the war which she inoculated with biodynamic mixtures, did anyone try that?
 
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the late, Great, Toby Hemenway, discusses "lasagna" or layering compost that is a no turn system, in his book "Gaia's Garden."  I have tried this as well as turning, vermicompost and the chicken method.  for my chicken workers, I used an 8'X8' area surrounded by straw bales and I just threw all manner of compostable material in there which they happily turned for me while looking for edibles and worms.  I still have the best luck with turning.  I have taken Dr. Elaine Ingham's class, so I have the advantage of being able to use the microscope to check my end product.  I collect materials in a static pile for about 6 months.  At the end of about 6 months, when the pile is full,  I turn it daily for about 1-2 weeks.  This method has  always had the most beneficial bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes, by far.  It is a 4'X4' pile.  Takes about 45 minutes to turn with a small 4 tine potato fork.  It is good exercise.  I turn the pile that has collected in spring and fall.  I think it is worth it.  This isn't exactly what Dr. Ingham teaches, but I don't put in any manure or anything with seeds that I don't want, so I don't need temperature to kill pathogens or weed seeds.  So far, I have not seen any pathogens in my samples, which could have been present on the materials in the pile.  I also find, that a lot of the seeds in the pile sprout at some point so I don't get a lot of volunteers after I spread the compost.  I highly recommend taking Dr. Ingham's class.  it opened a whole new world to me and helped me understand so much more about soil and plants.  (P.S. - I am not affiliated in any way)
 
gardener
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It's handy timing that Joe Jenkins is promoting the Humanure Handbook this week, as you mention not having access to manure! Providing your own is an option, even if it's just 1 person willing to do it using a separate toilet. Outside of that point though, Joe has a lot of research data in the book including how little turning compost actually helps with oxygen levels- within 15 minutes those levels are back to where they were before turning if I recall correctly. And the amount of nitrogen lost goes from 70% loss of no-turn up to 85-90% loss with regular turning if I recall. The mixing does help get the edges of a pile mixed in and moistened, but if you surround the pile so that the edges don't dry out and what you put in is well mixed and moistened, then the edges should compost without needing the extra work.
 
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Once I realized the best soil in my garden was under the compost pile, and it never got used, I started doing Hugel trenches.  As deep as a shovel blade will work, unless you've got big stuff.  No turning, no keeping it damp, no drying out in the wind, no protecting it from mice and packrats, no hauling.  I always know where the next batch goes because I keep a 6-10 shovel blades trench open and waiting.  Digging isn't that time consuming compared to what managing a compost pile is like.    Bury it, then you never touch it again.
 
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Angelika Maier wrote:We don't have a lot of time and turning compost takes time. And we're getting older! So which no turn compost works best and how to best inoculate? I don't want a compost tumbler, it is way too small for our garden. We have a big compost at the moment, four bays.



Angelika,

There is no reason to turn compost in bins. It's a myth. This is discussed in detail in the Humanure Handbook 4th edition, Chapter 11, beginning on page 125. Here is a partial excerpt:

"What is one of the first things that comes to mind when one thinks about compost? Turning the pile. Early researchers who wrote seminal works in the composting field, such as King, Howard, Gotaas, and Rodale, emphasize turning compost piles. For example, Robert Rodale wrote in the February 1972 issue of Organic Gardening, “We recommend turning the pile at least three times in the first few months, and then once every three months thereafter for a year.”  A large industry has emerged from this philosophy, one that manufactures expensive compost turning equipment, and a lot of money, energy, and expense go into making sure compost is turned regularly. For some compost professionals, the suggestion that compost doesn’t need to be turned at all is utter blasphemy. Of course, you have to turn it — it’s a compost pile, for heaven’s sake.  Or do you? Well, in fact, no, you don’t, especially if you’re a back-yard composter, or even if you’re a large-scale composter. The perceived need to turn compost is one of the myths of composting...

This goes on for quite a few pages. Open windrows may need to be turned, but compost in bins does not. You can read it fee online here: http://humanurehandbook.com/downloads/H4/Ch_11_Compost_Myths.pdf

Links to the book are here: https://humanurehandbook.com/store/Humanure_Handbook.html

Videos are here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFD5D0CE103FD3A56

Joe Jenkins

 
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