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Show me your composting setups! (pretty please)

 
Posts: 61
Location: Zone 5ish, Ontario, CA
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Greetings everyone!

I'm moving out of an apartment in the city to an old farm house on an acreage next month. Needless to say, I'm very excited and already dreaming up projects to start once all the priorities are taken care of (priorities = doing a million surprise repairs). One of the top things on my list is to build a compost pile. There appears to be a small (a bit larger than a trash can) compost bin by the garden but it seems laughably small for how much composting material we'll accumulate during the garden cleanup.

So, after scouring the internet for ideas, I wanted to ask you all what composting setups you've tried and like best. Bonus points if you live in Ontario or a similar climate (zone 5ish) where you've kept composting through cold winters. I'm renting and the landlords will still have access to the property on occasion, so ideally I'm looking for something that looks a little bit nicer than an open pile.

Finally, my noob questions -
1) Right now I keep kitchen scraps in the freezer. Can we add frozen scraps to the compost or will this just mess up the temperature of the pile?
2) What do you do with your compost pile when winter rolls around? Do you let it go dormant or keep it active?

Thanks in advance!
 
pollinator
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Hi Hayley,

First off, congratulations on your move. My much better half and I are looking to buy a house on a bit of land in the next few months out in the Quinte West area. Whereabouts are you?

If you want something that looks neat and tidy but takes a minimum of time to slap up, I would grab some pallets if you can find them and assemble them into an open cube. you can affix chicken wire to the top with a closure to rock the cube around to turn the pile without spilling, and you can affix a handle, or sockets for such, along one edge.

As to frozen additions to a hot pile, I would just leave them to melt on top for a bit if you're concerned.

As to the winter, I like to make sure that wherever I am making my outdoor winter additions is accessible but away from my door, depending on what garbage scavengers lurk about. But otherwise, adding scraps to a frozen pile just increases the size of the frozen pile. We have a pet Flemish Giant rabbit, and we use wadded raw paper for her bedding, so we have no problem adding carbon to our piles regularly. Ours start to cook as soon as the outdoor temperature allows the pile to thaw. If I add some liquid gold to it and if it's sheltered enough, it starts cooking almost no matter the outdoor temperature, although a blanket of snow over and around the composter certainly helps.

Incidentally, in the city where I am now, we use one of those small, black composters, and honestly, they function much better as ground-connected vermiculture bins, at least for us, considering the amount of carbon going into it.

In any case, good luck. The first change I will make to my composting when we get out there is to get four to six laying hens. No more oversized pieces, hello easily poachable eggs (fresh eggs poach the easiest and best, by far, and I love Eggs Benedict variations, including ones where I swap the Hollandaise for a good white sauce-based white cheese sauce, white cheddar, swiss, brie, or camembert).

-CK
 
gardener
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Location: Ontario - Currently in Zone 4b
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I use a dog exercise pen to contain my pile. Fast, i had one on hand i wasnt using, and looks neater than just placing on the ground, and easy to move it over and turn the pile if i am ambitious.

Used to have a solar digester and quite liked it, but it froze in the winter in 3b.

Over the winter i compost in vermibins, plastic buckets i put plenty of ripped up newspaper in loosely,and fill with vegetable scraps, tucking it under layers of newspaper. They dont smell, i had these for years in an apartment without landlords or even roommates having a clue, and dont even bother to put holes in them. In the spring, youcan put their contents into the outdoor bin,  or if they are well degraded, put the soil directly on the vegetable garden. I do tend to get plenty of volunteer tomatos and squash in my vermicompost though.    
 
pollinator
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My current compost scheme is to not compost. Sorta.

Food waste:
Anything that can go to chickens turns into eggs.
Anything that cannot go to chickens goes in what I call the "refuse bin." Essentially a cage that sits near the woods where I put all the biological nasties, including moldy foods and cat waste (I use pine pellets rather than litter.) That keeps the chickens and wildlife out while letting bugs and soil contact do the breakdown work.

Yard waste:
Currently all yard stuff is going into piles near the garden for soil building. AKA "composting in place." When I have the right materials, I'll put them in play. For example, yesterday I had grass clippings, woodchips, and chicken poo that I spread between plants. That way I'm blocking weeds, feeding plants, and building soil all at once. The chicken poo was pretty fresh, which is a no-no, but I used sparingly and mixed with the other materials.

The stuff above is my current strategy. A similar strategy was earlier this year when I accumulated material and made two huglekulturs with the additional input of wood.

A past strategy was an active compost cage where I layered grass, leaves, and chicken poo. But that was too much work for me, turning it and keeping it moist for little reward. Plus a tree ate it, which is a lesson in itself. https://permies.com/t/139281/Tree-Ate-Compost#1091920 . The cage from this misadventure became my refuse cage.

So needless to say, there's a LOT of different ways to compost. The best way for you is whatever you feel is the least effort and easiest rewards.



 
Posts: 284
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Our first compost pile was made from pallets, 5 of them to be exact, in the shape of an E. We use spikes of rebar pounded into the ground to hold the pallets. When the bottom edge rots, turn the pallet upside down, "thread" the pallet back onto the rebar and you're good.

I found at a thrift shop a few years ago a "dirt machine" plastic composter. We use that for food scraps these days, keeps many critters out of it year 'round. The old compost piles are now composting what takes a long time to break down: sawdust from the root cellar boxes, jerusalem artichoke stalks, etc.

Compost is spread over the vegetable garden in fall and again in late spring. We've always added coffee grounds year round but used to stop putting veggies in it Labor Day - Memorial Day to discourage predators looking for the scavengers and discourage the vermin/scavengers from living on our place all year.

J
 
Posts: 35
Location: Southern NH
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I am currently just using open piles.  However I agree, I made the best compost with my pallet system.  I would add to a chamber until it was full.  Then I would flip it over a spot and begin filling the first chamber with new material.  By the time compost came out of the other end it had turned 5 times.  At that point it was added to a large pile to age until needed.  One thing I would say though, the pallet system provided some spots for snakes and critters to nest - they like the heat.  Haven't had that problem with the open piles.
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master pollinator
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Brian Michael wrote:I am currently just using open piles.  However I agree, I made the best compost with my pallet system.  I would add to a chamber until it was full.  Then I would flip it over a spot and begin filling the first chamber with new material.  By the time compost came out of the other end it had turned 5 times.  At that point it was added to a large pile to age until needed.  One thing I would say though, the pallet system provided some spots for snakes and critters to nest - they like the heat.  Haven't had that problem with the open piles.



That looks much like the way I do it and I have had great results.
 
pollinator
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The majority of my composting is just picking a spot in the garden to pile stuff up. Generally have at least two spots so I don't have to carry stuff too far. Once or maybe twice a year I toss the big stuff into another spot and plant something. It's easy and seems to work very well.

For general kitchen scraps I have a 3' by 4' bin made of hog panels. The floor is about a foot off the ground. At the ends are concrete blocks with T posts laid between and a section of hog panel laid on them. Sides are just sections of hog panels fixed at the corners to more T posts. first layer on top of the bottom panel is small tree branches to help reduce the size of size of the openings in the panel. Then goes in some grass or weeds or whatever I have. Kitchen scraps are tossed in and when they make a whole layer some more weeds or sticks or something goes in. Every once in a while I toss in more branches or bigger pieces of rotting wood.

Lots of stuff falls out through the panels and is easily scraped up and tossed back in. I never actually turn or move the whole thing and I don't worry about temperature or things like that . Since the bottom is a foot off the ground I easily just scrap up the more composted stuff that falls through the bottom and either use it in the garden or toss it back on top. If I want more compost at a time I just give it whack or two with the shovel and more falls out.
 
Posts: 24
Location: East Tennessee, zone 7A-ish
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When we lived in the city, we used a couple of 55 gallon drums with holes punched in them to compost. We just dumped stuff in one until it was full, then let that sit and finish, and started filling up the other.

Now that we're out in the country, my husband built a double compost cage out of some chain link-like panels/gates he had on hand. Each side is about a 4 foot cube; and the entire front of each side swings down flat to the ground, making it easy to use a wheelbarrow to dump things in or harvest finished compost. It's also designed so the whole thing can be picked up (no bottom for complete soil contact) and moved.
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My husband loves me.
My husband loves me.
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One side down.
One side down.
 
gardener
Posts: 3603
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I use chickens mostly.
I pile in  anything I want and they eat it or shred it.
I rake out the un-shredded bits and turn the rest with a garden fork.
IMG_20200907_153555.jpg
Chickens at work
Chickens at work
 
pollinator
Posts: 774
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Hayley,  Here is what I am currently using.  Got this from the Elaine Ingham videos.  I added the ground cover so it would not leak out the sides.
I will modify this into squares so I can have three 5 by 5 by 4 foot tall compost heaps going and then I can use my front end loader to mix them up.
I get the horse panels from Tractor Supply but almost all places carry them.
I cover with a layer of dirt at the recommendation of Dr. Redhawk.

I have neglected to turn this pile over and will soon build my next generation compost piles.
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Horse Panel covered with ground cover
Horse Panel covered with ground cover
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Layer of dirt on top.
Layer of dirt on top.
 
Hayley Stewart
Posts: 61
Location: Zone 5ish, Ontario, CA
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Wow! Thank you so much for showing me your setups and strategies! I'm definitely feeling the chicken envy right about now, too. Oh and Chris - I'm out in the Guelph area.
The property I'm on has a bunch of outbuildings with old supplies left by the previous owner so I'll have to see if there are existing materials on hand I can use to get started. Otherwise I'm definitely feeling a lot of these pallet designs or simple cage structures. Y'all are so creative. I also really want to try building some hügel beds or variations where you add the materials directly to the soil to break down.

In any case, feel free to keep posting - and I'll be sure to share the results for whatever I end up doing.

 
Hayley Stewart
Posts: 61
Location: Zone 5ish, Ontario, CA
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Chris Kott wrote:Hi Hayley,

First off, congratulations on your move. My much better half and I are looking to buy a house on a bit of land in the next few months out in the Quinte West area. Whereabouts are you?

If you want something that looks neat and tidy but takes a minimum of time to slap up, I would grab some pallets if you can find them and assemble them into an open cube. you can affix chicken wire to the top with a closure to rock the cube around to turn the pile without spilling, and you can affix a handle, or sockets for such, along one edge.

As to frozen additions to a hot pile, I would just leave them to melt on top for a bit if you're concerned.

As to the winter, I like to make sure that wherever I am making my outdoor winter additions is accessible but away from my door, depending on what garbage scavengers lurk about. But otherwise, adding scraps to a frozen pile just increases the size of the frozen pile. We have a pet Flemish Giant rabbit, and we use wadded raw paper for her bedding, so we have no problem adding carbon to our piles regularly. Ours start to cook as soon as the outdoor temperature allows the pile to thaw. If I add some liquid gold to it and if it's sheltered enough, it starts cooking almost no matter the outdoor temperature, although a blanket of snow over and around the composter certainly helps.

Incidentally, in the city where I am now, we use one of those small, black composters, and honestly, they function much better as ground-connected vermiculture bins, at least for us, considering the amount of carbon going into it.

In any case, good luck. The first change I will make to my composting when we get out there is to get four to six laying hens. No more oversized pieces, hello easily poachable eggs (fresh eggs poach the easiest and best, by far, and I love Eggs Benedict variations, including ones where I swap the Hollandaise for a good white sauce-based white cheese sauce, white cheddar, swiss, brie, or camembert).

-CK



This is super helpful, Chris. Thank you for your pointers and good luck on your move too! Eggs benedict is also my favourite thing to eat and I feel like a real lush for never making it myself. My neighbour keeps chickens so I will have to test your theory on the fresh eggs being easy to work with.
 
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I prefer open piles for the quality of the compost and simplicity of the setup.

I have used plastic bins, bays made of pallets, and cages made of wire all based on what I have seen from many different publications. In my most recent move two years ago I settled on open piles. I like that I can turn my compost from all sides. I can shift piles over when I am ready to age them. I don’t have dry spots where fire ants can nest or weedy spots that I cannot reach. I can lay my sifter down next to a pile to sift out big bits for my seedlings. The easy access allows me to turn frequently. This has been the best compost I have ever made.

I combine fresh grass clippings from my neighbors with aged leaves to make a long pile. Then I add kitchen scraps and yard trimmings every day until the pile is just the right size. If we don’t get rain, I keep the top moist. If the pile gets too large, I get exhausted moving it, so I have developed a sense of size based on my energy and strength.

I turn the large-enough pile to the right a bit and start a new pile just like before. I continue the process only adding to the fresh pile always shifting over the aging piles. The oldest piles, if unused, are combined farthest to the right. The freshest pile is to the left. To clarify, I only add new scraps to the freshest pile until it is a manageable size . As I shift and turn each pile to the right, I will shift any large uncomposted materials back into the
fresher piles to the left.

As others have posted, I like the idea of composting directly in your growing beds if that is an option for you. Your growing beds will benefit from nutrients leaching out of you pile though I do wonder about salt accumulation. I do not have enough growing space to try that in my suburban property.

I will try to post a picture, but it never does justice to the cycle and compost quality.

For reference, I am in zone 7. Compost makes fast here in the summer and slows down but does not stop in the winter. So I keep the process rolling all winter, but without grass clippings I can afford to add more table scraps for longer before I shift my piles rightward.

 
Jason Schmidt
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Here's a follow-up photo. The "freshest" pile that I'm adding to is in the foreground. The farthest pile is ready to use. I'm about to get a new load of leaves and grass clippings to form a new fresh pile. Please use the wheelbarrow for scale.
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Open pile compost set-up.
Open pile compost set-up.
 
Posts: 100
Location: Chipley, FL
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Here's my current setup.



The wire fencing tubes are latched together by bending the wire... but those are starting to break from repeated use so I will be using small carabiners to hold them together soon.

I don't turn, I just fill one gradually with mostly mowed grass (it's what I have mostly as biomass) and when it's full let it sit while I fill up the other.  When the second is full, I pop the first open, pitchfork the semi-compost out across the top of what you can see on the ground, then let the chickens work it.  I'll occasionally shuffle some down towards the coop (slight slope) so that the more done compost ends up down there, and the less done is up at the top near the piles.  Seems to be working fine.  Less turning than my old 4-bin side-by-side system.
 
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I do the wire circles but I also have a huge outdoor worm bed. It’s one of those square Rubbermaid double wall composers.  I gave them each a counter bucket with a hinged lid  so all neighbors throw all their food waste and pulp paper in it. I sift it twice a year. I use most of the castings and sell the worms. I sold 10 pounds this spring and 5 of the 9 pounds I harvested a few weeks ago. @ 20.00 a pound it’s worth the effort. Plus it keep food waste out of the landfill. The worms move deeper if the ground freezes but if there is food, they eat almost any plant and also paper, they repopulate quickly when they surface. Freezing is not a problem here in Oregon.  
 
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I do a variety of things:

1. A metal garbage can with holes drilled in it and sunk 1/3 of its height into the ground specifically for things I don't want to compost where rats or raccoon will give trouble.

2. Holes in the garden where the compost will direct feed the surrounding plants. This works if really wet stuff, but not for drier stuff or larger quantities.

3. ARK raised bed with a compost tube - in my climate these only seem to work if I've got rinse water or ducky water to pour in as well as veggie scraps or the plants just don't get enough water to be productive.

4. Chicken digester - our chickens are mostly in portable shelters, but when it's really wet in the winter, we use mulch and veggie scraps to manage their deposits.

5. Long windrows: there are times of the year where we generate large quantities all at once, particularly in the summer when I help out a friend by taking a trailer-load of fresh horse shit every 2 weeks. The problem for me was that the pile would get too wide for its height. Then one end would be half decomposed and I'd end up dumping more on top so I never had finished results. There is no way I've got the time or strength to "turn" these piles, nor enough soft "soil" to cover them as mentioned above (solid clay more like it). They'd end up covered in a tarp, which would solar degrade, so I was looking hard for a better system this year.

6. Pictures below! I went to a version of a pallet system: A) tied together with used baling twine (watching it carefully so I garbage it before it starts to solar degrade, but I can get it free from locals). B) expandible so if I need another one I just add it - I'm up to 5 since the start of "horse shit season". C) I cut skids for the front, filling them in so I don't get shit on my pants when filling, but not so high as I can't manage the lift-over easily. D) since it's tied, I can untie if I want to shovel it out. E) Someone abandoned old pond liner in this area before we bought and I'm using scraps of that instead of tarps. It's heavier so it doesn't blow,it will tolerate the sun better, and it seems to help the pile stay hotter. F) It appears to be doubling as deer fencing - too wide for them to jump, so I'm planning to expand the program specifically with that in mind. E) When it's finished, I can remove the pallets, and plant right into the "dirt" - I'm thinking pumpkins next year! It will have improved the clay soil underneath, so if I can get the junk that's in the way to the south moved this winter (rocks, old wood, Himalayan Blackberry...) I can build next years 5 feet further south to work on that clay, and put more permanent beds where the compost is this year.
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It keeps on growing!
It keeps on growing!
 
pollinator
Posts: 408
Location: Missouri. USA. Zone 6b
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I have used pallets or logs to encircle to compost piles. First picture showed the one that I kept going throughout the winter, noting the snow had melted from the heat released. I planted a fig tree in that spot this year.
Second picture is my future garden area that I am composting in situ to build up soil underneath. I have done a quarter and sow some covercrop mix. With hot composting, I should be able to get the whole 16'x16' ready before winter time. Not so pretty right now but the garden will be next year.
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Composting in winter
Composting in winter
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Composting on site
Composting on site
 
Posts: 49
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I recommend the Johnson Su bioreactor. Just google and you will find out how to build the unit.
It is so powerful that it can just be used to inoculate seeds and produces great results.
Have research papers on the university website.

Cheers
Anthony
 
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Here is a video of our Composting Toilet Install on our RV.  

 
Dennis Bangham
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I just completed a Jumbo compost bin for my future orchard.  Cattle panels used here 16 ft by 4 ft by 4 foot.  Should last me a while.
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gardener
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This is my winter compost/chicken sanctuary set up. The idea is that the greenhouse helps keep the food scraps from freezing and also provides an area that is protected from wind and snow for the chickens.
 
Posts: 61
Location: Europe - CZ, Pannonian / continental zone
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Vermicompost is a great stuff for a garden and one can achieve it in a large ammount almost without any cost and work. I created my own garden vermicomposting system that works just perfect. It is simply a hole in the ground of rectangle shape, cca 4 x 2 meters/yards large and some 2-3 feet deep. Its walls are covered with some dense wire mesh as a protection against moles and mice. This hole is divided by several planks in two identical parts, gaps between them are essential.  I throw compostable material into one sector for a whole year. It is totally full at the end of the year. I have colonized this stuff with redworms in the beginning. In the second year, I am filling the second sector  letting the worms do their work in the first one. I also plant some squashes there.. I empty the first sector at the end of the second year - in October/November.  I get some cubic meter of vermicompost. There is not almost any redworm in it as all of them have already crowled into the fresh sector.. So only work is to dig the hole in the very beginning and then emptying one sector every autumn. No aditional cost and work. Just simple. Redworms are thriving there for whole year as the compost never freezes inside..
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master gardener
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Near the house.
IMG_0414.JPG
near the house
near the house
 
John F Dean
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Near the garden
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Near the garden
 
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We do a deep litter of woodchips from the power company and leaves in our duck/goose run. Sometimes straw/hay goes in too. We turn it regularly and add more as needed then pull it out after about a year. I might consider it at least partially vermicomposting as the compost is always loaded with earthworms. I'm in the process of pulling last years compost out and rebedding them for winter now.
 
steward
Posts: 5700
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I create compost exactly where the plants grew. Mowed to shred plant residues. By spring they will be incorporated into the soil.



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composting in place
composting in place
 
Hayley Stewart
Posts: 61
Location: Zone 5ish, Ontario, CA
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I know I said it before but... the creativity here is blowing my socks off. I'm definitely going to be trying a few of these techniques. I think this is my new favourite thread!

We've started with a simple 2-bay bin set up using free pallets from a business down the road. We dug some shallow trenches for the pallets to sit into and wove them together with some grape vine that we cleared out. Then we found a roll of wire and used that to secure the front panel so we can easily open it if need be. We've made a massive leaf pile right next to it so we can add toss in some browns whenever we add kitchen scraps or have things from the garden going in. Of course, I now realize we probably set it too close to some trees so we'll probably have to relocate it in the near future...

Most of our weeding efforts (for things that aren't chock-full of seeds, anyways) have been à la Sepp - pull em up, flip em upside down so their roots are not touching the ground, and leave them to be re-incorporated into the soil over time.

There's still much work to be done here (ahem.. converting neglected ornamental garden for permaculture) so we'll have lots of opportunities to keep trying new ways to build soil.

 
pioneer
Posts: 139
Location: western NY (Erie County), USA; zone 6a.
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I don’t have pics, my compost pile has been just 4’x4’ square and perhaps 3’ high and contained by an old snow fence. Into it I dump grass clippings, kitchen scraps, leaves and weeding debris. Although I will keep that, next year I will attempt more, of what I think is called "chop and drop" or "composting in place." Dump and spread grass clippings along garden paths and maybe around some plants, dig small holes here and there and fill it with kitchen scraps, or bury them underneath grass clippings (I use a huge Folger’s coffee can to keep them in before composting) and later in the Autumn spread leaves around. I love no-till gardening (I’m lazy, have a lower back pain, arthritis and bursitis) and besides, it’s how nature does it) so taking organic matter and just siting it in place in the garden sounds good to me. I found out this week when I put my garden to bed for the Winter, that when I took pitch fork and shovel to the compost pile, it was all matted and stuck together, and very heavy. It wasn’t smelly at all, but it was very dense. I did see steam coming from it, so the decomposition was coming along nicely. But I thought I’d see more soil. So after looking around permies.com I ran across some threads detailing other composting methods. So, I’ll try that since the decomposition process may be quicker. Since my garden next year will be doubled in size, (around 300 sq ft to 600ish. Just a guess, my spatial relations figuring sucks) I think the composting in place may work well.

Hayley Stewart wrote:
Finally, my noob questions -
1) Right now I keep kitchen scraps in the freezer. Can we add frozen scraps to the compost or will this just mess up the temperature of the pile?
2) What do you do with your compost pile when winter rolls around? Do you let it go dormant or keep it active?

Thanks in advance!



1) I keep them in a coffee can on the kitchen counter. It fills up every couple of days or so and then I toss it in the pile.
2) My dream is to get an aluminum garbage can and use that (drill holes in bottom and lid for drainage) but in lieu of that, I just stumble across the snow and toss the coffee can contents in it.
 
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I finished filling my new bin today. Merry Christmas to me! I will eventually build a permanent series of compost bins but I haven't decided where yet, so this nimble setup is great for now.

I bought the foldable dog exercise pen and dog crate via online classifieds for $35 total.  I lined the crate with some hardware cloth. The crate is in the middle of the pile, surrounded generously by chopped leaves, filled with kitchen scraps, leaves and coffee grounds. Hoping this will discourage rats and raccoons. The crate door faces up for when I want to add more scraps.

The pile is a little on the dry side so I'll cover it after this week's rain & snow. I'm looking to scavenge an old wool, cotton or jute rug for the cover. I have some burlap coffee bags from the same cafe where I get buckets of coffee grounds and those will work until a pretty rug shows up.
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Compost bin with dog exercise pen
Compost bin with dog exercise pen
 
Dennis Bangham
pollinator
Posts: 774
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama), Zone 7B
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I did an upgrade to my large Compost Bin made out of cattle panels.  I now have 4 smaller cattle panel compost bins, where I can flip the piles from one bin to the next.
Each one is 6 feet wide, 5 feet deep and 50 inches tall.  I put in a rain shield so it does not get too wet.  
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gardener
Posts: 1049
Location: North Carolina zone 7
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I decided that I needed to collect humic acid for another project. I drilled lots of holes in the top of a four inch corrugated pipe, then wrapped it in old landscape fabric to keep the pipe clog free. I will collect some of the humic acid but not all. The rest will passively flow downhill to a series of hugelculture beds I’ve been making for months. Seemed like a good idea while making compost.
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Humic acid collector
Humic acid collector
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Humic acid collector
Humic acid collector
 
pollinator
Posts: 372
Location: Virginia
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I give pretty much everything to my compost crew to handle. Other items go to their guards.  Very little gets past all these guys.
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The Bird Herd Compost Crew
The Bird Herd Compost Crew
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Chicken Guardians
Chicken Guardians
 
gardener
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Location: Southern Illinois
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My garden bed IS my compost setup.  Any compost I get simply lay on the surface as a sort of sheet of mulch.  I grow exclusively in wood chips composted by Wine Cap mushrooms so there is ample biology to break down any compost.  A little added to the top only adds to the microbiological fun.

If I get a really large amount of compost, especially all at once, I will find an unused corner of the garden and pile it up.  I don’t really bother layering it, I just let it sit for about a year.  At the end of the year the microbes from the pile and soil knit themselves together and the topsoil is all the richer.   I do get some additional nutrients, but in my recent experience the soil biology and decomposers are more important than the chemistry.

Eric
 
Posts: 13
Location: Sudbury, Ontario Zone 4b
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Hello Hayley from Sudbury Ontario, Zone 4b for me. Been composting half a century... literally. However, I’m still learning, and science is helping us. I tried to read all the entries and may have missed it, but has anyone introduced you to the Johnson-Su bioreactor? It’s ultra neat, and holds massive quantities of material that will create a super healthy slightly fungal rich compost when finished.. and you never have to turn it. Drs. Johnson and Su (married couple) are from California. LOTS of YouTube vids on them and their invention.

About winter composting. I always just add to the top of my present bins/heaps, whatever method I happen to be using. It will thaw come spring... the piles will freeze solid in my winter, but that never seems to bother much, except that it obviously slows the composting process.

I will be building a JS unit come spring and all my winter stockpiling go will go into it, along with accumulated coffee grounds from Timmys, six bales of spoiled organic hay, and about 8 bales of straw just salvaged from our church’s Living Nativity presentation... complete with a bit of sheep and donkey poop - animal participants at the Living Nativity. When Covid dies, and it will, I will also resume collecting dehydrated food scraps from a government building in Sudbury. Will also add a bit of spent beer mash that I think I can get my hands on... but a little goes a long way. I used to have some and it went anaerobic in the pile - I thought I was going to get evicted from the hood...STINKYYYYY. One good thing about the JS bioreactor is that it cannot go anaerobic. Since the JS system is never turned, the fungi grow and the compost matures, as it should, for one year in a warmer climate, but I’m thinking it will take two summers to complete in the land of the Frozen Chosen. I also intend to pile up as many bags of leaves as it takes to totally surround and cover the reactor in late fall. I will keep a thermometer installed to monitor internal temps. This will be an interesting experiment that I don’t see anyone has ever tried, so I need to publish the results... in due course. Will uncover n early spring to allow air to freely move through air chimneys again and make sure heap stays aerobic. Feel free to connect. I get to Toronto often - after Covid - damn you virus - to visit my daughter. If you’re interested, she maintains a garden blog, aimed primarily at helping newbie city gardeners - mostly non food oriented though. TheFabulousGarden.com
 
Garth Wunsch
Posts: 13
Location: Sudbury, Ontario Zone 4b
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Dennis Bangham wrote:I just completed a Jumbo compost bin for my future orchard.  Cattle panels used here 16 ft by 4 ft by 4 foot.  Should last me a while.



Are you not concerned about this going anaerobic? You have LOTS of beautiful wood chips. Have you considered a Johnson-Su Bioreactor setup. It will make an aerobic fungal rich compost, which is precisely what an orchard needs.
 
Dennis Bangham
pollinator
Posts: 774
Location: Huntsville Alabama (North Alabama), Zone 7B
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Garth Wunsch wrote:

Dennis Bangham wrote:I just completed a Jumbo compost bin for my future orchard.  Cattle panels used here 16 ft by 4 ft by 4 foot.  Should last me a while.



Are you not concerned about this going anaerobic? You have LOTS of beautiful wood chips. Have you considered a Johnson-Su Bioreactor setup. It will make an aerobic fungal rich compost, which is precisely what an orchard needs.



I am doing the hot composting method and it does get very hot.  I flip the piles using my small tractors front end loader.  Save a lot of back pain.  
I flipped the piles when it was below freezing and a lot of steam and a very interesting effect.  I would see small white glowing spots that I thought were ashes but they would cool down and turn back to black.  I wonder what is causing this.

After cooling off the piles I will distribute around my orchard and that should accumulate the bacteria and worms.
 
Posts: 19
Location: New England, Zone 7a
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While My winters are not as harsh as yours (I’m in zone 7 in MA, though my microclimate is much closer to zone 6), I’ve recently started doing a “contained” compost setup which was born out of an idea to use some hand-me-down plexi domes for a skylight.

I build a frame to fit them out of 2x10s and supported the back with some Lally columns. Shelter from the cold winter winds helps a lot to help heat up the pile, and I’m convinced that the domes over the top help trap some heat while also letting some light in (additional heat).

I’ve never had success making hot piles at home as the materials accumulate more slowly, I didn’t have shelter, and the chickens would scratch it into a much wider, shorter mound. I used to work with a nonprofit where I ran a composting program, so processing hundreds of tons of food waste annually and making 100 foot 6x6 windrows. Now my piles at home are cooking too!

Here’s the gist of it:

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How it started
How it started
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How it’s going
How it’s going
 
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When my mom was young she won a scholarship via 4H with her gardening skills. She was a life long gardener. Toward the end she would put food scraps in a blender and store it in the refrigerator. Shed add scraps every meal. When it got full she would run a little water in it and blend. Then she would pour it in a blender sized hole in the middle of her garden squares.
 
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