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Lawton's 18-Day Compost

 
Brandon Greer
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Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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I'm wanting to make some compost for this coming Spring's garden. I've been watching geoff lawton's videos about his 18-day compost. My questions are:

1. Does it really only take 18-days and does it really get hot enough in the winter? It's warmer in Dallas, but we've had several below freezing days this year.

2. In his video, he has several different components. How many of these are really "required" to create compost? I don't have a farm yet, so my resources are limited. I plan to buy some straw and get some free cow manure and I can probably come across some "green" material. Is this enough?

3. As for green material, since it's winter, my choices are limited. I of course have some evergreen cedar trees. There are also some trees with some green leaves left of them, but is this an option? What exactly should I be looking for with regard to green material?

4. How much material do I need to get to 1 cu. meter? It looks like it's mostly straw so I'll use that as a benchmark. About how many bales of straw should I pick up?

Thanks!
 
Nick Kitchener
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Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Here's an online calculator to play with:
http://www.klickitatcounty.org/solidwaste/fileshtml/organics/compostcalc.htm

The more varying the ingredients the more diverse the organisms in the compost. If you can find fallen leaves still then they're a good source of carbon and you won't need to purchase straw.

Some people use shredded newspaper as a carbon source (there are some concerns at permies with regards to the inks). Avoid glossy print material.

Temperature does play a role. The colder it gets then the more heat is lost from the pile and the slower it goes. Cover the pile with plastic to keep some heat in. If you're experiencing cold weather then I'd say give it an extra week and give it more time between turns.

Geoff's video show him making about 1 cubic meter. You can make compost without green material but it doesn't have the same biolife. I would personally try asking a restaurant or supermarket for fresh produce scraps - vege offcuts, peelings etc rather than stripping trees of foliage. Give them a good wash to get as much chemicals off them as you can. If you have warm enough winters where lawn clippings are available then they're great as long as the lawn hasn't been sprayed.

Bare minimum for compost? A nitrogen source and a carbon source ratio 1:30. Poo and paper
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Nick's suggestions were right on the mark. I intend to build one of these during the PDC I'm teaching which starts at the end of the month. It will tie into "reuse of urban waste streams" and as such we will NOT be purchasing any materials.

--for carbon materials we will use leaves, woodchips from a tree service and shredded paper - my student will be collecting their leaves and shredded paper for this project. (what a great way to get rid of junk mail!)
--for greens, students will save their veggie peelings and garden prunings. We are also working with my neighbor who works for a local CSA to provide us with their waste green stuff. Grocery stores, restaurants and farmers markets produce a lot of green waste - usually they're only too happy to give it to you! The only green waste I WON'T take is Bermuda grass - I've spent WAAAAAYYY too much time trying to get it OUT of my yard
--I generate chicken poop and worm poop here and have a partial bag of steer manure someone brought over
--weeds - especially ones with long tap roots, are great nutrient accumulators. Mallow (cheese weed), stinging nettle and wild mustard abound on my property and in the 'hood.
--I'll whip up a batch of "worm juice" to add extra microbes to the pile.
--A tarp at this time of year where we live should help with decomposition.

As for if it will take 18 days - Geoff, in his online PDC states that it will probably take closer to 30 days for a beginner using this method as mistakes will be made. He goes on to say that he's used this method in climates around the world with a variety of ingredients and has gotten good results in 18-20 days. Keep in mind, he's probably done this 100 times or more.

I plan on photographing my progress - hope you do the same! We can compare notes.
 
Nick Kitchener
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Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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I put one of these down in late fall. 10 days later it was frozen solid. I think it's going to take a bit longer than Geoff says this time around
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Nick Kitchener wrote:I put one of these down in late fall. 10 days later it was frozen solid. I think it's going to take a bit longer than Geoff says this time around


I expect you're right - living as you do in the great, white north! However, right now in Phoenix is a great time to make because I don't need to water it incessantly - in summer things get dry FAST!
 
Brandon Greer
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Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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Thanks for all the great info! The calculator is especially handy. Thanks to everyone's advice, I'm going with leaves. We had a crazy freeze a few weeks ago while the leaves were still on the trees and caused a bunch of tree limbs to break off. Now all up and down our street (in the city) there are tons of bags of leaves. I filled my pickup up and will probably do another run tomorrow.

Anyway, where can I get a thermometer like Lawton has in his video? What are they called?
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Search for "compost thermometers". The one Geoff uses is this one: http://permaculturenews.org/shop/tools-equipment/reo-temp-compost-thermometer/
 
Nick Kitchener
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Location: Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada
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Jennifer Wadsworth wrote:Search for "compost thermometers". The one Geoff uses is this one: http://permaculturenews.org/shop/tools-equipment/reo-temp-compost-thermometer/


That's a nice one!

I use one of these:
http://dx.com/p/1-5-lcd-digital-indoor-outdoor-thermometer-black-2-x-lr44-148170
It's not ideal (need to mount the probe and wire inside a tube), but it gets the job done. And hey, it's less than $3.50
 
Jennifer Wadsworth
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Yeah - that one of Geoff's is HEAVY DUTY. I purchased this one years ago from the guy who wrote the Humanure Handbook - worked great and has a 2 ft probe to get to the middle of the pile where the "action" is (without having to dig into the middle of it) - $19.99: http://humanurehandbook.com/store/Compost-Thermometers/
 
Brandon Greer
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Thanks for the links. I'm going to buy one I just can't figure out which size I need. For a 1 cubic meter pile, how long does it need to be?
 
Nick Kitchener
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1 cubic meter pile requires a 50 cm probe to reach the middle on average (a pile is not a perfect cube )
 
Dale Hodgins
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Regarding the question of season and outdoor temperature. I have produced compost piles that reached scalding temperatures during snowy conditions in Ontario Canada. The pile must be large and it's best to cover it with dry leaves or straw and something to keep snow and rain off the pile. Small piles don't get warm enough to do much in winter.
 
Nick Kitchener
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Regarding the question of season and outdoor temperature. I have produced compost piles that reached scalding temperatures during snowy conditions in Ontario Canada. The pile must be large and it's best to cover it with dry leaves or straw and something to keep snow and rain off the pile. Small piles don't get warm enough to do much in winter.


Most definitely. 1 m^3 is too small for a winter pile. Jean Pain used 3 m^3 from memory. But turning a 3 meter pile every other day is beyond my efficient laziness threshold
 
Brandon Greer
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Nick Kitchener wrote:
Dale Hodgins wrote:Regarding the question of season and outdoor temperature. I have produced compost piles that reached scalding temperatures during snowy conditions in Ontario Canada. The pile must be large and it's best to cover it with dry leaves or straw and something to keep snow and rain off the pile. Small piles don't get warm enough to do much in winter.


Most definitely. 1 m^3 is too small for a winter pile. Jean Pain used 3 m^3 from memory. But turning a 3 meter pile every other day is beyond my efficient laziness threshold


Do you mean it won't work at all or that it will simply take longer?
 
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