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help me make 7 cubic yards of compost in 8 weeks!  RSS feed

 
Andrew Roesner
Posts: 17
Location: Denver, CO
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Hi everyone! I'm the new guy!

I've just moved into a new place. My landlord is allowing me to install some raised beds in the back yard and now I need something to fill them with! I've just had a about 4 yds of good quality horse manure delivered which I plan to compost over the next couple months. The manure is between 6 and 12 months old and is scraped from pens. Now I need some carbon and some high nitrogen inputs to help my pile burn hot and fast given the short time frame, and I'd like your opinions on some of these ideas and please correct my thinking if i've messed up somewhere:

Nitrogen inputs:

coffee grounds. I've used them before and I plan to hit as many starbucks as i can in the next few weeks and take all i can get. are grounds good as an activator?

spent brewing grains. I'm a homebrewer and I've used them in the past. one of the hottest piles i've had was made up with a lot of grain in it. it must be the sugar content that's helping it cook. i have some contacts in the brewing industry so getting my hands on quantity shouldn't be a problem.

produce waste from grocery stores. i know they throw away sooooo much. has anyone every tried this or had any luck? i'm thinking some managers would be cool and some would turn you away.

Carbon inputs:

hay. it's my go to carbon. I'd rather not have to go buy it though.

leaves. i would prefer to use leaves but not sure where to find large quantities that haven't already been used up in the community compost center. still researching.

sawdust. very high carbon source and i know where i can get A LOT, but it doesn't supply the bulk i need.

and finally,

popcorn. yep, movie theater popcorn. i have occasion to be in a movie theater for work every 2 weeks, and just the other day i walked out with a very large garbage bag full of stale popcorn. the manager thought i was a little strange for asking but didn't have a problem with me taking it. i'm guessing that a movie theater throws away a big bag full of the stuff every day. i asked the kid behind the counter and he said that of course they don't butter it, that would cost too much money. just the minimal oil from popping it is all that's in their. question is, is this nitrogen or carbon? good idea or bad idea?

thanks in advance for the replies!
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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is the popcorn salted?
 
Andrew Roesner
Posts: 17
Location: Denver, CO
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yep. slightly salty. and nope, not ashamed that i ate some!
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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For your carbon , you'll want a source that is high in cellulose rather than high in lignin. Bacteria can break down cellulose rapidly. Only fungi can break down lignin, and its a slow process.
Cellulose materials include hay, straw, dried grasses. Lignin materials are woody- wood chips, leaves, sawdust.
A compost heap will heat up fast and stay hot if the mix is right, but this will kill off the fungi in the hot parts of the pile. It takes a while for the fungi to repopulate and finish off the ligning.
If it's speed you want, let the bacteria do their thing, keep the wood out of the heap.
 
Justin Deri
Posts: 80
Location: North Yarmouth, ME
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Why do you need to wait to use the horse manure? Just compost it now. Heck, it has already aged quite a bit. I'd just mix it with whatever you want to compost, get the pile hot (> 131 degrees) for 3-5 days and then turn it and do again. Get the whole pile hot for a few days and pathogens will be gone. Or if you don't want to turn the pile, make some sort of forced air system to aerate the bacteria: http://www.instructables.com/id/Building-a-forced-air-composting-system/.

If you're looking for more bulk, I'd try arborists. They may have loads and loads of wood chips you could add.

Best of luck

Justin
 
Cj Sloane
pollinator
Posts: 3734
Location: Vermont, off grid for 24 years!
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Here's a link to the Berkley method which makes compost in 18 days.
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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You could make 7 yards with the Berkeley method, it is just a material handling problem. My back aches just thinking about it.

Got a pickup? buy one of these: http://www.harborfreight.com/truck-bed-cargo-unloader-60800.html#.UzF-teNdW4I
Pick up your material, then back up to where you want the pile and unroll. You can get the bottom half of the pile done that way with less work.
 
Steve Laubach
Posts: 8
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You might want to try using your excessive popcorn as an insulator.

I was talking with my father in law about how I was trying to figure out a good way to insulate a sub-grade garden and he told me something interesting. He used to do R&D in the auto industry and they discovered popcorn was a better insulator than spray foam. He couldn't remember all the details but he thought they would compress it and then slice it into whatever shape they needed. If you could keep vermin out of it you could probably compact it into a metal drum and have a really good insulator. I asked him if it was good to chop it up before compressing it and he said you don't want to do that. So I guess you just pack the kernels into your container with a plunger or something.

I haven't gotten around to testing this myself. I thought about doing it with garbage bags but that would probably get infiltrated by critters and my insulation would get eaten.

 
Andrew Roesner
Posts: 17
Location: Denver, CO
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Composting is in progress!

So I decided to basically use the Berkeley Method. I've built some bins from reclaimed pallets that are 48" x 48" x 40" high, so each hold around 2 cubic yards of material when full. The pile was built on Sunday the 20th and turned for the first time on Sunday the 27th

The "recipe" I used is as follows:

10 parts wheat straw
1 part chicken manure (fresh)
1 part soil
3 parts alfalfa hay (rotted in the bale)
8 parts horse manure (3-12 months old, from outdoor pens. very little bedding)

the manures were screened through a box screen i built to fit over the wheel barrow, and the straw and hay were broken up and spread loosely. I also occasionally mixed in the grass from busting the sod out of the area, which is also where the soil came from. Right in the very middle of the pile i substituted a layer of chicken manure for a layer of coffee grounds, spent brewing grains, and kitchen scraps mixed together. I had roughly a 5 gallon bucket of each.

My first temperature reading was 36 hours after completing the pile. The temp at that time was 150F. Just 12 hours later that evening the temp was up to 160F, and maxed out and held steady at 164F in the following days. immediately after turning the pile the temp was 104F, the next morning (monday) it was back up to 164F, but currently (tuesday am) the temp is back down to about 110F - 114F.

I'm concerned that I've done something wrong here. I added almost no water when I turned the pile because the moisture felt perfect. Should I have added more water? I'll turn the pile again this afternoon so I'll check the moisture then. I was careful to try to move the outside of the pile to the inside so maybe the materials on the inside just aren't wet enough after having been on the outside!?!

Thanks again for all the help, and I'm anxious to hear any suggestions. I'll report back this evening.
 
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