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Compost heap placement  RSS feed

 
              
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I am FINALLY starting my compost pile at home. I would like a worm bin, but I don't have the resources at the moment.

Just curious if I should try and keep the heap out of direct sunlight. Would it dry it out to fast, or would the extra warmth from the sun help kick start the breakdown.

 
Ardilla Esch
Posts: 216
Location: Northern New Mexico, Zone 5b
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Generally it is better out of direct sunlight in order to maintain moisture.  Maybe if you are in a cool, wet place you would want the dry place. 

I live in a dry place so my piles are shaded and I still have to add water.

The sun isn't necessary for heat.  If you have the carbon to nirogen ratio remotely close to the optimum, the pile will produce plenty of heat.  It can be difficult to get small piles to build heat though.  If you have small piles they can easily freeze.  You don't have to compost at high temps, but it does help kill seeds in the pile.
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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I concur, out of the sun.  The solar heat gain is a minor issue.  The heap will warm up within a couple of days.  The drying action of direct sun will slow down the heap rather than speed things up.

If the location dictates direct sunlight, cover the heap with dry leaves.  These will serve to insulate the pile in the cold season and give the heap some water retention capacity in the sun.

If you live near a bait shop, a couple dozen worms can be had for a couple bucks.  It's a small scale start, but give it time, you'll have all the worms you can stand.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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Ken Peavey wrote:If the location dictates direct sunlight, cover the heap with dry leaves.  These will serve to insulate the pile in the cold season and give the heap some water retention capacity in the sun.

If you live near a bait shop, a couple dozen worms can be had for a couple bucks.  It's a small scale start, but give it time, you'll have all the worms you can stand.


I would put both of these a little more strongly:

I'd suggest a layer of leaves, straw, or other browns up to a couple inches thick to help retain warmth, moisture, and any volatile nutrients like N or S, regardless of location. If you're in a wet location, it acts kind of like a thatched roof, and prevents too much water from getting in.

Similarly, my pile contains quite a few worms, as well as beetles, centipedes, and at least one salamander. It lives in an enclosed concrete-floored space with no exposed soil, a gap 3 feet wide with a building on 3 sides and a plastic-filled barbed wire fence on the fourth. I have never intentionally inoculated it with anything at all. I guess some worm eggs must have found their way in on some soil that was clinging to weed roots, but I have no idea how the salamander got there: Oakland averages under 20 inches of rainfall a year and, as others have mentioned on this forum, is very thoroughly paved.  Life finds a way.
 
Paul Cereghino
gardener
Posts: 856
Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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Ditto the above... and since I am building my pile incrementally.  Each addition of around 5 gallons of kitchen and chickenmanure if followed by straw and soil.  Despite proper C:N ratio it never really heats, and so is a defacto worm bin... despite its eventual size.  If I want a hot pile I get a truckload of horse manure... I have only gotten a real hot pile by building a 3-4' pile in a single batch.  I am content with worms and one rotation a year, and a 9 month cycle.

 
Aljaz Plankl
Posts: 386
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Place the heap where you will plant something in the future. It can also be in the shade...Probably the heap will not stay forever... Just a thought...
 
                          
Posts: 211
Location: Northern California
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If you want a worm bin, rather than a heap, you definitely want shade.
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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I understand some people build a compost pile in a normal garden bed, as part of the process of rotation. And some crops that do OK growing out of a hot pile; I think someone mentioned curcubits as a good choice.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
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one comment on something i found helpful..last year i put the compost heap right next to an area i planned on working up this spring.

after working the area up this spring..the compost pile was easily shoved over onto the new area and some left where the pile had been..so the pile was easily moved to cover the entire new bed about a foot deep x 20' long by about 10 to 12' wide new bed area..

this couldn't have worked out better for me..i then deposited some soil over the top and raked it smooth and now have a very fertile large bed where i plan to plant cole crops and some squash around the edges..some of the pile was moved to the rest of the garden prior to this so other areas also received some compost ..but this area is super thick with it and very very fertile
 
                              
Posts: 461
Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Our piles are out in the sun but that is just because that is where it was convenient to place them.  We are in a wet climate so don't have the major drying problem except in especially dry springs.  We keep the pile very well covered with a tick layer of leaves over the top and dig down into it to add to the pile then re cover.  This keeps smells in and some of the excess rain out.  We don't have to worry about our pile freezing but we do need to keep and eye out in case it were to get too hot.  I don't think we have ever exceeded 160 F though.

Anyone who has a problem getting their compost hot, I recommend adding pee to it some but this would not be good for a "worm bin" so only do it if you have  enough compost for the worms to escape to a cooler location in the pile.  We once managed 150 F with a 2 foot circle of hardware cloth about 3 feet high full of leaves by adding about half the urine of three people for less than 3 weeks.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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