Last year I made several very good compost piles. I used the usual stuff and a good amount of chicken manure as a strong source of nitrogen. It broke down very quickly and made some very nice stuff, except that I didn't get it hot nough to kill weed seeds.
Let me qualify; The piles are big, about 4' high and 8' wide. I use a front end loader to turn them every other day or so.
If I lay clear plastic over them, will I get it hotter without killing the good microbs?
I've read it is tough to get enough air under plastic.
Does "the usual stuff" have enough loft to it? It could be that aeration was your problem (air from recent turning might only last a few minutes), in which case the plastic will do more harm than good. If the problem was not enough moisture, though, plastic could help a lot, as would, maybe, composting inside a trench or interleaving thin layers of soil or turning less often.
My theoretical understanding is that, as temperatures climb into the range where good microbes would die, their death slows the metabolism of the whole pile, keeping it regulated at a slightly-too-high but not-harmful temperature. Unless it lights itself on fire, but it sounds like things aren't that out-of-whack...
"the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men. They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
If it's for lawn, potting mix etc seeds matter, but for general garden use I wouldn't worry, just pile on more mulch. I also turn my compost...not often...and it can get pretty hot. Maybe you're turning it so often it's never quite 'cooking'? That theory works in with my outlook of doing as little as necessary, and may be complete rubbish of course!
I have tried this too, primarly because I don't till my compost piles, and I have a quick access to water so I keep them on a schedule according to their age.
But if I were you and using plastic as an insolative barrier, I would start to consider looking into thermodynamics of anything. Rocket stoves are my favorite way to visualize how to fully control your elements, they have a huge intake down low for cold air, forcing it through as many corners as it can to utilize the heat into whatever materials it runs into, then out the top as heat always rises, and with the overall tube shape from intake to exaust, all the heat leaving forces air to only be sucked in from the intake.
So my theory is if you were to weigh the plastic down and wrap it around the back, or even make a tipi of a plastic with a chimney,
THEN, have the intake on hte bottom, WITH tree branches piled together going through the middle. the space between the branches won't all get filled up with debris, so there will be come constant air intake into the center.
if you are really that intense with your compost piles and turn them every other day, I would just lay a mound of sticks on the ground before you lay your beginning brown materials, and just stip turning that, leave the brown as the nutrient sponge/vent. but if you are turning and were able to make a furrow down the center then put sticks in and pile either sides back onto the sticks, that would work pretty awesome too and make it easier to remove to return.
I personally do not want to touch my compost piles, so what I do is the first thing, lay cedar bows down as tight knit as possible as a pipe on the bottom. Then I have found a way to catch ant colonies on accident by leaving alder blocks around my composting site. I have 3 ant colonies right now on lucky accident, so I put two in the same way as the sticks on the bottom, near the sides of the compost pile. They fricken love it, and hopefully venting it like crazy with their tunnels. Plus when i throw stuff on the piles they swarm, whcih is a fun game at the compost pile. make sure the stump with the most ants is on the end though, don't wanna drown then roast them when you water
Plastic is awesome, but in reality it doesn't last forever. so find ways that your grandkids can use, or get really really thick plastic. and burlap bags to dampen the sun damage that will corrode it.
Hey I think i just came up with another good idea too that can be a machineless compost turning system.
So the idea is as you lay materials down, in layers, put a straight line of sticks horizontal along that layer. then when you do another layer of whatever, do the sticks again but chris cross from the previous.
So as you build it up there are multiple stages of sticks in the middle with the layers, all hopefully long enough to go through the pile, be able to get lifted up and sift what's above them, and not decompose in the lifetime of your compost pile.
The logic there in is first, as the compost pile burns off it's mass (primarely in the center drooping area) the sticks will have a dead space below them if they don't bend with the pile, right? allowing some air movement hopefully. Second, the sticks if reused will contain innoculating bacteria/fungi and be in the coor of it for a good start. third is what i stated in the previous post about using them as a messy vent.
and for the whole purpose of a line of organized sticks in your chaos pile. you will need to pull UP on the sticks when you want to turn your pile, it won't really be turning but it will act as a sift. you'll need to do some good leg lifts on those sticks, but if you do 2-3 at a time you'll get a heap of goodness to go through them, depending on how wet it is, and how whole the materials still are.
so since they are in layers, as you lift the stick up on one end, it will be pressing against another stick on the other side for the stoping leverage point. you can also set up the amount of layers according to how many times you want tot urn your pile. pulling off a sift layer of sticks each time getting some needed air to the center and mixing things up.
But personally I don't turn shit, because shit happens, and I'd rather be as passive as I can because otherwise I'll be busy and forget to look around at stuff that helps narrow in with logic all these crazy fuckng ideas i got.
Salad Farmin till the Berries show up.
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