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Bale bag composting?

 
R Ranson
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Believe it or not, I've never had a compost pile. But last night, I had one of those middle of the night ideas that combines bale bags and compost pile. I'm wondering if it will work.

Gardening all my life and no compost pile? How can that be? Usually I trench my compost, although I've tried worm composting and when I was living in the city, we had this electric composting machine that sort-of worked a bit, sometimes. But never a great big, heat composting pile. I think it would be fun to try it.

A friend of mine has access to Wool Bale Bags. These are about 1 meter by 1 meter by 3 feet high - roughly, at a guess and hold over 1000 kilo of wool. They look roughly like this:



They are made of a woven plastic which is semi-breathable, but not very good at letting water through it. He gave me a few of these bags to see if I could find a use for them on the farm.

Right off, I don't like that they are plastic, but they are free, so maybe they can be useful. If I put one on a pallet, fill it up, then I can use the tractor to move the pallet.

I read somewhere that an active compost pile needs to be at least 1 meter cubed.


If I fill up the bag, slowly-ish, with weeds and kitchen scraps for green, and dry leaves and semi-rotten haylage for brown (plus the haylage is making heat, so I'm putting some of the white fungus in the bale bag as well). I layer brown, green, brown, &c. I generously water it. Will this make the kind of environment that produces compost that kills off weed seeds?


 
R Ranson
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My preference for composting is to dig a trench, chop up the fresh veggie matter, cover with soil thus digging next trench. The biggest advantage of this is that the compost is on site. About 95% of it is soil by 6 weeks. I usually have a small strip of garden where something has just been harvested, so I dig my compost (including the extra veggie matter from the harvest) there. The downside of this is that I cannot compost weeds or things with seeds. This is why I'm thinking to try heat composting.

In the bag, I layered about a few inches of semi-rotted haylage (very active stuff making lots of heat right now) and fresh green things (weeds mostly, with a few kitchen scraps in there for fun). That was late last night, this morning it was producing lots of lovely heat. So I've gathered up more weeds, including some rather nasty ones I couldn't compost my normal way (via garden or goat), layer fresh weeds, semi-dry grass clippings, active haylage. Not sure if grass clippings are green or brown matter at this stage. I've been giving it a good watering as I go along. I would love to know if I'm doing it the 'right way', but of course, there are so many different right ways to do something like this. I'll know if it's 'right' if I get a soil without weeds growing in it.

I'm not too fond of using plastic, but it was something that was heading for the landfill so I'm giving it one more use before it gets there. Still don't know if it will work or not.

If it does work, I see the advantage of this is I can fill up the bag where the organic matter is, use the tractor to take this to the place where I want the compost. When the compost is ready, I tip out the bag (not so easy as it sounds), leave it in a pile for a few weeks to finish composting, then spread it around. What do you think? Possible?



 
R Scott
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Good plan IF it breathes enough.

I love those tote bags, Great for storing all kinds of materials. Especially free.
 
R Ranson
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I'm glad it's a good plan. We'll have to wait and see how well it breaths.

I filled up the rest of it. A couple of hours later, it's producing heat. I don't think I've made it moist enough, as the water just wants to drain out the sides and bottom of the bag. I'm off to water it again.
 
R Ranson
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I put my hand in the compost this morning, and I think I burnt myself. I am amazed by how hot this is. Is it going to be a fire hazard?

How will I know when to do the next step? What is the next step? I was thinking of cutting the bag open, then making a pile with the contents, so that the outside (which may not have decomposed so much) goes on the inside, and the inside on the out. Wetting each layer as I go along. Do you think this would start composting again? The goal is to put this new pile near where I want the finished compost to go, then use the compost as mulch. Good idea or bad?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Personally I would just leave it alone as an experiment. Moisten it if it feels dry but otherwise don't mess with it and see if it composts down to nice stuff in a few months.
 
Consider Paul's rocket stove mass heater.
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