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What is the best way to compost with wood chips and kitchen scraps?

 
carl gibson
Posts: 7
Location: Ithaca NY
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I have access to a very large amount of free wood chips and a very large amount of free kitchen scraps. I am a very inexperienced composter, and I am hoping to get advice from anyone who has experience composting with these specific materials. What ratio should I use? How thick should the layers be, or should everything be thoroughly mixed? How big should the pile be, and how often should I turn it? If I make it big enough will it heat up even in a zone 5 winter?

Many many thanks, in advance.
 
Mike Jay
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I haven't tried composting those particular materials but they should generate compost.  Jean Pain composted with just wood chips but he had a huge pile (something like 15' diameter and 15' tall). 

If I were trying it, I'd do the following:
Mix the food and wood chips fairly evenly. 
50/50 mix or a bit heavier on the food scraps.
Ensure it's damp enough as you build the pile
Coil a 4" perforated plastic drain pipe under the pile with one end sticking out to let air in under the pile.  If you do that there's a chance that the open spaces of the wood chips will draw air up through the pile and you won't have to turn it.  That's how Jean Pain did his piles.  But he didn't have kitchen scraps mixed in so that may hinder airflow.  But it will certainly increase the speed of the decomposition.
If the air pipe doesn't give good aeration (and a hot pile) then you need to turn it.  The more you turn it the quicker it composts.  Every other week is better than every other month. 

If the pile is big enough, it should keep cooking through the winter.  If it works out, you could coil a water line through the pile (like Jean did) to get free heat out of the pile.  He heated his house with his pile...

Sorry I don't have direct experience with those materials.  Good luck!
 
carl gibson
Posts: 7
Location: Ithaca NY
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Wow thanks Mike Jay, those are several good ideas that I might never have thought of on my own. And now I will try them. The power of Permies is really amazing. Does anyone else have advice or experience to share?
 
Marco Banks
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I love Joel Salatin's method of composting post-butchering animal wastes:



If you get too many wood-chips, it will take a much longer time to break down, but that's not all bad.  If you want hot compost, you'll need a lot of greens to heat up any amount of wood chips you utilize.  Comfrey and coffee-grounds are my go-to compost activators when I want to heat up a pile.

Perhaps consider trench composting, with wood-chips used as a top layer to keep the critters out.

Or you could get a couple of chickens and let them convert kitchen scraps to eggs.  The wood chips could just mulch your orchard/garden and let the girls scratch away to find the bugs and worms.

Of just be really patient and let the chips and scraps decompose over about 2 years or so.  I do a lot of that.  I turn my compost pile MAYBE once every 3 months.  (I turned it today, ironically enough).  If you are that patient, you'll have sow bugs and worms helping you out.  Probably ants as well.
 
2017 Permaculture Design Course at Wheaton Labs
http://richsoil.com/pdc
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