I'm running a small, new composting operation in East TN. I know that the situation of my set up isn't ideal, but I'm hoping to make some improvements. The site itself has essentially been a mud pit, which is unhelpful. When I started here they had windrows that were 2/3 old (basically already composted leaves) and 1/3 wood chips. It seems to me those ratios should be switched as well as adding a better N soure. I dried using mulch rather than wood chips and using cotton seed tailings as a green, but now that it's gotten cold and wet, I can hardly get my piles above 70 F. We're not permitted yet to take food scraps and my bosses don't want to use any manures, so for now I'm confined to yard waste type raw materials. I'm thinking when I get a couple dry days that combining the rows into bigger ones would help to better insulate. Also, I use an aero master turner. Any tips would be greatly appreciated!
You want the windrows to just fit the inside dimensions of the aero master first, then try to get spent coffee grounds for the nitrogen source, you will get a lot more N from them than from yard waste this time of year.
Be sure the moisture is not soaking the windrow, what you are looking for is material that feels damp but not being able to squeeze any water out with your hands.
Wood chips are more for fungi than for bacteria so the ratio of leaves to wood chip is pretty good.
Manures and food scraps are best incorporated once ambient temp is above 60 f.
Sounds like you have it surrounded: you need more nitrogen. Are there any areas on-site that could be repurposed to grow green manures, lawn space and marginal areas and such?
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
-Robert A. Heinlein
Use the freshest feedstock before most of the moisture and nitrogen leaves.
I would recommend that you limit your inputs to just raminal woodchip aka woodchip from branches that are less than 2 inches thick and all of their leaves. Another idea is to reduce the amount of woodchip even more and include more grass clipping and smaller diameter yard waste. they have a lower carbon to nitrogen ration even bone dry (thing straw or hay).
Rain/Temp. If you can keep off the cold rain, the compost will be more active.
Time/Temp. Wait until Spring/Summer to do 80% of your composting and just coast thru winter.
Oxygen. Turn the piles to get enough oxygen everywhere in the system
Soil Life. Maybe you have to get he bring some soil life mix from somewhere that is doing better locally.
Water. If the compost is setting in water, you have have to dig ditches to send the water elsewhere
Elevation. You could also raise the elevation to keep the compost drier.
Iterations are fine, we don't have to be perfect
Time is mother nature's way of keeping everything from happening at once. And this is a tiny ad:
NEW BOOK: Pawpaws: The Complete Guide to Growing and Marketing