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New compost pile

 
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Hi y'all, New here and relatively new to backyard composting. I have a small compost pile in my backyard for a couple months. It is about 3 feet high and about 2 and !/2 feet in diameter. To start with I added some dirt, leaves, straw and some veggie and fruit discards. There is just my wife and I, so we don't have a lot of fruit and veggie scraps. I keep it watered but it does not want to heat up. Yesterday, I mulched up a mess of leaves with my mower and added them to the pile. I have had small compost piles in the past and could never get them to heat up?
 
steward
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Howdy Floyd , welcome to permies!

Do you have any grass clippings that you could add in there?( preferably without any chemical fertilizers or weed killer treatments) Sounds like you have a lot of what we call "brown" and not enough "green" ?

If you have a lot of browns then you might have to give it a lot longer. This will give the fungus / leaf mold a chance to break it down, which will also make compost of a "forest" type.
 
steward
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My guess is that you have too many "browns" and that the pile may be too small to really heat up.  I've heard that you need a pile to be a cubic yard to really get going.  If you have any green leaves, grass, chicken poop or manure it will help get things going.  Mix them in and turn it a couple times.  Otherwise, just give it time and it will break down.  It might not be till early next summer but it will eventually rot into something useful.
 
gardener
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What they said.


A 10-step process to jumpstart a non-heating compost pile.

Step 1:  Pee on it.

Step 2: Dramatically increase the size of the pile, as it may not have enough mass to really get warm and stay warm.  A cubic meter is a good size.  You can get bigger.  I regularly make piles that are 5 feet tall.

Step 3:  Dramatically increase the ratio of greens to browns.  A couple of big bags of fresh grass clipping's outta do that for you.  But just in case . . .

Step 4:  Go to Starbucks and get a couple of 5-gallon buckets filled to the brim with used coffee grounds.  BEAUTIFUL STUFF, them coffee grounds.  They are slightly acidic but not a problem.  But coffee grounds are the ultimate green to jumpstart a dead compost pile.

Step 5:  Pee on it again.  Not only is human urine nitrogen rich, but it's extra moisture for the pile.

Step 6:  Re-mix your pile, adding the new greens and making sure that you are wetting it layer by layer as you build the pile.  This may be your problem -- it may not be moist enough.  Often, I'll pre-soak the browns for a day or two in a barrel or bin or some sort, just to make sure that they are adequately saturated.  If you can use rain water for this, all the better, as city water has chlorine in it and that kills microbes.  Rainwater is high in nitrogen as well, so that's one more benefit.

Step 7:  Sneak out under cover of night and steel your neighbors' bagged grass clippings, veggie scraps, drier lint, and whatever else might be laying around asking to be taken.  Add these.  If they've got bagged leaves, these are a brown and you'll only want to add them in limited amounts or your ratios will not be hot enough.  But grab them anywhere.  Leaves are garden gold.  Use them as mulch.

Step 8:  Cover the pile with an old chunk of carpet or plastic or something.  You want to keep the heat in but keep excessive rain off the pile.  Some rain is good, but a heavy rain can over-saturate things.

Step 9:  Sit back and enjoy your favorite beverage.  Pee on the pile if your bladder feels full after the beverage, but you've done all you need to do.

Step 10:  Check it 2 days later.  It'll be hot.  Turn it every 3 days and it will be fully cooked in 21 days.



An optional 11th step is to thank me by baking me a peach cobbler.  I promise that if you follow these fool-proof 10 steps, you will dance the happy compost dance by day 21.  

Mmm . . . cobbler.
 
pollinator
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If you are at all squeamish about peeing on the pile in the outdoors/possibly public area, you could try my technique.  I add urine to my woodchips by first getting a plastic jug of cat litter.  I then pee into it for a couple of days at which point I estimate I have a gallon of urine (the container is 2 1/2 gallons). I then fill the remaining container with lukewarm water from the bathtub faucet.  Next I dig a little dished area in the top of the pile so the urine won't run right off the outside.  Finally I pour in the urine and I wait.

I agree with the above posts that you have too many browns and not enough greens.  I would also add other, slower acting forms of greens so you get a continuous supply of nitrogen to feed your abundant carbon.

Another great source of greens that have worked for me have been freshly cut, non-herbicide treated grass clippings.

Hope this helps,

Eric
 
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