Tom Pavlo

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since Jul 22, 2011
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Recent posts by Tom Pavlo

Just to give everybody a quick update. I added a ton of moldy hay into this tumbler during the fall. I turned and turned and then left it for the winter.

I opened up the bin this spring and I now have the most beautiful compost that I have ever made. Black and sandy. Really amazing stuff.

Thanks for all of your help and collective wisdom!
8 years ago
Just to update the thread, I dumped in a ton of moldy hay to the barrel and have been turning it almost daily.

I don't see too much larvae anymore. I found what looked like a nest of them and dug them out and relocated them elsewhere. I do see a few when I turn it, but not to the extent as before.

The stinky-ness has gone, but things aren't hot anymore. Should I just keep turning and turning it or is there something that I should add to get it going again? Winter is coming soon and it usually turns into an ice brick for a few months a year. Wasn't sure whether I should do something this fall.

Thanks, everybody!
9 years ago
That is the one that I have. There is a horizontal bar that runs through the center which helps add air to it. Things seem pretty loose in it--just really wet. There seem to be enough cracks between the panels to let the water drain out. Some has that you can see under it. There is no way for the larvae to get out though.
9 years ago
Thanks for all of your help, everybody!

I am going to hit the pile with all of the moldy hay that I have and see what happens. I'll be sure to update the post if I am able to turn it around.

Any other ideas would be appreciated. Thanks!
9 years ago
Thanks for your advice all. I agree that the pile has turned anaerobic on me. My real focus is on how do I get it back.

I was thinking of just keeping adding in browns. The pile is very wet, although I never really add water to it. I do add way more greens than browns as a general rule, but that has never really hurt things before. I just throw in a lot of kitchen scraps to my pile. I don't have a ton of browns, but I can keep dumping straw into things. That may help to loosen it up a bit and help get more air into the center.

Should I be concerned about the larvae that has clearly taken up residence in my pile? I think that it is probably black soldier fly larvae, but I am really not sure. I'm not much of a woodsman! Since the pile is up in a rotating bin, they aren't going to leave the pile. So do I just wait for their natural life cycle to pass and let them fly away? Does anybody think that they are offering any tilling or other beneficial work for me at this point?
9 years ago
I'm not sure whether it would matter, but I live outside of Providence, RI. The pile definitely freezes into a block for the winter!
9 years ago
So I have been composting for about three years now using a traditional, barrel-style composter. Just the basic kind that standsup--you throw stuff in the top and pull it out the bottom. This always worked okay for me, but the squirrels had finally cut enough holes into the side that I decided to upgrade this spring.

I bought a Lifetime Dual Barrel spinning composter at Costco for $100. Great deal I figured.

Here's the problem though--my compost stinks to high heaven and it seems like a major colony of black soldier fly larvae have taken up residence in my pile. I think that's what it is at least... looks like yellow/white maggot-y things about a inch to inch and a half long.

The bad smell made me think that I just had too much rotting stuff in there, so I threw in a ton of old moldy hay (as a brown item) and spun it around and around. About a week later it was no better so I figured that I may be able to get rid of the bugs by heating it up. In went a bag of fresh grass clippings, which in the past have always given me great cooking power, even if they tend to clump a bit.

So I have done both of those things but I still have a really stinky mess on my hands. I've always been very passive about my compost, but it seems like since I transitioned to a spinning one I spend more and more time managing it.

I know that someone out there has the answer for me. What am I doing wrong?
9 years ago
Skip the herbicide. It will take a decade to work its way through the soil. If you aren't going to add anything on top such as soil or compost, pull the weeds by hand. If you are going to be adding a few inches of soil, then dump it right on top of the weeds; it should smother them.

"Top Soil" is a very general term. There is a great deal of variance between what one place considers top soil and another place does. Usually, it is a mixture of dirt and compost. In general, I would say the blacker it is, the better. I would look into laying down compost first and then some top soil on top. When seeding, you can mix the top soil in with your seed to save time. Then lay down the mixture.

But be careful with top soil. Often times, you can get sold just sandy dirt. I really recommend that you price out getting a layer of compost. Once you seed, it takes a very long time to improve the soil quality. This is your big chance.
11 years ago
I would ask you about what your real goal is here. What type of lawn do you want to have? How much matainance do you really want to do on this once you get the grass growing again?

In my experience, almost all sod is nearly 100% Kentucky Bluegrass. It is a very good looking grass, handles a very short cut well, and has a deep color. However, it also has shallow roots and doesn't do well when there isn't much rain.

Being up in Canada, I suspect that you are too late for this fall. I think that if I were you, I would spend the winter putting a plan in place for how you are going to renovate in the spring.

The first thing to do is get a professional soil test done. You need to know whether there is something about the soil that is killing the grass. Get that done first and plan on fixing the Ph level if needed.

Then, I would re-read Paul's article about lawns and soil depth. You may want to take the opportunity to law down some new soil or a few inches of compost. Some towns give free compost away, so I would check there first. Before re-seeding, I would really encourage you to improve the soil first. Another thing to think about is your drainage and grading. I noticed the long gutter extension. If you have an issue with water in the basement, now is the time to dig out some drainage, such as a drywell or french drain. You could also put in a rainwater collection system. has some great publications on their website about how to do some of these things. They are not written from a permaculture perspective, but they are still useful.

Once you check the soil, fix the drainage and amend the soil with compost or loam, you will be ready to reseed. Paul recommends tall fescue. Take some time to read about your options. Talk to people in your area about what is the best grass for you. You want something with very deep roots so you don't have to mow and water as much. Personally, I like a blend of grasses because I like the variety. If you want to, buy a ton of crocuses and throw them into the mix. They usually come on sale around November.

I think that you are going to have to plan on seeding in the spring, which is tough. You are going to have to spend a lot of time pulling weeds by hand while the grass gets established. No pesticides... just pull by hand and the grass should out-compete the weeds.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!
11 years ago
As an update, I dumped a bunch of old straw into the heap, threw in some fresh grass clippings, and a bag of used coffee grounds from Starbucks. The core of the pile is so hot that I think that the ants have found a new home.
11 years ago