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I want to start composting food scraps and garden scraps (stuff that over ripens before I get to it). I have no idea where to start.

I was surprised that I couldn’t find much help through the gtt search. I have been meaning to look into this for awhile but I haven’t gotten around to it until now.

So, any do’s or don’ts? I am guessing I shouldn’t throw a half eaten beef roast on the pile, maybe stick to veggies? Do I need to add grass and leaf clippings?

Do you just add the fresh stuff to the top of the pile, or do you stir it all in? When do you start a second pile?

How far from the house should this be?

Any tips are appreciated as I begin researching this. Thanks in advance!
 

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For such a simple little thing there are a surprising number of ways to get 'er done!

Right now I just pick a corner of the lot and dump any/all vegetation and whatever I clean out of the chicken, rabbit and turkey coops on the pile. Grass clippings, leaves, wood chips all get thrown in too. I use my pallet forks to agitate the pile once a month.

The next spring I start a new pile. After 2 years, I shovel the pile through a screen. The composted material gets used in my gardens. Anything that isn't fully composted goes into the current year's pile. So I usually have 3 piles in total at any given time.

Don't throw meats, greases, etc.. in a compost pile. They just attract nuisance animals you don't want hanging around.

Some day when I have more room I want to pour a 8'x18' concrete pad and then build 3 3-sided boxes to compost in. I'd throw a shed roof over the top of it to prevent it from getting drenched in big storms.
 

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I guess a lot of it depends on how big and what your plans are. I mainly run leaves and some grass clippings through there. My hop vines go in there as well as pumpkins after Halloween. How close it is to the house will impact what you put in there. Mine is way in the back of our lot. Probably 500' away down a big hill. We could I guess keep a separate bin close to the house and go back there once in a while to dump. I have found if you do just leaves it will take a long time to break down. You need to add other stuff like grass clippings. I have the dump from seat material collection system for my Z950R so around this time of year I start collecting grass clippings to introduce some to my pile before and while picking up leaves which is the bulk. I use the FEL on my X585 to turn it but don't do it too often. As it breaks down it builds up heat and that is needed to break down. If you keep turning it too much I don't see how it would build that heat up. I will turn mine 2 maybe 3 times a year. I have several piles going and am using compost out of it by late year 2 or 3. Not sure how big of a lot you have or how close neighbors are but where I have mine the neighbors behind us have llamas so they smell more than my compost. On the other side he is never back there.


Some day when I have more room I want to pour a 8'x18' concrete pad and then build 3 3-sided boxes to compost in. I'd throw a shed roof over the top of it to prevent it from getting drenched in big storms.
I am a little surprised you say that. I am trying to add moisture to mine all the time because it seems to stop breaking down if too dry.
 

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I am a little surprised you say that. I am trying to add moisture to mine all the time because it seems to stop breaking down if too dry.
There's a balance in moisture level that is supposed to be maintained. If a compost pile gets too wet it'll turn into mush and the whole bacterial thing will slow (or stop) until the moisture level goes back down again. On the other hand, as you've experienced, you can also have the problem of a pile getting too dry and it'll stop if that happens too.

I get enough snow that it drowns the piles and they stop doing anything over the winter. Then we tend to get a lot of rain in the spring so things don't start picking up until late June/early July. That's why my piles take 3 years to break down in to usable compost. I think if I can control the moisture levels better, I should be able to get the piles to break down faster.

So my plan is to build the bins with a roof overhead and mount gutters with rain barrels so that I can use those to add moisture as needed. i'd like to be able to keep the composting thing happening all year round and by adding the roof I gain some control over the process instead of mother nature being 100% in control.
 

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There's a balance in moisture level that is supposed to be maintained. If a compost pile gets too wet it'll turn into mush and the whole bacterial thing will slow (or stop) until the moisture level goes back down again. On the other hand, as you've experienced, you can also have the problem of a pile getting too dry and it'll stop if that happens too.

I get enough snow that it drowns the piles and they stop doing anything over the winter. Then we tend to get a lot of rain in the spring so things don't start picking up until late June/early July. That's why my piles take 3 years to break down in to usable compost. I think if I can control the moisture levels better, I should be able to get the piles to break down faster.

So my plan is to build the bins with a roof overhead and mount gutters with rain barrels so that I can use those to add moisture as needed. i'd like to be able to keep the composting thing happening all year round and by adding the roof I gain some control over the process instead of mother nature being 100% in control.
Yeah, like I mentioned I am on a 3 year cycle as well. Three piles in different stages. The biggest good/bad thing about our location is it is under a bunch of pine trees. Good because I don't get a ton of snow on them but that means I get some pine needles that drop in to the mix. I try and keep as much of that out as possible. Things get too acidic if you get too many pine needles.

Our piles are too far away to manually add water but agree that there is a happy medium. That is why I was thinking that no water (covered) wouldn't work that well but if you are going to collect the water in rain barrels, then control it, it would work.

I have enough space where I just live with the 3 year cycle. I don't use that back part of the lot for anything else but compost and a burn pit for getting rid of branches and stuff.

The best option I have for adding water is to fill my bucket on the FEL, by the time I get there, I might have 5 gallons left.
 

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I have enough space where I just live with the 3 year cycle. I don't use that back part of the lot for anything else but compost and a burn pit for getting rid of branches and stuff.
I could live with the 3-year cycle if I could produce more compost doing it. Right now I end up producing about 3 yards of usable compost each year and then I end up buying another 3-4 yards. I'd like to be able to produce 6-8 yards a year. I have a plan to get there but it isn't a huge priority right now so something else always ends up getting done first.

The best option I have for adding water is to fill my bucket on the FEL, by the time I get there, I might have 5 gallons left.
That's just painful! :laugh:
 

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I could live with the 3-year cycle if I could produce more compost doing it. Right now I end up producing about 3 yards of usable compost each year and then I end up buying another 3-4 yards. I'd like to be able to produce 6-8 yards a year. I have a plan to get there but it isn't a huge priority right now so something else always ends up getting done first.



That's just painful!
I get about 8-10 yards. We have a lot of Maple and Ash trees. It also helps that I start around Sep collecting grass clippings..

While it may be painful only getting 5 gallons there at a time, at least I don't have to take a shower when I am done... It is a little bumpy getting there.

Sent from my SM-N960U using Tapatalk
 

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Google and YouTube

There are quite few articles online - google search is a good place to start. Lot's of good advice about how to make a multi-bin system that allows one to "screen out the smaller material for use." Oh, and there's people who make a "Trommel" for sorting the material if one was so inclined.

Quite a few people use wood from pallets rather than pressure treated lumber.

And, there's quite a few videos on YouTube detailing different ways to build a composting bin.

To keep animals out of the food scraps, we have a plastic one that is more than 20 years old. It is cracking but still works to keep the critters from dragging the food around the yard. Everything else goes on big pile and it gets turned it with the tiller once in a while. If I was more serious, I'd wet it down with a hose rather than rely on the rain. I've recently used all compost I have so I'm considering building a bin that is sturdy enough and wide enough to use the loader to turn it.
 

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This is what I built, it will eventually need to handle waste from 2 horses, right now it just handles yard clippings. I went with a roof because as others have said, too wet and it stops composting. I try to mist it and agitate it 1-2 times a week. From what I have read, every 3 days is optional, but I just don't get to it that often. If I was better about it, I might be able to get it down to the 3 month cycle I have read about from fresh clippings to completed compost.

All of the side boards are removable for later replacement, and I can clean it out really well if I pull all the boards. Pallet forks are awesome for turning the piles, it sucks trying to do it with a bucket.
 

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This is what I built, it will eventually need to handle waste from 2 horses, right now it just handles yard clippings. I went with a roof because as others have said, too wet and it stops composting. I try to mist it and agitate it 1-2 times a week. From what I have read, every 3 days is optional, but I just don't get to it that often. If I was better about it, I might be able to get it down to the 3 month cycle I have read about from fresh clippings to completed compost.

All of the side boards are removable for later replacement, and I can clean it out really well if I pull all the boards. Pallet forks are awesome for turning the piles, it sucks trying to do it with a bucket.
I want that exact same setup on a concrete slab with poured concrete walls/dividers. :good2:
 

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I have a pile that will be compost,,, some day,, maybe a decade? I am good with that,,

If my math is correct, the pile is at least 1,500 cubic yards,, now,, it will shrink over time,,

Some of the wood is over 3 feet in diameter,, that may take a little longer,,, :laugh:
 

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This is what I built, it will eventually need to handle waste from 2 horses, right now it just handles yard clippings. I went with a roof because as others have said, too wet and it stops composting. I try to mist it and agitate it 1-2 times a week. From what I have read, every 3 days is optional, but I just don't get to it that often. If I was better about it, I might be able to get it down to the 3 month cycle I have read about from fresh clippings to completed compost.

All of the side boards are removable for later replacement, and I can clean it out really well if I pull all the boards. Pallet forks are awesome for turning the piles, it sucks trying to do it with a bucket.
That's REALLY nice!! Someday I'd like to have something like that on my property. My "sustainable" daughter is living with me right now and is putting a little pressure on me to start composting. I already have a good start as I have a good sized pile of wood chips on one part of my property.

My daughter is working at the local Food Bank right now and they received a grant recently to purchase and install a composting machine. From in to out, it takes about 2 weeks to make the compost and then there's a 30 day sitting period before it's officially compost. I'm really looking forward to seeing that machine once it's installed and operating. They have to jump through hoops with the EPA because this machine will turn them into a "composting facility" that's big enough to be licensed. Also have to jump through hoops with the City since the spot the machine and the compost will be sitting on is blacktopped, so now they need a water drainage plan. Sheesh!

Back to the OP.... One thing you didn't mention is the scale that you're interested in. Do you want to go with something the size that "The Satch" has? Or something smaller? You can take his design and scale it down using pallets and 2x4's instead of 6x6's and a roof. Or, you can use old 55 gallon drums (either steel or plastic). There are a lot of plans/designs on the internet for that. Or you can buy a pre-made "drum composter" and set it in the back yard.

As mentioned earlier, DO NOT put any meat on your compost pile. Also avoid dairy. You only want plant based materials going into the pile. This can include paper/cardboard as well. Remember, the smaller the material going in, the quicker it will decay/compost. In other words, tear up the cardboard or shred the paper first. Use wood chips instead of logs. You can also put things like pet litter if you use wood shavings instead of "Kitty Litter". The litter from my daughter's rabbit cage is compostable.

If you really want to get into this, you can also get scrap coffee grounds from places like Starbuck's. If you ask them, they will save a days worth of coffee grounds (will also include filters) from the store. Around here, a lot of the Kroger stores also have a Starbuck's in them, so you just need to ask. They get the request pretty often, so they're used to it. You might also be able to talk to the produce manager at the local grocery store about collecting the produce they're going to throw out. That's part of the plan (I think) for the composter that the Food Bank is putting in.

I've heard that throwing a handful of 10-10-10 fertilizer on the pile from time to time will also help speed the decomposition process.

If you have any local farmers around that have horses or cows, you might also be able to get some manure from them to put on your piles. I've heard that cow manure is better because of a cow's digestive processes are more efficient than a horse's process. Either will be good though. Try to find out what kind of herbicides have been used on the hay that the animals have eaten. That herbicide could pass into the manure and keep your garden from growing.

There's a show on PBS called "Growing a Greener World". Great show!! Search around and you can find some of his videos that deal with composting. He also mentions in one of his episodes about getting burned with manure that had herbicide in it.

Be sure to keep us posted on what direction you go with this project. :good2:
 

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I started with an igloo compost unit our recycling center was selling on the cheap years ago. it worked OK for the produce scraps I had. When it met the demise of the tractor bucket during a snow storm I started making a pile. Also at that time I started collecting leaves as well as grass clippings in the spring. I don't like to collect the grass but at the rate it grows and the thickness,i fight with windrows all summer if I don't pick it up a few times a year.
I have had 2 piles going now for about 4 years in the corner of the yard. its not in an ideal spot for sun but its out of the way. Ill turn it when I add more to the pile from the yard and just dump my produce scraps on the top. Maybe an animal will have a decent helping of fermented veggies and fruits. :laugh::laugh:

The joy of the compost pile I have found is what will grow when the pile is used elsewhere. This past spring I moved plants from around the deck into an area I am trying to recover from brush by adding plants. I filled the holes with compost, 7 total plants moved and this summer I have 4 cucumber plants growing out of the 7 holes. Another year I grew pumpkins in the garden without planing them. It is always a mystery.
 

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I have started my new composting piles this summer since my last one didn't work out. This one is definitely in it's infancy stages and now that I redesigned my garden, it's way too small. It needs to be much bigger and covered. I am thinking about building something more substantial this winter and scrapping this cheap build, since I don't have much time in it anyway. My notes below since I put this one up.

1. The sun and the wind dries out my pile too quickly - watering is a must
2. Needs shade to assist in retaining moisture
3. I want it big and wide enough to be able to accept my 72 inch loader bucket to load and agitate - using a manure fork is annoying
4. A heavy duty backing like a concrete barrier wall to resist the loader as I scoop would be nice
5. The more broken up it is before it arrives to the pile the better (ie running leaves through the mower and bag before putting them in the mulch pile)
 

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After responding to this post earlier, the idea of creating a bigger compost pile has been bouncing around in my head. I have some left over material from a couple builds I had, so I decided to purchase what I didn't have to actually build it and make it look right.

I got some treated wood, a couple odd sheets of metal, some structural screws. I will post images once I get it done. Since the wood is 8 ft, it's gonna be 8 ft wide, and 8 ft deep with a lean to roof sloped to the south. I will post pictures when I complete it.
 

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I dump my horse stall cleanings (some straw, horse dung and sawdust) in a pile on the top edge of a hill, at the edge of some woods. If I have grass clippings and leaves through the year, they go there too. The hill allows drainage, so it never stays too wet. At the end of the garden season, same time I'm getting up the leaves in the yard, I start dumping my leaves in the garden area, spread them out, and then use the loader and move stuff from the pile on the hill. Then I plow it under, and leave it through the winter. Come Spring, I'll spread 850-1100 pounds of pelletized lime, plow again, then till and plant. The stall cleanings are heavy with urea, the lime helps neutralize the acidity. I generally have a great garden as long as I get enough rain and can keep the deer and crows out of it.


My Dad built a compost box for his garden. It was 8x8 feet (two sheets of pressure treated plywood) and built on stilts, with one corner lower than the other three. The sides were about 18" high. He covered the bottom with a piece of old kitchen linoleum so whatever water collected couldn't soak through and ruin the plywood bottom. At the low corner he had a slide up section of the side, a place to shovel it out. He also placed a couple of feet section of roof gutter at the low corner/cleanout, and set a 5 gallon bucket at the end of the gutter. He'd throw anything vegetable in there; grass, leaves, table scraps, wood chips and sticks, but no meat or weeds. he turned it all once a week, and if it didn't rain, he'd water it with the hose. All the water that fell into the box would drain toward the low corner, drain into the gutter and into the bucket. That stuff was the nastiest-smelling liquid; it was black/brown like tobacco juice. He'd dilute it a gallon to four of water, and spray it in the garden as the plants were coming up. I've never seen stuff grow like his garden did. End of the season he'd shovel what was left out of the box and spread it in the garden and till it under, and start again. I don't know where he got the idea, but it sure worked well. He's been gone now 28 years.
 

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Your dad was basically making "Compost Tea". It's all the rage with organic gardeners. What they do now is take a big piece of cheesecloth and wrap up a bunch of compost in it like a tea bag. Then you leave that sit in a barrel full of water for a few days while all of the nutrients seep into the water. Then put that in the garden.

Dad was ahead of his time! :good2:

I'm thinking about getting with the city street guys and have them dump a small load of leaves for me. I did this a few years ago and put a bunch on my raised beds. This year I think that I'll run the bush hog in the leaf pile to really chop them up first.
 

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Your dad was basically making "Compost Tea". It's all the rage with organic gardeners. What they do now is take a big piece of cheesecloth and wrap up a bunch of compost in it like a tea bag. Then you leave that sit in a barrel full of water for a few days while all of the nutrients seep into the water. Then put that in the garden.

Dad was ahead of his time! :good2:
Bingo! I had a friend that used to do something similar. He built a rack (out of wood) that ran down the center of his garden bed and placed 55 gallon drums on the rack so that they sat up about 4' off the ground. The rain gutter on his house drained into those drums. As he worked in the garden he'd throw any scraps into the barrels and they'd stew in there in the sun. When he needed to water the garden he'd just use a hose attached to the spigot at the bottom of the barrels. He grew some of the nicest veggies I've ever seen. His tomato plants always seemed to be 15 feet tall.
 

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Composting is where it is at. Inspiration build from this post, as I thought the pallets were ugly. This weekend, I rebuilt my compost pile with mostly leftover supplies. It's a good start, and that way I can get my loader in there. Just in time for fall leaves. I mow over the leaves first with the mower which will also bag them as well. Once I get the foliage in, and continue with food scraps, I will lay on the cow manure.

Compost tea is a whole nother level, lol.
 

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