I am totally obsessed with my compost these days. It started out with bucket after bucket of pulled dandelions needing to be hot composted rather than tossed in a pile to go anaerobic only to disperse their seeds a year from now. I’ve finally figured out the secret, and it certainly isn’t revolutionary or anything new. It’s awesome in my world though.
The secret is simply to fill up your pile within a week or so, and then close it off to new materials rather than having this forever compost pile that never really produces for you. I’m fortunate to have a plentiful supply of chicken manure, so I’m able to layer it all in there with my weeds, food waste, and leaves. You have to kind of balance all those materials out for a good carbon to nitrogen ratio, but it really isn’t rocket science. It’s really just a matter of having enough volume for the pile to really get cooking, and it hasn’t take long for all that microbial activity to heat things up to 150 degrees or more. This heat is sufficient to kill off weed seeds and pathogens, and results in a much faster composting time.
Horrible picture, but squint a bit. The one on the left is 2 weeks in and needs to be turned. I’m still working on filling up the one on the right. My chickens produce tons of material for me. This winter I used 25 bags of leaves in the chicken run and two bales of hay to cover the ice and provide a diversion. This is in various states of decomposition and is slowly being moved to piles. I’m also experimenting with a food and whatever pile in with the chickens. We’ll see how that goes.
If you’re reading this you’re probably already aware, but I just want to stress again what I’ve finally figured out. Fill up your entire pile, make sure that it’s a cubic yard or more, and then let it do its job. I’ll turn it every week or two, and then when it’s done rotting later this summer I’ll empty the whole thing out on the gardens and lawn, and start over. BOOM! No more of this forever adding never taking. You’ve got to fill it and empty it of it’s treasure when completed. Where most folks go wrong is forever slowly adding to a bottomless anaerobic pile that never really produces anything (cold composting with little to no oxygen within for the microbes that are the strong men in this work).
This time of year there are PLENTY of weeds and other materials to fill up multiple piles in my small 50 X 140 foot yard in the city (along with the aid of our fruit and veggie scraps). I’ve got three of them going now, and am looking forward to building a fourth soon. It helps that I have the chickens, and also that we still have lots of leaves left over from the fall (lots of neighbors drop them off for me). Being obsessed with compost and gardening from the ground up is producing great results for me. We’ve fallen off the wagon in recent years, and now my passion for producing compost has me out there constantly digging weeds for the sheer pleasure of finishing off another pile! It really works, and I heartily recommend it! I love the pile method as well, rather than the small plastic Earth Machine styled composters for city slickers. The bigger the pile the better, and the plastic things just aren’t big enough. Plus, why wouldn’t I proudly display composting in action???!!!! The soil up here needs a lot of help, and I’m proud to not waste anything over here.
Speaking of rotting things, am I the only guy that does this? I slowly rotate my shoes until they finally reach the end of the line: the lawn work shoes. These are falling apart, and are nearly worthless, but for some reason I’m trying to make it through with them this season. It’s a sickness really, and my wife would love to get rid of half the t-shirt drawer for the same reason.