1. Welcome Hearth.com Guests and Visitors - Please enjoy our forums!
    Hearth.com GOLD Sponsors who help bring the site content to you:
    Hearthstone Soapstone and Cast-Iron stoves( Wood, Gas or Pellet Stoves and Inserts)
    Caluwe - Passion for Fire and Water ( Pellet and Wood Hydronic and Space Heating)

Composting Made (Relatively) Easy

Post in 'The Green Room' started by Eric Johnson, Jan 7, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    5,705
    Loc:
    Central NYS
    I usually do this in the fall, but sometimes I don't get around to it and it gets done in the spring before planting. This year I did it in mid January. I put it off as long as possible, but eventually ran out of excuses.

    Anyway, the point of this thead is that you don't need to put a lot of work or thought into an endless supply of compost, as long as you've got the raw material and room to store it.

    This pic shows my compost pile being excavated for the good stuff at the bottom. In the picture, it's that brown layer that follows the contour of the pile, extending halfway up. It looks a lot like dirt. The stuff on top is mostly leaves and grass clippings from fall cleanup.

    Attached Files:

    Helpful Sponsor Ads!





  2. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    5,705
    Loc:
    Central NYS
    I pitchfork the top layer off and use it to make a new pile, shown from a different angle on the right. The pile in the foreground is the one being excavated. The new pile forms the basis for next fall or spring's compost. When the process is complete, all the good stuff will be recovered from the bottom of the first pile, and everything from the top layers that needs more aging is used to make the new pile.

    Then, next spring, summer and fall, I'll simply pile grass clippings, leaves and other yard waste on top. By the time fall rolls around, that pile can be excavated the whole process started over again.

    Attached Files:

  3. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    5,705
    Loc:
    Central NYS
    What do I do with all this good composted organic material? Lay down a 4-inch layer on the garden beds and turn it under. When it's time to plant, all you have to do is break up the turned soil and plant away. The compost is in a layer about 8 inches down, and when the roots hit it, the plants take off.

    We also have compost bins, mainly because it's a lot easier to get to them in a typical winter with the kitchen scraps than it is to reach the compost pile.

    Attached Files:

  4. kevinmoelk

    kevinmoelk New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 29, 2006
    Messages:
    730
    Loc:
    Wapato WA, in the Yakima Valley of Central WA
    Good post and nice pictures. That compost/soil in your garden looks nice and dark... ready for the veggies.

    -Kevin
  5. DavidV

    DavidV New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2005
    Messages:
    792
    Loc:
    Richmond VA
    Hey that's funny, I had my 10 year old out there pitchforking and turning our compost pile. it's 4 years of compost that has only been used once for a 2 wheelbarrel load scattered on the front yard. Don't really have a big use for it but we compost everything we can anyway. It cuts down on waste.
  6. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2006
    Messages:
    4,809
    Loc:
    Schenectady, NY
    We try to compost all of our kitchen scraps and leaves. Last year we moved into our house and put in a garden. This is the first year we will have added the composted scraps, leaf mold, and rotted cow manure to it. I'm anxious to see what happens with the garden this year.

    I wish I had the room for a pile like yours.

    Matt
  7. Harley

    Harley Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2006
    Messages:
    997
    Loc:
    Ashfield, MA
    Very nice pics of the compost - looks real good Eric... just out of curiosity - do you add any of the ash to the piles and mix that in? (I may have missed that in the post if you had that in there). The good rich stuff really looks great on the garden - wish I had that here. Have you ever checked the pH of the compost, or had to "tweak" it a little with lime or anything else?
  8. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    5,705
    Loc:
    Central NYS
    A certain amount of ashes winds up in the compost, mainly because I get lazy and rather than bagging it up and putting it out with the trash, sometimes I just dump it on the pile.

    Aged compost is supposed to be neutral. I guess that's the natural state. I don't think it hurts to put ashes in there, but they're certainly not necessary and if you had too many, it would raise your pH too much, I think. But yes, there's probably 10 or 15 gallons of wood ash in the whole pile. After a year, it all looks like dirt, anyway. Turning it introduces oxygen, which really accelerates the decomposition process.

    We have good soil, but it's heavy to clay and it tends to compact. By adding compost every year (and not walking in the growing beds), we're able to keep the soil loose and spongy, not to mention full of nutrients that result from the compost breaking down. Other than some worm casting and compost teas, it's the only fertilizer I use. I also use it for mulching all during the growing season. Screen it and it's the perfect amendment/mulch.
  9. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2006
    Messages:
    4,809
    Loc:
    Schenectady, NY
    How long does it take your egg shells to compost? Long after the orange peels and veggie scraps turn to dirt the shells seem to hang around.

    Matt
  10. EatenByLimestone

    EatenByLimestone Minister of Fire

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2006
    Messages:
    4,809
    Loc:
    Schenectady, NY
    What do they do in the stove?
  11. MrGriz

    MrGriz New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 2006
    Messages:
    1,022
    Loc:
    Waterford, WI
    Reunite with the carton they came to the house in?
  12. tjg911

    tjg911 Member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2006
    Messages:
    40
    Loc:
    Northwest Connecticut
    Eric, you are right, pile it up and let it breakdown.

    I used to be rather dedicated, I'd mix the greens and browns correctly, moisten things if needed, keep the pile covered and always turn the pile after 4-5 days. Doing that can make compost in 14 days but it is more work than I care to do now. Besides, at my other house I'd bag my grass clipping for the compost pile, I prefer to leave them on the lawn as I don't use fertilizer. There's nothing like turning the ole compost pile in July, you know it's 91 degrees, the dew point is 71 and the pile is steaming, heated up to nice toasty 130 degrees perhaps 140! I actually had to step back after turning over a section to let the heat dissipate, it was just too hot to stand near it!

    Nowadays I get 3 dump truck loads of shredded leaves dumped in the fall perhaps every 2nd or 3rd year. I have lots of browns to add to the greens in my real compost pile I maintain during the summer. I still make compost I just do it at a slower pace - compost happens. After 1 year a lot of those leaves are crumbly and at the 2 year mark it all looks like soil. Now this was just a pile of leaves so there's basically no nitrogen involved other than sometimes there is a bit of grass but the end result does look like soil. I'll toss 2 or 3 yards into the garden prior to tilling in the fall.

    If I was really on top of this, I'd get the same amount of manure as leaves but I'd need a front end loader to turn those piles not to mention the fun my dog would have eating and rolling in the manure!

    BTW, I'd be careful with wood ashes, don't add any until you do a soil test for your ph. I seldom put them into the actual compost pile or the garden. My garden's ph is 6.4-6.8 (depending upon which year's test) so I am careful with wood ashes. Watering with a little wood ashes in the water (2 gallons water and 1 cup of shifted wood ashes) will kill root maggots and typically those vegetable that need that protection also like the alkalinity. More vegetable like an acidic soil so try to stay around 6.2 to 6.8, 7 is neutral, above 7.5 can be a problem.

    Tom
  13. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2005
    Messages:
    5,705
    Loc:
    Central NYS
    That's all true, tjg.

    It's a lot like firewood. If you get far enough ahead, things (drying, composting) just happen on their own.

    And I second your caution on ashes.
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page