Starting a simple compost bin

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by TinaNWonderland, Apr 21, 2005.

  1. TinaNWonderland

    TinaNWonderland Well-Known Member

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    With tomorrow being Earthday (and since I've been planning to for a while anyway :cool: ) we're going to start a compost heap. Basically, I've read that I can use about any natural stuff - food trimmings, eggshells, leaves, grass clippings, weeds, coffee filters, shredded newspapers, wood shavings, farm animal manure, etc - just no meat, dairy, or greasy stuff, which is easy since I don't eat meat and dairy. :)

    I already have a big pile of chicken coop crap that I cleaned out last week, sitting under a tree. Now, can I just go ahead and add my future compost stuff to that? The hubby is supposed to bring me home 4 pallets tomorrow, which I plan to sort of box around this stuff, leaving one side that can be opened to make it easier to stir it up. I'm thinking it would be pretty hard to mess this up :p , but I thought I'd get check here and make sure. :) Pretty much I'm supposed to add even amounts of brown and green matter, keep it slightly damp and not let it get too wet when it rains. Is that about all I need to know? Let me know if I'm screwing up my big pile of chicken poop, please! :haha:

    Thanks,
    Tina
     
  2. Ana Bluebird

    Ana Bluebird Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Yes, I love compost piles and keep one going all the time. I'm a lazy composter though and don't turn it or balance it much, sometimes I'll water it, but I usually accept that it's going to take awhile and just give it six months or a year. I put up the wooden bin---lots like your pallets, usually somewhere in or near the garden, but assessable from the house too. Then I go to putting in until it's full, I'll either start another one someplace else or I'll just pull off the pallet, leaving the pile to decompose as is and move to another location to start again. When the pile is done, I spread it where it is or scoop up the good stuff to use elsewhere. It's great stuff! Of course if you are in a hurry, turning it speeds things up a lot!
     

  3. Sedition

    Sedition Well-Known Member

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    You compost pile sounds fine, but there’s a pretty good chance that you are going to kill the tree.

    Fresh chicken manure is one of the highest sources of raw nitrogen. In an ‘open pile’ like you have, as soon as it gets rained on, the bacteria will start munching and convert must of your nitrogen into ammonia. This’ll make your eyes water, and the nitrogen (nitric acid?) washing into your topsoil is going to burn the tree roots.

    I generally don’t compost my chicken manure in an open pile. When I clean out the manure straw in the spring, I till it directly into the soil in my fallow garden (I rotate two gardens). Tilled under like this, it traps more nitrogen in the soil, and as it composts so hot, it kills weed and volunteer seeds. Mid May, after the soil cools down, I sow an annual clover / ryegrass mix. The ryegrass picks up some of the nitrogen and gives me a heavy green manure, and the clover traps nitrogen into the soil for next years garden.

    If you want to compost it, mix your chicken manure 1 part to 9 with ‘brown matter’ like leaves or straw bales. This is the reason I don’t compost it. If I take five bales worth of manure/straw out of the coop, I should mix it with 45 more bales of straw for a good compost mix. I just don’t have that much time on my hands.
     
  4. hollym

    hollym Well-Known Member

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    I layer used henhouse litter, weeds, that is when the chickens don't get them!, household stuff they don't eat like eggshells and coffee grounds. I'm like the lazy composter, don't turn it often, but usually flip it when I need some compost and it is on the bottom. My 'bin' is made of pallets with hardware cloth along the back and works just great! Compost is great stuff, and if you do turn your pile every day or so, and keep it moist, you can have finished compost in less than a month, depending on your outside temperatures and your dedication, lol.

    Have fun!

    hollym
     
  5. Kris in MI

    Kris in MI Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Another lazy composter here. I have multiple bins since it takes longer to compost if you don't turn, aerate, etc.

    Mine are a bunch of pallets wired together; each one is three sided and open in front for access. When one bin gets full, I just start tossing stuff into the next bin (they are side-by-side and share a pallet on each end). Usually I let them sit until the next spring, then empty out the 'donest' ones and mix into the garden. They are located at the 'head' of my garden.

    I'm not real rigid about layering the brown-green-brown-green. Everything gets tossed in except dog and cat manure, dairy and meat scraps. Whatever order it's in, that's how it gets put in. Sometimes I'll have alot of 'green' with weeds and sometimes it'll be mostly 'brown' leaves (which makes a nice batch of leaf mold by late spring).
     
  6. Shepherd

    Shepherd Well-Known Member

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    I've never had a compost pile before, but want to start one.

    Is cat and dog manure bad to add to it?
     
  7. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    That chicken coop straw can be fully composted in a matter of days. Use a fifty gallon drum with a baffle and set it up so that it will rotate around. Using a small engine, keep the drum turning, about 1 1/2 turns per minute. I know that sawdust and cow manure, in the proper volumes, will be composted in 72 hours. I believe what you have may take less.

    If you are interested I can get you plans for the composter.
     
  8. hollym

    hollym Well-Known Member

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    I'M interested, Maura!

    Shepherd, yes, they are full of toxins, you don't want to use them. You also want to keep other people's cats out of yours so you don't get gifted with their wastes. I use more pallets, on top and in front! Where would we be without pallets?

    hollym
     
  9. Topaz Farm

    Topaz Farm Well-Known Member

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    Maura, I would be interested in barrel composter too.
     
  10. Pony

    Pony Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Some people who run hot piles will use any and all animal manures, though, and say that they work very well. (I'm talking about 2-year piles, though -- gives lots of time to cook out the bad stuff.)

    I recommend The Humanure Handbook to anyone interested in extreme composting.

    http://www.jenkinspublishing.com/

    http://journeytoforever.org/compost_humanure.html

    For some reason, I can't get the link to the online book to open, but maybe it will be operational later:

    http://www.weblife.org/humanure/default.html

    Happy Composting!

    Pony!
     
  11. Alice In TX/MO

    Alice In TX/MO More dharma, less drama. Supporter

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    I don't worry about the prohibition on meat and dairy, either. Just chunk the scraps in the pile, let the microbes work a year or so, then use the compost.

    In the forest, nobody sorts the compost...leaves fall, critters poo and die.
     
  12. Charleen

    Charleen www.HarperHillFarm.com Supporter

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    We use pallets and have 3 bins set up, we keep them rotated. Chicken manure sits in an open pile separate from the compost and we wait at least 1 year before using it on the gardens.

    Something that we use to really get the pile cooking is grass clippings. Not clippings from a lawn that has been sprayed with any pesticides or other chemicals. It must be clippings that are chemical free.
     
  13. Mary in MO

    Mary in MO Well-Known Member

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    I've composted every way known to man and these days do the lazy version. I put tree trimmings on the bottom for aeration and then throw in whatever is at hand. One year I did have yellow jackets nest in the bottom (youch!). I've put in horse stall bedding (years and years of that), fish remains (buried those deep so the coons didn't dig it all up), 25# bags of spoiled rice-that made some nice quick compost, grass clippings, mulched leaves, kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, filters, tea bags, more tree trimmings.

    When we bought this house we built a 40x60 raised garden from scratch. We layered horse stall remains, got a tree trimming service to dump their shred on the driveway and put a layer of that on it, watered it, then more horse stuff, more shred and topped it off with a layer of topsoil. The horse poo was pretty ripe for a few days but the ammonia quickly burned off. We had a beautiful garden in no time at all.

    I did the same trick with the huge berm in front and it is going like crazy too. It rejuvenated an old dying pine so we didn't have to take it out.

    I'm starting worm bins this year to get castings for inside plants. I don't turn my piles anymore. I just rotate bins. They are made with pallets on three sides. I've got two on the back fence and one inside the garden corner by a pear tree. The garden one will be moved out to the garden proper for a new "greens bed" when it's finished this fall.
    Mary
     
  14. marvella

    marvella Well-Known Member

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    i'm one of the lazy ones too.


    fyi- the reason to not put in meat is because it draws flies and maggots, and wild animals, and your pets dig in it. the reason to not put cat and dog poop in it is because they often carry worm loads than can easily be passed to humans. do not compost cat and dog poo.

    pony- thanks for posting that!! it's my favorite!!!
     
  15. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I just spoke with my father-in-law. When he taught at Central Michigan University he ran experiments on speedy composting of manure and vegetable matter. In the right volumes, cow manure and sawdust will be fully composted in 72 hours.

    He is looking up his paper as I write this, and will let me know when he's ready to make copies of his work, including diagrams and recipes. We agreed on $5.00, which should cover postage, etc. I will post this on the barter board; you can mail a check directly to him.

    I'd like to put up a web page showing the various ways to compost, including Harold's. We'll see.

    As for using dog and cat poop: preservatives. Unless you are feeding a preservative free food to your pet (read "expensive"), the preservatives will slow down the decomposting of this manure.