Compost-Along: Week 4

by Daisy

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To catch everyone up, so far we’ve made decisions about our bins and compostable materials, assembled the bins and materials, and layered our materials in our bins.  We’ve made sure every layer was well-moistened and tried our best to achieve a good balance between browns and greens.

We may or may not have peed on our piles.

This week (and for the next several weeks) we are going to turn our compost.

Depending on your style of bin, this may mean you tump your garbage can over and roll it, or transfer your compost from one side to the other, or turn the crank on your tumbler.

For me, it means I remove the wire cage around my bin, tie it back together beside the pile, and fork everything back into the wire cage.

However you do it, you are blending your browns and greens, relocating what is in the hot center of the pile, and making some keen observations about your pile:

Is it too dry? 

If you have dry spots, or think your materials don’t live up to the wrung-out sponge definition, then spray your pile with water at intervals as you turn your pile.  Relocate the drier bits on the edges to the center of the pile.

Is is stanky?

If you are getting a really rank odor from your compost, it’s probably too wet leading to anaerobic conditions which can produce methane. To combat the stink, layer in some more browns as you turn the pile.  The act of turning the pile regularly will also aerate the pile and help reduce the odor.

It may also smell bad if your compost contains meat or dairy or proportionately too many greens.  Adding more browns will also help in the case of too many greens.  Balanced compost will not be odiferous.

Is it too cool?

When I turn my pile these first few weeks, the center of my pile is HOT.  I see steam rising and when I put my hand near the newly turned materials, I can feel the heat coming off that thing.  If your compost is too cool, you may have too much browns, it may be too dry, and/or you may need more activators.

Add in some more greens, make sure it is nicely moistened, and toss on something from our activator list.  Here it is again if you’ve missed it in the prior weeks:

alfalfa meal, blood or bone meal, cottonseed meal, fish emulsion, comfrey, stale dog food, seaweed, and urine

For your continued compost education, here’s a little reading from Cornell about the wonderful microorganisms you are growing in your compost pile:

Compost Microorganisms

Think of it as millions of new friends.

So get out there and turn your compost!  Don’t throw out your back, though.  How’s your compost going?  I’d love to hear about it!  Share!

The photo at the top is my Compost-Along pile.  To me, it’s beautiful.



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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Jess June 19, 2012 at 7:32 pm

Just a thought, if you need browns (like cardboard or paper) go to you local recycling center.

Rosalyn June 20, 2012 at 4:57 am

I just turned mine yesterday, and things seem to be coming along a little better. I wasn’t getting it wet enough, and probably wasn’t turning it properly. But I did feel significant warmth (if not heat) in the centre, and things are starting to look more decomposed. I convinced my husband and son to pee on it periodically and I’m sure that is helping. 🙂 Having a big old heavy pile of compost to shift around with a pitchfork is sure showing me that I would love one of those handy turnable compost containers in the future!! Should we turn it more than once a week, or will that set the process back by cooling it down?

Mary@Back to the Basics! June 20, 2012 at 5:22 am

I’m completely behind bit I’ll catch up! Between finishing a cookbook and adopting a 5 week old kitten (and of course work) I’ve been stretched a bit thin.
My bin is ready…now to get out and compost!

Daisy June 20, 2012 at 6:19 am

Rosalyn–I wouldn’t turn it any more often than every four days. Weekly is fine. Sounds like yours is coming along nicely!

Daisy June 20, 2012 at 6:20 am

Mary–You can do it! Compost is much more forgiving than kittens and cookbooks. Good luck!

Andi Houston June 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm

I am several weeks behind but absolutely determined to get my compost bins started this weekend.

Which I may or may not pee on. Ha!

Sondra June 29, 2012 at 7:01 am

Mine got a bit too wet when we finally had rain last week & when I turned it it was a bit stinky from all the water. 🙁 I did however manage to get the drier stuff from the middle stirred into the wet. It was looking good though, starting to break down nicely. 🙂 A lot of kitchen scraps have been added so I will have to add more brown whe I turn it this weekend. It is exciting to watch this transformation!

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