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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What happens when you stack a compost pile correctly...

I stacked it Saturday, and today is Tuesday, so this is right on time.  I don't think I've ever had one get this hot before, though.  I layered green tomato cuttings one cutting thick, a thin layer of dirty straw and chicken poop, and a thin layer of what I didn't harvest from the compost pile, over and over and over again.

There are some folks that argue that 'cooked' compost isn't as full of bioavailable nutrients as uncooked compost, and still more evidence to suggest that the best soil is created from wood, but at this stage of the garden I'm more interested in quickly improving the soil I imported, even if it's a nominal improvement.

Maybe some day I can relax about it but right now while I'm digging in the Land of Clay, sooner is better in the tillable soil department.

Especially in the summer; dry clay soil has all the friable tilth of reinforced concrete.

* As a note, while digging through the remainder of the first pile I ran across a section of rotting grass clippings that smelled exactly like fresh horse apples, which means it was rotting anaerobically, which means it didn't get stacked right the first time.  It's really important that you have enough carbon materials scattered through your nitrogen materials to ensure this doesn't happen.  Which means next time Steve is dumping out the grass catcher I need to be there to mix it up right from the git go.


Miriam said...

Good for you - your garden will love this! We never seem to get our compost house in order - our special problem is annual weed seeds that make their way into the beds we dress with the compost. The sheer volume of vegetable matter we have to deal with means we never seem to have time to sort through and treat it properly. Sigh...

I had a friend who had a compost pile sitting in the sun through a long, hot, dry summer, and one day it spontaneously combusted. Her neighbours were not amused, but she learned her lesson about keeping the pile moist.

John said...

I've been paying some special attention to our compost lately as well. We were having smell issues for a bit, but things have been great since I started making a cover mix. Next to our compost pile is another pile of one part peat moss from the garden store, one part coffee chaffe free from a local roaster, and two parts wood shavings from a local mill, also free. Having a pile of airy carbon ready to go makes compost maintenance way easier for me, you just dump whatever you have and then shovel a layer of fill over it.

If there's a mill near you, ask them if you can swing by and fill up a trash can with shavings. Our local coffee roaster was happy to have me come vacuum out his machine once in a while for a couple of garbage bags full of chaffe (which smells a wonderful, freshly roasted coffee!).

Is that a special compost thermometer? That's a great idea! Bring a little science into the art!

Rae said...

Good to see that the chickens are pitching in, so to speak. :)

clairz said...

Wow, I just read that first comment and am going right out to water my compost as soon as I type this. Here in the desert, our problem is always to keep the compost 1) somewhat cool 2) out of the sun and 3) away from the cockroaches so I invested in one of those barrel composters that can be rotated. It does a great job of breaking things down. My landscaper friend says to always add some soil to the heap--to make soil you have to add some soil. So I do.