Do I need to inoculate my compost pile?


Joined
Mar 24, 2015
Messages
606
Reaction score
920
Location
Close to The Garden of England
Hardiness Zone
8b
If your compost consists of leaves, grass clipping and green waste then it will not have any clay in it. The idea of making compost is to use materials that rot down, will improve the consistency of the soil and feed the plants. The rotted compost should be put on the surface of the beds (flower, vegetable or plant beds) and just gently turned into the topsoil.

It is ready when it looks something like the photos I posted in post #24. It generally takes up to a year to get to that stage. That's why it is best to have more than one pile. You make a smaller but higher pile (the compactness of it helps the natural aerobic reactions to work better). Then start another one, or more, to leave the first one to get on with its work. Turning it occasionally helps to spread the reaction.

Fallen tree leaves take a lot longer than grass clippings and soft leaves/vegetable matter to rot down. So if you have a lot of fallen leaves in the heap they will take at least a year unless you put them through a shredder first. This can also be speeded up by the addition of chemicals such as Garotta and they are generally known as 'accelerators'. Most contain nitrogen to help encourage the bacteria that actually do the rotting.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
931
Reaction score
895
Location
Atlantic Beach, Fl
Hardiness Zone
9a
Country
United States
Actually, that is exactly what I did. I shoveled things back and ended up with the composting material being 8 feet long by 8 feet wide and about two and a half feet deep. That's about as good as it's going to get. The front part of the enclosure is going to be the new heap. I took my mini tiller to this new area to aerate the soil a bit. Then I will just start tossing stuff on it.

It's going to be a bear to turn the stuff in the rear but I am hoping this leads to the pile heating up and finishing sooner.
I hate to say this, but I don't think it's going to build up that much heat, if any. You have plenty of cubic feet for a hot pile, actually, you can make several piles, but for hot composting it's all about the shape. And since your pile is only about 2-1/2 feet deep, then there's a really good possibility that you will lose all the heat to the air as the heat rises; maybe if you covered it, that would help, but you can't cover and forget, because you need to ensure it is getting enough oxygen. These are really good links that talk about the shape of a compost pile to create hot conditions

http://compost.css.cornell.edu/physics.html
https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/science/physics/

Personally, I think the benefits of Hot composting are overblown. Compost is simply the waste product of living organisms. I'd rather have compost containing various ingredients, which you get from cold composting, the most natural form of composting in nature.

It's also very difficult to make enough compost for a garden, unless you have a very small garden, in my experience it's best to just build up the soil where you plan to garden. You can do this by just taking that mulch and spreading in your garden.

Build it and they will come.... In other words, provide habitat and everything you need for a healthy garden will move in. Every year that goes by I notice my garden becoming easier and easier to grow things, despite it grows tons of stuff every year. I don't have to worry about my soil going infertile from intensive growing, because I keep "feeding" it.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2015
Messages
606
Reaction score
920
Location
Close to The Garden of England
Hardiness Zone
8b
It's also very difficult to make enough compost for a garden, unless you have a very small garden,
I produce about 15 cubic yards of rotted compost a year (approx. 12,000lbs). This is usually sufficient for my garden and I'm a fairly heavy user of it. (y)

I don't know the pros and cons of hot and cold composting but I'm sure that the way I do it produces good compost fairly quickly. It is obviously hot composting as it can be seen steaming when I turn it over. :)
 
Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
931
Reaction score
895
Location
Atlantic Beach, Fl
Hardiness Zone
9a
Country
United States
I produce about 15 cubic yards of rotted compost a year (approx. 12,000lbs). This is usually sufficient for my garden and I'm a fairly heavy user of it. (y)

I don't know the pros and cons of hot and cold composting but I'm sure that the way I do it produces good compost fairly quickly. It is obviously hot composting as it can be seen steaming when I turn it over. :)
That's a lot of compost. I found that I couldn't make enough because I just don't produce enough kitchen waste. I could go around and collect some, but I don't have the time, it takes enough time just to collect yard waste.

I could also just compost my leaves and other yard waste, but I find it serves me best to use as mulch, i.e. habitat...

As far as hot compost vs cold compost, I admit I don't really know how they chemically compare and I've never been able to find anything on that in books...

However, my affinity for cold compost just comes from the fact that I've noticed that more organisms are present, meaning more biodiversity and with more biodiversity the healthier a biome tends to be. However, with hot composting, nothing can live in there, except for the thermophilic organisms and the compost is simply a byproduct from them, whereas I got the byproduct from countless organisms, including worms...

They also say that hot composting destroys pathogens and weed seeds; however, for the seeds the ones deep in the pile do breakdown very quickly, because they are always in the presence of moisture and the ones at the top I turn back into the pile, contributing to the compost ingredients/nutrients.

WRT, disease...I can't say, other than to say again a bio-diverse environment with predators is a healthy environment. Maybe I'll have another viewpoint of this when I come across a problem with disease, but with nearly a decade of doing this, I've yet to have any serious problems with pathogens.

But like I said, just an opinion...:);)
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2015
Messages
606
Reaction score
920
Location
Close to The Garden of England
Hardiness Zone
8b
Hi @roadrunner That's a good way to work with the land. (y)

We have no trouble producing sufficient green waste from everything that grows in our garden. Our garden is very bio-divers and we have an award for a wildlife friendly garden. Yes, they do that sort of thing over here :)

When we first moved here 45 years ago the ground was just heavy clay with a few trees and some grass. We have worked hard over the years to change it into what we think is a very welcoming and friendly garden. We are totally organic (don't use any artificial chemicals), have, literally, thousands of plants and about a hundred trees. We grow a lot of our own fruit and vegetables, have habitats for the creatures and birds and even our cat (sadly no longer with us) was wildlife friendly. The birds were used to him and their young used to play safely around him. He even chased the hawks away from the birds. I don't have any of them all playing but this was typical off them not being bothered although he was sitting nearby. My wife is also friendly with the wild birds and can often just pick them up and hold them in her hands.
P1030527.JPG


I must admit that our climate is ideal for being able to grow things and produce good results. That's why the UK is famous for its gardens. (y)
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
173
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
United States
If your compost consists of leaves, grass clipping and green waste then it will not have any clay in it. The idea of making compost is to use materials that rot down, will improve the consistency of the soil and feed the plants. The rotted compost should be put on the surface of the beds (flower, vegetable or plant beds) and just gently turned into the topsoil.

Fallen tree leaves take a lot longer than grass clippings and soft leaves/vegetable matter to rot down. So if you have a lot of fallen leaves in the heap they will take at least a year unless you put them through a shredder first. This can also be speeded up by the addition of chemicals such as Garotta and they are generally known as 'accelerators'. Most contain nitrogen to help encourage the bacteria that actually do the rotting.
The compost should have some small amount of clay in it because I added my (very clayey) garden soil in, as per instructions I read to add garden soil.

Actually, one of the books I've been reading (Vegetable Gardening West of the Cascades by Steven Solomon) says that to produce humus during composting you must add clay. Probably a small amount.

I have a Mantis type mini tiller/cultivator that I use on the raised beds to get deep and fluff up the soil. (The raised beds have an imported top soil and not the native soil). I was planning to put in some compost and then till it in.

I did actually shred the leaves I am adding to the heap. I gathered them up and ran them over with the lawnmower about three times.

I've started a new heap in the now empty space. I dumped in two wheelbarrow loads of grass clippings, some garden waste, some of the native soil, and a bit of the saved up leaves. The leaves have started to stick together. Probably as a result of all the rain.

The compost that is finished or (I hope) close to finished is actually the product of 10 years of throwing stuff into the compost heap. We've never taken any compost out until now.

The plan is to use it in the raised beds to recharge the nutrients and to add some to the native soil in hopes of improving it.
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2015
Messages
606
Reaction score
920
Location
Close to The Garden of England
Hardiness Zone
8b
If it works for you then that is brilliant. (y)

I don't necessarily agree with whoever wrote the book that says you must put clay in the compost to produce humus but I'd rather let the scientists argue over it. From my days of learning Latin (when I was young it was a compulsory subject in school) the word 'humus' is the Latin word for soil.

When we first moved into our place (45 years ago) the garden was solid clay with a layer of approximately 2" of topsoil on top. After all these years of producing our own compost the flower and shrub beds now have a good 9" of topsoil and the vegetable garden has about 2ft of topsoil. The lawns still have the original 2".

The 'topsoil' has some of the clay in it from the constant digging that we originally did and clay contains excellent nutrients.

A very interesting blog to read is this American one.

http://www.gardenmyths.com/what-is-humus/
 

MaryMary

Quite Contrary
Joined
May 17, 2016
Messages
2,241
Reaction score
3,225
Location
Southwestern Ohio
Hardiness Zone
6
Country
United States
I thought I would go out and check my compost piles. They are all frozen solid. :eek:

If it makes you feel any better, (in this weather... :rolleyes: take what you can!) ... I did a lot of reading on maintaining a worm bin. They said that if you have too many kitchen scraps, freeze them to wait for the next feeding. They said that the expanding and contracting of freezing and thawing would help break down the molecules in the scraps and make them easier for to worms to eat.

Give it another two months, and they'll have a heyday!! (y)
 
Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
931
Reaction score
895
Location
Atlantic Beach, Fl
Hardiness Zone
9a
Country
United States
I like books/articles that challenge garden myths. One of the best books I've read on gardening was one that attacked so many myths. It was this book by Linda Chalker-Scott https://www.amazon.com/Informed-Gardener-Linda-Chalker-Scott/dp/0295987901

And she had a pod cast with the same title: https://puyallup.wsu.edu/lcs/podcast/

As far as using the term Humus I've learned just to not use it, even in its correct connotation, because it's such a misunderstood concept.

Now the only Humus I talk about is Hummus, much less controversial :D:p https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hummus

 
Joined
Jan 5, 2017
Messages
931
Reaction score
895
Location
Atlantic Beach, Fl
Hardiness Zone
9a
Country
United States
BTW, I went looking for the author (Robert Pavlis) that Bootsy linked, because I liked his blog and found this on youtube for anyone interested...

 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
173
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
United States
I finally covered the (hopefully) finished compost with a tarp to trap some heat and keep the rain off of it.

So I started a new heap. A dry spell allowed me cut about a cubic foot of lawn grass clipping and I throw them on the new heap. I mixed in some of the shredded leaves I saved from fall. I figured that with the lack of rain it wouldn't accomplish much.

But already the grass clippings are starting to get an ammonia smell and I could swear that I saw some steam rising off of it when I poked at it. I assume I need to either turn it or add more leaves for carbon? I realize it's not good to have it starting to smell but the idea of it heating up is gratifying.
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2014
Messages
7,362
Reaction score
3,583
Location
Tarpley Tx
Hardiness Zone
8b
Country
United States
The smell is not a good thing. If it smells like ammonia it isn't getting enough oxygen.
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2014
Messages
7,362
Reaction score
3,583
Location
Tarpley Tx
Hardiness Zone
8b
Country
United States
Should I turn it a lot or add leaves? Or both?
Dead leaves won't make it smell. What causes the odor is a lack of oxygen and this comes from either not turning enough or adding too much green or too wet. Usually its being too wet. I might turn mine once every couple of months and then only the new stuff I've added.
 
Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
173
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
United States
What I put on there was 90% fresh lawn grass clipping. My thinking about the leaves is that I may have too high a ratio of greens to browns (nitrogen to carbon). I just went after the heap with my mini tiller and mixed in some more leaves and soil. Now I'll let it sit for a couple of days and give it the smell test.
 
Joined
Feb 2, 2014
Messages
7,362
Reaction score
3,583
Location
Tarpley Tx
Hardiness Zone
8b
Country
United States
What I put on there was 90% fresh lawn grass clipping. My thinking about the leaves is that I may have too high a ratio of greens to browns (nitrogen to carbon). I just went after the heap with my mini tiller and mixed in some more leaves and soil. Now I'll let it sit for a couple of days and give it the smell test.
Also, when you add a lot of green, don't just pile it up. Scatter it about and bury some of it., not just a mass of green stuff.
 
Ad

Advertisements

Joined
Aug 26, 2017
Messages
173
Reaction score
42
Location
Portland metro area of Oregon
Hardiness Zone
Zone 8b
Country
United States
Also, when you add a lot of green, don't just pile it up. Scatter it about and bury some of it., not just a mass of green stuff.
I thought that you had to have a heap that is fairly compact if you want it to heat up? I'm concerned that if I spread it out the reaction will slow down or stop altogether.

After going it after it with my mini tiller the heating up stopped. So I threw some more grass on there today.

I will admit that I am irrationally delighted to see steam coming off the pile because I've been seeking this sign of activity for so long.
 

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments. After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.

Ask a Question

Top