New Compost Heap, Failing?


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I live in NW New Mexico, elev. 5,500'. I just started my first compost pit in Mid-January. The current temperature ranges from approximately 50' F to 25' F each day. My new pit is 4'x4'x4' high in which I've excavated 10" down for insulation. To this pit, I added 8" of twigs at the bottom and about 3" of brown corrugated cardboard then about 2" of chicken manure and then some green kitchen waste. I wet this thoroughly. On top of this, I added a black garden bag of leaves from this past Fall then about 3" of grass clippings from last Summer, then more leaves and more water. To insulate the top, I used several sections of dead sod from a lawn project last Summer. After 3 days, the heap (about 20" deep) does not appear to be generating ANY heat. I haven't turned it yet. Am I just being too impatient or do I need to alter my green-brown ratio?
 
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Greetings, welcome to the Forums.

Achieving consistent hot compost can be a bit of a challenge, especially in Winter. Keep adjusting your parameters and see if you can get it to 'light'. Of course, what might finally get it to go will be the coming of Spring.

Even still, if it doesn't get hot it hasn't failed, its just gone cold. If you have the time and space, cold compost will give the same benefits.
Though you may need to purchase more soil amendment the first season, until the cycle gets rolling.
 
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Greetings, welcome to the Forums.

Achieving consistent hot compost can be a bit of a challenge, especially in Winter. Keep adjusting your parameters and see if you can get it to 'light'. Of course, what might finally get it to go will be the coming of Spring.

Even still, if it doesn't get hot it hasn't failed, its just gone cold. If you have the time and space, cold compost will give the same benefits.
Though you may need to purchase more soil amendment the first season, until the cycle gets rolling.
 
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Thanks for your input. You're probably right. In addition, our climate here is incredibly dry year-round that I think that may slow the process as well. I'm thinking about adding several shovelfuls of fresh horse manure when I turn it in a few days. I'm thinking that it may throw off the green-brown ratio somewhat but might kickstart the process. I could adjust the ratio back later if necessary.
 

NigelJ

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20" is not very deep, twigs at the bottom don't add much. I would get your heap up to closer to 36" deep then I would turn and mix the whole lot, chop the twigs up. As you rebuild the heap water as you go.
Dry leaves can be difficult to wet, grass clippings clag together, hence need to mix together.
Mix the chicken manure and horse manure through the heap.
I have two bins the size of yours and one is finishing off whilst the other is being filled and mixed regularly.
 
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The only difference between a 'hot' heap and a 'cold' heap is the length of time it takes to work. Here we have cold heaps which take 2 years to rot down. The heat is not always enough to kill weed seeds so we do not put anything which has gone to seed on the pile.
If you want it to work quickly, then do like the professionals do and water and turn it all every day.
 
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Size matters. Hot piles that self pasteurize will be something of a 3x3x3 (cubic yard) at a minimum. Its a combo of insulation to retain heat as much as anything. I have had smaller piles get warm but not 140f. another detail you may consider is running some oxygen pipes down into that hole. Without oxygen you can preserve materials which is really not the point. I use horizontal thin wall pcv drilled with a bunch of 3\4" holes. Something a bit rigid holds up to the weight better. If you want to crank it up, a cheat is household ammonia. Not the best way but its cheap and easy. You basically need more nitrogen, and for a compost pile the liquid forms are the easiest. The form of nitrogen is relevant, I have tried granular ferts and different things but they really did not work. Plant materials from last year won't get it. Fresh material cut today will do it. Those manures need composting and would be good.
 
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I live in NW New Mexico, elev. 5,500'. I just started my first compost pit in Mid-January. The current temperature ranges from approximately 50' F to 25' F each day. My new pit is 4'x4'x4' high in which I've excavated 10" down for insulation. To this pit, I added 8" of twigs at the bottom and about 3" of brown corrugated cardboard then about 2" of chicken manure and then some green kitchen waste. I wet this thoroughly. On top of this, I added a black garden bag of leaves from this past Fall then about 3" of grass clippings from last Summer, then more leaves and more water. To insulate the top, I used several sections of dead sod from a lawn project last Summer. After 3 days, the heap (about 20" deep) does not appear to be generating ANY heat. I haven't turned it yet. Am I just being too impatient or do I need to alter my green-brown ratio?
Hello, I personally find that grass is better to add after its been spread out and dried for a few days. This is mainly focused on home food waste but it's so simple and shows the compost being used in a veg planter so must be doing something right. Worth a watch maybe:

Hope this helps in anyway possible. Good luck!
 
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Hello, I personally find that grass is better to add after its been spread out and dried for a few days. This is mainly focused on home food waste but it's so simple and shows the compost being used in a veg planter so must be doing something right. Worth a watch maybe:

Hope this helps in anyway possible. Good luck!
Unless you use weed killers of course.
 

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