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Composting Slow and steady wins the race.

 
gardener
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Although Permies is my favorite hands down I love to learn anything I can about gardening ect.  I watched several video's on the Superfood Garden Summit this weekend.  I learned some interesting things.  One made me feel a little better, and I wanted to share that with you, especial those of you like me who suck at hot composting.  For the most part I have given up on hot composting.  Never could get it hot enough, and the chickens wont leave it alone long enough to get the volume I need to even try any way.  
I have been buying organic compost.  I wonder about this product.  Even if it starts out wonderful how good can it be bagged up in plastic for who knows how long.  Seems like most of the good stuff would have died or at least dissipated by the time I use it.  I keep buying it because I figure its better then no compost.
In an effort to not buy compost, or at least buy less I started two compost piles in old garbage cans. One metal and the other plastic.  The metal one was here when we bought the house 26 years ago.  It has holes everywhere. I always wondered what it was for, maybe to dry walnuts in?  I decided it would make a good composter.  I put it into my veggie garden and all my garden waist goes in there (except stuff the chickens will eat) plus some weeds.  I don't put grass root, seeds, or anything that has issues such as disease in there. This way it doesn't need to get hot, there isn't anything that needs the heat to kill.  I know this will take a long time, but again something is better then nothing.  The plastic garbage can is cracked and has some holes in it, the lid is shot, most people would send it to the dump.  I put more holes in it and fill it with everything and anything I want to compost including bones and anything the worms don't get.  I duck tapped the lid and keep something heavy on it to keep the critters out and call it good.  So far it has only had a bad smell once, and I put some wood chips on the top and a few days later no more smell.  It is super hot here, so I water them once in a while, but beyond throwing stuff in I pretty much ignore it.
This weekend I watched a presentation by Matt Powers.  You may have seen him before, I have seen some of his stuff posted on permies.  If your interested in more of his stuff you can find him at thepermaculturestudent.com.  He seems to have an inner joy about him that makes it fun to watch.  Anyway He was talking about doing a system very similar to what I have started.  The system he was talking about was bigger, and used pipes full of hole in the compost to help aerate the compost  Doing compost like this takes a year, which is a bummer, but considering so much less work and so much better for the environment (It doesn't release the gasses the way hot composting does) I'm in.  
Now instead of a lazy composting failure, I'm an environmentally friendly composer.  I don't have the air tubes in mine, but I'm hoping since it's small the hole in the garbage can will be enough.  I will probably turn all the broken and useless containers into compost bins.  My son works for a water pump company, I will ask him for all the broken and small pieces of pvc they can't use.  They don't have to throw it in the land fill, and I don't have to buy pipe, win, win.
Even in composting no matter how much we want that hair to win, the turtle always takes the prize.
 
gardener
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Jen, I too have sucked at making compost until this year.  I found that most of my compost I used this year was accidental--a few trash cans of leaves and debris that has sit a few years and was surprisingly pretty nice.  

My main pile this year consists of chestnut burrs, fallen branches that have been run through a chipper and grass clippings. I've turned it several times and think I'll have some usable compost to top off my beds by the end of fall.  Like you I'm always reading and watching videos to learn more and am planning to build a few bins as the piles dry out too quick.  I've heard of using PVC to aerate the pile and think there's some scraps of 4" pipe here somewhere.  We still have lots of shrubs to prune back and I see another huge pile of compost by the time we're finished.  I will have to watch the Matt Powers presentation as well.  Always love to learn something new.

Also I'm more skeptical of buying prepared compost. Too many horror stories about tainted straw and pesticides I guess.
 
gardener
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Organic matter will break down, no matter what you do.  Brown vs green, active vs passive, aerobic vs anaerobic, hot vs not, citrus peels, large sticks, etc etc. If you put it in a pile and let it sit, you will get compost.  

Now the question becomes, how long do you want to wait? And what quality are you looking for (size, nutrients, texture, etc).   Thats where the effort comes in.  
 
pollinator
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I'm a fan of lazy composting.

This year I'm using 2 year rotted woodchips as mulch and it is fabulous. My invested effort to get it to this stage was one text message to my local tree surgeon friend, and 60 seconds opening a gate for him to dump it.  Plus two years of ignoring it!
 
Jen Fulkerson
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So a couple years ago by, ( faster than I can believe) I'm planting I think that compost should be more than ready. I start to use it and realize it looks like it did when I put it in.  I was very disappointed.  I watered it well, and put plastic on the top.
I also build another small compost by my garden. It's fence covered with weed cloth and a PVC pipe with holes in the center. I figured it was working because I'm always adding kitchen compost, garden compost and shredded cardboard, and it is definitely breaking down.  The other day I noticed a large hole in the back on the bottom.  I'm sure it's rats.( I live between an almond orchard and a walnut orchard. So for us it's about keeping the numbers in control. No way to get rid of all the critters, it's just part of life)
Today I decided to give traditional composting another shot.  I used 3 crummy pallets my nephew was talking to the dump. I screwed them together. Lined it with our old water heater box ( why did we keep it?? Who knows). There was a bunch of small branches and leaves on the bottom.  I was going to add the compost from the garbage composter, but once I got about 18" down it looked pretty good, so it will go into the garden. I'm removing summer veggies, cutting the big stuff like tomatoes and eggplant into small pieces. Adding leave and cardboard for browns, and some native soil mix in.  I'm also going to dismantle the compost by the garden. Top stuff will go into the compost pile. If anything looks usable it will go into the garden.  My hope is when I'm done clearing out the garden I will have enough volume to heat up.  I think one reason I failed before is it was to hot and dry, so maybe I will be more successful now that it's cooler and hopefully wetter.
I do want to build a lid for my garbage can composter. I will put the pvc pipe in the center. I hope these two changes will make the difference.  I like the idea that it's better for the environment, and I can keep it closer to the house.  My family doesn't like dealing with the compost, but when we had the trash can composter, they would dump it. I like not being the only one dealing with it.  
So I still suck at composting, but I'm not giving up.  Time will tell.
 
Jen Fulkerson
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If at first you don't succeed try try again.  Yes here I go again.  My youngest son has brought me 2 old water softener tanks to use to make compost bins.  I'm going to put a pvc pipe down the center this time not only for air, but to be able to water it easier.  I will put it closer to the house.  Not to close, but I found when it's close my family will use it. Right now I'm the only one who dumps the compost.  Anyway I will keep making, and filling them, and hopefully some day I won't have to buy compost.  
 
Michelle Heath
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Jen, keep trying!  I keep intending to build a three-bin system but so far that hasn't happened.  Last year I built an approximately 5'x5' bin using t-post and some metal roofing/siding that came from a building the wind had demolished at my in-laws.  Not pretty but it worked.  I'm guessing at one point it was over 4' high but is now knee-high and though I may have to sift out some larger chunks,  when I dig in the middle it looks pretty good.  I never did get around to turning it but I did stick the fork in the pile and sort of aerate it a time or two.  
 
Jen Fulkerson
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Here is the newest composter.  It's as close to the back door without being to close so my family will use it.  They all know to put a layer of shredded cardboard, or wood chips on top of each layer of kitchen scraps. That works pretty good to keep the smell down.  
It's made out of an old tank for a water softener. My son got me two. I had the pipe, so there was no cost for this one. I will have to scrounge, or buy a pipe for the other tank. Even if I have to buy one it's still a great deal.  I also like it because I can throw things I wouldn't want in an open compost pile.
I'm happy with it.
Sorry the pictures are dark, it got dark on me.
IMG20230219180912.jpg
Outside
Outside
IMG20230219180919.jpg
Inside
Inside
IMG20230219181705.jpg
With the lid
With the lid
 
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