Home Forums Time Management and Productivity Household Chores Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

This topic contains 12 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  suzjazz 8 years, 1 month ago.

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  • #158773

    suzjazz
    Member

    I’m serious. I spent 1.5 hours so far breaking branches into pieces small enough to fit into the yard waste bins (my city picks up yard waste) I also divided the huge heap into finished compost, which looks like dirt or soil for you non-gardeners, and compost-in-progress, i.e. fruit and vegetable scraps, eggshells, coffee grounds, weeds, dead plants, grass clippings, and above all leaves–LOTS of leaves. Our house is surrounded by huge, tall, old maples which drop a ton of leaves (probably literally) every fall. We somehow manage to rake them all up and deposit them on the pile, which then takes well over a year to break down. If we had a sunny location for it, and if it were more consistently damp, it would break down faster–compost needs heat and damp. The leaves are just now beginning to fall. I didn’t do much raking, but I did turn the pile with a pitchfork, which I do several times a week to mix the organic ingredients. There was an enormous “hill” of big sticks and tree limbs that came down in various storms, which I piled on top of each other last year. I hoped the sticks would break down, and some did, but the unsightly mound remained, and I was terrified that it was a home for a skunk, raccoon, possum, snakes, or wasps. So today I fearlessly marched up to the top of the pile and took down sticks and broke them into pieces, then hauled the heavy bins to the curb. I was literally getting sweat in my eyes–it’s in the 90s here in the Boston area. I got my exercise–I can’t run because I hurt my ankle, but I sure as hell could dig, pitch, and break sticks!
    Before I came in for a drink of water and a rest, I surveyed my work and it was good! The pile was 1/4 the size it had been and everything looked much neater. A compost heap is not something you want your neighbors to see–decomposing organic matter (garbage minus animal products, paper, and plastic)looks terrible even when you cover it with a layer of dirt and leaves. But we grow organic vegetables and flowers, so it is a necessity. Well, I guess I will go back out there and finish the job!

  • #170491

    Zora
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    Hip hip huzzah for Suzjazz!

    I have a tiny garden — just a few flowerbeds really — and I can’t have a compost heap. I’ve been wanting a wormery. No $$$.

  • #170498

    suzjazz
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    A wormery would be a lot more convenient and would not require the backache causing work! Just spent another 90 minutes with the damn pile. I won’t be able to walk tomorrow…a wormery, yes, that’s it!

  • #170500

    pkilmain
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    @suzjazz – sticks/branches take a looong time to break down, you’re better off leaving them out of the compost. We have two bins that we rotate compost through. Ours in Alaska likely work much slower than yours because it never gets nearly as hot as Boston (where, incidentally, we both started from, but we’ve been here over 35 years), especially this summer! But it works eventually and the garden loves it.

    YOu might try asking for worms on Freecycle – that’s how we got ours….

  • #170503

    lucy1965
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    @suzjazz Have any friends with a chipper/shredder? You could knock those branches right down! But well done you!

    No unbinned piles within our municipality, sadly; everyone is getting yard waste bins this month (we already have one) to go with the landfill and mixed recycling cans; the Mayor said “We can reduce the amount of waste going to the landfill by 50% by 2015, or we can build a new facility and increase taxes to pay for it. Let’s try everyone sorting their trash first.” We’re also getting 20 more glass collection sites around the city, and more frequent hazardous waste collection days.

  • #170507

    Jacquie
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    As pkilmain says, leave the sticks out of your compost, unless you can put them through a shredder to break them down a lot more. Even then they are probably better put in a heap by themselves for up to a year, then use them as a surface mulch to supress weeds and keep moisture in, rather than trying to break them down in your compost heap.

    Next, keep your leaves separate too. Either make a big wire net enclosure round four corner posts and fill that with your leaves, or, pack them into big plastic sacks, pierce some holes in them, then leave out of sight. Either way, in a year or so you will have leaf mould which can be either mixed with good compost and some soil to make a growing medium for in pots, or can be used as a top dressing onto the soil.

    If you remove these two bulky elements from your other compostables (household vegetable scraps, egg shells, grass cuttings, shredded paper, weeds, and general garden tidyings), you should find that it will break down more evenly and quickly. If it is an open heap, you are probably turning it too often as you are losing heat and moisture.

    Build it with layers of wet/green material and dryer brown material, sprinkle compost activator on the layers as you go, keep it moist, encourage visiting gentlemen to use it as a urinal (so build it in a discreet corner) as this is an excellent activator, and keep it covered with old carpet or the like to maintain the heat.

    Ideally built a wire net round posts box, as for the leaf mould, but for the compost heap line it with a couple of layers of card, again to keep the moisture and heat in, or have posh wooden boxes, or purpose built plastic compost bins. If you have layered it properly, it should then be left alone. Once it is built start a second one. When it is ready there may be a layer at the top or around the sides not quite composted enough – this can either be added to the other heap or used in the base of trenches where the next year’s moisture lovers like runner beans are going to be grown.

    Sounds as if you have way too much material for a proper wormery, but a well built, undisturbed compost heap on bare soil soon has its own poulation of worms working their way through it, without you having to put them there.

  • #170512

    chacha1
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    I envy the compost pile (no composting on apartment balconies!) but for anyone with a large or semi-rural lot, maybe worth noting that a pile of deadfall (limbs and brush) is great for birds to hide in, etc. Denning animals like skunks, opossums, and raccoons won’t use it – too airy, while at the same time the spaces are too small for them. My sister writes about backyard habitat and related topics at http://www.nativebackyard.com if you’re interested.

  • #170515

    bandicoot
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    we are mad keen composters here and we have plenty of room.
    we always have four or so enormous compost piles on the go.
    we don’t do any turning of them unless there is a bobcat here doing other work….then we’ll ask if they can just flip a pile or two. we let time do the work for us.
    we had to start yet another compost pile recently when a huge pumpkin patch sprouted out of the pile and a beautiful papaya tree loaded with fruit!
    we’ve taken the pumpkins and are waiting on the papayas.
    usually, it’s just small tomatoes that volunteer, so we felt pretty lucky this year.

  • #170524

    Rosa
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    I’m just about to figure out what to do with this year’s compost pile, now that all my garden spaces are full up with perennials.

    In past years, in the fall when my main veggie plot was done, I would dig a hole in the center, adding all that dirt to the outside parts of the plot, and put the compost heap into the hole, top (not at all composted) first, so I ended up with just dirt showing.

    That bed is about 10′ by 10′ and it is now 16″ taller than it was when we moved in 8 years ago. This spring I planted it with strawberries and lost my spot for disposing of compost.

  • #170530

    lottielot
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    I have 2 heaps at my allotment and don’t turn them, just rotate them and any dreggy bits left over go into the next pile. Every few years I hack back my garden and hire a shredder for the day, very therapeutic and you end up with a useful mulch. I also have a council green bin for garden waste, so yucky weeds I don’t want to compost go in there and woody stuff too, there are some roses and hedgy stuff in my tiny front garden which grow completely crazy and I have to hack them back every month or two in summer. I have 2 compost bins in my garden but they’re behind a load of stuff so not very convenient, I need to move them somewhere I can use them but in the meantime the huge amount of compost we seem to generate goes to the allotment. I agree with Jacquie’s advice, 2 smaller heaps are way better than one big one, a lot less work and backache! Also, if you grow beans and peas then you can dig a trench under where you’re going to plant them a few weeks in advance and stick in all the stuff you’d otherwise put in the compost heap, cover it over and plant directly on top, makes them happy!

  • #170532

    pkilmain
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    I added lots to our compost today. Picked most of the rest of the peas and pulled the vines, plus some zucchini that was finished, and some lettuce that didn’t do well with all the rain we’ve had recently. Also did slug patrol – ewwww. We don’t turn ours, but rather keep one bin ahead of the other, and then when it’s ready we screen the stuff and put what hasn’t composted onto the other pile, and the soil on the garden.

  • #170566

    badkitti
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    I’ve been reading that you should compost leaves separately – you can put a few in the pile but if you have half a million leaves, then put the rest in a plastic bag with a few small holes in it and hide in the garage for a year.

    I compost in a ‘dalek’ style bin like this one – http://www.greenfingers.com/superstore/product.asp?dept_id=200337&pf_id=LS7857D – as the local county council gave us a huge discount on these to encourage better waste disposal.

    I dream of a day when I have chickens and they will poo on the grass clippings, which will turn into compost in the bin, which will help grow more green things for them and us to eat. At the moment its mainlky grass clippings, veg peelings and tea bags (I am english!) in there, along with shredded paper, newspaper, egg cartons etc. It shrinks down really well, even with small chopped up branch cuttings (I would love to borrow a chipper!).; However, i don’t tur it to allow fresh air to get to the decomposing bacteria.

  • #170573

    suzjazz
    Member

    Has anyone ever tried to unclutter a compost heap?

    Thanks everyone for your great suggestions!

    My branch pile was actually separate from the compost heap, or rather on top of one end of it. Unfortunately I don’t have any friends with wood chippers, so I have no choice but to break ’em and put them out in the recycle bin. I am going to keep the leaves separate this year, and I am also going to put fewer of them in the pile–there is no reason why we can’t put the raked leaves in the bins as they will be composted somewhere else. And maybe I should not turn it so often. We have a lot of scraps from fruits and veggies because we are a two-family house, both committed to organic veggies. It’s quite likely that this organic matter, mixed with green matter like grass clippings and a few leaves is all that is needed to produce compost.

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