Composting

Discussion in 'Crops & Gardens' started by Ken Anderson, Nov 2, 2015.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    What I have learned is that paper towels and shredded magazines take a long time to compost if there is too much of it in one place. The first year that I started composting, I was shredding all of the newspapers, junk mail, magazines, and even valueless books that I wasn't going to keep, as well as using a lot of paper towels, which were added to the compost pile. Three years later, pretty much everything had been composted except where I had packed too many paper towels together, and some large wads of shredded magazines. The paper towels could have probably been hosed off, hung out to dry, and reused, as they didn't look that had even begun to compost.

    Adding boxes full of compostable stuff helped a lot, as I have stated above. I have also found that if I mix the shredded magazines with shredded newspaper, junk mail, and cardboard, and also add in some leaves or old straw from outdoors, everything will compost. So when I have a lot of shredded stuff to dispose of, I will dump it into a box along with table scraps, leaves, or straw, and that seems to do the trick. I think of it as if the magazine paper alone doesn't taste very good, so I have to mix it in with some stuff that will attract the critters that compost everything. Perhaps it picks up the taste of the more digestible stuff, so it all composts.

    Also, I can sprinkle shredded magazines over the top of everything, and then add a layer of leaves, another layer of shred, and another layer of leaves, and that works too.

    As for paper towels, I just can't wad too much of it in any one place. It probably doesn't taste good to the composting critters but, more likely, it compresses together too tightly for good composting.

    Shredded cardboard and newspapers are good, and junk mail seems to compost okay even though it has bits of plastic from the envelope windows.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 25, 2017
  2. Ken Anderson

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  3. Ken Anderson

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    compost-042617.jpg
    I put a lot of shredded magazines on the top so I needed to sweeten it up with leaves. It's like trying to get them to eat their peas by mixing them with something they like.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 26, 2017
  4. Ken Anderson

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    I think I mentioned it in this thread before but one of the concerns that some people have about composting glossy magazines is that they use a metal based ink that can be toxic, but that's not the case anymore. They might use a different ink on the covers but newspapers, magazines and even books that aren't intended to go into collections now use a soy-based ink that is friendlier to composting. Some magazines, that people tend to think of as collectible, might still use a metal based ink because it lasts longer, but most of them use soy. The reason that newspapers and, even more so with magazines, tale a while to compost is that they have a high lignin content, which is a part of the woody cells of plants, that is resistant to composting. Since I like to experiment with my compost, I have added whole, un-shredded, books and magazines to my compost, and found no evidence of them after the rest of the pile had composted. When surrounded by more digestible compost material, they compost at roughly the same rate, but if you were to pile a bunch of whole books or magazine on top of one another, they would sit there for a long time before composting.

    Most things will compost. It's a matter of time and balance. I use a cardboard box in the kitchen that we dump our kitchen wastes and coffee grounds into, covering anything sloppy with shredded paper. Because my wife isn't keen on having the same box on her kitchen floor for days on end, after a day or two, I will fill the rest of the box with leaves, close it up, and add it to the compost pile. I have another box downstairs for uneaten cat food and coffee grounds, so I am adding a new box to my compost pile nearly every day, and sometimes more.
     
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    Last edited: Apr 27, 2017
  5. Ken Anderson

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    I like to remember that this is what was at the bottom of my compost pile.
     
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  6. Chrissy Cross

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    It would make a great Independent Film...."The Life of a Compost Pile"....A Documentary by Ken Anderson. :)
     
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  7. Ken Anderson

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    I caught one of my worms trying to escape this morning so I punished him severely, as a warning to the others.
     
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  8. Ken Anderson

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    compost-053017.jpg
    I think it helps to cover the compost pile every now and then. When I uncover it in a few days, it will have mushrooms all over it, but they will disintegrate within hours of exposing it to light, and covering seems to speed the collapse of the pile.
     
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  9. Ken Anderson

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    I quit adding to this pile last summer to give it a chance to finish up, which doesn't happen when you keep adding new stuff to the top but, since someone asked about it in another thread, here's an updated photo.

    DSCN0724.jpg

    Here's the one I have been working on this winter. Most of it is in leaf bags, but there are some boxes, and loose stuff, too.

    DSCN0726.jpg
     
    #114
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  10. Ken Anderson

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    I haven't posted anything here in a while, so here's that.

    2019-07-06 12.33.32.jpg
    This is the one that I quit using last winter. Other than throwing some loose grass or weeds on it, and some cardboard on top, I am not adding anything to this one, and have begun harvesting the compost out of the bottom. Way more plastic and styrofoam has found its way into my compost than I expected. I blame my wife since she doesn't seem to know the difference between something that is compostable and something that is not, or she assumes that I'll be patient enough to wait a few million years for the plastic to compost. That's the problem with putting boxes full of stuff onto the compost pile; I don't always know what's in the boxes.

    2019-07-06 12.33.18.jpg
    This is the one that I was going to discontinue last summer, but I never got around to building a new one, so I started adding new stuff to the top. This one is going to disappear entirely because it's not a good compost spot. The wood and boards are there to help hold the tarp in place since I tarp it every once in a while. I have been doing some tree trimming. This is the same pile from the February photo above, just from a different vantage point.
     
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  11. Ken Anderson

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    I won't be doing much outdoor composting this winter. Last winter, it was a chore keeping a path shoveled to the compost pile, and the pile got so high I could barely reach high enough to add anything to it. So, I'll be adding to the landfill for the winter. I need to let at least one of my compost piles complete its composting so that I can build a new one, and eventually discontinue the one that I have in the wrong place. While I can still get to it, I'll continue adding shredded paper because that composts quickly, but probably little else.
     
    #116
  12. Faye Fox

    Faye Fox Very Well-Known Member
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    Have you ever considered shredding all that material with an old lawnmower before putting it in the bin and adding natural enzymes? If you garden you might find this a useful tip. Dig 1 foot deep trenches in your garden where the plant rows will be. Pile the dirt in between the trenches. Shred all material and add a 3" layer evenly in all the trenches, then put in a thin layer of dirt. Adding a good enzyme will speed up the process or my favorite, chicken manure. By early spring you should have filled in the trenches and piled on remaining dirt and your planting rows will be ready by planting time. For shredding I made a 3 sided bin with old railroad ties and would pile in organic material and give it the lawnmower treatment.
     
    #117
  13. Ken Anderson

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    That's too much work.
     
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