E-mail - Composting Questions

I just finished reading your first article about compost/composting, where you explain how to do it. I gladly inform you that after doing more than a little reading on the subject, your article has helped me achieve a higher, more comfortable level of understanding

As far as manipulating the compost pile goes, I would like your opinion of how much wood ash I maybe should add to counter act a 5 gallon bucket of coffee grounds (and a much lesser amount of vegetable scraps and egg shells) per month - into the compost pile. my pile is 4' x 4' x 4', contained by pine boards (they may not last a decade, but by the time I need to rebuild it maybe i can afford to use cedar). i do add all my grass clippings, fallen leaves and garden wastes - and i mix it up every 3 - 4 weeks. I wet it down with rain water collected in a barrel (which brings up another question I would like to add: could I use the waste water from my RO filter to water the pile occasionally since the chlorine has been removed?) every 2 weeks, as it doesn't get much rainfall. I purchased a product from my local feed store called "compost maker," but have not yet used it because I cannot find anyone else I trust to offer me an opinion.

To further complicate my question, I would like to pick your brain (if I may) about adding my poultry's manure to the pile (duck and chicken). The manure easily available to me is usually dry, but not rotted. I will have the 4 inch thick layer of pine/cedar shavings mixed with the manure (which supposedly has already rotted somewhat because I employ a "deep litter" system in the coop, and will need to change it this fall. The bedding/manure has been on the floor of the coop for 2 years. What might be the best way to incorporate this bedding into the pile (other than mixing it in) - the coop floor is 8' x 8' and 4" thick.

Thanks, you have some great questions. Wood ash is basic, and coffee grounds are acidic, but it would be hard for me to give an exact measurement. I know adding too much wood ash can kill a compost pile. (. By kill I mean it will kill off the beneficial organisms that grow in the compost. Yes, not only does compost reduce environmental waste, increase nutrients, especially micronutrients, it also adds beneficial organisms to the grow medium. What more could you want?) I don’t think I’d add more than a 5 gallon bucket of wood ash to your size pile over a year. You want the pile to be slightly acidic so coffee grounds are not too much of a problem.

Adding your water is fine, so long as you don’t make the compost pile too moist. I tend to build bins, just like you have done.  I tend to make a lot of compost, and most containers are too small, and if you look at my post on composting, you can see they are probably cheaper than one’s you buy.

I think you are going to have to mix in the bird manure. If it is over 2 years old, it should be composted a bit already. This is going to be a nitrogen source, so you will want to have equal parts of brown material like dried plants/leaves or soil. You could try to add a gallon bucket of the manure every time you mix the pile. If you don’t notice any smell or anything funny with the compost, you can add more than that. I have not used chicken or duck manure, so I can’t talk from personal experience here.

Thanks, and keep up the great work!
Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers

1 comment:

hillbilly said...

good deal Dr. Myers - i like your suggestion of "try adding a bucket of manure each time i turn the pile." as usual, it seems like i should have come to this reasonable conclusion on my own - but no one ever called me reasonable ;>. i was worried that the coffee grounds would be so acidic they could be detrimental in the sheer quantity i add them. i collect the "kitchen scrap stuff" in a 5 gallon bucket - when i add it to the pile the bucket is usually (approximately) 60% - 70% coffee grounds, 15% - 20% egg shells, and the balance is made up of vegetable/ fruit scraps etc. yard/lawn/ garden scrap makes up the rest. i have been concerned about how to add the poultry manure for 2 main reasons: lack of long-term experience AND a swimming head from reading too many articles on composting. it seems to me one thing holds true in my gardening and growing ventures: knowledge cancels out fear - it seems i have learned what little i do know the hard way, by making terrible mistakes without trustworthy and practical guidance. thanks you as always for you very practical, no-nonsense approach to helping those of us trying to reach better understanding