Saving a lost compost pile

Briztank

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I've had a trial at making "lazy compost" where I've piled all my organic material up and left to naturally decompose and compost with minimal turning and work and it has sat now for over a year. It's full of worms but is very wet and gluggy, smells a little and in all is not fit to use on a garden. I'm a prolific compost turner but like marky mark I enjoy the odd experiment in the garden. I've decided enough is enough and I can no longer bear to leave this pile to go to waste, it's now our peak growing time in NZ and I'm keen for some good homegrown compost.

To save the pile I've got a couple options:
1. Flip it every 3 days to add air into the pile.

2. Mix it in with my neighbouring pile and essentially "start again".

3. Use it as is and hope for the best.

4. Sift it and mix with some topsoil and sifted wood chip (it's quite tricky and time consuming and has provided a very small amount this far)

What are some tried tricks for this type of pile? It was covered so not much rain would get at it and a high grass clippings content. Will post photos when I get out of bed and get the long weekend gardening started 👍
 

Mandy Onderwater

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I think I vaguely remember someone else doing this too, getting similar results. I can't remember who it was, sadly.
Personally I would start flipping it every once in a while, but in all honestly I have no experience with composting. It's more what feels "natural" to me.
You could always mix it in with an existing or even new piles. The existing may help it break down faster, and for a new one you would help provide worms early on.

I'd love to see the pictures :D
 

Lunai

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Options 1 or 2 that you mentioned seem about the best to me. But I'm going alongside Mandy: got not too much experience with composting, by no means an expert.

If you have a veggie bed where you can dig it down deep enough so that the early roots can't reach it straight away, I suppose option 3 could be practiced, but just very carefully.

Would also love an update on what you finally did ♥️
 

Briztank

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Finally got round to having a play. Few mini experiments going on here:

Picture 1 - the worst pile of compost I've made. Very wet, slight odour and sucky.

Picture 2 - wheelbarrow of sifted compost. Takes an age but some good came from it. This is all good for planting but will mix a bit of wood chip mulch and soil with this for a better growing mix.

Picture 3 - the "waste". What couldn't be sifted so spread out on a tarp to dry out and will sift through and break up after a few days.

Picture 4 - the pile after leaving to dry out for a few days.

Picture 5 - starting to turn into a new bay, will turn every Saturday and Wednesday till it's complete.

Picture 6 - the craziest amount of worms. This was basically the amount in every fork full I turned!

Safe to say I won't be doing a lazy compost ever again. The turning at least weekly has proven to be a winner every time so no more Mr lazy guy! This will be salvageable but will take some tlc to get there. Gardening, a lot to play with!
 

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Briztank

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Ok so with the dried out compost I gave it a bit of a crush, bash and sift and scored another wheelbarrow full but the effort put into that is not worth it. Will give the pile a young flip tomorrow and every Saturday and Wednesday from here on out. Extra long term work caused from lazy composting, would not recommend! Stick with the trusty regular flipping to get the goods guys.

What's some tips for adding brown to piles. Leaves are crap to use in autumn, laying grass out to dry is a pain in the butt and hay is a nay nay, doesn't break down very well. Do I dare add wood chip which I've got an unlimited supply of to the mix next time 🤔

If you haven't tried making your own compost I'd recommend because it's very satisfying getting rid of your own green waste and making it into a useful addition to the garden. The things I've composted over the years is unbelievable!
 

Juvan99

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Ok so with the dried out compost I gave it a bit of a crush, bash and sift and scored another wheelbarrow full but the effort put into that is not worth it. Will give the pile a young flip tomorrow and every Saturday and Wednesday from here on out. Extra long term work caused from lazy composting, would not recommend! Stick with the trusty regular flipping to get the goods guys.

What's some tips for adding brown to piles. Leaves are crap to use in autumn, laying grass out to dry is a pain in the butt and hay is a nay nay, doesn't break down very well. Do I dare add wood chip which I've got an unlimited supply of to the mix next time 🤔

If you haven't tried making your own compost I'd recommend because it's very satisfying getting rid of your own green waste and making it into a useful addition to the garden. The things I've composted over the years is unbelievable!
Hi, hope you are doing well. I would suggest adding some carbon to the mix to loosen it up woodchips should do the trick. Another option might be making some activated carbon and turning it into biochar 😍 I also had a similar situation and used charcoal and dried grass to loosen it up. I proceeded to spread it over a patch of compacted "dead soil" about 10cm/100mm thick. Plants are doing great and the spoil below has loosened and is turning loose brown/black from the red compacted mess I started with. The worms are a great sign. Hope this helps.
 

Mandy Onderwater

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Cheers for the update! That's definitely a large amount of worms! Looks like they're loving it.
The pile does look very heavy, be careful on your back and garden also!
 

Alpenrose

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I am so glad to have this conversation going on. We live in Zone 4. Spring warms up in May and it is snowing now. Our growing season with warmth is essential from mid June to end of August. Last night as I lay awake worrying about next year's garden I had a BRILLIANT IDEA ! Why can't I build a compost station with 2 stalls--put in during summer and fall and turnover sometime in February. In order to do this I would need to build a roof over the compost stalls. It would be your standard shape roof--hip roof made of plastic or glass. I could make sure it stands above the stalls about 2 feet so that air could escape (as well as out the front). Then on top of that roof facing the south I could put a solar collector to run a little heating unit just under the roof to keep those stalls warm enough in winter to give the compost a chance to cook. There I said it: is that brilliant or what? Ok. I posted this to see if anyone here as suggestions, or criticisms as to why it won't work, or how to make it work better. The point is I have to get these two stalls warm enough during the deep cold (-24F) of long winter months. It would be kinda like an open faced pizza oven! :)
 

Lunai

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I am so glad to have this conversation going on. We live in Zone 4. Spring warms up in May and it is snowing now. Our growing season with warmth is essential from mid June to end of August. Last night as I lay awake worrying about next year's garden I had a BRILLIANT IDEA ! Why can't I build a compost station with 2 stalls--put in during summer and fall and turnover sometime in February. In order to do this I would need to build a roof over the compost stalls. It would be your standard shape roof--hip roof made of plastic or glass. I could make sure it stands above the stalls about 2 feet so that air could escape (as well as out the front). Then on top of that roof facing the south I could put a solar collector to run a little heating unit just under the roof to keep those stalls warm enough in winter to give the compost a chance to cook. There I said it: is that brilliant or what? Ok. I posted this to see if anyone here as suggestions, or criticisms as to why it won't work, or how to make it work better. The point is I have to get these two stalls warm enough during the deep cold (-24F) of long winter months. It would be kinda like an open faced pizza oven! :)
Sounds good 🤩 IF the solar panels generate enough power through winter I would say give it a go👍
 

daveb

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compost it either goes good or goes south fast. one thing i found late season and winter is Pit copmposting ...
dig down two foot and half to 3 feet add good thick later of some fresh horse manure found my local stables works extremely well they have all mares and one stallion so the manure tends to be very strong and when buried and stated rto break down generates huge amount of heat i layer the manure and compost materials in varying layers at end its heaped up fairly good with a cap of dirt i lay sheeting over and also a frame around and plastic on that so it acts like a solar heat collector also .
I've actually done this as a row compost so its dug down a foot into ground horse manure and stuff to compost in early spring cover with a plastic tunnel and had plants almost mature before others have even planted
 

Briztank

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I've flipped the compost pile around 5 times so far and already it's pretty much usable! Will keep at it every 3 days till the end of November and start to use it after this (sifted). Just shore my sheep yesterday so have a tonne of "mulch" to put under it I'm looking forward to reaping those rewards!
 
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