Winter Compost Heaps

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Peter Clements, Jul 13, 2006.

  1. Peter Clements

    Peter Clements Junior Member

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    2 Bags of cow manure $10
    1 Bale of lucerne hay $8
    Making your own compost heap - priceless

    OK, so I've just built my first proper "heating" compost heap, aka the Geoff Lawton method, using layers of lucerne straw, cow manure and kitchen scraps. Temperatures here in Melbourne during the winter range from 2-15 degrees celsius, so only the inner core of the heap is heating up. To insulate the heap I have packed earth around the outside, since it is sitting in an open yard. It takes about two hours to create such a heap, and gets the heart pumping! Unfortunately I can only turn the heap once a week due to work commitments. The biggest hurdle in making such a heap in the suburbs is obtaining the materials- this heap has cost $18 for materials only, although next time I will try with free mulch from the council recycling depot. What stories do people have regarding sourcing of composting materials?
     
  2. Richard on Maui

    Richard on Maui Junior Member

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    I recently got busted trying to collect cow shit from state leased pasture land near here, by the venerable paniolo (cowboy) of podagee (portugese) descent, whose cows had done the shit. He was pretty sore at me at first, "Oh boy, now I seen everything, one hippy try steal my fertilizer!", but I was pretty apologetic and respectful and in the end I suppose he made the most of the opportunity to talk story. We ended up great friends, I think. He told me a lot of local history in the 45 minutes we stood by the side of the road...
    I have a really hard time paying for compost material.
    Lately I have been collecting several buckets of food scraps every day from my local fruit stand, and a vegetarian restaurant. At the moment this all goes to the chooks, goats and worms. We are lazy composters.
     
  3. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Peter :)

    Our local permaculture community-garden sources its 'green' material from local lawnmowing contractors. Once word gets around that you are receiving lawn clippings, it can become that you start getting too much! Concerning 'brown' material: This come via the local livestock exchange, the local showgrounds, in fact anywhere that hay/straw is used for stock bedding (and added bonus is the urea and manure).

    Possible problems with the above sources: You have no control over exactly what you are importing onto your site. An example might be chemicals/weeds/seeds/disease in the lawn clippings and/or hay/straw.

    Personally I feel that the aerobic decomposition that takes place when all of the above are combined in the heap goes a long way to allying fears of importing any 'problems'. The above method has been used for over 5-years and on a rather large scale (3-bays, constantly rotated by hand - literally thousands of tonnes over the years). The resulting compost has been lab tested and was found to be high in all the essential nutrients. No other materials are added other than the basic 3:1 ratio of straw/hay and grass-clippings.

    At home I use a similar system, but like you I find that I don't have enough time to turn it (fork/shovel from one bay to the next) each week. So mine does what yours is doing at this (winter) time of the year, mostly sitting idle. However when I do get around to turning it these are some of the things I like to add:

    Hair and nail clippings, egg shells, dunny rolls (shredded), small paper and cardboard articles no longer useful for anything else, all (and I mean, all) fruit and veg scraps. We have no lawn here to speak of, so I have to wait until those family members that insist on continuing to grow it do so, then I will gladly take their clippings. What I have been using for 'part green, part brown' is a great pile of autumnal leaves that I collected. We have a cow paddock close by and the farmer has given me permission to take as much 'green' manure as we can. Anothere source of 'brown' is the big pile of sawdust I cleaned out from the horse stable that we inherited 9-months ago when we moved onto this present site. That is just about gone now, but I have my next source ready to go. This amounts to a pile (2m x 2m x 20m) of dead trees and shrubs that we have systematically removed. None of these plants served any great permacultural purpose when they were in the ground, so we plan on chipping the lot and recycling the the resultant carbon-based biomass back through our composting system. All I have to do is wait until I see an arborist (or someone with a large, commercial chipper) working locally, grab them and ring them in to do this job.

    I haven't gone down the road of shredding and adding newspapers because we use the ones we get hold of by laying them under the sheet mulching areas.

    Ideally we eventually want to 'close the loop' and not have to import any (bio-organic) materials, nor export any for that matter. This will include the re-use of 'humanure', but that discussion's for another day... :D

    Good luck with your composting efforts, Peter!

    Cheerio,

    Mark.
     
  4. Cornonthecob

    Cornonthecob Junior Member

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    I'm lucky, I have an almost endless suppy of cow manure (from friends farms), a large dam I can collect water weeds/lillies from. My property supplies enough 'green' material to keep our nine compost bins going.

    I want to find a good design for a compost made of just cow manure....I have made one bin up but am not sure how well it's going. Maybe in a few weeks I'll be able to tell.

    :)
     

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