Compost Bin Summer Update: Turning, Layering, Reloading - July 2023

I had a little bit of time off earlier this week and I opted to do some annual compost program maintenance.   I've done this the past few years and #11 on my list this year was to 'continue on my compost journey'.   Here's what I wrote:

11.  Continue on our composting journey.  That starts with using our kitchen bin, turning the mixed bin, amending with alfalfa and/or biosolids.  It also means that I need to keep moving through the two bins and tumbler set-up with the goal of a tumbler-full-of-finished compost to be used in the garden every season.  Fall leaves stored in Fall, full, properly mixed bin by end-of-season.

Up until now, I felt pretty good about composting this year.  Between the use of Starbucks grounds as an additive to adding kitchen scraps, I've been good about putting more waste in the bins. 

I've also made a pretty big mound/pile of material from various projects and all the leaves from my Spring cleanup.  My two bins were pretty full already and there's been a little bit of composting/decomposition going on this season.

As a refresher, here's what they looked like in December of 2022:  full of Fall leaves.  All light brown.  One month later, some compaction had occurred.  I kept filling the bins with the excess material and topping them off. 

But, it was time for a FULL turning, layering and filling of the two bins.

Here (below) is what I was starting with:  both bins mostly full and A LOT of material scattered in piles around the bins.


I began by peeling off the front of the bins and pulling the material out.  The bin on the right was 'working' and had a mix of greens/browns.  The bin on the left was (by design) not working that much and was mostly a carbon (leaf) storage bin.


I kept forking all the compost and material out of the two bins.  


And, eventually got down to some...good (close to Black Gold) material - see below:



Here, below, is a close up of this lower-bin material.  It needs more time (and likely time in the tumbler), but it is getting PRETTY CLOSE to being finished compost.  It is light, odor-free and rich.


Like I've done the past few years, I brewed up a batch of soaked (in water) Alfalfa cubes to use as a nitrogen accelerant.  Here's the two buckets (below).  I left the cubes to soak in the water for a couple hours.  Then, I pressed them/stirred them up and added more water.


Then came the rest of the work.  I began to layer all the compost components back together - layering browns and greens and trying to separate the slimy, clumps and layers of leaves and grasses so they can begin to combine and break down.  Every foot-or-so up, I spread a layer of alfalfa and mixed it in.


I also added another set of three passive aeration pvc pipes.  This was a 10' section that I had laying around and is smaller than desired, but I figured it can't hurt.  I drilled a bunch of holes in it, cut it to length.  And stuck them in.  Below you can see the difference between the legacy pipes (the right size) and these new ones.




I ended up putting back three larger pipes in the bottom of the right bin.  Followed by three of these new pipes.  And then I put in the tiny pipes above those.  They were pretty bent.  But, can't hurt, right?  On the left, I added the three legacy pipes to provide just a little bit of aeration over there.

What does it look like now?  See below for the current state of the bins.  They're swelling and full to the brim.  I used up almost ALL of the pile'd-up material.  And, I'm hoping for some compaction over the next few months.  Last September, I was able to have the left bin almost empty.  I don't see how I won't need to add another bin for leaf collection this Fall.  I'll plan on emptying the tumbler in late September and then begin turning these two piles around again.


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