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Composting isn't working for me

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I've tried. I really have. I have a tumbler that I hate. I've had it for 3 years and it hasn't made anything useful. I've tried adding more of this, less of that, turning it every day, turning it twice a day, turning it only once a week, once a month, it doesn't matter. It doesn't work!

 

So I'm wondering if chickens and worms would take care of all the kitchen scraps instead. I know there are things you can't give chickens, and my neighbor told me they don't like citrus peels. The worms would take care of what the chickens don't, right?

 

And is there a list somewhere of what is safe to feed a chicken and what's not?

post #2 of 11

The thing about composting is that a compost is a living thing. You can have a compost without turning it at all, even if it will take time, but you can't have a compost without life in it. Do you have any worms, beetles etc. in your compost as it is? Does the compost have access to the ground (as through a fine mesh grid) so that life can travel up and down? Does it visibly live when you take a shovel to the top layer, things scurrying to hide?

 

I think the main problem might be that you simply don't have a living compost, and well...with no life, nothing will turn into earth.

 

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

There are some little gnat-like things that fly around when I open it, and one year there were roaches and maggots, but the past year or so there's been nothing but the little gnats or nothing at all that I can see. We do have bugs in our yard, so I don't know why they're not going in there to help.

post #4 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by swd12422 View Post

There are some little gnat-like things that fly around when I open it, and one year there were roaches and maggots, but the past year or so there's been nothing but the little gnats or nothing at all that I can see. We do have bugs in our yard, so I don't know why they're not going in there to help.



Have you tried taking some worms from the garden and put in there?

post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

We don't have worms. That's why I'm considering a worm bin. (We are in a desert area -- very hot and dry so not much living in the soil other than ants and some other things. I could buy worms and put them in now, but in a couple of months it will be way too hot in the tumbler and they'll fry. If I get a worm bin I *might* be able to keep it cool enough for them to survive the summer.)

post #6 of 11

You know, when I first read your post, I thought "I wonder if she is in the desert or something, because that's the only way I can see compost needing any attention." Well, then.

 

1) Add water to your compost. You could just water it like a plant (turn the hose on it every now and then), but even better, dump cooled cooking liquid onto it or something, there's no waste there. Like, if you make a pan of macaroni and cheese, save the water you drain, let it cool a bit (so you don't boil the microbes right out of the compost - though it doesn't have to be COLD, just cool enough to touch), and dump it.

 

2) Cover your compost (with a tarp or something.. heck, even newspapers?). This reduces the evaporation. If you think of it, uncover it before it rains then cover it back up after.

 

I think that's all you need to do. I would try this before trying the worm bin. I LOVE worms, but as a worm-killing veteran, I don't think they are as easy as a compost pile. You're going to have to do at least that much work for worms, so at least give the pile another shot.

 

All the work you described doing, with turning and adding more of this and less of that? Yeah, I don't bother. But I can get away with it because I'm in the moist Northeast. It just magically does its stuff. But for compost to be alive, it has to have water.

 

If your pile is reasonably moist, life will find it and flourish there.

 

ETA: Sorry, I remembered you have a tumbler. That should help reduce evaporation just fine, though it does mean you have to add water (since any rainfall is not going in there). How dry is your stuff? I assume it's pretty dry, or otherwise it would be teeming with compost life. The other possibility is that your tumbler has too small mass to really get going. Would you consider an open pile right on the ground? If not, that's cool, but just an idea.

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the tips. I would consider an open pile but there is not much room in our yard to hide/conceal one and I really don't want to encourage all the rodents we have around here. They're enough trouble as it is.

 

The pile has ranged from slimy gloppy moldy dead mess to dry dead mess. It doesn't seem to matter. But I will give it another shot and start watering and see what happens. It's definitely not a mass problem -- the bin is 3/4 full which is what the instructions say it should be....

post #8 of 11

oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo


Edited by mattemma04 - 4/21/12 at 2:30pm
post #9 of 11

Does the tumbler heat up in the sun - maybe it overheats and kills the bugs and bacteria?

post #10 of 11

I was also going to suggest "pit" composting, where you dig a trench and put the materials underground.    You can also put finely chopped compost materials right in the garden, cover with a few inches of  newspapers and mulch materials, and then just plant right in it.

 

I've never tried to do any compost that wasn't right on the ground in a covered bin.  I am on the shore - very sandy and salty soil - and adding some dirt with worms from an inland source made a huge difference.  After a few years my compost bin is host to thousands of worms.  

 

I always make sure to put a few handfuls back into the bin when I turn the compost pile to start a new batch.

post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by DoubleDouble View Post

Does the tumbler heat up in the sun - maybe it overheats and kills the bugs and bacteria?


This was my thought, but there is something living in there.  Worms like cool, so in a hot desert area the worm bin would do better to be sunk into the ground a bit.  They also need good drainage and some bedding to keep the food from compacting-- torn newspaper, for example or chicken bedding (they would appreciate the grit that makes it into the chicken poo).  Most of our kitchen scraps go into the worm bin--we don't have enough chickens to keep the scraps cleaned up and not attract cats and raccoons.  You can still throw citrus in with the hens, but they won't eat it, and in the desert the rinds will desiccate and live there forever.  There are things they won't eat, but I can't think of anything they would eat but shouldn't.

 

As for your tumbler, you could try adding newspaper or something absorbent like wood shavings (with some chicken manure!) or something and a couple of shovelfuls of garden soil.  If you have a local Tilth organization you could ask for some local advice on tumblers, perhaps even the extension agency.  

 

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