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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
<p>I'm really excited to start composting this year.  I've wanted to start before but this is the year I'm going to finally get around to it.  I've done a bit of research, but I have a few questions I'm hoping to get answered by some experienced folks on here.</p>
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<p>First, I'm not sure what type of composter I should get.  I'm inclined to buy a recycled plastic one rather than building my own because DH's to-do list is already quite long, and I don't have anywhere more "hidden" to keep the composter.  It's going to be right in the yard and relatively visable.  So I've been looking at the type you can turn and then the other more "traditional" kind.  The type you can turn seem to compost faster (from what I've read) but I like that worms and other life can go into and out of the other kind.  What are people's thoughts on this?  Any specific brand/model to look into (or to avoid)?</p>
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<p>Also, I am hoping to start right away and not wait until spring.  I understand that things won't start composting until the weather is warm enough, but is there any reason that I shouldn't start collecting material and adding it to the composter now?  It won't be "spring" here until April, although we could have some stretches of warm days before then.</p>
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<p>Also, in terms of the needing to add brown materials to the green...as I don't have any fall leaves left I'm wondering about using newspaper.  I was concerned about the ink however.  Has anyone used newspaper or what other materials might I use? (I also don't have any sawdust kicking around, or really much brown garden waste as I cleaned it all up in the fall).</p>
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<p>Thanks all!</p>
 

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<p>I'm a fan of the sit on the ground, open bottom style.  The worms do the work, and what they leave behind is considered "gold" for the garden - it is even sold in bags in catalogs now!  I like the square, or slightly pyramid shape with a hinged lid that opens for loading - not a little slot or sliding door on top.  You want to see inside and be able to mix it up a bit with a pitch fork. You can get them in brown or green now to blend into the yard.</p>
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<p>I compost year-round.  I keep a few bags of dry leaves to add throughout the year as needed.  We add all our kitchen scraps, shredded brown paper bags, garden trimmings, and the occasional sawdust.</p>
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<p>I haven't used the  raised, turn style, but I don't see how that would be better.  No worms, it would get heavy, and they don't hold as much.  With the bin style the finished compost pretty much sifts down to the bottom so you can shovel it out from the bottom door or lift off the whole bin (which I do.)</p>
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<p>We usually do this twice a year, early spring and late fall.  I made a large sifting screen with an old wood frame and some wire mesh.  I put it over the wheel barrow and shovel the compost on there.  Any large bits go back in the bin, the rest gets spread on the garden or stored for pots.  It's messy, but gardening isn't for those afraid of dirt!</p>
 

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<p>A friend has the fancy big ball composter, but the problem she ran into is that you really need two; or you never really have finished compost, and it fills up quickly. </p>
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<p>Our bin is just a couple boards butted up against a fence.  Ditto on an open bottom for the bugs/worms.  DS loves seeing what kind of creepy-crawlies have moved in.  We just donated our worm farm to a class room, but it made AMAZING compost - you want these guys in there.  We turn ours whenever we think of it with a pitchfork.  Things break down decently fast; I am sure they would go faster if we turned more often.</p>
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<p>On winter composting, the stuff you put in there now probably won't break down, but next winter your bin should produce enough heat on its own to keep things going in the bottom of the pile.  I don't turn as much in the winter because it seems like I'd be mixing ice into the pile.</p>
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<p>In our zone, almost everything turns to browns if we aren't careful;  even grass (it dries out so quickly in our desert climate). Most newspapers are printed with soy based ink now.  Call your paper to confirm, but generally that can be composted (depending on how ardent you want to be about sources of stuff in your bin. I am sure there are some people out there who wouldn't want random soy in there for GM reasons).  We scavenge for leaves all fall from neighbors for composting and leaf mulch.  If you have a lawn at all, DRIED grass clippings count as browns (not fresh;  they need to be dried out), once summer starts.</p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
<p>Thanks for the responses.</p>
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<p>I thought that the kind with the open bottom made sense, thanks for confirming!  I'm sure DS will also get a kick out of seeing what kind of creepy crawlies can live in the compost.  Hopefully he doesn't feel the need to bring them in the house to show mom!  I grew up in the country, as did DH, so with DS growing up in the city I want him to have as much experience of "country" as possible.  This is a small piece of the experience, I think.</p>
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<p>WRT the worms...do I need to "buy" a specific type?  Red something, right?  Are those just regular earth worms, or a special kind?  We do have earthworms in our garden already, so I could just move some to the compost heap when I come accross them, maybe with some soil from the garden at the bottom of the pile?</p>
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<p>I'm glad to hear about the newspaper.  I'll contact the paper here and see if they use soy.  I don't have a subscription myself, but my office gets 3 different papers that I'm sure I could just take home at the end of the day to add to the compost instead of recycling. </p>
 

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<p>Hello,</p>
<p>The worms you want are red wigglers.  They eat their weight in veggie scraps per day, so a pound of worms will eat a pound of scraps a day.  You can always find them for sale (they run between $8 - 24 per pound where I live), but I'd try asking any composting friends if they have any.  My worms reproduce so fast I am always giving away huge yogurt tubs filled with them, because if you have too many and if they are not fed enough they will die.  It's amazing how quickly the volume of your bin goes down with the worms in there, so I would cast my vote for a free-standing bin with an open bottom (ie, not one that turns).  My kids love checking out our wigglers.  It's amazing how they manage to overwinter - I live in the north east, and granted it has been a very mind winter, but in frigid stretches of weather they burrow down into the middle of the pile where it's warm.  When it's warmer, they tend to be right on the top.  You just want to be careful when harvesting your compost to shake out the worms and return them to the bin.  I have a frame with a large-holed screen nailed to it.  I just shovel the dirt onto this and sort of shake it over a wheelbarrow - kind of like a gold prospecter!</p>
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<p>I live in an urban area with a small yard, so aesthetics and rats are a concern for me.  I bought a black, recycled plastic bin - do not remember the brand name, but got it on-line through a company called Hayneedle.</p>
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<p>I see no reason why you can't start your bin now, but you want to make sure there's a good 6 inches or so on the bottom of brown stuff.  You may not have leaves, but do any of your neighbors?  There are always clumps of brown winter leaves hanging about in most people's gardens and under bushes.  I try to add carbon to my compost in winter by adding tons of leaves in fall, which I kind of dig aside to dump in my veggie scraps, and I tear up cardboard, brown paper bags, and the inside of toilet paper and paper towel rolls.</p>
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<p>Good luck - once you get the worms it's really fun - kind of like having pets!</p>
 

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<p>PennyRoo, do you have red wigglers in your outdoor bin?  Cool!  What zone are you in?  I didn't keep any of the worms for our outdoor bin when I sent off off our worm farm (which was a multi-layered indoor affair) and I assumed that our zone 5 would be too cold in the winter, though now that I think of it, they probably would just get down into those deeper, warm spots.</p>
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<p>I might need to make a quick trip back to my friend's classroom and worm-nap some of my former tenants!</p>
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<p>On worm sources; we have a compost supplier that uses worms, so they always have some for sale.  I had a terrible die-off in the bin (fed waaaaayyyy too much bread, then left for a week.  It was DISGUSTING) and we replaced the population with worms from a farmers market vendor. </p>
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<p>Its not really something you notice but once you are looking, you can find worm sources all around. </p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
<p>We are in Zone 3(a).  I wonder if worms would survive?  If not I suppose it is not too expensive to replace them the next year...</p>
 

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<p>I'm in zone 6a or b, whichever is warmer (I forget - the USDA just tinkered with the zones and renamed 'em . .  scary.), so quite a bit warmer than others in 3 and 5.  And yes, I have an outdoor bin.  What I notice that's interesting is that the worms come up to the top and eat when it's warmer (we had a 50 degree stretch in January that lasted a week or so), and my compost goes down appreciably.  When it's cold, the pile gets bigger, as they are obviously hunkering down.  In a zone colder than mine, you can bank your compost with hay bales (or so I've read) to retain warmth.  Putting it in a sunny spot is helpful, as is a black or dark bin that will absorb sun.  Even better if there's a deciduous tree nearby that will provide some shade in summer, as its possible to cook the worms if it gets super hot.</p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
<br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>PennyRoo</strong> <a href="/community/t/1344739/new-to-composting-some-questions#post_16876677"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><p> In a zone colder than mine, you can bank your compost with hay bales (or so I've read) to retain warmth.  Putting it in a sunny spot is helpful, as is a black or dark bin that will absorb sun.  Even better if there's a deciduous tree nearby that will provide some shade in summer, as its possible to cook the worms if it gets super hot.</p>
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Thanks for this!  I'll have to think about a location that would allow me to use bales or something for insullation and that would be shaded during the hotest part of the day in the summer.  The climate here is pretty extreme in the sense that it is semi-desert in terms of humidity, it gets down to -30C in the winter, and in the summer the sun is hot and intense and it is usually dry, except for maybe a month in spring.  In the summer I may have to water it as well, as I saw mentioned in another thread here.</p>
 

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<p>I ran out 4 drip emitters from the drip line that meanders through the garden, so it water 2x a day,  though I give it an extra hit anytime I am using the hose.  That keeps it reasonably moist, and it has never gotten stinky and wet.  It is practically impossible to keep anything really wet around here (Great Basin desert).  </p>
 

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<div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>nstewart</strong> <a href="/community/t/1344739/new-to-composting-some-questions#post_16876712"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style=""></a><br><br><p><br>
Thanks for this!  I'll have to think about a location that would allow me to use bales or something for insullation and that would be shaded during the hotest part of the day in the summer.  The climate here is pretty extreme in the sense that it is semi-desert in terms of humidity, it gets down to -30C in the winter, and in the summer the sun is hot and intense and it is usually dry, except for maybe a month in spring.  In the summer I may have to water it as well, as I saw mentioned in another thread here.</p>
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Wow - - curious, what geographic area is this?  I'm in coastal southern New England  -- - desert climates are so trippy to me, a born and bred New Englander.  Even more interesting to me is the thought of gardening (apart from xeriscaping (sp?) and native plants) in such an inhospitable climate . . . though I guess that's a topic for another thread!</p>
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
<p>We are just East of the Rocky Mountains, in Calgary, Alberta.  The weather seems so normal to me, but it's unusual I suppose.  Maybe I made it sound more extreme than it is...it's certainly challenging to grow some things.  We have late frosts late in spring and early in fall from being close to the mountains making for a short growing season.  We've had snow in the summer here.  Sometimes in the winter we'll get 15C above one week, and -30C plus wind chill the next (seriously) from Chinook winds.  This is actually hard on things because of freezing and thawing, so things like Birch trees tend to do poorly even though they grow further north.  And the atmosphere is very clear, making for very strong sun even though we are fairly far north.  And we are considered a "semi-arid Steppe climate".  Maybe all this is why my tomatoes were a disaster last year....likely not, but it makes me feel better!</p>
 

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<p>Mountains do crazy things for weather;  we are just east of the Sierras and because of the rainshadow effect of the Sierras we get practically no rain. But we also get inconsistent weather and can't safely start growing till June, then the season always ends in October.  Last year was freaky short even for us and most of my tomatoes had to ripen inside.  It has snowed during every one of the 12 months at some point in my 30 years here (yes, even July and August.  It melted, but it still fell frozen!)  We don't get the super-super cold winds like the Rockies, though.  Single digits-100's is about the norm for us. </p>
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<p>However, we are much more south than you are and no rain means lots of sunlight.   I also always forget that we are  a 'high elevation' (5000ft). I grew up here, so its all I know.  Now that I am cooking and gardening and things don't work out exactly like I expect I notice the elevation more.  I keep meaning to pick up a high-elevation gardening book, but... never get around to it.</p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
<p>Jes h, that sounds pretty extreme!  Snow is a potential in every month here as well.  And in fact, we often get our biggest snow storms at the end of April, which at least means some moisture in the ground for spring.  With all the freezing and thawing the ground is so dry here by the end of winter, when in places further north the ground is nice and wet in spring and there is usually lots of run-off in the ditches.  Usually planting is considered safe after the May 24 long weekend (Victoria Day) but we do still get frosts into June sometimes as well.  At least we aren't quite "high elevation" at 3555ft.  I grew up in Northern Alberta, and have lived here for 10 years and have noticed differences, definitely, including the lack of water and very sandy soil. </p>
 
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