renovatingwalkerMarch 15, 2011

I am researching composters for my back yard. I know I don't want to just do a pile as I am not likely to turn it with a pitch fork on a regular basis. I've heard that a rotating composter would be a good investment, but have also read that the contents will freeze during the winter months. Is composting in CT not a good idea? Suggestions please!!

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Check out the compost forum.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 11:52AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I keep three compost piles. One is simply a large circle of inexpensive wire fencing that is supported with stakes. It has lasted a long time and behind shrubbery, it is fairly unobtrusive. We are not able to turn compost piles at our house, so that bin gets filled with just leaves and grass clippings and is allowed to break down passively, which takes about a year. It produces a very good amount of compost that is wonderful to have once a year.

The other two composters are black plastic, purchased from the town I live in, sold at reduced prices. Those have covers so animals cannot get into them and I use those for kitchen scraps and yard waste. They aren't turned either and again, will break down in a year with no attention. Simple and easy.

I do need to pay attention to whether it is drying out. If we are not getting rain often enough or if I forget to take the covers off the black plastic composters, I will run the hose on them when I think of it.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 12:51PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Composting is always a great idea!

I think the contents of almost any bin - including a free-standing pile - will freeze in most CT winters. But that doesn't mean you can't add to it. I add to mine all year, including during the winter - it just freezes and then breaks down when it thaws!

I have a compost tumbler, which I bought used off craigslist. There's no way I can fill the thing in one shot, so I don't get "compost in 14 days!" like they advertise. And since I add to it till its done, it does take some time. But I'm a lazy composter - no turning, no aerating, no nothing. Sometimes I will take the top off if it needs water, but I don't usually think of it.

I also have a black bin, probably similar to PM2's - about three feet high and maybe 2 1/2 feet square - a bit too small, IMO, to compost really well and/or quickly, and also too small to turn easily. Again, no problem for me!

And lastly, I have about three plastic 35-gallon garbage cans with holes drilled all over it. Again, too small to compost quickly, too small to turn, but in the long run it does the job.

Are you worried about aesthetics, or animals, or just turning? Because you can still have an open pile without turning.

Good luck and please don't be discouraged - everyone should compost!


    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 3:47PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

My main compost generator is an open pile which I turn sometimes, or sometimes I prod it a bit, but mostly I leave it alone and just add to one end. It freezes up in the winter so I then put materials in the usual standing black plastic bins. I compost a lot of shredded paper and putting this on top of a frozen pile in a wind tunnel can get messy. When the frozen pile melts I'll empty at least one of the black plastic bins on top of the open pile, maybe keeping the other bin for the other side of the yard.

Composting can be really easy or you can take it the level of a fanatic hobby (sort of like gardening....), whatever you like.

The Soil, Compost and Mulch Forum is a great resource but you shouldn't let the opinions of some of the people there overwhelm you.


    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 4:38PM
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Here's another person who just composts in an open wire bin, actually three of them, 4-5' in diameter and 3 -3.5' tall. I don't bother to turn, though when DH did (when we were rather younger) we had fewer weed seeds survive since the pile got hotter. I tend to rotate from year to year, so by the time I get around to using a pile it's had a full two years to compost. We don't worry much about what goes into the pile. We live in a rural area and so all kitchen scraps, garden debris and at times (when there is too much grass or leaves for the mulching mower to be able to break things down enough to just leave on the lawn) grass or autumn leaves. I have found that the crows enjoy the kitchen scraps at times, but maybe their stirring things up helps the whole process. At times we have added fresh manure to to the pile in layers since that helps heat it up. If there are meat or fish scraps or lobster shells, they get buried in the pile and then the critters don't bother them.

We also inherited a compost tumbler from someone who didn't find that it worked well. I haven't yet filled it completely, which I think I need to to do so that I can see what it does - and eventually maybe use it for weeds and items that need the hotter temperatures that aeration will create.

At one point DH worked pretty hard at creating lovely compost. He balanced the pile with layers of "greens" (higher nitrogen) and "browns" (higher carbon), to the point that one of our neighbors referred to him as "the compost king", but now we just toss things in and are patient and let nature take its time. It all turns to compost eventually and then goes back into the garden.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2011 at 6:29PM
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I'll add my vote: everyone should compost! Yes, it freezes in winter, but that's not really a problem.

I have the most ridiculous composting system ... you probably wouldn't want anything this complex, and I suppose I should simplify it. Someday!

The tumbler is the first step for kitchen waste; it's truly rodent-proof, but has to be emptied 6 or so times a year; I can't tumble it if it gets too full. When it's full, the partly broken down material goes into a cube-like black plastic unit that we covered in 1/4" wire mesh, so that's also rodent proof.

My DH built me a set of 3 wooden bins - nothing fancy, he just recycled 2x4s for the frame and used some old decking (cedar? maybe just fir?) boards for the sides and back. The yard waste - grass, leaves, weeds, etc. - goes into the first bin; when that's full, it gets turned into the center bin and eventually into the last one. The material from the last bin and from the second kitchen scrap bin all goes into a wire cube when those units are full; that's the stuff that's ready to be used.

The bins are mostly always full, because I like to leave the stuff until as many seeds as possible have lost their ability to sprout. My yard's not too big (1/3 acre, I live in town) so I'm not sure where all those leaves and grass clippings come from!

I LOVE turning the compost piles; the more stress in my life, the more they get turned. There's something wonderful about making compost out of what would otherwise be waste; for me it's really the main purpose of having any lawn at all.

Start small, and see how you like it!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 9:05PM
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