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Common household remedies request

The snow stuck, and I'm looking at my compost bins, and I'm seeing the snow on top of them has not melted.

Do I have a compost fail?

Should they not be generating heat, if I've built/layered them correctly? Generating heat and melting the snow?

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Submitted by hipparchia on

compost piles can be either aerobic [require air, produce heat, composts faster] or anaerobic [don't need air, produce less heat, composts much slower].

if you want the heat-producing piles, you have to aerate them every few days [digging into them with a pitchfork and turning them over].

if you're doing the lazy composter's method [throw it all in a pile and forget it] you've probably got anaerobic composting going on.

if you meant to do the aerobic [non-lazy] method and have closed up your bins [garbage bags of leaves?] too tightly, you've probably deprived them of the needed air. speaking of the garbage bags full of leaves, if all you have in them is leaves, then maybe you do have a compost 'fail' -- they'll compost themselves eventually, but without added nutrients and some starter organisms, it will be a verrrrrry slow process.

Andre's picture
Submitted by Andre on

compost fail! Mother nature overcomes all. You should just forget your compost pile until May 2012 (at least). Mother Nature knows what she's doing regardless of how skeptical we are of her ability. Just forget it and it will happen! Actually you should have two or more compost piles rotating over a several year cycle.

Submitted by Lex on

They can still be working internally and generating heat, but not enough to melt snow now that winter has set in.

If you really want to know, poke a hole in there and see if it's frozen through (i doubt it). I'm not sure i know of anyone off-hand in a climate like yours that has a bare, soft compost pile all winter.

If you're now worried about what to do with your food scraps during the winter you can:

Toss them on top of the frozen pile and be patient. Put a styrofoam cooler (or something) outside your back door and toss the scraps in there until will all freeze for the winter and not rot.

Build/buy a worm bin. That's really the best option. By spring you'll have a top dressing far superior to the stuff from your compost pile.

If you've got some really good compost you can keep it in a bucket in the house and toss your scraps into that...but it must be awesome compost and you will have to care for it to keep it working.

Go the whole nine yards and quit using your flush toilet in favor a composting toilet, then you can just put all the waste in the same place. I have some friends who did the 5-gallon buckets composting toilet for quite a while, so it can be done cheaply and without much building labor.

Remember, aged urine is one of the best nitrogen fertilizers in the world...just gotta break down the ammonia and you've got liquid gold for the leafy greens.

...on a long enough timeline, everything composts.

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

If you have a 3-4" plastic pipe or the like lying about, sticking it into the middle of the compost pile, with the top above, helps the aeration process.

Submitted by lambert on

I'm going to do that. Like a chimney, yes? Sink the pipe vertically into the heap?

Submitted by JuliaWilliams on

also helps if the above the pile piece has holes in the "sides", apparently the heat generated by the pile helps in driving O2 down the pipe