Composting – take two

Time to put some of the learning from the last time into practice, with thanks to Polly for help with wrangling the materials –

Raw materials

Raw materials

The clover which it the high-nitrogen component because it fixes N from the air is on the black plastic. Loads of wood chip is in the bin and the wheelbarrow. First we put sticks in the bottom to improve airflow because the whole point of thermal compost is to keep things aerobic

base of sticks to improve airflow

base of sticks to improve airflow

We needed to wet the material. In the video tutorials Ingham recommends standing the material in water overnight. We wetted is using a fine spray on the hose

Lucia and Polly soaking the woodchip

Lucia and Polly soaking the woodchip

A heck of a lot of material goes into a compost pile – thanks to Polly and Lucia who helped at the working party

1505_finished_IMG_3356_lznThis pile ran much much better than my earlier efforts. It’s a big ask to elevate the temperature to 55C – this one did very well –

I monitored the temperature using our telemetry system, sampling the temperature at two points in the pile every half hour. I have the advantage on Elaine Ingham with this – I can monitor the pile at home 🙂

temperature of the compost heap

temperature of the compost heap

We started the pile on the 16th, but it had a tendency to dry out, so I had to add water on the 17th and the 19th. On the 22nd it looked like the pile was losing the fight, so I added more water – but that didn’t help and the temperature dropped, after flattening out within a degree of reaching the 55C target. Having said that it would have needed to stay at that temperature for three days so the pile had probably dried out by the 21st…

With hindsight I made a mistake with this. Woodchip is the devil’s own job to wet properly, and because I targeted a more fungal compost I had a lot of woodchip (the ratio was aimed 10% high N, 60% woody and 30% green). Although we seemed to soak it well, as the compost pile ran, the woodchip robbed everything of water, so the pile dried out too easily. How do I know it dried out –

taking the container off later shows there are dry patches

taking the container off later shows there are dry patches

It doesn’t seem possible to wet a running heap enough without chilling it too, which seems to be what happened on the 23rd. It is possible that the mix wasn’t right, but from taking the heap apart I favour the drying out hypothesis.

 

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  1. Pingback: Composting win | Richard Mudhar

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