Your Quick Guide To Container Gardening

By: suegold

There are other less obvious tumbler disadvantages that may negate any work avoided, time saved, or sweaty turning with a manure fork eliminated. Being top-loaded means lifting compost materials and dropping them into a small opening that may be shoulder height or more. These materials may include a sloppy bucket of kitchen garbage.

Then, a tumbler must be tumbled for a few minutes every two or three days. Cranking the lever or grunting with the barrel may seem like fun at first but it can get old fast. Decomposition in an untumbled tumbler slows down to a crawl.

Both the passive compost bin and the highly active compost tumbler work much better when loaded with small-sized particles. The purchase of either one tends to impel the gardener to also buy something to cut and/or grind compost materials.

The U.C. Method - Grinder/Shredders

During the 1950s, mainstream interest in municipal composting developed in America for the first time. Various industrial processes already existed in Europe; most of these were patented variations on large and expensive composting tumblers. Researchers at the University of California set out to see if simpler methods could be developed to handle urban organic wastes without investing in so much heavy machinery. Their best system, named the U. C. Fast Compost Method, rapidly made compost in about two weeks.

No claim was ever made that U. C. method produces the highest quality compost. The idea was to process and decompose organic matter as inoffensively and rapidly as possible. No attempt is made to maximize the product’s C/N as is done in slower methods developed by Howard at Indore. Most municipal composting done in this country today follows the basic process worked out by the
University of California.

Speed of decomposition comes about from very high internal heat and extreme aerobic conditions. To achieve the highest possible temperature, all of the organic material to be composted is first passed through a grinder and then stacked in a long, high windrow. Generally the height is about five to six feet, any higher causes too much compaction. Because the material is stacked with sides as vertical as possible, the width takes care of itself.

Frequent turning with machinery keeps the heap working rapidly. During the initial experiments the turning was done with a tractor and front end loader. These days giant “U” shaped machines may roll down windrows at municipal composting plots, automatically turning, reshaping the windrow and if necessary, simultaneously spraying water.

Some municipal waste consists of moist kitchen garbage and grass clippings. Most of the rest is dry paper. If this mixture results in a moisture content that is too high the pile gets soggy, sags promptly, and easily goes anaerobic. Turning not only restores aerobic conditions, but also tends to drop the moisture content. If the initial moisture content is between 60 and 70 percent, the windrow is turned every two days.

Five such turns, starting two days after the windrow is first formed, finishes the processing. If the moisture content is between 10 and 60 percent, the windrow is first turned after three days and thence at three day intervals, taking about four turns to finish the process. If the moisture content is below 40 percent or drops below 40 percent during processing, moisture is added.

No nuisances can develop if turning is done correctly. Simply flipping the heap over or adding new material on top will not do it. The material must be blended so that the outsides are shifted to the core and the core becomes the skin. This way, any fly larvae, pathogens, or insect eggs that might not be killed by the cooler temperatures on the outside are rotated into the lethal high heat of the core every few days.

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The author Chris Adams is the manager of the container gardening resource and organic gardening resource website where you can a free copy of a 'container gardening secrets ebook' and other gardening supplies and resources at really low prices.

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