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Help! Compost heap not heating :-(

Project: Chaitraban

Posted by Jyoti Deshpande about 10 years ago

Something wrong with the compost...

Our first experiment with berkeley compost does not seem to be working :-(

turn on the fourth day...

the heap looked a bit (around a couple of inches) shorter. we started turning the heap next to it and it was reasonably hot...could not touch the biomass in the centre for a few seconds. the brown straw looked darker and green leaves in the middle of the heap had turned brown. Some green leaves on the outer side were as they were (green). we turned the heap inside out and covered it...very happy about it we were :-)


turn on the sixth day...

the heap seemed quite cold and there was almost no heat. the heap seemed very dry and while turning it and we sprayed a bit of water (oops!) maybe we were wrong :-( covered it after turning and decided not to turn for 3 days.


turn on the 9th day...

i could not go to the farm and the caretaker turned the heap. reported with some panic :-) that the heap was cold though still wet...think the decomposition has stopped!!! :-( told him to cover it and leave it till the weekend when i visit, which will be 14th day :-(


will ask my PDC teacher what went wrong..

1. There was shortage of nitrogen

2. The manure was not made

3. The heap somehow escaped

4. Some other reason i still have to learn?


Hope to be successful and learn from this mistake...next time :-(




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Comments (4)

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Dwarakanath Jnaneswar Ekkirala
Dwarakanath Jnaneswar Ekkirala : well.. no heat even when there is moisture, only two things going on there mostly. 1. not enough nitrogen 2. it is getting anaerobic. How is the smell? You could try adding a bit of cow dung water into it if it is dry, and if it is wet, just open it up a little bit, add some green matter to it, a hand full of manure (not more if you put in the right mix in the first place). It is very common that the first pile does not work. Also, you bit in on the hard end with hay on the first pile and with goat manure. Goat manure is a bit slow in heating the pile up, particularly if the pellets are not broken up. Do not worry. That happens to every one. Even geoff says 'some times one or two piles here and there need that extra intervention to make it really happen'.
Posted about 10 years ago

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Jyoti Deshpande
Jyoti Deshpande : thanks dwarkanath! the smell is good...does not seem to be anaerobic. will add cow manure to it on thursday (cant go myself before that and wont learn if the caretaker does everything! hope i can correct it!
Posted about 10 years ago

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Richard Larson
Richard Larson : The pictures show way too much dry material. 1/3 dry material, 1/3 green material, 1/3 fresh manure, is the base mixture. After the 4 days, it is important to turn this every two days lest it go anaerobic as Dwarakanath mentions. Another pile that worked for me was a large ball of comfrey to fire it up, right in the middle to start. Keep trying, you will figure this out!
Posted about 10 years ago

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Dennis Argall
Dennis Argall : Also perhaps consider finding a few old pvc pipes and make holes in them at several points. Put these in the heap horizontally at intervals so as to provide air access and avoid it being too wet. Clearly not anaerobic with no bad smell, but still damp cold. Good point about goat manure. Goats have, as percentage of body size, a much bigger digestive system than other ruminants and they depend for survival on that stomach being a compost system itself. Diverse compost, kitchen wastes, human urine if no tropical disease vectors present.

Interesting to see Richard's recommended proportions. He is in Wisconsin, where I guess no compost, or frozen compost at the moment.

This is a nice door to some Indian experience and practice: http://www.takingroots.in/spm_indian_indore_method

The other point to make is that compost will break down, the Berkeley method is for speed but maybe speed is not the first need. Also, as this is your beginning moment, consider the fact that many microorganisms in the soil on the farm will still be passing around the news that you are providing lunch!

Als, I wonder if you don't need to review the virtue of these temperate techniques. (I've assumed also that in Indore Sir Albert Howard had an army of workers sweating to produce the compost.) You need to consider relative virtue of sheet mulching/composting http://agroforestry.net/pubs/Sheet_Mulching.html as perhaps more relevant in the tropics. There's no rule about making heaps. Good in urban areas, but you have a lot to do to work in your rural space.

Relevant to considering sheet composting is my understanding that you are in a hot environment with sharp seasons of wet and dry, so with sheet maybe risks of too dry half time, wash away other time. Which brings back question of live mulch. Letting successions of green manure plants grow up, and perhaps putting out pellet seed a la Fukuoka http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/One_Straw_Revolution/Videos.html https://sites.google.com/site/onseedballs/How before knocking down the grown cycle... avoiding bare ground avoiding the misery work of carry material great distances or buying in.

Energy budget must rule!! :-)
Posted about 10 years ago

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