Compost Pile: Awakening the Behemoth

Compost Pile: Awakening the Behemoth

Huge compost pile base
Base compost materials with a wheelbarrow and pitchfork for scale. It’s hard to get a feel for the size in a picture!

As I’ve said before, it has been quite the wait for finished compost, especially in the quantities I desire. My gardens have been compost deprived for some time. This has been especially difficult as I’ve needed organic matter for my hugelkultur beds before it could break down.

But I am determined to finally solve this problem- with an even more enormous compost pile.

Since I work as a gardener I collect a high volume of organic matter over the course of a season as I haul waste

compost materials
A different angle.

away for clients. Further, I periodically haul over goat muck from the neighbors to make sure I have some nitrogen. (Though, gut muck is already mixed with hay, and pretty balanced on its own- fortunately they urinate on it a lot as well.)

For my purposes, it is not really practical to build the pile all at once as is often suggested. Nor is it practical to be “careful” about my mixture. Instead, I just dump it all together for one monster pile. In the Palouse climate this means the compost pile entirely dries out, and does not need to come to life until the fall rains come.

My belief is that a pile of this size will beat the winter cold and continue to cook. That has been the case with the piles of woodchips dumped on my parent’s property. However, last year I made the idiot mistake of putting root balls from potted plants in the middle of a very hot pile, thinking the air circulation would be beneficial. Unfortunately, the middle being essentially hollow, it cooled down and froze through the long winter. This was particularly depressing, as I was looking forward to the welcome site of snow steaming off the compost pile, as happened the first few snows. Further, the smell of warm compost is very comforting during the dead of winter (not to mention, there are microorganisms that reduce depression etc in compost.)

This year, I will make no such stupid mistake, and it should beat the cold at least most of the winter- though it may have cooked out by the end.

For the time being, I added four more wheelbarrows of goat muck (I think for only 8 total so far this year) and it was time to pile up the pile.

I did not turn over the lower part, instead throwing everything from the sides on top, so it will not fully awake for some time. However, there is much moisture in the goat muck and in some recently collected leaves. My belief is that the upper part can get started composting now, even if it doesn’t spread through the pile. I threw in a bag of bloodmeal for good measure [I worry it may be low on nitrogen], though it’s such a big pile it’s hard to say if bloodmeal will even have an effect.

This huge pile still has many leaves to be added, and will get more wheelbarrows of goat muck. Then it will get it’s real turning, which will honestly take a few hours. They say it is impractical to make compost piles this big- I’m pretty sure it is!

My hope is that if this isn’t turned all winter (which can make it lose heat anyway), that by the time of the thaws the center will have finished. Then I will only have to separate the outside into in a different pile and then probably turn the inside pile once more, hopefully producing a mass of fully finished compost by March or April.

If not, it will be another epic and dreadful turning. Though no way it will be as bad as the first turning, because many things become unstuck as it breaks down. (It can be hard to life out strong tangles of grass etc.)

The main point I mean to make, is look at how epic this thing is! It’s 4 1/2 feet high and the base is 10 x 5. Though I piled it a few days ago, so it was even higher in these pictures.

big compost pile
“The Beast”

 

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