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Re: Composting idea

  • Subject: Re: [cg] Composting idea
  • From: yarrow@sfo.com
  • Date: Fri, 17 Mar 2006 01:06:26 -0800

We are starting a community garden in Rockville, Maryland and are kicking
around ideas about composting.  One idea is to put in a chain link fence bin
big enough to dump a garbage truck load of leaves into.  Our city pays $36
dollars a ton to get rid of yard waste.  If a garbage truck carries 20 cubic
yards and a cubic yard weighs 500 pounds, one truck load would cost $180 to
get rid of.  We could save them that amount and get free compostable leaves
and grass clippings.  20 cubic yards should fit in  a bin 10 by 15 by 5 feet
high, big enough to back the truck into and dump the yard waste.

This is all based on internet research rather than experience.  Has anyone
tried something like this?  Any words of wisdom to share?
Carl,

I use compost bins myself, but for a while I used to drop in on the lively composting discussions on the GardenWeb Soil, compost, and mulch forum. The people who were doing composting on that scale tended to use windrows rather than any sort of bins, because turning piles that size takes a tractor, and it's easier to turn them if the piles are not contained. If you have leaves and grass, unshredded, and you don't turn the piles, it may take a year or three to become compost, assuming you keep them moist (I collected leaves for my own compost bins 18 months ago and I'm still sifting out the uncomposted leaves whenever I harvest my compost). If you're getting that much material at once, it may be worth figuring out how to rent or borrow a chipper/shredder, which will speed up the composting; on the other hand, if you do shred it, you will be removing air spaces, so you will need to turn it more often also. If your community collects leaves separately (some do, with trucks that "vacuum" up the leaves), then this is a better source than the typical "greenwaste" bins, which homeowners put anything into, including dog poop and pesticide-treated vegetation. As far as I know, the only pesticide that persists after hot composting is clopyralid, which is used on lawns; people who collect lawn clippings generally avoid the first clipping of the season, which they claim is more likely to have residues of chemicals they don't want in their compost. If you don't hot-compost (mix greens and browns, let the pile heat, turn after the temperature peaks, then let heat and turn a couple more times), you need to be more careful about what you put in the pile, especially if you plan to use the compost for food crops. Every so often on the gardenweb list there is a comment about spontaneous combustion in compost piles -- it happens only in really big piles, 7 feet high or so, and it is rare, but if you were to build piles 10 x 15 x 5, you might want to run the idea past your local fire dept. to see if they have any objections.

It may be easier in the long run to advertise for bagged leaves or lawn clippings (from organic gardeners), and have community gardeners pick them up, than to rely on whatever you get from the city collection.

And then the other question is, why is your city getting rid of the greenwaste? Some cities around here (northern Calif.) use greenwaste as alternate day cover for the landfill (because of concerns about spreading sudden oak death pathogens, they do not sell it as mulch or compost); others compost it and either sell it or give it away to residents.

Tanya


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