So this summer I went Compost Crazy. First with the Midden and its ongoing Epic Insanity, and then once I saw the power of shredded brush composting, I starting going ape shit with my chipper. Over the past 1.5 months I have cut or scrounged over 5000#’s of brush, run it through my chipper / shredder and all but filled my Compost Bin of Dreams. In fact, I am one trip away from it being maxed out which is about 5.5 yards of compost. Dang sucka. Of note, I have yet to start my third gallon of gas. The Bio-80’s 5hp Briggs is frugal.
I have good reason for my madness. Shredding weeds and very brushy material makes SYCK compost – and it does so incredibly fast. The batch of lambsquarter I ran through on July 29? Yeah – its DONE. Not “yeah, I can *probably* spread this.” done. Its DONE. And its not only the speed on the decomposition end – its on the sourcing end. One of the problems with home composting is it takes all year to get material to fill a bin, then another 3-4 months to cook it down. Thats a year or more. I don’t have time for that given the harvest goals for my place and the resulting soil building needs. With my Chipper, I now cruise the municipal yard like a crack addict looking for fresh cut shrubs or prunings on an almost weekly basis. I can take 2 loads from the yard to my house and shred them in less than 3 hours, and 2 loads will get me about 1.75 yards or chips (800#’s) which will cook down to about .8-1 cu yard. 3 hours of work and a fraction of a gallon of fuel for 600#s of humus. I’ll take it! Here are some shots of the process in action – the Week 3 shot didn’t turn out, but I will add one tomorrow.
It all starts with shredded material – this is what 350#’s of willow looks like after the Bio-80 has its way:
It takes 2 loads of with the trailer to fill a bin, about 8-900#’s of brush. Here is what it looks like after 2 weeks – remember that this will be 165 degrees with in 24-36 hours and stay over 140 for 14 days. This system is stunning.
Again, Wk 3-4 pic was a flop, but will add one soon.
Here is a shot of the lambsquarter : box elder pile after 5 weeks. This is the fastest I have ever seen compost created, and on par with the commercial operations with mechanical turners.
Now, the lambsquarter pile is likely going to outperform the other 3 piles in the bins right now due to the fact that it was primarily annuals with much less cellulose and lignin to break down – it also shrank almost 50% for that reason. This pile was also so nitrogen rich that it hit 178 degrees in early August – that is just silly and literally destructive to the microbes in the piles – at that temp you are cooking your hibernating mezophillic bacteria which is NOT a good thing.
I am very curious to see what the pure brush piles look like in 1.5 months, but they aren’t tracking too far behind. This pile can be recreated with sun choke stalks, cupplant, as well green sweet corn or sunflower stalks – but again – it takes ALOT – 800-1000#’s per pile since green material has so much water in it.
But the results speak for themselves. With my new setup I can have 2-3 cu yards over winter to be spread in the spring for my early plantings, and start new piles in April. By June I should be able to spread another 1″ of compost over the beds before the Heavy Feeders go in, and then another 1″ after they come out. It should be possible to run 3+ batches through the Compost Bins netting up to 15 cu yards of compost – in theory, enough to cover my 1000 sq ft annual bed 5 times to a depth of an inch. Of course the permaculture beds, insectary plantings and coppice mini- groves will get their share too. With this much humus hitting the soils of the system, organic matter will skyrocket along with yields.
And the icing on the cake? 15 cu yards of compost (humus) will sequester about 4 tons of carbon each year as well. Not bad at all.
Be the Change!