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How to Make Better Compost

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I have a bunch of them here because I produce a lot of waste here, and I want to use that waste to enrich my garden, instead of enriching the landfill, where it’s just wasted, and I don’t like being wasted and neither should you guys. Anyways, I’ll show you what we’ve got here today. We’ve got a Sunmar 400 composter I picked up on Craigslist.. I got a Jorofrom 270 composter. I got a standard 55-gallon drum barrel composter, and I got a Lifetime composter there. So, this is going to be an update on how these guys are doing,and keep in mind, I just came back from like a week vacation, so I wasn’t able to come out and turn em every day like I should be to get the aeration in there.

So, let’s go through these guys one by one and share with you how they’re doing, and what could be improved and how they could be improved if they’re not working properly. First, we’re going to talk about the sunmar composter. Now, this composter, to me, it has some pretty great reviews by the manufacturer and whatnot that it’s supposed to be continuous composting system and what not, and so far I have not found this to be that good of a composter. When we open this guy up, you can see my mixture in here, and I got a lot of carbon source and nitrogen source in here. The carbon source is primarily the wood chips and, you know,I put the thermometer in here. We’re going to see and take a reading on that, but basically I can feel this compost and it’s not warm. Even at lower temperatures compost can be happening, but guess what? Compost is going to be happening much slower, especially if you’re not in the range. As you saw in a previous episode, I do have this compost thermometer and it’s kind of nice because it’s color-coded. It tells you if it’s too hot, active, or steady,or just too cool. So, this composter at present time is just steady, that’s the same temperature as the outside air. It’s just not working well enough. Now, I don’t know, will this composter start to take off if I change things? Maybe I need to add more carbon or nitrogen or maybe it’s too moist, not moist enough. I’m just going to have to play with it and see. All I know is that this composter was working for a little bit, but now it’s too cool. I’m going to go ahead and add air by rotating this composter, see if I can get this composter going again. One of the things so far that I don’t like about the Sunmar is that the center chamber is not part of the pile. It’s actually a separate part that’s supposed to give the never-ending compost once you get doing and up to this point I haven’t seen good results with the sunmar 200. Next, let’s move on to my favorite composter that you guys have seen in past episodes. That’s called the joroform. So, the next composter I want to talk about right now is the Joroform, and I had really high hopes for this guy because it is all metal and working really good and, you know, during composting it goes up to  150 or 130 degrees, but now if we open it up, we can see, my compost is actually quite broken down in both sides, but it’s not really finished and the thing is, if I put my compost thermometer in there, which I don’t really need because I can just feel the heat with my hands, it’s really cool to the touch. So, this compost is not a total active hot pie and this time. It’s a lot cooler. While this is and excellent design made out of metal and has the insulation just because it’s one of the best composters in the world, in my opinion, doesn’t means it’s going to work properly if you don’t use it properly. So, here’s the thing. So, you know, there’s a few things going on why this is not an active compost pile.

Number one, I don’t have enough carbon. Number 2, I don’t have enough nitrogen, and the converse, I may have too much carbon or too much nitrogen and, you know, not have the ratio, and I’ll definitely be the first to tell you that I’m not a composting expert. While this composter does work better, you still need to pay attention and mix things appropriately. In addition, the mixture may be too wet or too dry. Let me mix my hand in here, and wow, actually. So, you should be able to pick up the compost and squeeze, you shouldn’t see any water drip. I’m seeing a little bit of water dripping so this mixture may be a little bit too moist. So, we’re going to go ahead and add a little but more wood chips in there on this side. As to this side, this side is actually significantly dryer than the other side. As you can see, you know, a bit of this stuff is broken down. Actually,this is an avocado pit, and if we just squeeze it, look at that. That pit’s just literally breaking in half because this stuff has been composted by the joro composter. Wow, this thing is just disintegrating in my hands. Overall, I have to say this thing is working really good, and another problem might be not enough aeration. So, because, you know, you’re supposed to come out here every day and just give it one spin, and that will provide enough air, maybe because I was gone for a week, I wasn’t providing it the aeration it needs, and it just stopped working on me. So, what I’m going to try next is I’m actually going to aerate it. So, I’m going to spin it a couple times and come back tomorrow maybe see if it starts to work again, and if not, probably what I’m going to do, since I have 2 sides, I get to experiment and see what the problem is. So, one side I might add more nitrogen, in the form of grass clippings and food scraps and in the other side I might add something like more wood pellets or more sawdust to get more carbon. So, you know, once you own a composter, it’s not done yet. You need to get a PhD in composting and figure out howto use it properly and make adjustments if it’s not working for you, because there are no simple solutions in life. You always need to figure things out and figure out how they work. Life is all about learning and growing.

So, let’s move to the next compost here. The next compost is the barrel composter and I’ve really learned I don’t like this style composter. In this composter I know the issue I’m having is that I need to add more carbon because I put a lot of nitrogenous wastes in there. It needs a lot more carbon. Otherwise, I don’t like how you have to unscrew the lid on this every time and it gets rather heavy, and there’s no handles on this to spin it, you know, properly. You just kind of have to flick it around. Anyways, on to the next composter here, and this is the Lifetime composter. I got it on clearance sale at Costco, and you know, this is a good composter. It get quite heavy to spin, and it doesn’t really have good handles for spinning it like the Joroform, but, you know, what I have found out is that it does work very well, because if we just open this up and put the thermostat in there, wow I can just open this up and feel the heat coming off. So, this composter is probably a good 20 degrees warmer than the others, but that could just be simply because of a greater, or better, mixture in here. This is a fresher batch of compost that hasn’t broken down as much as the Joroform, for example, and also,this seems to be a fairly wet mixture, but not too wet. This composter appears to be working pretty well. So, you know what? If everything’s working, it’s nice and warm. We’re just going to go ahead and close it up and just keep spinning every day.

Now, I do want to go back to the Joroform over here, because this is my pride and joy, my little baby over here that’s not totally working properly, and that’s alright. So, what I’m going to do is I’m going to do the easiest thing first. Because I have been gone, and because I haven’t been spinning it every day, the first thing is to just get some extra oxygen in there by spinning the composter. I will just add some extra aeration in there,and it might start working, So, what I’m going to do next is just play with this and spin it every day for the next few days and see if I can get that temperature up and working again, because obviously I have a pretty good mixture, by just looking at it, of the carbon to nitrogen ratio and also the moisture seems about right to me. You don’t want it sopping wet, but you don’t want it too dry either. If that doesn’t work, then we’ll come backat you with some other solutions and some other things to try. It’s always best in composting and in gardening and in life to try always the easiest thing first that doesn’t take any skin off your back. Alright, so we’re going to go ahead and close this up. I do like the nice metal latches. Another thing I really like about the Joroform composters is the really east handles. I mean, there’s handles literally every other rotation that allows you to easily spin the composters, and you can get some good aeration in there quite easily, and get a workout at the same time.

Now we’re back, and it’s actually been 3 days since I made that last segment that you just saw and I’ve been spinning this guy every single day nice and easily. So, what I’m going to do now is actually go ahead and open this guy up and check the temp. My thermometer was in there, now it got lost. Here it is. Alright, so my compost thermometer has been in there, and it looks like it’s about 110 degrees now. So, you know, simply by spinning it, it definitely heated up by probably like30 degrees or so. That’s definitely good. The thing I want to talk to you guys about now, I always say learn as you grow, learn as you compost, too. Every task in composting, as you’re growing your food, you know, you’re going to have to learn as you grow, because things aren’t always going to work properly. As time goes on, the temperature of your compost will change. Right when I put stuff in, man, I was super impressed, it was super hot, it was 150 for like the first 2 or 3 weeks, every time I opened it steam would come out, but now I’m a bit disappointed ’cause I’m not seeing that same steam and it’s not quite as hot. Another thing I wanted to show you guys is how it looks inside right now. You guys saw when I filled it completely up it was like 90% full, and literally this bin looks like it’s almost 50% full, maybe 60% full, and what that means is that this compost has been breaking down, and, you know, right when you put it in, there’s different kinds of bacteria that live in your compost piles. Some bacteria are more active at certain  temperature ranges. So, you might have a wife that works in the cold weather,and she doesn’t like the heat, and she feels best when it’s like 60 degrees out and whatnot, but when it gets 90 she doesn’t feel like moving. She likes to stay inside and whatnot. So, that’s kind of like the bacteria and your compost.

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When there’s a lot of fresh organic medium in there, some of the bacteria will thrive and they’ll kick up and they’ll start munching away, but as that percentage of organic matter decreases and goes down, then there’s different kinds of bacteria that will dominate our compost pile, and you want a good mixture of all the different kinds because they’re all required and all beneficial. So, now that we’re at 110, our compost pile is active and it’s, yes, still working. Even at low temperatures down in the 70s your compost pile can still be working, but of course, you know, the hotter the temperature, those bacteria tend to break down more food faster. Now, why is it the hotter temperatures? Because, you know, the temperature’s created form the bacteria working, and the faster they’re breaking down food, the more heat they’re putting off. So, the lower the heat, your compost pile’s not working as fast. So, once again, insulation helps with this. As I said before, in another part of the video, the only things that can go wrong really with composting, whether you’re composting in a tumbler like the Joroform here, or just a standard pile, are really simple, you know, and you got to be problem solving to figure out which is the once for you. Carbon; too much, too little. Nitrogen; too much, too little. Water; too much, too little. Air; too much, too little. Very simple, just 4 simple things, and if you get that right, then your compost will happen. You know, my old adage was put it all in a pile, the compost happens, and sometimes my compost pile would take a year! That’s an insane amount of time. I mean, I’ve learned that your compost can take just about a month, a little over a month, and, you know, be pretty good or almost finished. So, you know, just by simply spinning this, we’ve got the temperature back up to 110 degrees. I’m quite happy with it, but I always want to see if we can go further. So, what I want to encourage you guys to do is if you don’t know the answer,you know, reach out, try to Google the answer, ask people questions, gardeners, composters, the place you bought the composter form, for answers, but otherwise, just experiment.

So,besides just spinning with air we got up to 110, I’m going to try a few things. I think,personally, we know the air is good because I’ve been spinning it, and it’s been getting a lot of air. This moisture looks about right. This side looks a little bit dryer, this side a little bit wetter, but they both look about 110, so I’m happy with that. So, what we’re going to do is add more fuel to the fire, to the compost. So, on this side we’re going to add the nitrogen base. These are just yard clippings and a lot of tree collard leaves and tree collard stems that I cut up into little small pieces, and we’re also going to add a really rich nitrogen source. You’re thinking, ‘John, you got a lawn?’ No, man, I don’t got a lawn. I took my lawns out a long time ago, but what I have is this old wheat grass. I was at a trade show actually and they had wheat grass. I was going to juice it but by the time they gave it to me, it was looking kind of pitiful. So, we’re going to compost it. High quality, organically grown wheat grass that’s been composting in this bucket. Alright, so we’re going to put a pile of this in there on this side. Once again, nitrogenous scraps because if this side was low in nitrogen, it’s not gonna be low anymore, and then over on this side, one of the biggest problems with the compost s that you guys probably aren’t outing enough carbon. So, by carbon, you can put more leaves in, more sawdust,more wood chips, more paper products, or what I’m using today are the pine pellets which is compressed sawdust, and this is significantly more sawdust in a small enough space and we’re just going to toss that guy in.

Now we’ve got a pretty good kind of control test here. This side’s 100, this side’s 100. This side got more nitrogen, this side got more carbon. Let’s close these up, spin ’em around, and we’ll come back in a few days and see what the temperature is that point, see which side is kickin’ more ass than the other, and see what we might have been deficient in. Once, again, adding more stuff to your compost pile in the state will overall lengthen the amount of time that your compost is going to need to be finished. So, you’re going to just want to keep it rolling and keep it doing whatever it’s doing, and then you can empty it and let it start fresh. So, anyways, but I like to experiment, so let’s go ahead and close this guy up, lock these down, we’re locked and loaded, spin! Spin! Spin! Alright, this is definitely good exercise.

I love the Joroform. It works really well. Let’s go ahead and spin this around one more time and open it up for you guys. As you can see, we got all our stuff mixed in there. I mean, this stuff almost looks like a finished compost now, so it’s almost done. So, just in a little but of more  time, I’ll probably start sifting this stuff out, and we’ll have some new compost for my garden. So, that’s the side we added more nitrogen, and this is the side we added more of the carbon. Next we are going to go ahead and close this up and let compost happen.