composting in black trashbags


Old 05-08-07, 12:18 PM
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: EASTERN US
Posts: 99
composting in black trashbags

Hello. Last fall i started a compost pile in my garden. The carbon source i used was shredded leaves. I live in Pennsylvania and we had a pretty cold winter. Now that it is spring the pile is not near ready to use. I removed the compost pile out of the garden and put it into 6 black carpenters bags. Each bag weighs over 70lbs. I plan on putting grass clippings in each bag and hopefully by fall i will have compost for topdressing my lawn. If i dont have enough grass clippings i might use a little urea as my nitrogen source. Has anyone ever tried this? If so how long did it take? Will i have compost by fall? If i do use urea(which contains 46% nitrogen)does anyone know how much i should put in each bag? I think the nitrogen source is depleted in my pile because the pile wouldn't heat up this spring even thought it was nice and moist inside and the pile was turned regularly.
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Old 05-08-07, 07:19 PM
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: USA
Posts: 15,834
The problem with the plastic bags is that compost needs air. The organisms that break down the compost need air to survive. Lack of air makes for slow decomposition and foul odors. Compost sealed in bags has no way of draining. Compost should be only as moist as a damp sponge. Composting is best when using nearly equal parts of nitrogen and carbon. The nitrogen is the green clippings. Vegetable and fruit peelings work well, too. The carbon is usually the brown waste such as twigs, leaves, straw, shredded newspaper, etc.

There are many good websites with info on composting and compost recipes. A good basic hot recipe is:

2 parts dry leaves
2 parts straw or wood chips/sawdust
1 part manure
1 part fresh garden weeds / lawn clippings
1 part food scraps

Note: grass clippings are great for composting, but too many fresh clippings will turn into green mush. Depending upon amount of clippings, you may need to dry half of them.

The more frequently you turn your mulch, at least once a month, your compost can be ready in 6-9 months. You need temps of 130 to 190 degrees. A soil thermometer is good for measuring temperature in center of compost.

Common compost problems:

Foul odor due to not enough air and lack of turning
White mold in center of compost due to lack of water and turning
Sweet smell and won't heat up due to lack of nitrogen (not enough green
Damp in middle and dry everywhere else due too small pile and lack of water

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