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Urban Composting 101


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#1 Myc

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 05:29 PM

Inspired by Sunstar and Lazlo. Thank you both for inspiring this effort!

Living in an urban area, some folks simply don't have room for compost bins and other efforts requiring space for bins, windrows of composting ingredients, etc. Let's face it these things require a lot of area.
After doing much reading on the subject of composting, I was inspired to try this based upon a method called trench composting.

Here is how I did it.

CAUTION: FOR THOSE WHO ARE UNDERTAKING THIS STYLE OF EFFORT, CALL BEFORE YOU DIG!!!

Underground utilities can be dangerous. Your local Gas, Electric, Telecommunications, and Cable companies will come out and locate these utilities free of charge. There is a very real danger of getting injured or even killed if a buried utility is damaged. Not to mention the very high cost of repairs should this happen. Play it safe and call for utility location "spots".

I chose to construct the pit in a dirt driveway. After all, the parking space is the largest area of wasted space so I decided to put in into productive use. Take care to dig the pit much narrower than your vehicle tracks to prevent caving in your trench while parking over it. I live in an area with very low annual rainfall and fast draining sandy soil so this method works well for me. Take these things into consideration should you choose to try this.

First, have all underground utilities located and spotted.
Second, begin excavation.

excavation.JPG

I chose to dig the pit to a finished depth of 28" to allow for incorporation of a drainage field. You don't want your compost heap to be sitting in pooled water.

completed pit.JPG


Use rocks and gravel to create a loose, porous, drainge layer.

drainage.JPG

Line the pit with landscape cloth.

liner.JPG

Staple the liner in place with staples. I fashioned mine from some wire material I had laying around. Metal coat-hangers would serve well also.

staples.JPG

Install a muck plate (a term borrowed from hard-rock mining) for ease of turning.

muck plate.JPG

Next you're ready to assemble the pile.
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#2 Myc

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 05:48 PM

Using values for composting components and formulas provided here:
http://mycotopia.net...t-easy-way.html
Select composting ingredients and weigh them out.
ingredients.JPG
Weigh each ingredient according to computations.
scale.JPG
Wet the ingredients a little at a time.
makeup.JPG
Too much water and the pile won't breathe properly thereby suffocating the microbes we're trying to promote.
Not enough water and they won't be able to reproduce.
So easy does it.
The best way to accomplish pre-wetting is to lay the materials out in windrows, spraying them with water and turning periodically over a period of several days. But due to lack of space, I chose to wet and assemble the pile in the same process.
Gypsum is an important component in pile makup. It increases water holding capacity while decreasing the danger of over-wetting. It also supplies calcium which is beneficial to our mushrooms. Add gypsum at a rate of 2.5 - 5 lbs per 100 lbs of dry weight.
Mix ingredients thoroughly and stack them in the pit. Don't compress pile. You want it to be loose so as to permit gas exchange.
finished pile.JPG

#3 eastwood

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 05:55 PM

:cool:

I got my chair.

#4 Myc

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 06:03 PM

Over the next several days, monitor temperatures closely with a thermometer. Temperatures will rapidly increase after pile makeup.

Temps at the core should be in the 150-180*F range. This is a sign of thermophiles doing their work.

Temps surrounding the core will be in the 120*F range.
During this process, microbes are using carbohydrates to break down nitrogen-containing components which releases ammonia. Other microbes are using the ammonia for their life cycle which increases the temperature of the pile.

When temps start to drop, this is a sign of decreased microbial activity signaling that the pile is running out of oxygen and needs to be turned.

When turning, remove the outer layer of the pile and set this material aside. It will become the core of the new pile upon re-assembly. This material will need to be watered as it will probably have dried out due to ready exposure to outside air.

pre-turn.JPG

The inner zone of the pile should be loaded with actinomycetes. They are ash-like in appearance and pretty noticable.

actinomycetes.JPG


Remove this material and set it aside separately.

Next, the core of the pile is removed and set aside.

Now for re-assembly. I simply mixed the inner zone and core material. Place the outer shell material in the pit, wetting a little at a time.....easy does it. Then stack the remaining material around the new core material.

re-stacked.JPG

Monitor the temperatures carefully over the next few days and when temps start to drop, we're ready for the second turn.

#5 eatyualive

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 07:34 PM

"archive material" when done. ill edit out the posts in between once you get everything down. excellent explanation! and i love the disclaimer. that is completely true. blowing out a gas line can cause serious problems.

:headbang::headbang::headbang:

#6 Sunstar

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 11:33 PM

:bow:Wow thats awesome man , you went to long lenths to get some good poo :amazed:
I hope everything goes well, keep us posted
:cool:

#7 Dank Side Of The Shroom

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Posted 20 June 2008 - 11:43 PM

sick. thas fuckn kewl. thas good idea for where we live. :eusa_clap

#8 Myc

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 02:01 PM

A compost heap, just like a mushroom culture, requires effort and careful monitoring to ensure a successful project.

I will be unable to tend the compost heap for several days so I decided to turn a little pre-maturely. This will reduce temperatures for a day or two and buy me some time.
If the pile enters an anaerobic state (deprived of oxygen) and isn't turned properly, the composting procedure will be negatively effected. Undesirable microbes will multiply and hinder or ruin our efforts altogether.

A few of you may be wondering why go to such lengths to compost?
After all, straws and manures seem to work well for bulk substrates by themselves.

The purpose of composting:
To exhaust food supplies favored by competitor organisms (a.k.a. contams).
Provide a dedicated purpose substrate favorable to mycelial growth.
Render materials not readily available as a food source for mycelial growth more readily accessible.

Our mushrooms won't have to work as hard decomposing and rendering these materials into a useable food source thereby decreasing spawn run times and increasing potential yields.
The fun part is that we're using the dreaded organisms referred to as "contams" to do the dirty work for us.

The method being demonstrated here is the Long Composting method as outlined in "The Mushroom Cultivator".
I have elected to use a quasi-synthetic compost formula consisting of:
100 lbs. - horse manure
20 lbs. - fresh grass clippings
20 lbs. - wheat straw
2.24 lbs. - blood meal (nitrogen booster)
1.25 lbs. - bone meal (nitrogen booster)
5 lbs. - gypsum

Composting isn't really all that difficult. The bulk of the work is done at makeup and turning is really a breeze.

On the second turn I'll be watering the pile and adding 2.5 lbs. of gypsum as recommended by TMC.

Start by removing the cool outer shell.
pre-turn.JPG
Wet this material always keeping in mind "easy does it" with the water. I can't stress this enough. A properly hydrated substrate should release just a little moisture when squeezed.
outer shell removal.JPG
hydration.JPG
Deconstruct the pile in layers, wetting and adding gypsum a little at a time for even distribution of supplements and moisture.
gypsum supplementin.JPG
Toss each layer after wetting/ supplementation and move to the side after even mixing of ingredients.
Thoroughly mix the entire pile so there are no concentrations of moisture or supplements. Break up any clumps which may have formed.
mix pile.JPG
And finally, re-stack the pile making sure to load it loosely and evenly in the trench. This will further ensure proper gas exchange.
re-stack.JPG

A slight ammonia smell should be evident when turning the pile. This is a good sign as certain microbes need ammonia for their life cycle. The actinomycetes should be evenly distributed throughout the pile while mixing.

Monitor pile temperatures carefully over the next few days and we're on to the Third Turn.

#9 Looky

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 08:17 PM

Great writeup!!!:eusa_clap

#10 Freaky

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Posted 24 June 2008 - 08:50 PM

:bow: This is simply fantastic Myc!!!! :bow:

#11 GordianHyphae

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 09:36 AM

great stuff, Myc! staying tuned for sure! :bow:

#12 aumbrellaforainydays

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 09:56 PM

does a truck always park on top of it? how much watering and TLC is this using? that muck plate looks crucial. this way seems like it conserves a lot more moisture and has a better temperature stability than above ground composters (northern temperature gardeners and with cold winters and clay this is plus), i bet it attracts worms and roots and other things, making it a leach fertilizer wherever you put it. maybe plant something around it.

#13 BuckarooBanzai

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Posted 25 June 2008 - 11:21 PM

Well I don't have the space for it, but that is an excellent write up, man. Very simply written, excellent pics and enough explanation of each section to have it make sense without overloading the reader with info.

I'm impressed, man. :bow:

#14 Myc

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 06:21 PM

does a truck always park on top of it?


Yes, it's my parking space.

how much watering and TLC is this using?


Water only while turning and hydrate to Field Capacity + - .
Other than that, the heap regulates itself.

that muck plate looks crucial.


Yes, it keeps the landscape cloth from being damaged while turning.

this way seems like it conserves a lot more moisture and has a better temperature stability than above ground composters


Correct! If you read "The Mushroom Cultivator", Stamet's outline for Long Composting requires that the sides of the pile be densely compacted. This method eliminates the need for compaction. The top and sides are deliberately left loose for gas exchange.

#15 FDK

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Posted 01 July 2008 - 09:01 PM

Well I think you've convinced me to change my plans for the 15'x15'x3'-ish Clay Pit I've been digging out. One big ready made batch of Bulk Sub already in place... Tempting... No, no, no, Invitro first,,, but, but, b-b-b-ulk!, No, no, no,,,

You have me in a Pickle Sir... Mmmm, Pickles,,,

#16 Myc

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Posted 02 July 2008 - 01:28 PM

So here we are at the third turn.
My extended absence has allowed the pile temps to drop into the 100*F range. I hope this doesn't hurt my efforts overall but I'm optimistic based upon my observations while turning.

Start by removing the cool outer shell. It will be quite dry from all of the gas exchange and exposure to air. Set it aside separately and hydrate carefully. This will form the core material of the new pile.
De-construct the remainder of the pile a little at a time watering as needed.
Cool outer shell.JPG
Note the rich brown color of the core material as opposed to the outer shell which still has bits of yellow straw showing. (Pile with rake on top)
This carmelized core material, which is flecked with actinomycetes, is the stuff we're after.
You may even run across some uninvited guests!
guest.JPG
Re-stack the pile placing the rehydrated outer shell in the core area.
Note that on this turn we are only building the pile to a depth of 24" or less. Now we'll be using the remaining length of the compost trench.
restacking.JPG
The re-stacked pile will have a lower profile and cover more area.
The idea behind this step is to reduce core temperatures so that the pile only reaches a maximum of 120-135*F. We only want to promote the growth of actinomycetes at this point and no longer need to favor the thermophiles.
While turning, the ammonia smell should be very slight.
This particular effort had no traces of ammonia at all and the core material (rich dark brown in color) is probably ready for spawning. I simply wanted to further break down the cool outer shell so as to maximize the use of all materials available and further promote the actinomycetes.
lower pile profile.JPG
Temps will be monitored carefully over the next few days.
This effort will be ready to pasteurize and fill after temps drop below 120*F. The pH and moisture content will be check at that time.

#17 BuckarooBanzai

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 12:18 AM

Damn good thread.

#18 Myc

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 07:44 AM

Thank you all for your kind replies and encouragement.
BB - I'm sure you recognize a little of your own style here - probably why you like the thread.
I borrowed cues from your "institute" in order to make this thread reader friendly and understandable.
It was my goal to put hours and hours of research into one simple step-by-step tutorial.
Like many here, I came seeking knowledge and found much.
It is a real honor to be able to contribute.

:bow:

#19 FDK

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 01:56 PM

Starting to wonder how good an idea it would be to set up a garden a few feet down the drainage field? Mabey a pile of bulk sub a few further. mabey the drainage field could provide for some additional irrigation & fertilization? (I'm working on a 45ish degree slope)

October is starting to seem all too close. lol

#20 eatyualive

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Posted 03 July 2008 - 07:17 PM

Starting to wonder how good an idea it would be to set up a garden a few feet down the drainage field? Mabey a pile of bulk sub a few further. mabey the drainage field could provide for some additional irrigation & fertilization? (I'm working on a 45ish degree slope)

October is starting to seem all too close. lol


yes you can. it works well. it produces a kind of microclimate even when its not raining and a bit dry usually there will be a bit of water in drainage swale or detention pond. foaf has tried this outdoors next to a drainage area under large plants that collect lots of moisture. philodendron selloum plants. very large leaf, collect water. make for great microclimates underneath them.




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