Compost - to cover or not to cover?

Hi All

I have been making compost for quite a few years - well trying to!  I get maybe two barrow loads after two years of adding, turning, blah blah blah.  I have had some good heat, obviously most notably when the grass cuttings or plant shredding in autumn goes on top.  I have two self constructed wooden cubes with air gaps. Farmers, I think, put black plastic over their heaps in the fields.  So should I do the same and if so would it be worth putting something thicker for greater insulation.  I know it might be awkward when turning but if it improves my yield I can live with it.  BTW I think I do the normal things like green and brown waste and turning, even tried mixing in industrial wood shreddings.  It all works but very slowly.  I live in Dorset but I do not think external temperature that important.  Any thoughts?

Cheers

Bob
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Posts

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 22,256
    I use a sheet of polythene, to keep moisture in and a layer of old carpet on top for insulation.
    If it's an open top heap, you could put another sheet of plastic on top of the carpet to keep the rain off the carpet.
    Devon.
  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 14,714
    Most things can go on it, junk mail, newspapers food cartons, the smaller you chop/tear  it up the quicker it will work, it does need covering to keep the heat in if you want a quick turnover of usable compost, ours is ready for bagging after 2 months through the summer.  Cover with plastic, thick carpet then galvanised on the top, It will heat up a treat then.
    keep it turned, but be careful as it gets very  hot in the middle. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • wild edgeswild edges The north west of south east WalesPosts: 3,695
    If you have access to lots of brown cardboard then you can keep heaping that on top and around the sides. You might need a brick to hold it in place but it's a great way to regulate the moisture and heat in compost and doesn't break down and leave you with bits of plastic all over the place like carpet tends to.

    If speed is a priority then when it gets very damp you can turn it into the heap and replace but I tend to just add more stuff on top and it builds up like lasagna.
  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 22,256
    give a local carpet shop a call, ( that's what I did ) and they're normally more than happy for you to take some wool based, hessain backed carpet from their skip.
    I'd not use polypropylene carpet.
    Devon.
  • PosyPosy Posts: 1,651
    Lyn clearly has the answer if a quick result is needed. However I don't understand why your heap takes so long when you work so hard. I pile up all my stuff in one bin. When that is full I mix it all up and put it in another bin. It needs to be damp but not wet. I chuck a couple of old sacks on  and leave it to cook. It takes less than a year but I can hurry it along by turning it.
  • SkandiSkandi Northern DenmarkPosts: 617
    I've managed one decent load of compost.. ONE my heaps get so wet even with a cover I cannot imagine how bad they would be uncovered, (I have slatted bins on the soil with metal roofing covering.
    The big clamps you see in the fields are not compost though, they are silage that plastic is there to STOP it rotting into compost, by excluding air.
  • emma96nathanemma96nathan CanadaPosts: 9
    bobloes said:
    Hi All

    I have been making compost for quite a few years - well trying to!  I get maybe two barrow loads after two years of adding, turning, blah blah blah.  I have had some good heat, obviously most notably when the grass cuttings or plant shredding in autumn goes on top.  I have two self constructed wooden cubes with air gaps. Farmers, I think, put black plastic over their heaps in the fields.  So should I do the same and if so would it be worth putting something thicker for greater insulation.  I know it might be awkward when turning but if it improves my yield I can live with it.  BTW I think I do the normal things like green and brown waste and turning, even tried mixing in industrial wood shreddings.  It all works but very slowly.  I live in Dorset but I do not think external temperature that important.  Any thoughts?

    Cheers

    Bob
    When you use food scraps, obviously you need to cover it with another layer of compost like a layer of dried leaves..grass or somethin make sure none of the food waste is peeking through :) hope it helps
  • bobloesbobloes Posts: 117
    Thanks for all those ideas, comments and experiences; the latter making me very jealous re speed.  Even in this baking summer the heap never really dried out as might have been expected.  I turn it whenever I put grass cuttings on top so it can be between two to four weeks depending on growth.  The heat I mentioned earlier generally dissipates within a week until the next layering.  Should I turn it more often?

    Here is a picture of my compost containers, each 80x70x60 cm.  The left one is empty, normally at the turn of the year I transfer the contents of the right one into it and start again on the right.  I continue to turn both until the contents of the left one are usable.  So maybe I get the compost after 18 months rather than two years.  Anything obviously wrong?
    Cheers Bob


  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 22,256
    I'd put more timber to cover up those gaps.
    IMHO you only need about a 2" gap at the bottom to allow air to be drawn in. I think  you're just losing heat with all those gaps.
    Devon.
  • LynLyn DevonPosts: 14,714
    edited October 2018
    I haven’t got any air gaps at all in my two wooden bins, I incorporate air by turning. 
    Looking at you photo again, I would say there’s plenty enough in there, don’t add anymore, it looks quite compressed, you need to fluff it up a bit so there’s air in there.
    with the paper you put on, it’s a good idea to screw it into balls, that way there will be air pockets.  
    I would take that fresh stuff of the top, turn it with a garden fork then up turn into the other side and cover with carpet p, fill in the spaces and leave until the bin is full again, then the left hand side should be ready for bagging up until you want to use it. 
    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

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