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Hi I need advice please , on where I am going wrong with my compost? I have built a 3 bay set up & am following a Hotbox system with organic powder I mix up & water on every few layers, I have it covered in carpet on bay one & yet it is not breaking down ? I have even added comfrey , as advised by a fellow plotter, what is stopping it working?? 


  • connie77connie77 Posts: 151
    My compost set up
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,358
    What makes you think it isn't working  @connie77
    How do the contents  look, and how long has the first filled bay been going? It can take a while to break down depending on conditions  :)
    Not sure what the powder is that you're adding, but most compost generally just needs heat, moisture and mixing to work, assuming theres a goodmix of materials going in.
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • connie77connie77 Posts: 151
    Hi Fairygirl, it has been there over six months now, the powder I am adding is from a guy in Newcastle, he makes up organic compost starters all plant based you just mix up with water,   As for heat , I have a rainproof top on my bay & plenty of carpet too, yet when I put my Thermometer in this week it barely registered any heat ? Getting dispondent now 😕 
  • LynLyn Posts: 23,090
    It looks like you have gaps in the wood, if you can fill those in you will get more heat generate.  Grass cuttings are very good to get it working as is horse poo. 

    With the summer we’ve had it should be steaming by now, I can’t think why not except you haven’t got the balance quite right.

    Ours  is ready in two months,  the first lot this year has been used and the rest is bagged ready for spreading in the autumn,  six months is plenty long enough if you get the balance right. 

    The best starter you can have is a couple of shovels full of soil from your own ground , it will contain all the bacteria needed and some worms as well. 

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • connie77connie77 Posts: 151
    Hi Lyn, I have added soil to the heap & manure too, I always lead to believe you needed gaps to let the heap breath? Or it ends up too dry? , I garden on clay & our plots are on a flood plain, we last flooded in March but, there wasn’t much on my heap then so, doubt that has affected it much, with heat we have had since, whatever the magic touch is in making compost? I haven’t got it lol! 🤷‍♀️
  • LynLyn Posts: 23,090
    The only magic touch is getting an equal balance of greens and browns, keep it as hot as possible so no gaps, a carpet over the top will let rain in, and not let heat out, and turn it every week for a start to incorporate as much air as you can. 
    Once you’ve got that you’ll have compost good enough to enrich your soil in a couple of months.
    For soil enrichment you don’t need it like dust, so no need to sieve it, just dig in. 
    It will take longer in the winter,  with no hot sun but you still need to turn it regularly.

    Gardening on the wild, windy west side of Dartmoor. 

  • PosyPosy Posts: 3,601

    I think you are worrying too much Connie. Lyn obviously does her compost the expert way and gets fast results but you don't have to be a super composter to get good compost. I'm not, and my compost is excellent, but I usually let it form over 6 - 12 months! For me, if speed is an issue, there are two key points. One is that anything twiggy or thick, such as old perennial stems or cabbage stalks are chopped into short lengths and that the composting material is pulled out and mixed up to encourage rotting.

    I have one bin which I am filling with waste from the kitchen and garden, including some grass clippings, for weeks or months. Once it is full, I pull it out, mix it up and add water if there are dry bits. Then it all goes into a second bin and is covered with old carpet. I have plenty of space so I just leave it alone but if in a hurry, I turn it again. The more often you turn it, the faster it will be ready.

    I also have a heap of grass cuttings which is simply contained between rows of old logs. In early winter I dig out the whole lot, breaking up lumps and mixing old and new material, moving it into a second bay. There are no high sides or covers, no activators, just a heap and fresh air.From time to time I repeat the turning so it moves back to the first bay and so on. Depending on my industry and the weather it makes wonderful compost sometimes by late spring but usually for next autumn.

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,744
    I'd agree that you may be overthinking things. I'd line the bin on the left with black polythene. It'll keep the heat in, attract heat from the sun and stop moisture evaporating. 
    Dig it all out, line it and dig it all back in, mixing coarse with fine, wet with dry etc and it'll be heating up in now time. 
    The only "activator" I ever add is , erm, self produced. Men find it easier to add than women  ;)
  • HelixHelix Posts: 631
    Are you mixing it or just adding more layers?  It might be getting too compacted.

    With us it takes a year to get good compost as so cold, but everything will get there in the end. It’s nature! 
  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Posts: 87,005
    An  ‘activator’ of recycled beer and/or cider ... and even a dash or two of recycled 🍷 is great. 

    If if you can get hold of a bag of chicken manure or guinea pig or rabbit poo from a neighbour’s pet’s hutch ... or we sometimes pay 50p for a bag of pony pickings at a field gate ... all are a great addition to get things going ... but if you’ve got a good mix in there, it’s damp but not wet, and you stir it up from time to time, it’ll work ... sometimes it takes a bit longer than other times. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

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