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QUESTION: Using a compost tumbler in cold weather

comments (6) January 28th, 2010

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JadaE JadaE, member
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Click To Enlarge Photo: Chris McLaughlin

Hey fellow gardeners!  I am reading up on composting a lot lately, and have a quick question for those of you who are experts!  (Chris Mc.? Others?) :)

I have a tumbler composter, and last night when I took my scraps and coffee out, the compost was one huge ice cube!  Of course it was 20 degrees, so not surprising!  QUESTION:  Should I stop putting stuff out there until the weather warms a bit?  Or just keep on tossing stuff on top of the ice?  My neighbor was out with his dog, and thought my tumbling the "ice" was pretty funny!

Also, I just devoured the Spring issue of Urban Farm magazine (GREAT ARTICLE on composting, Chris McLaughlin!), and have a question about worm composting.  I know that the little critters can't tolerate freezing temps outside, but would they survive in my frigid garage?  Hubby doesn't really love the idea of indoor worms, but I know in Georgia they would fry in the summer and freeze right now! :)  Hubs doesn't know it, but I'm getting my bin this weekend, and it will go in the basement if needed! LOL!

Thanks for any advice you can offer....I am impatient for Spring to get here!  Santa gave me some gift cards so that I can buy some grow lights and seed starting equipment, and I can't wait to get going! :)  

-Jada in GA

 

 

 


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Comments (6)

howardcharl2 writes: You are Awesome
Posted: 6:10 am on February 12th
Carldiaz5 writes: Good job!!
Posted: 4:37 am on January 25th
keithlopez5 writes: Incredible work
Posted: 12:53 am on January 15th
Dysonste writes: worms are helpful
Posted: 2:45 am on July 2nd
altavitae writes: Hi, I just saw your comment about starting germinating seeds under lights. I did this several years and enjoyed it greatly. It's a thrill to recognize the plants by their first leaves.
Two things are important to your success: 1)pay attention to the days it will take for the seeds to germinate. 2)Follow instructions on whether a seed needs light to germinate. The smaller seeds can be set on the surface and covered with a sprinkling of sand.
Be meticulous about labeling, too.

I only have experience with flowering plants so I can't speak about vegetables but it's good to know how long you'll have to wait for seeds to sprout.

I have also done a mini-hothouse treatment which always works: put a few seeds in a moist paper towel, fold it and seal it in a sandwich bag. Place it in a foam carton on top of the refrigerator or any other warm place. In a week or so you'll have sprouted seeds which you can then put in soil. It's fun to be able to see the seeds as they begin to sprout.

Now I only start sunflowers and Cosmo from seed because I must have these plants, and I can get just what I want.

Good luck!
Chris
Posted: 1:15 pm on February 13th
ChrisMcLaughlin writes: Hi JadaE: I'm sorry - I JUST saw this question yesterday! Typically in a compost turner situation, the "ingredients" are added all at once and then turned daily (or what-have-you) until the compost is finished. It's sort of a one batch at a time thing. As to whether or not to add to the tumbler - that's up to you. If you don't add anything more (unless you need to because you're low on nitrogen or carbon) everything will be ready all together. If you keep adding, you'll need to sift the compost before you use it because some things won't be broken down and some will. That said, I'd keep turning, because keeping the oxygen running through the pile will keep the process going. Although it's so cold that everything is going to take some time to break down. As to whether or not to add to the tumbler - that's up to you. If you don't add anything more (unless you need to because you're low on nitrogen or carbon) everything will be ready all together. If you keep adding, you'll need to sift the compost before you use it because some things won't be broken down and some will.

I'm thrilled that you liked the article in Urban Farm! Your worms herd will freeze in your garage where you live. You could try some insulation like Styrofoam,hay bales, or another type of wrap. Other worm farmers have had great success with this. Another is when spring comes and goes again - create a "worm bin on the ground" (which is really just a cold compost pile). As long as there is organic material on the soil, the worms will hang around doing their decomposing work. Even in the freezing temps, they'll go just a layer below for the winter only to come back up again in the spring to do more decomposing. One thing, though. Red wigglers like the top several inches or so of the soil. So there needs to be organic matter there at all times. When the soil runs out and becomes bone dry - these dudes die.
Posted: 2:21 pm on February 1st
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