The disappearing compost pile

This is sort of a “dear diary” post but I’m sure some will relate. Every year i carve out time to pick up horse manure from a stable. I take the somewhat lazy approach; i build a big pile early in the year, i let it sort itself out by the next. After three pickup beds i was proud of myself, it looked like a respectable pile. Looking at it now it has shriveled to less than half the size :cry:

I need to build a compost holding area big enough to take about four yards green… i could get away with smaller if i forego the lazy approach and actually water/turn it here and there…

How big is your compost operation?


Mine is gone for now. Whatever I do, it has to be completely rat proof. I had a bin purchased from town with hardware cloth laid down underneath it. It was of no use as if the bin is not on perfectly flat ground it’ll tilt enough to allow rodents in through the top. Back to the drawing board.

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Check out farm supply stores, they have rat food that is weather resistant. This is also the sort of stuff you want to put by the tree base for winter voles.


This is what @eboone recommended to me for keeping fig trees alive through winter too (along with insulation). Sound advice.

Mine is a rotating garden scrap bin, probably only 250 liters.

I do get free horse manure compost as needed from my bosses father in law. 3,000 hay bales a year makes a lot of poop.

Additional side note - that “disappearing” part could be captured and harvested as free methane to burn. Check it out on YouTube, lots of cool ideas.

Each year I haul a number of yards from a local horse barn pile. I put the greenest manure on the bottom and use some of the older or leaves to cover the whole pile about 15’ diameter for the winter. As I build the pile I spread river sand evenly throughout to help worms digest the materials. The leaves insulate it to keep it from freezing to keep the the worms working most of winter. In the spring I add to the pile all my grass clippings and begin to turn it with my tiller. (Lazy man approach). This kills most all weeds that come close enough to surface to germinate. After about 4 tillings over a period of about 3 weeks, it’s used for potato planting. Thereafter, I till it another several weeks until I am done with grass cutting, then we plant the pile with Zukinni and Tomatoes!


Running leave through a chipper/shredder and mixing them into the shrinking manure is a good way to fluff the pile, compost the leaves, and have a better planting / gardening mix next season.


Any brands to recommend?

That mirrors my experience. I compost kitchen scraps, yard scraps with large volumes of saw dust from my woodshop and typically load up a 4’ x 4’ x 5’ bin over the course of a year. I turn 1 time to a second bin of the same size and end up with about 50% of the originally volume



Compost/Manure/Woodchips/Leaves or whatever pile you have if healthy and alive is being fed on 24/7 by microorganisms/fungis/molds/worms etc.

Whatever bulk you think you have is basically just food for them… and their waste is what you want trickling down to the roots of whatever you apply those things to.

So even though the pile is shrinking… that same thing would happen on your application in time. They are actually doing all of your heavy lifting.

Here is what one bagful of compost can do…

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I have one of the small wood chippers and love it. Just flipped the blades over because i had dulled one edge. Works like new again. I use it mostly for tree trimmings, but i’ve also chipped sunflower stalks, various vines, raspberry/blackberry canes. Makes a great mulch material—downside is it is a little slow working large amts of material thru and very loud.


I have a troy bilt… i think its 12HP.

I have recently got into pine bark shavings for top dressing on my berry plants. its excellent weed control. I also mix it into potting soil.

I buy the bags of pine bark nuggets because they are cheap at around $3 a bag…then run them thru the chipper to get the pine fines. Pine fines are $6 a bag here.

I like to put my canes in the walkways and let them dry out and run them over with the mower. Nobody talks about it but i found out that the roots of blackberries go under the walkways… so nutrition is needed there as well.

I need to try running them thru the chipper too… i think i saw where someone burns them into biochar and puts them in the rows…not much info on that.

Once you smell healthy shredded leaves… you will never forget it. Smells like a very dirty wet dog… at least mine do.

Whatever the farming supply store has rated for outdoor use should work. Anything not rated for outdoor use would crumble in record time just from ambient humidity.

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I would not use those. Bark is specifically engineered by trees to resist decomposition. You may think that’s what you want but the end effect is that it is poisonous to the organisms in the soil you want thriving and breaking down organic material into plant food. Not only that but the nutritional value of bark is pretty much nil, plants do not store nutrients like minerals in the bark.

I use green wood chips from branches that are sub 2" in diameter, this is where 75% or so of minerals were stored. As they decompose the nutrients are released in situ for the plants to use. The downside is that ihave to mulch twice a year because the mulch keeps decomposing.

Have wood chip and cow manure compost stashed in larger piles than i will ever use in my lifetime but will likely make more. Have around a 1/4 of an acre 3 feet deep in finished compost. The reason i have so much is im always cutting trees or brush down. If someone cut all their weeds and composted them they would have the richest ground around. Many of my trees drop so many leaves they make their own compost. Ever noticed how rich the dirt is in the woods? Ever used any of that dirt in your garden? Bought tons of cow manure at $25 a load its great stuff.

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Interesting. My local nursery sells potting soil that is full of pine bark…

I think bark is what speeds up the process of decomposition…isnt that why fence posts are peeled?

then there is these threads and lots of others.

I think TNHunter uses bark mulch and has for over 20 yrs… i think Drew also uses bark in his potted trees and canes.

Then there is this
“Pine bark is considered an industry standard as a potting media.”

Here are Drew’s pics of using pine bark.

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I used to have access to a very old pile of horse manure, a mountain 10+ years old. It was a bit murderous on my truck because it was completely broken down into soil and much denser. But on the other hand it was 100% stable so no further shrinking took place. Unfortunately one year somebody came and truck it all away.

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I think that this should be taught in grade school. The leaf rakers spend so much effort getting rid of the leaves then have to buy fertilizer to replace the nutrients.

I think thats why roots travel under streets and into basements…they want the heck away from the leaf rakers.

I watched a video of the Permaculture Orchard…he uses plastic in his rows… just the leaves that fall onto the plastic are good enough growing medium for lots of things.

I recently saw a tree growing from a roof gutter…

Not as established as this… but amazing nonetheless.


I only have a small yard, so my compost bins aren’t too big either. I have three pallet bins about 4’x4’x4’ or so.

I usually have a good amount of browns, so what I use for greens is actually an app called ShareWaste (if you live in a reasonably populated area and compost I highly recommend it!). It essentially puts me and my bins on a map and my neighbors can contact me and ask to drop off their waste. They get to keep their trash out of a landfill, I get compost and new friends. :slight_smile:

I currently have four families contributing to my bins, which is about equal to my supply of browns.


Watch out for “fire fang” in your compost piles. If the pile gets too dry, it can turn white from the fire fang fungus and get turned straight into CO2 and water and evaporate away. It’s worthwhile to water piles if you think they are too dry or getting too hot.