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Starting a Compost Project at a Large Garden


October 27, 2017

I work at large public garden in Santa Fe. We are planning on developing a compost program for our garden, but would like to get more information on compost systems that would best fit our needs. The majority of the waste we collect are clippings and leaves, but we also have some waste from our orchard and vegetable garden in the fall. We also have a continuous source of compost material, since we maintain the garden quite often. An outdoor compost bin would be best for us, but we're unsure if we should have it hot or cold. We would like to contain the compost and its scent as much as possible since we have critters and local landowners to consider, but we also want the material to decompose quickly so we can use it throughout the garden. Do you have any recommendations on whether or not we should use a hot or cold compost bin, as well as potential design types? Any help is appreciated!


Answer by JZ: I will do my best to answer your questions.  Other colleagues may reply too.

Garden clippings & leaves are fine additions.

Unpleasant scents in a composting operation often come from compaction of wet organic material, which obviates spaces for air, then anaerobic bacteria proliferate, then produce odiferous gases. So, if you bulk your pile as you build you will eliminate that issue. Coarse bulking is described in the brochure noted in the below link.

A well managed hot ( thermophilic) composting set will destroy pathogens and seeds. If well managed, then you could expect a fished product in 3 - 6 months.  The hot process would be a useful choice for your garden. 

There are are specific guidelines for the hot process which are summarized at this link.

Containers (bins) for a hot process may be of various construction, but at a minimum need to hold at least a cubic yard of organics. You may see various types of bin possibilities at this link - Wire round & NZ box.

If you have time/ money/supplies, then consider the New Zealand Box, which is very snug

and visually attractive, neat & tidy!  Having three bins, hot process management is facilitated.

Inexpensively, you could make a bin from fencing wire then lined with a tarp - which is shown

at the above link. You could get started inexpensively, then move on, eventually to a better quality bin.

A cold process setup, will fluctuate with the ambient air temp, so it would take longer for

decomposition to occur 6 - 12 months and it is a valid/useful composting process.

Surely you and your staff are welcome to attend any of our free classes.

Let us know if this has been helpful and/or if you have more questions. Keep up   Compost on.   You are doing a fine thing.

Response from Questioner: Thank you so much for all of that information! I really like the design of the New Zealand Box. Being a large garden we do collect a lot of plant material relatively quickly, and I like how the NZ box keeps the compost at different stages so it will be easier for our volunteers to understand how our system will work. Also, thank you for the additional sources - I will try to plan a time to go to one of the Home Composting Basics classes in November to get more information. Again, thank you very much for responding to my inquiry!

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