A while ago I wrote about how I’m getting four, free, 5-gallon buckets of pressed fruit/vegetable pulp every week from Urban Remedy, a company that makes juices and salads. The pulp is quite wet, even though it’s been pressed for juice, and I have been asking for their ‘green’ pulp, which is a mixture of cucumbers, greens, and things like zucchini. I’ve been adding it to the compost pile in the chicken run for a few weeks now, and here are my findings.
First of all, the chickens don’t like the pulp that much - I mean, they pick at it, but they don’t go mad for it. However, they LOVE the exponential increase of bugs. They just stand there waiting while I turn it or knock the pile down, and then they go to town, as seen in the picture above. The new creature I’m seeing the most of is (I think) black soldier fly larvae. They are common compost and detritus eaters. The adults are excellent pollinators. The maggots are a high-protein, high-calcium livestock snack. Also, the larvae can really churn through compost, helping it to break down faster.
This cutie is called a ‘Friendly Cockroach’ - don’t worry, it’s not a pest like the big German or American ones are. This little guy is Mediterranean. The chickens find them delicious too. And when I turn the pile, there are so many tiny crawly things, the whole mass moves. It’s crazy. I’ve never seen so much life in my compost pile.
So all that is good! But, on the negative side, the pile is going to need more management from me in future. This big weekly dump of ‘green’ matter (i.e. rich in fertility) is doing a lot to ‘activate’ my pile, but efficient composting needs balance, i.e. carbon, to offset all that fertility. How do I know the pile needs more carbon? It smells like rot, the classic sign that it needs a good healthy dose of carbon to offset all that good green stuff. Unfortunately, I just don’t have a stockpile of carbon. I’ve been adding wood chips and sawdust from the chicken coop and run, along with coffee chaff, but that doesn’t seem to be doing the trick. I really need a bunch of straw or dried leaves. Soon, the leaves will begin to fall, and that will help - but meanwhile I need to rake out a bunch of magnolia leaves or something and mix them in the compost pile.
Also, the temperature of the pile is low, at 94-98 degrees. I really need it up in the 120-130 range. Carbon will help with that too, as well as more turning and mixing to allow the pile to aerate and receive more oxygen.
I do think the pile is shrinking faster than usual. I’ll let you know if I’m able to actually produce MORE compost with these additions, and how I’ve solved the carbon problem.