Compost piles allow farms to save significant costs and recycle their organic materials. There is no need to purchase new compost every season, as your farm is likely equipped with most of what you already need. Composting allows you to exponentially increase profits, because every season you become more efficient and use more of your own organic materials. Before starting your own composting system, it is important to know how to build compost piles and how to mix materials. You should also know how to turn your piles and understand when your compost is ready for use.

Building a compost pile

There are several techniques for building compost piles, but one easy technique, known as windrow composting, is one of the most efficient. Windrow composting is also one of the most common methods. The windrow process uses a mixture of composting materials arranged in long, narrow piles. To build a pile, you would typically use a bulldozer or a compost turner, which is a machine specifically designed for windrow composting.

Mixing the ingredients

You may need to skip this step depending on the organic materials you use. Most do not need to be ground, but a few do, such as newspapers, cardboard, corn stalks (or other large crop residues), and yard waste like leaves. You need to ground these materials into a finer mixture to facilitate the composting process. You can use a variety of tools including chippers, mills, grinders, and shredders.

Mixing materials and building the pile

There are several methods you can utilize to mix your compost materials, but the easiest is usually tractor-driven. The tractor is hitched to the spreader, which is loaded with a blend of composting materials. Once you engage the spreader, the beaters will mix the compost ingredients and eject them into a neat, long, narrow pile behind the spreader. You slowly move the tractor forward to input more organic materials into the spreader via a second vehicle hitched to the front of the trailer.

Your typical windrow should range from 9 to 20 feet wide and 3 to 12 feet high. The windrow should be formed in a manner that allows you to easily cover it, or you can form it underneath a covered area.

Turning the compost piles

There are several ways to turn your compost piles. If you have the space, you can repeat the process above. You can also rent or buy compost turners that can get the job done quicker. Compost turners are typically driven or pulled over the piles. Windrow turners aerate the compost to put oxygen into the piles and stimulate the fermentation process.

The pile is ready

As your windrows develop, they will increase in temperature and get progressively smaller in size. Some farms combine their windrows after a few weeks to facilitate the placement of second windrow piles. You will need a compost thermometer to measure the development of your piles. They should shrink to roughly half their original size. Your piles are ready for use when they are no longer generating any significant amounts of heat.

Depending on the size of the windrow and the materials used, it will take about four to six months for each pile to be ready for use.

Compost turners from SCARAB International

If you would like to learn more about setting up a compost system for your farm, contact the experts at SCARAB International today. We provide a variety of used, refurbished, and new compost turners and spreaders for small, medium, and large-scale operations. We also sell and lease our equipment, depending on your needs. We can provide your farm with exactly what it needs to get your compost program going. If you would like to learn more, please call us at (806) 883-7621 or Contact Us by email