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#38526 May 6th, 2007 at 11:27 AM
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Hey gang! I'm finally ready (just about) to get my compost bins up & going. I just picked-up 5 bails of hay from someone on FreeCycling here in my area. The thing I failed to ask & she failed to mention is that the hay is wet & moldy.

Can I still use this wet & moldy hay as "brown" for the compost?? I'm going to kick myself in the [BLEEP] if the answer is no.

If yes, does it matter if I store the hay in the open? Or... should it be kept in our garage? (God... I hope not).

Good god... what have I gotten myself into?

I have learned 2 things... always clarify & I can lift 5 wet moldy bails of hay by myself.

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through the pm system here ~ per jiffymouse

(moderators: for some reason when I edited my profile, each time I entered my yahoo & MSN IM addresses, somehow the yahoo address was replaced by the MSN address & the MSN address didn't even exist. Thanks for your help in advance.)

Last edited by Jiffymouse; May 8th, 2007 at 04:13 PM. Reason: remove personal contact info
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No kicking needed, spread the hay in a single layer to dry before it's used. Use a tarp on a solid surface to do the drying. Turn as needed. It needs sun and air. Does it smell sour or like vinegar? The mold and odor should disappear as the hays dries. Do this sooner rather than later with each bale. Right now the hay is toxic so don't use it on any living plant material or beds.

Keep all compost supplies dry. The dried hay can go in a trash can or keep it covered. This same thing can happen in the middle of the compost pile if it isn't turned on a regular basis. Keep the top of the compost pile loosely covered so it doesn't get soggy and nutrients don't leach out.

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Originally Posted by herbalyn
No kicking needed


OH!.... THANK GOODNESS!!

Hello-there herbalyn!! Thanks for the info! I'll check the smell tomorrow.

I've got a few questions for you...

What happens if they hay smells sour? Or... smells like vinegar? Is one smell better/worse than the other?

Once there's mold on the hay, won't it always be on there even once it's dried? Or... does the sun kill the mold & it's not big deal?

Hmmmm...... I've got a big tarp on which to dry the hay, but don't have space to store it once dry. I guess I'll have to do more purging of stuff in the garage.

I have wire fencing (originally to go around a garden to keep bunnies out) about 28" tall. Any suggestions on how to keep it loosely covered so it doesn't get soggy??

I've read 2 different recommendations about where to keep compost piles; shade & sun. I think the compost info here said to keep it in the sun. I read somewhere else (I can't remember, but I trust your input more) that it should be kept in the shade. Any reasons why it should be 1 over the other?

How small do pieces of watermelon rind have to be to compost in sync w/apple cores & potato peels?

OK. Enough questions. I could go on & on.

Thanks so much for all your help in advance! I'm very excited to get this going!

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Guess I spent to much time in the sun today. Reading back over your original post I just noticed you said you have hay. Are you sure it isn't straw? I can buy hay in small rolls but the straw is in small bales. Our farmers market sells smaller rolls and bales for city dwellers who are sometimes limited by ordinance to what they can store for compost.

Hay is soft and has seeds.
Straw is shiny, stiff and picky, think Halloween.

Every gardener who composts has their own system. I choose sun for compost and shade for leaf mould. Anything going into the compost should be as small as possible so it breaks down faster. I have very limited space so do whatever it takes to help the process along. Buy a shower curtain at the dollar store for a cover, the darker the better for drawing and holding heat. Keep the soil moist like a wrung out sponge. Wire fencing will be good for getting air into the compost. Drape the shower curtain over the fence and closepin it in the corners.

There are several posters who compost on a much larger scale than I do so they should be along to give you their tips.

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hay is rolled here (in large rolls) and the moldy hay that isn't good for feed anymore makes great compost. i have done that.

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Originally Posted by herbalyn
Guess I spent to much time in the sun today. Reading back over your original post I just noticed you said you have hay. Are you sure it isn't straw?

Hay is soft and has seeds.
Straw is shiny, stiff and picky, think Halloween.


Bein' a city girl, I didn't even know there was a difference. I think I have straw. It's prickly & stiff. I have spotted grains/seeds though, but not many @ all.

So... can I still use this moldy straw as the "brown" for my compost?? What's the next step for me & my slow-to-get-going moldy wet straw & compost bin(s)? Do I dry it in the sun as herbalyn mentioned/suggested? Or.. am I setting myself up for moldy disaster down the line when the compost is "ready". I don't want to mess up the soil using moldy straw compost.

Thanks again everyone!!

Cheers!! shots

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Hay is what animals eat. Straw is what they sleep on. That's the way I've remembered it.

Dry the straw and the mold is gone. The mold is present because the straw is wet. Once the straw is dry the mold diappears. Don't load compost with soggy materials.

Bagged mulch can form mold when the bag gets rained on. Its still usable. It just has to be exposed to sun and air to dry out.

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Originally Posted by herbalyn
Hay is what animals eat. Straw is what they sleep on. That's the way I've remembered it.


Excellent way of remembering!!

Originally Posted by herbalyn
Dry the straw and the mold is gone. The mold is present because the straw is wet. Once the straw is dry the mold diappears. Don't load compost with soggy materials.


Oh YAY!!! I am SOOOO HAPPY I didn't go through all the trouble of picking up this wet, moldy straw for nothing!! Thank you so much for all the advise herbalyn! And for your patience w/this city girl too!! I sure am learning a lot from your all!

Cheers!! shots

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What I've noticed is that my compost gets moldy as a part of the decomposition process. I also keep my compost pile moist rather than dry. It's alittle harder to turn true but it decomposes well anyway. And the heat from the grass clippings warms it up enough that I usually don't have much of a problem with weed seeds growing in the compost pile although the weeds around the compost pile definitely try to gain access to it. Right now I have to beat back the honeysuckle lol.

I'm just a beginner though. Another thing I do is make up a batch of yeast a couple of times a year when the compost pile isn't working as well as I would like it to and then add that to the pile. It gets all those good micro's working again. Of course this year I also have the worms working in there.

Another thing that I do is turn the compost often. The more often I turn it the faster it breaks down.



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Alright gang... here's the scoop:

everything's all set. Dried the straw yesterday & today. My question now is:

...should I have put stinky, rotting, wet, moldy veg/fruit scraps/egg shells/coffee grounds (& unbleached filters) layered between the straw into the compost bin? It was stinky & you can still smell it when putting your nose over the bin. I covered everything @ the top w/another layer of straw.

Please tell me I don't have to start it all over. So be it if I do. I'll have learned my lesson.

Cool about the yeast. I didn't remember reading that before. How often is TOO often for that? How many packets of yeast do you use?

Cheers! shots

Last edited by NuSkewl; May 14th, 2007 at 03:56 PM.
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my pile is 3 feet cubed and I use one packet of yeast and follow the directions on the packet. Except I pour mine on my compost pile and then turn it so it's mixed in well. I do it if it isn't heating up well. So if I get short on greens like late fall or early spring that's when I add it.

Your green stuff in a compost pile always smells. To decrease the smell add more browns. I think Weezie recommends something like 75% brown to 25% green but I could be wrong. My memory isn't what it used to be.

Don't leave the compost in layers. Mix it all together. The layers are just a way of getting the amounts right. After you add new stuff in you have to turn it or mix it up. And then continue mixing/turning it as often as possible. I try for once a week. Sometimes I get excited and do it more often. Sometimes I get lazy and don't do it that often.

I never have the mixture right because my landlord helps me get grass clippings for my pile. Which means when he mows one of his lawns I get the greens whether I have the browns to equal it out or not. But it's no real problem. The greens clump together after a few days and are hard to turn but that just means I get more exercise. It still all breaks down.





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Phew!! Thanks for the info TK!! I'll have to turn it tomorrow. It's dark now & getting ready to rain here (Columbus, OH). I'm pretty sure I got the ratio of green to brown pretty well. I've got to call my Mom so she can bring me my pitchfork to be able to turn easier.

Or... is there a magically easy tool to do this kind of thing & I just don't know about it? I'm guessing not though.

What do others use to turn/mix their compost?

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*bump*

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there is a tool believe it or not. It's an auger and it fits at the end of your drill. I believe you need the 3/4 inch drill rather than the 1/2 for this.

It works well if you are using a bin for your compost where it is difficult to get in there and turn it.

Me, mine is just in a pile so a shovel and hoe work find for me. I just rake the pile out flat. Then move it one way and back until it's all mixed up and then I pile it back up.



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The farm girl in me says:

Straw is made up of the stalks of grain products like wheat and oats that have been allowed to dry then baled and primarily used for bedding.

Hay is any number of grasses/legumes (timothy, orchard, brome, rye grasses; alfalfa, clover) that have been cut and dried and baled for feed.


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Originally Posted by slredmond
The farm girl in me says:

Straw is made up of the stalks of grain products like wheat and oats that have been allowed to dry then baled and primarily used for bedding.

Hay is any number of grasses/legumes (timothy, orchard, brome, rye grasses; alfalfa, clover) that have been cut and dried and baled for feed.


Yes, hay is cut grass (cut when GREEN and allowed to dry, retaining nutrients for feed) and straw is the stalk left over from cutting the oats or wheat (cut when dried - yellow or BROWN, no nutritional value).


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