Originally Posted by smeash
Good write up Doug! Ive been doing large scale composting for a few years now. Ive found that getting a pile hot is relatively easy, but have never had much luck turning piles and getting them hot again more than once or so. My wood chip piles get to about 140 and then cool after a week or 2 down to 100 or so.. grass clippings on their own without any browns will heat up nicely in short order. I always keep a few piles of bulk material in my yard to use as needed, but mostly now ive gone direct sheet composting. I simply layer on my materials as i get them around my plants.. for instance when i cut the lawn, i layer the clippings, then put a layer of wood chips over them, then sprinkle kitchen scraps and cover with grass clipping or chips or leaves, whatever is available. When i have manure, i top dress then cover with another material. The resulting soil is incredibly rich, and the plants are extremely healthy. The key here is to only surface layer these materials to prevent nitrogen tie up at the root zone. The worms will do all the work of pulling those materials down into your soil.
If they're getting a flash in the pan and then going out, I would say your greens are either cold to start (dry) or not enough. I did that last year by bringing grass home from the side of the road. This time, I cut and stacked it immediately, and went high on the grass, as opposed to the leaves. Pure grass will tend to heat up and turn to ash without any carbon. Straight wood chips will tend to warm compost, unless you have like a truckload of them. I may try your method on one bed next year and see what happens.
So here is the update:
The old pile was STILL around 110 after almost a month
, and the new one pushing 160 at two weeks, so yesterday I combined them to get a more intermediate temperature. This morning, it was around 118, but this afternoon, it's already back up around 135, so I think it will really cook this stuff down. I think the reason it's taking so long yet maintaining high temps, is because I'm using beech leaves, which have a TON of carbon in them. I also got a lot of dirt sucked into the mower when I was mulching them down, so a lot of microbes went in from the very beginning.