Without a spreader, could one adequately make compost by turning windrows of straw/manure, provided the C:N ratio and moisture levels are correct?
Answer: Yes, you could make the compost without a spreader by layering one and a half to two parts of straw to one part of manure and building the pile up to at least five feet high. Higher would be better?the more mass, the more habitat. You have to be conscious of aeration, though. Big piles must be watched closely to make sure you don’t stall out on oxygen. If you ever turn your pile or windrow and there is a white crust or flakes spread throughout a section, that means that part of the pile ran out of oxygen and went anaerobic on you. It’s easily fixed by turning, but it does slow the finished process down in order to get a uniform product.A spreader has the advantage of cutting the material into smaller size and mixing, speeding up things a little, and perhaps making a more uniform product faster. But there is no reason why you could not make the compost with a loader. For more information on composting, check out ATTRA’s Soils & Compost page, where you’ll find links to a host of useful information. It’s available at https://attra.ncat.org/soils.html. Also check out our new video, Composting! You Can Do It, available at https://attra.ncat.org/video/