ComposTex Covers - Use & Care Instructions

Before Applying ComposTex Compost Covers

  • The site should have adequate drainage to prevent ponding of water around the piles.
  • Piles should be oriented parallel to the site slope to maintain proper surface water flow.

General Considerations

  • Because ComposTex sheds rainfall and snowmelt by the water being absorbed and then wicking inside the thickness of the fabric down the gravitational gradient, ComposTex works best on piles with gently sloped sides leading to a peak, versus piles with short steep sides with broad, flat tops.
  • Compost covers should be considered a "tool" used to achieve two very different objectives: 1. To prevent active or finished compost piles from becoming too wet from excess rainfall, and; 2. To reduce moisture LOSS in dry conditions by protecting piles from the drying effects of sun and wind.
  • There are also many times when piles either don't need to, or shouldn't be covered because this allows for exposure to rainfall to replace moisture lost during the compost process. Using covers only when needed not only reduces labor costs but also significantly extends cover durability by limiting their exposure to UV-light.
  • When using covers to reduce moisture loss in dry conditions, it's important to remember that because some moisture can still pass through the cover as water vapor, the covered pile should have sufficient water initially and then be monitored and watered as needed during the active compost phase.
  • Depending on a number of factors including the orientation of the piles to the sun, cloud cover, and the amount of heat being emitted by a pile, ComposTex could become saturated with water and then freeze into a solid sheet and/or stick to the underlying compost and/or the ground when ambient temperatures drop below freezing before the covers have had a chance to dry out. For this reason, the use of ComposTex should be avoided on piles requiring frequent and/or regular access during the winter months in locations with extended periods of freezing temperatures.
  • Since ComposTex is substantially heavier when wet, it's best to avoid removing covers from windrows during, or immediately after a rainstorm to ensure they will be as dry (and lightweight) as possible.
  • The covers can be used with the smooth (printed) side facing up OR down, depending on user preference. We prefer to put the smooth (printed) side DOWN to minimize the amount of compost particles (e.g. wood fibers, etc.) that can stick to the more fibrous side due to the "Velcro effect". Putting this more fibrous side UP also provides some additional friction between the cover and the anchors making it more likely the anchors and covers will stay in place during windy conditions.

Deployment and Removal

  • The covers can be deployed manually by unrolling along the side of the pile and then pulling one edge over the top to the other side. On larger piles, the covers can also be unrolled along the top of a pile. This process is simply reversed to remove the covers.
  • For sites using tractor-pulled turners, a device known as a "threading frame" can be attached to the turner which raises and then lowers the cover as the turner is pulled through a pile - a diagram and photo of a threading frame can be seen here.
  • Cover "winder" attachments, or "fleece-rollers" for the front and/or rear of self-propelled turners are offered by some turner manufacturers to mechanically deploy and remove the covers - a photo of a fleece-roller made by Backus can be seen here.
  • Large self-propelled cover winder machines are also available (starting at $175,000 - source available on request).

Anchoring Covers

  • As needed, anchor covers using truck tire sidewalls (source available on request) or sandbags. Start by pulling the cover tight along its length and placing one anchor on each corner. Then add additional anchors along each side as needed.
  • ComposTex is also available with straps to insert pipes or hoses filled with liquid or solid ballast to anchor covers to the ground.

Attaching Multiple Covers

  • For large and/or long piles, multiple covers can be placed side by side with a 12 to 24 inch overlap with anchors placed at the appropriate spacing on top of the overlap. ComposTex can also be ordered with grommets for attaching multiple covers together with rope, cable, or plastic ties.

During Active Composting

  • Monitor piles for moisture and if too low, rehydrate the piles by adding water and/or removing covers during rainfall events. Be aware that leaving the covers on during dry periods will tend to reduce moisture loss from the piles due to the shade and wind protection provided.

Methods to Avoid Tearing the Covers

ComposTex becomes heavy in wet conditions because by design moisture is ABSORBED and then wicks to the bottom edge of the cover. Although the covers dry out relatively quickly, this extra weight could conceivably cause a large cover to tear while it's being pulled on or off a pile.

Depending on operational constraints at a compost site, there are a variety of methods available to prevent tearing including:

  • Do not pick up and/or pull the covers using equipment with metal edges and/or points that could cut or pierce the fabric.
  • Since the covers tend to dry out relatively quickly once the rain stops, whenever possible, operators should simply avoid removing the covers from the pile until after the covers have had some time to dry out.
  • If waiting for the covers to dry out isn't possible because of long rainy spells and/or very frequent turning, one option would be to reduce turning frequency - an article about this specific issue can be found in the "Articles and Research" section of this website http://www.cvcompost.com/in-defense-of-the-pile-less-turned.php. Still another option would be to purchase smaller covers that would be lighter than the full size covers and have grommets installed along the edges to allow these smaller sections to be attached.
  • A major factor related to the tearing of covers is the concentration of pulling forces on a relatively small surface area of the fabric. The best way to avoid this situation is to spread out these pulling forces to a larger surface area by attaching one or more "grab loops" - to see a photo of a grab loop click here. These grab loops are made using a round object (e.g. A hardball, tennis, or softball, or a wad of coarse compost, etc.) that's wrapped with an edge or corner of the cover and is then "tied off" at the bottom using rope with an exposed loop. This loop is then used to attach the cover to whatever machine is being used to remove or apply the covers to the pile. If additional support is needed, one could increase the amount of fabric used to wrap the ball (ie doubling up the layers of fabric), using a larger ball, and/or installing additional grab loops to create multiple attachment points to further distribute the weight of the cover as it's being pulled on or off the pile.
  • And finally, if the covers are getting wet while they're laying on the ground when they're OFF the piles, the way to prevent this is to move the covers to a dry area for temporary storage when not in use. While this obviously will require extra labor, the advantage would be that the covers would not become excessively heavy and avoid the possibility of them tearing when being deployed back on the piles.

Repair

  • If a cover is accidentally torn, polyester thread can be used to sew the two sections back together.

Storage

  • Store covers out of direct sunlight to avoid unnecessary exposure to UV-radiation.
  • Keeping the covers dry will make it easier to put them back onto the piles again.
  • Avoid rodent habitats (e.g tall vegetation) to discourage rodents from chewing holes in the covers during nesting activity.