I'm going to be composting a lot of wood chips this winter, and only have one large PVC pipe. How can I remove the PVC pipe from the wood chips while leaving the air shaft in place?
If I understand the setup, the goal of the PVC is to keep the pile aerated so it will be aerobic composting.
Some alternative solutions:
- Figure out a way to periodically turn the pile and keep it fluffed-up. Turning the pile has multiple benefits beyond just aerating the pile. It also helps spread the beneficial bacteria. It also moves material from the dryer and colder edges/tops into the damper and hotter middle of the pile where it will be composted.
- Get some more pipe. If cost or environmental impact are issues you could try to get some used or discarded pipes. One good trick is to set up an email alert from craigslist. You can also often find good materials at a used building goods store (in some cities these are run by Habitat for Humanity or similar organizations).
- Use other materials in the pile to create a structure that has air pockets, like longer branches or stalks from plants like sunflower stems or corn stalks. These materials might not all compost as quickly as the wood chips and would need therefore need to be filtered out at the end to be composted twice. However, they should hopefully help the wood chips to compost.
I believe if you remove the PVC that is creating the air shaft, you are removing the support from the chips that permit that shape to be maintained.
Consider to construct a wire mesh or steel rod assembly to fit inside the PVC pipe prior to removing the pipe. As you lift the pipe, force the mesh/rod assembly to remain. If the shape of the mesh is appropriate, you would have a chamber to allow the air to flow/escape.
If having something in the place of the PVC is unacceptable, over time, I'd expect that the chips would settle into the void.