Friday, July 31, 2015

A fine crop... of compost

Yesterday was compost day. I spent about three hours sifting and turning the organic material that's been sitting in my three-bin composter for the past month, and I must say it made me pretty happy to see all that good stuff that's going back into my gardens...

It's better than gold (or fertilizer), this stuff, because it's full of nutrients that have been recycled from kitchen scraps and yard waste, and it's the best way to enrich the soil that will grow next year's food. It smells like good dirt, and it holds moisture better than topsoil. I found a few happy little tomato plants growing in the bin before I sifted, so I've transplanted them into pots so they can grow well into the fall.

I've been composting for more years than I can remember -- probably about twenty, but it's only the last eight years or so that I've been doing it more actively. Before I took a Master Composter/Recycler Program offered by the city, I dumped things into my little black stack composter and just expected that it would do its thing -- which it did, but very slowly. Now I know that composting works better when I layer my greens (kitchen scraps and yard waste) with browns (carbon rich materials like autumn leaves, sawdust, dry plant waste) and keep it aerated (I stir it every ten days or so) and moist at all times (it's important to water your compost pile when it's dry, did you know?) I've had even more success since I started vermicomposting using red wiggler worms, because each spring, I turn a few bins of the critters loose in my outdoor composter and their participation seems to make the compost even better.

In my books, the process of making good dirt amendment is quite enjoyable, and I've done a few little experiments with the way I add things to the pile to see how quickly I can get the pile "cooking" (a well-made compost pile actually heats up inside) or to determine how quickly some things will actually compost. 

At the moment, I'm experimenting with a supposedly biodegradable doggie doo bag (filled with compost, not doggie doo). I added the bag two summers ago because I was curious how long it will take to disappear, and I'm always a bit disappointed when it resurfaces. Here's how it looked yesterday, maybe a little less shiny and with a few more holes. I refilled it with partly finished compost and set it in the middle of the pile where it gets the hottest. We'll see how it looks when I turn the pile again in September. Honestly, I'm not expecting much of a change... I'm not sure this plastic is any more biodegradable than any other -- all plastic will biodegrade eventually, but most of it takes a long long time, which is why we should find smarter ways to store stuff. There should be earth friendlier ways of dealing with doggie doo. If you know of any, let me know.

Here are my bins after three hours of work... with lots more space to make more compost.

Helping with nature's recycling program is definitely worth the effort. The three sisters (corn, squash and beans growing in compost-enriched soil) are proof! Taller than me!

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