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Compost results.

March 10, 2010

March 10, 2010

Another lovely day, another opportunity to work outside. Today’s mission was to clean out the compost pile, which had acquired an unfortunate collection of twigs, sticks, dead vines and wood ashes right on top. Naturally, all that stuff was just dried out, and in the way of the business end of the pile.

Clearing that mess out of the way, I was pretty excited to finally see the result of all the kitchen scrap collecting I’d forced my husband to do throughout 2009. We had a juice jug in the fridge — clearly marked “FOR COMPOST” so no one would try to drink from it. I shudder at the thought. Into that jug went coffee grounds, scraps of vegetables, fruit, bread, egg shells, pasta, banana peels, cereal and leftovers of any non-dairy or non-meat item we consumed. My husband tired of it, but our pile grew, so he gamely went along with it.

We probably added three or four pounds of kitchen waste to the compost heap each week, with the side result that our trash smelled far better and we weren’t having to take it to the dumpster as often. We also recycle incredible amounts of plastic, paper, cardboard and other wrapping materials, to the point that it almost makes more sense to have a large can for recycling and a small can for real trash.

Our compost bin design is super cheap. We bought a 4-foot length of chicken wire and fastened the ends with wire to make a really crude mesh bin. We stuck a plastic pole in the middle and covered the top with a black plastic yard waste bag, which we fastened to the edges with those heavy-duty paper clips they use in offices for big stacks of paper.

Compost bin in the garden in June 2009.

The plastic bag idea was good in theory, but not so much in practice. Water pooled along the edges, which I dumped regularly to discourage mosquitoes, but those damn bugs will lay eggs in any drop of water so it didn’t seem to matter much. The plastic pole kept leaning, so eventually we just discarded it. The bin probably got about halfway full by the end of the season, and not once did it smell bad. It always smelled sweet, earthy and pleasant–except when rotting melons were right on top.

Today when I cleaned out the bin, the heap only occupied the bottom quarter of the bin. But it was a beautiful sight to behold, after all the debris was gone: crumbly, black, sweet compost. God bless bugs and worms. They made me some dirt!

I spread it out over the big raised bed, the perennial-grapevine bed and the two sunniest beds, and there’s enough left to put a little bit on the shadiest northern bed. It’s so gratifying to have a long-term experiment turn out exactly as I’d hoped.

The compost jug is back in the fridge as of today, and Compost 2010 is officially underway again!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. March 18, 2010 5:22 am

    We also save all our kitchen scraps–compost gets picked up as part of our recycling scheme. I think we’re the only people on the street who do it, though, judging by the bins left out to be picked up. I wonder where it goes? If you were my neighbor, I’d bring it around to you. Or if we were neighbors, maybe I’d have my own garden… We’ve been putting walnut shells in, but I’m wondering if they are too much like wood. Do you know? Good luck with the peas and things!

    • Michelle Donahue permalink
      March 18, 2010 9:11 am

      That’s incredible that your kitchen scraps get picked up as part of a recycling program! How do people then go get compost? Do they pay much of a fee for it? Here there’s a free mulch program, but I wouldn’t use it on, say, a veggie garden, since there’s no telling what people have put into their lawn waste bags (diseased plant matter, anyone?) But it’s fine for flower beds and such.

      As far as I know, walnut shells generally need to be ground or well-crushed in order to integrate into compost. If your shells are still present when the compost is “finished,” it’s easy enough to sift them out.

      I’ve been wishing for a heavy-duty chipper, such as the type one can grind bones with. Someday, maybe!

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