Compost – such a humble thing yet so important to the garden. I spent the several hours this weekend screening compost before adding it to the beds. Standing over the screen I had time to consider how I came to having this black gold in my hands and under my fingernails.
Almost anything can be composted, and despite what many believe even animal products can be composted though it may be difficult to achieve and maintain the necessary heat in order to kill off the pathogens in the material. But leaves, vegetable kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, lawn clippings, eggs shells, and shredded clean paper are all fair game. I would not compost obviously diseased plant material or any pernicious vining weed, such as bindweed. That’s just asking for trouble! I think one of the best reasons to compost is to remove valuable organic matter from the waste stream of the community. To put organic material in a plastic bag, then have it toted off to the landfill where it will sit for how long before that plastic bag breaks down strikes me as lunacy. Instead compost those veggie trimmings! It’s free! It can improve your garden. Its turning trash to treasure!
While there are nutrients in compost, I think the primary benefit is improving the soil structure – that is, moisture retaining properties, permeability for air and the positive benefits of all the microbial life in compost.
But I digress….
Two years ago when I started turning my attention to vegetable gardening over at the “remote plot” I knew we needed a compost pile. Over the course of the year we added grass clippings, vegetable kitchen scraps, poultry stall waste until we had a big pile.
After a year it was ready. I scooped it up, screened it and put it in the beds. I made screen out of scrap lumber and a bit of 1/2″ screen. I can put it across some sawhorses over the wheel barrow and just dump in the material and push it through the screen removing any small sticks and stones or other debris.
Organic material that is too big for the screen will be returned to the pile to break down some more.
Though I added some last fall and more just this past weekend, I still need more to top off the beds.
There are so many options for composting available to the home gardener. You can use a simple bin made of pallets or wire, there are fabricated plastic bins, and tumblers of all shapes and sizes. I know the “pile the stuff up and wait” method works just fine; but what if you want to speed things up a bit? Do the tumblers really work or are they limiting because once they are full you have no place to go? Are the plastic bins with lids useful? I want to know!
I had planned to run an experiment as to the best method for home composting but there is no sense in reinventing the wheel. Here is an interesting series of videos that do their best to objectively compare composting systems. I found the results somewhat surprising. You can just watch the first and last if you are pressed for time.
Introduction – http://bit.ly/GTOTma
Part 2 – http://bit.ly/GPCNFL
Part 3 – http://bit.ly/H677Ae
Seems the “best” system may in fact be the simplest. A basic container that allows ample air flow, easy to empty so the material may be turned and lightweight enough to be handled by one person. I’ve constructed a wire mesh column to incorporate those attributes. It’s almost loaded so we’ll have to see how fast it converts to “compost.”
Do you compost? If so, what method do you use? If not, Why not get started today!
Keep Digging and Eat Well!
*Disclaimer – I received no compensation or consideration from Dave Wilson Nursery.