Composting

Compost!

Here on the “farm” we compost. Okay, so I don’t actually live on a farm. That’s just what we call our vegetable garden (we tell the baby we’re farming). But we do really compost. Since before we built the farm, actually. You should try it too. It’s very easy if you do it the way we do. And you get some awesome, free soil and don’t end up with 500 giant bags of lawn trash every summer.

My compost method is what I would refer to as “lazy man’s composting”. I throw my yard trash (plus some food scraps) in a large pile at the back of my yard and maybe once a year I use a pitchfork to turn over the pile. The one drawback to this method is that it takes a while. I started the pile when I bought the house three years ago and this is the first year I have had usable compost. I probably could have used the compost earlier if I had realized you should actually have at least two piles for the technique to work best. One pile that is just “cooking” and one that you are continuing to add to. If you only have one pile, you can never really get good, clean, usable compost.

Earlier this year we finalized the compost layout and we actually have three piles. One that is “cooking”, one to add new stuff to and one for sticks. The stick pile came about after I tried to flip the pile the first time. I had just been dumping my sticks in with the rest of the yard trash. Over the year the sticks managed to weave themselves together in the pile, turning the compost into one giant mass. This isn’t necessarily bad for the compost. It just made the compost very heavy and very difficult to turn over. Also, sticks take longer to break down and if you just put them in the pile you will have to pick out a few from your compost when you put it in your flower or vegetable beds.

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This is our newly renovated compost area. The pile on the far left is the cooking pile. The larger pile in the middle is the pile we are currently adding to and on the far right are my sticks. When I started the compost pile, it was all located in the area on the left. There was a small fenced in area there when I bought the house. It seemed like a good place to put the pile since it was already blocked off and it was as far away from our house as I could get. Last year we added the pallet to create the second pile and this year we added a second pallet as well as a border on the front of the original pile. I would like to extend the front border farther across to keep the compost contained.

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This is the compost’s before picture. Yard trash, an eggshell, a teabag, etc. The heat of the sun and the weight of the new material will help this decay and form a very nutrient rich soil.

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And here is the after picture. Beautiful compost on its way to top off our vegetable beds.

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This is what the pile looked like at the beginning of the year. The sticks were technically separated, but without a divider wall they sort of fell into the compost. The pile itself was spilling over onto the ground in front because I did a lot of yard clearing and had to clear out our “cooked” compost pile to make room for all our new yard trash.

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Here is the last of the usable compost. I used it to top off our 4 vegetable beds and one flower bed. It was some very nice compost. And it didn’t smell nearly as bad as the stuff you buy at the store.

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This picture has nothing to do with compost. It’s Toby’s rain barrel. He wants to be able to keep the veggies watered with just collected rainwater. Last year it was more of a toxic cesspool. It collected rainwater, but it sat on the ground and we had no way to use the water. Now it’s elevated, has an overflow valve and a hose attached. I’ll let you know how that works out for us.

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I’ll close with a picture of one of our compost pile’s many admirers: the little robin. The pile is a great source for big, fat, juicy worms and grubs. The local wildlife’s admiration for the compost is the one potential downside to composting. It’s also why you should place the pile as far away from your house as possible. Our pile is apparently a nice winter haven for the friendly neighborhood rat. I don’t really mind so much. The way I see it, the rat is going to be in the neighborhood regardless of whether or not I compost. This way he has a nice warm home with plenty of food and that home is far, far away from my home. If that sort of thing bothers you, than you might want to shy away from the compost.

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