Monday, March 17, 2014

Composting really is fun! - by Jenna Messier

I have 3 compost bays in my back yard, the center bay is made of wood and the outside two bays were easily added with wire fencing and a few metal posts.  Honestly, it is extremely easy to make compost. Especially if you have little kids who waste a lot of food, their scraps always go to feed the worms and critters in the compost pile which makes me feel so much better!
3 bays for cycles of compost, boards will cover top to limit moisture
Over the winter, I had the middle bay filled with nearly-finished compost and the bay on the right was used for new food waste. Last Saturday I went outside and began mixing these two composts together in layers in bay one on the left, adding in cardboard scraps from my collection of pizza boxes. You want a 3:1 ratio of browns (carbons like paper, leaves, straw) to greens (nitrogen sources such as food waste or fresh grass clippings.) I had a magical, thrilling moment when I uncovered a ball of worms huddled together for warmth, yet alive and well! I nestled the ball of worms into the middle of the new pile where they will have plenty of food and warmth to keep them happy. The remaining compost was too frozen to move, but at least spring has begun in my backyard.
Spring baby worms!

Jenna shoveling compost

What can you expect from your compost piles?  Once the weather warms up, and if you turn your pile once a week, then you will have finished compost much faster. When I see that my compost is finished, I then use my antique sifter to pull out the sticks, clam shells, and other large objects.
I will either add it to my garden beds, or mix it with 50% coconut coir to create a nicely blended soil for containers or seeding trays.
Very rudimentary sifting technology!
Fine finished compost

Your primary assignment is to constantly be on the lookout for sources of carbon; dried leaves, straw, and paper which you can add to your compost piles. Right now, I have my eye on 20 bags of leaves which are in a neighbor's yard. I will politely ask their permission to take these leaves off their hands and clean up their yard for them.  Then I will bring them home and plug in my nifty leaf shredder and fill one of my empty bays with shredded leaves.  My next project; buying a paper shredder and adding all of our junk mail and extra paper to the pile. (It's on my list.)
This shredder works great if you don't overfill!
Last Fall, I used shredded leaves to mulch garlic bulbs

So no excuses in 2014, you can use wire fencing and metal stake posts to create your 3 bays for composting, 2 bays being the minimum if you want a pile to be able to finish. Put those 2 buckets of kitchen scraps per week to work, invite the worms to lunch and get some weekly exercise turning those piles!