I have been waiting for a whole year to see how my compost turned out. That may sound like a bizarre statement… gonna leave it there. Anyway, we have been diligently throwing all our organic scraps into our compost piles (as well as recycling all our glass, plastic, cardboard, I might add :-)). This included banana peels, apple cores, moldy bread, egg shells, garden scraps/waste, grass clippings, leaves, pulled weeds, and the like. Sometimes these bins are heaped to overflowing, and then weeks go by and they sink below the top block. I have a total of three of these types of cider block bins, and I am not sure where I got the idea for using cinder blocks. I just wanted to, and they won’t break down over time. Below you can see how much we have collected in our two bins!
These two bins were ready to spread out into my garden (and are now empty!). If I were to grade the quality of the compost, I would say the second bin is of better and more evenly decomposed. This bin I tried to layer the material I learned from another gardener who learned it from Eliot Coleman. He recommends layering the green (grass, vegetable straps, etc) with the brown (hay or leaves). I don’t remember the exact measures, but I do about 4-6 inch alternating layers of each. I didn’t know about layering when I started my first bin, and so there are still some clumps of barely recognizable grass, but the majority is unrecognizable as to what it was. This is what composters need to shoot for. It is not like I have purchased in a bag, though. It is more clumpy and looks a lot richer. Think black gold. Texas tea. I think companies who sell compost must shred it a bit, maybe?
The microbes in compost needs water and air when it is decomposing. Before I actually started composting, I always heard you had to turn it to keep it decomposing. I read in one of Eliot Coleman’s books that it will do fine without turning. So, I just left it. Less work. And I got compost!
Last summer I did read about a strategy to help get more air to the center – bury some drainage pipes running through the middle. Below is my third bin with the pipes. I finished emptying my first two bins this past weekend, and have already bought some pipe for them. I think it will work to break things down quicker (with no work).
Below are some of the beds that are getting compost. I am mixing it in with the original soil with a hand tool, and it is, ah, keeping me fit, so to say. My son was out helping me this weekend, and we had a good time talking. Well, he would have rather not been working, but he is a good kid and understands that this is important and is helpful. I have been trying more to show him what I have been doing and why, as well as my other kiddos.
So, I have a total of 32 raised beds now… and this manual work is, ah, very manual. I am realizing that getting this compost all mixed is difficult and time-consuming, so I am investing in a small electric tiller to get the soil mixed quicker and easier. I also have some other landscaping plans that the tiller will fit into. It comes in Wednesday and I can’t want to get this mixed up. I have some seedlings who need a home and Saturday will hopefully be a good day to transplant!