Monday, June 8, 2009


Compost is supposed to be the miracle drug for the garden. It isn't an instant gratification kind of thing but not much of gardening is. The resulting compost is great for your garden, and I like how we have so much less trash because so much stuff can get recycled in this manner. Composting is also flexible to one's lifestyle -- you can make a pile and let it sit there for a year untended, or you can turn it all the time and get it a little bit faster.

My first time making compost I had total beginner's luck. We had mowed an area to make a garden, so I had a ton of grass clippings. From what I recall I just dumped them into a huge pile, covered it with black plastic, and about a month later I had great compost. Since then my compost piles have taken a bit longer to break down.

The key apparently is getting the pile to do some aerobics. The pile can get really hot -- the center should get over 120 degrees. Lots of aerobic bacteria do their thing, and in a month or two the compost could be ready if all goes to plan. The other type of composting is passive. The pile stays fairly cool and the pile takes a long time to break down. I think my piles are usually more like this.

I have two compost piles going right now. One is made up of alternating layers of straw/cardboard/dry wall, dirt, and coffee grounds. The other pile is a combo of kitchen waste, cardboard, and compost (mixed, but with a lot of carbon rich shredded wood). Both piles are about 3' or a little more in diameter, and 3' high.

I'm composting compost -- John and I pitchforked a big truckload of compost this weekend, and I had more than I needed. So basically I just needed to put the extra compost somewhere, and I had a ton of kitchen vegetable scraps to compost as well. I buried the scraps deep under the compost. This way rodents won't find the vegetable scraps.

I took the meat thermometer out today and plunged it in the piles. The compost/scrap pile is 90 degrees (started yesterday), and the other pile I made a week ago (coffee ground pile) was about 85 or so. I moistened both piles both pretty well yesterday and I hope that will help them heat up. The goal is to have it be as moist as a wrung out sponge, apparently the bacteria like that, and I want to get in on that hot compost action.

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