Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Making Mud out of Garbage - or COMPOSTING

Well, that is the end of my compost from last year - actually since we got all the way down to the bottom for the first time in several years, it's probably the compost from 1997. That eggshell should not be there - it means I didn't crunch the shells up enough. Remember that for later. I started composting one year when I felt especially eco-noble. Then I stopped because nobody wanted to take the old tomato peels and coffee grounds out to the compost heap, so we had tiny bugs flying around under the sink. Then I started homeschooling, and made it into a homeschool project, and voila - compost again.

What does one DO with compost? Well, my friends, one enriches the garden with it.
Look at those petunias! Thriving in the compost enriched pot. They already need to be cut back. Also deadheading is in order - so yea!! more stuff for the new compost. The circle of plant life. But, I know you have more questions:
What if the garden is nothing more than a few pots on the patio? Well, one enriches the patio pots with it, and grows an awesome container garden.
What if there is no garden? Seriously? Don't compost.
Is it a nasty mess? Not for me, because I let my 'helpers' do the work. No, actually, it's not a mess, because it's contained in a ...thing for compost.
Does it smell? It smells like grass and stuff. Its not a yummy smell....I don't want it up on the deck. Mostly, it's hot. When the morning is cool, steam rises from the compost. Seriously.

In principle, you simply take organic matter, mostly plant, pile it up, add water and air, and let it degrade into a lucious, rich black dirt. It happens anyway, you are just going to get to be able to gather and use it, rather than let it decay inside a bag in a landfill. It takes a while. You aren't going to do this today, and wake up tomorrow to a whole pile of rich black dirt.

First, find a place to put it. It needs some sun, because it's going to cook. And we all know that cooking requires heat, and since we are being eco-friendly, we will use solar power to cook the compost.

You will need a few things, though not many. Only one tool is required: some kind of garden fork or pitchfork or something to mix the stuff up. Otherwise, it gets packed down, and nothing much happens. I like to use a container. We got our handy black plastic affair at Home Depot, I believe. Long ago. You can simply pile the stuff up in the yard, no box, no container, no nothing. I like the concept that it all stays together. But when I started, I just tossed the stuff, and sometimes covered it up with black plastic to keep the raccoons out and help it get heated up. I graduated from there to a chicken wire enclosure, which I think someone may have built as a homeschool project. Whatever, don't make the container a big deal. Just go for it.
Ours has lived in the same place for all these years, so it's going to stay there, even though it has gotten pretty shady back there. When Big D gets back from NYC, where he saw Alicia Keys in concert last night, on business, I might ask him to do some trimming to give us a little more sun. That's fair isn't it? See Alicia Keys in NYC and then trim some branches back to give the compost some sun. Yeah, that'll work.
This is my inside container. It usually lives under the sink, and gathers inside debris - like coffee grounds, and fresh fruit or vegetable peels, and any other things that are plant-like trash. It needs to go out daily to the compost, otherwise .....well, lots of things otherwise . . . bugs, smelly, dogs sniffing, you get the drift. Nobody promised this would be pretty.

Other things to put in: grass clippings, fallen leaves, (green things and brown things) vegetable and fruit peelings, coffee grounds, egg shells - crushed, vegetables and fruits that you forgot about in the refrigerator and accidentally got rotten, the sack of zucchini that sat in the car for 3 days after you went to the Farmers Market in which the zucchini got nasty rotten.
Here are some flowers that are looking limp and ready to go, so rather than throw them into the garbage, they are going to the compost. The little plant I will pinch back and try to save - but the dead parts are headed to the compost.
Things NOT to put in: greasy stuff, meat or meat products, dirty diapers, the small dead rodent that the cat delivered to the front door sometime in the night, big seeds like peach pits or avocado seeds.
We may as well address the issue of animal waste. I don't pick up that stuff up and put it in the compost. If you have a different take on that, go for it. I do sometimes buy a bag of sanitized garden manure to boost it, but I don't use the fresh stuff. Also, consider the whole salmonella and e-coli issues. Those organisms don't fall out of the sky. There is no such thing as salmonella rain. Just saying.
So, now that you have picked a spot and gotten your container in place, you are ready to begin. And you begin by throwing the stuff in there. We will start with some grass clippings.
I am picking a bag up off the street, since it does not appear that anyone has cut our grass lately. Also, these bags have been sitting in the sun, so they are going to be hot already. Hot grass is a good thing for compost.

We'll use this box of pea shells (no peas in there) which we got at the Farmers Market this morning. I asked, and they gave....their trash.

I have this container of what appears to be nastiness, but is actually coffee grounds and peach peels. PPP made Peach Crisp using Pioneer Woman's recipe for Father's Day. . . AND that is why she's called Pretty Pretty Princess.
This is an example of what is inside that jug of nastiness. Today I had some extra baked potatoes, (Young Son is gone, I'm not sure I realized how much he consumes at any one sitting). However, I do NOT scrape plates into the compost. Too many variables there, involving meat and fat. Notice that I cut the baked potato up, rather than toss it in whole. Things move faster when the stuff is in smaller pieces. I had the flowers past their prime, so I pulled the petals off and put all that stuff in there too. The green stuff is from the deadheading I did today. I used my compost about 6 weeks ago when I put these herbs in, and it is thriving. Thanks to the compost.
The mint and basil in this herb pot are a little out of hand for June (I wasn't aware that mint bloomed this early, or maybe I forgot). So, I pinched that stuff back pretty heavily. Even though I had a garbage can right there, I DID NOT throw the pinch backs away. I took them to the renewing of the compost event I am holding in my yard today

Today, I had a half a bag of this stuff, Plant-tone, which I's organic, which makes me feel so noble about the whole affair. So I dumped it in for good measure. And to get it off the front porch, where it has been sitting since I put the bedding plants to bed, several weeks ago. In the fall, when I use blood meal with the pansies, I dump the rest of the blood meal into the compost; same with bone meal and cottonseed meal. Sometimes I even buy an extra bag, just for my composting pile of yard waste (my mother would say 'yahhhhd waste' - but I can't get away with that much accent.)

Now, take your fork and stir that stuff up, mix it up really good. Then water it thoroughly. Don't turn it into a soaking, sopping mess, but go ahead and get it wet. Things move faster that way. Otherwise, you can end up with a dry pile of grass. But you won't, and I won't either, because I have put all this other stuff in there.
Stir, stir, stir. Sometimes I call it 'turn the compost' which sounds even more noble. Somehow. Whatever, mix that stuff up.And there you have it. I leave the fork on the top, so my minions, I mean my dear children, will remember to TURN the compost when they happily go out with stuff to add. The top and sides have rain and air holes. They also help keep out the raccoons and dogs who roam around here at night looking for goodies. So, go forth and compost. It will be ready for your late summer/early fall garden.

1 comment:

Little Sissie said...

You definitely got muuuther's green thumb dahlin'! You are sooooo smaaaaaarrrt. Now, how about those rain barrels?

No longer a blogger virgin thanks to you--so interestin'.