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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Great Rewards of Simple Planning: Composting

The first area I am going to address is the garden, since right now is the time to be making those preparations even if, like me, you have a couple of feet of snow on the ground. Today it is going to be about making compost.

Composting is the number one way to improve your soil. You can save a lot a money and have a healthy soil by harnessing this natural process. It may takes several months to make but the steps are very easy and can become a part of your daily routine, like taking out the garbage.

1. Set apart an out-of-the-way spot in your yard to be your compost corner. Now you don't want it to be to far from your back door though as you will need to access it every day or two. Your composting can be done in as a heap or you can build an enclosure for it out of pallets or chicken wire (for a cylinder). For simple instructions for several different home built models click here and for more complex here.

2. Begin keeping a compost bucket in your kitchen. The humble ice cream bucket works great and can be stored under the counter near where you normally chop up vegetables. Take it out as it gets to full. I have really been surprised how fast ours fills up. The number of things that can go into it are by no means limited to vegetable scraps. Be sure to also put your coffee grounds (w/filter), tea bags, moldy bread, stale crackers and chips, egg shells, freezer burnt vegetables, and several other non-meat and non-dairy products that have seen their better days.

3. Turn it, water it , leave it. Once it gets around 3 to 5 cubic feet start adding your new additions to a new pile. If it is really cold you just leave it. When it starts feeling like Spring you need to check it about every week or so to make sure it is moist and turn it. It should be ready in 2-4 months. If your in no hurry and can wait a year just put some dirt on top and leave it to do its job.

4. Get it ready for the soil. Compost is mature when it is dark brown. It should be crumbly with very few large particles and have an earthy smell. It will also be about 1/3 its original size. To test it place a small amount into a sealed bag and let it sit for 4 days. If it smells like ammonia or smells rotten it isn't ready. When it is ready sift it through a frame fitted with some hardware wire to remove anything to big. Now it is ready to use. You can either store it in some buckets or apply it straight to the garden as a manure or mulch.

3 comments:

A Garden Girl said...

Sifting your compost is a great idea! I've never read that before, but when I was composting our garden last year, I had to pick out the bigger sticks and chunks of eggshells that hadn't completely decomposed.

BarbaraLee said...

The cows ate ours so we have to relocate it.

JB said...

When we moved into our house a year ago, it had an established compost pile. I've figured out the pile is too big for our needs, and it's location is bad (our dog gets into it!) Thanks for the links to building our own, as I think we'll need to move ours this summer!