Composting – While biodiversity gives health to the insects, composting gives health to the soil.  The soil is the food that the plants eat.  If the soil has lost its nutrients the plants won’t grow strong.  Our culture tells us to fix that with fertilizer, but though fertilizer can be helpful, it can also be harmful if not used carefully.  Composting is a free way to save nutrients to put back into the soil, and it won’t hurt to use too much!

I have a fenced in heap in a corner of the garden.  I put down a layer of dry material, like leaves, wet it down a little, add some green material, like grass clippings, add some dirt, and start over with dry material.  I have heard that the pile should be 3 feet wide by 5 feet long in order to get enough heat generated to transform the leaves into rich dark compost.  I have been experimenting for several years and this was the first fall that my compost pile was steaming hot in the fall as all the material decomposed!  I don’t put kitchen garbage in my compost, since I tried it and attracted a raccoon, which my neighbors’ dogs did not appreciate.

Rhubarb leaves in compost pile.  The compost pile is in the shade as a string bean teepee has grown up on the south side.

3/14/2010

I decided to turn the compost pile today, so I could work in some sod from a new bed I am creating.  The pile was no longer frozen and was wet on top from recent rains, however as I dug further in it was dry and so packed it was not decomposing at all.  I am hoping that since we layered it with sod and fluffed up the leaves it will start warming up again as the weather warms.  I would like to see it compost more before putting it back on the garden.

5 Responses to “Composting”

  1. Joy Huebner said

    Hi Kristine,
    I’ve been composting all kitchen scraps aside from meat and dairy for about 1 1/2 years now. I bought a metal can about the size of an outside garbage can, made for burning, so it has holes all over it. I punched some more holes in the bottom of it. When it’s warm out I set it a little ways from the house because gnats tend to be around it. When it’s cold, I bring it closer to the house for convenience. We have lots of wildlife around us, and so far nothing has bothered it. When it’s full, and warm outside, I take it back to my compost pile and mix it in with the dirt and etc. back there. I haven’t noticed that critters bother it much, but they may. It’s next to our barn and a field so it wouldn’t bother anyone. Last year I used some of my compost before it was really ready and I got some volunteer plants. Acorn squash was the most successful, the deer ate everything else.

    I have two cans for composting and they are getting quite full, so I hope we have some warm days soon, when it will thaw enough for me to dump onto the pile. I’ll have to cover with bagged dirt for now till the ground thaws.

  2. I love this concept. I will have to think about it. We live in the middle of town so I don’t want anything that smells. Where did you get your can?

  3. Hi – thank you for liking my blog! I am setting up a gardening wiki – its a website for and by gardeners, being a wiki anyone can get involved. the address us http://www.wikigardening.com and please ket me know what you think. I thought you had some great stuff on composting and so wondered if you wanted to add something about that – there’s nothing about composting as I know nothing about it!

    Alm the best and Let me know what you think.

    Lucy

  4. Darren said

    Great post. Fortunately, I don’t have racoon issues here in my town. But your photo looks like you have a good start on an enclosure that would keep the varmints out. Some chain link or chicken wire on the front and top would seem to finish it up.
    Lucy, if you have odor issues, try coffee grounds and mulched dead leaves. Coffee absorbs odors and the carbon providing “dead” ingredient of leaves counteracts the odor-producing nitrogen that you get from kitchen produce scraps.

    • Hi Darren. Since I stopped putting melon and other fruit in the compost I don’t have issues with raccoons. I put my other kitchen scraps in the pile, though, and in the fall we make a huge mound of brown leaves, that really heats up the pile. Then we just continue to add kitchen scraps through out the winter. I have not perfected my compost yet, but it seems to be working pretty well.

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