4.22.2013

dirt. glorious dirt

 Since it is Earth Day I thought I'd share my tips and tricks for composting.

A simple (lengthy) Composting 101:

What you need to compost:
-a bucket
-a spot to dump your peelings in the yard
-wood box, black bin or chicken wire
-a pitchfork
-commitment to dirt

We start with a compost bucket on our counter.  You could use any sort of lidded container in any size.  This vintage pot is what we had on hand and fills up in a 2 days or so...give or take.
Emptying the compost bucket is a perfect pint size chore.
Into this counter top bucket we toss a variety of goodies: veggie peelings, fruit skins, coffee grounds, tea bags, egg shells and dead flowers.
Do not put meat or dairy into your compost pile unless you wish to have rodents as pets.
be warned you may get rodents but frnakly rodents are everywhere so at least you know where they are...i recommend a dog to keep rodents away!


 From the counter top to the compost pile.
We call our pile the coffin.  
John built a few years ago and it is approx 6 ft x 2ft with 2 sections.
Prior to the coffin we had chicken wire wrapped around stakes...but then we had a dog.
Many folks like the black compost bins...we are too cheap to buy one but I bet you could find them on craigslist without much trouble.

Into the pile we dump our counter top bucket, garden cuttings, dead leaves and grass clippings.
Do not put weeds into your pile, they will multiple like rabbits.

 We use covers for our compost pile...to keep animals out and heat in.
There are many methods for composting and many of them involve ratios of nitrogen and carbon and quite frankly I am not that good at math.
We just throw it all on the pile, turn it with a pitchfork every time the bucket goes out. 
We keep the pile damp and the worms happy. 
The secret to compost is really in the worm casings.
The more worms and the happier the worms the more decomposing gets done.
 Happy worms = good dirt.

Harvesting :
About once or twice a year we "harvest" our pile.  
Harvesting takes about an hour depending on who helps you.

What you need to harvest:
-pitchfork
-sifter (John made ours with hardware screen and wood)
-trashcan or wheelbarrow for the dirt
-bucket for trash
-bucket for the non-compostables (pits, peanut shells, roots and big twigs)
-helper

 To harvest, you pile the decomposed bits into your sifter screen, place screen over trash can (or wheelbarrow) and shake vigorously.  
The dirt bits will fall through the screen.  
Fish out all bits of trash...plastic ties and miscellaneous junk.
Toss the decayed bits that do not yet fit through the sifter back into the compost pile.
Toss them back on the "other side".
One side is for the "cooking" compost and one side is where you keep adding to.
Some large pits and sticks can be set aside for your green bin as part of trash pickup.

 Repeat the process until your trash can is full of dirt glorious dirt and the side of the heap is down to the dirt.
You will notice a few rolly pollies and worms in your "new" dirt.  
No fear, they are good for the garden.

 A photo of the 2 sides.
left side: harvested and empty
right side: current pile with added big bits.

 Step back and breath in the smell of good dirt.
Appreciate your aching shoulders (see how strong and capable you are) and see the beauty of your dirt.
You just saved yourself $20 of organic dirt for your garden.

Now your sides are switched.
left side: your add to pile
right side: get to cooking your compost
Give your piles a good soak and get to gardening.

* I forgot to show you a photo of the worms...but they are the star of the show.*

Please remember I am just an amateur but this system works well for us and was one of the first things we added to the backyard when we moved in 9 years ago.

If I can do it so can you...so get moving and start composting!
Happy composting.

Any questions?

1 comment:

  1. whoa... awesome. great information here. we had a compost pile at our old house. i miss it and our garden. insert sad face here. love this post. xo

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