Compost Pile Progress Update - Green Tip #26
With the Fall planting season just around the corner, I thought I’d take a break from the proffered green tips and give you a progress report instead.
In Green Tip #3, I showed you how to inexpensively make a composter from a plastic garbage can. I made mine and began the compost process on March 26th of 2011. I started the mix with grass clippings, leaves, weeds, newspaper, food scraps and enough water to moisten, mixing weekly with a folded up plastic encased metal stake (the can was too heavy for me to roll!). After a couple of months, I placed two old bathroom sized rugs over the lid to create and maintain more heat, which is necessary to the decomposition process. A month or so later, when the sweltering heat and humidity was abundant, I removed the rugs and added a small amount of Black Kow in order to provide nitrogen to the mix. Nitrogen is integral to the composting process, as it adds heat, facilitating the transformation from a mish mosh of ingredients, to the organic, nutrient rich soil additive we lovingly call compost. The accompanying photo doesn’t really do it justice; it’s much more soil-like in person! All in all, it took about 6 months for the matter to transform into compost, but it worked! No more need to buy Black Kow!! Woohoo!
When it was finally cool enough for me to get back in the yard and do more than mow and blow (before I got rained out, that is!), I began weeding one of my plant beds and re-potted a Catalina Midnight Blue and a Whirlwind Blue , transferring them from 3” pots to 6”. I broke open the root ball of each in order to relieve their root-bound condition and allow the roots to spread. After placing each plant it its new 6” home, I added garbage can compost to each, filling the pots and spreading it over the existing soil. As you can see, they are thriving! These particular plants require a lot of water; at least every other day. Since I added the compost, I don’t need to water as often. I’m guessing the compost is adding more nutrition and helping to maintain a better moisture level. I’m just so tickled; I can’t wait to refurbish all of my plant beds!
Surprise Gift to My Green Efforts
Last Spring, my friend Randy surprised me with his version of a homemade composter. He’s much more talented than I and has power toys, I mean tools(!). His version is more sophisticated than the $10 composter I made! Isn't it cool?! What an awesome gift! Thank you, Randy!! As you can see, his engineering prowess and creative mind came together and created an amazing addition to my yard. It’s made from a 50-gallon steel drum. He drilled several holes to allow air flow (and help Mother Nature do the watering for you!) and scored a hinged door for ease of adding material. The drum is seated on 4 wheels, 2 on each end. Each time you add material to the mix, you simply latch the door shut (he’s got a locking mechanism attached to the hatch) and spin several times. No need for a shovel and no strain on your back! His intuitivism led him to stretch thin wire rope inside the drum, from end to end roughly 6” from the top and another spatially placed from the bottom, to aid in breaking up any clumps during the spinning process. You’ll also notice he’s got the composter sitting atop a platform. The platform has an opening to facilitate a wheelbarrow, or in my case, Little Tykes wagon (don’t throw them out when your kids grow up, folks. They make wonderful hauling tools when working in the garden!). Simply drive the wheel barrow or wagon thru the opening, turn the drum until the door is on the bottom, unlatch and let ‘r rip! Ingenious, huh?
The weekend after Randy delivered my composter, I began my second batch (garbage can being the first). I’m curious to see how long this pile takes to “fester” compared with the garbage can version. Anyway, I mowed my backyard with the bag on and dumped the collected grass, leaves and weeds into the bin. I then added the vegetable scraps, coffee grounds and filters and egg shells I’d been saving all week, in addition to torn up newspaper, enough water to make it moist and gave it a turn or several. All’s well. I had a smile on my face! (It’s the simple things in life that please me…) Then, lo and behold, a week later Randy surprised me again! He brought me a quart baggie full of horse manure! You probably think I’m a little strange being excited over someone handing me some shit, but that’s exactly what was needed!, organic nitrogen. If you remember from previous tips, compost piles need a good dose of nitrogen, found in horse and cow manure, to heat up the mixture and facilitate decomposition.
So, I've got one batch of compost ready for use and another one in the works. I’m feeling good and getting back in the yard, which for anyone who knows me, is where I’d rather be! As such, a couple of weekends prior, I was spreading milorganite on my front lawn, in order to green it up. As I was taking it back to my shed, I noticed the bag touts milorganite as “organic nitrogen”. Ding, ding! I added what was left in my spreader to the composter in the hopes of it helping the horse paddies do their job! This is what the compost looks like today, September 25, 2011, after only a few weeks. Lookin’ pretty good, huh? At this rate, between my homemade composter and Randy’s awesome creation, I’ll never run out of compost!
That’s it for this week, folks. As the weather cools, I hope to bring more gardening tips your way. Until next time, keep a smile in your heart and never, ever let the music fade!
Shauna L Bowling
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© 2012 Shauna L Bowling
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