Compost pile as planting bed
Need more planting spots?
When you are running short on spots to grow things, especially winter squashes and pumpkins, why not use a mature compost pile? We stumbled across this way to grow things when we had a number of "volunteer" plants show up a few years ago, on one of our compost piles. This was a compost pile that was about ready to use in the garden. As we didn't need all the compost, we left the plants alone to see what would develop.
Compost pile - our garden friend
The plants continued to grow and prosper with loads of blossoms. Then the squashes emerged. These were your basic dark green Acorn variety. We were very pleased that we would have a few to enjoy on our dinner menu.
Hmmm... A few? We were overloaded (almost) with the abundance we harvested! And all from the compost pile!
Surprise, surprise, surprise...
We started picking the Acorn squashes when the stem ends were starting to dry. Just when we thought we were done picking, we would move another leaf or two and find more squashes. This was way to many to carry in our arms to the house. Plus, it's always a good idea to "cure" the winter squashes before putting them away for later use.
We got a 8' x 8' tarp, spread it out on the ground near the compost pile, and then spread out all the harvested Acorn squashes on it. Luckily, we had a few consecutive days of dry weather and didn't have to worry about covering them.
After we checked to make sure all the ripe ones had been picked, we did a count. There were approximately 36 of them.
A couple of days later the rest were ready to be picked. We ended up with 47 Acorn squashes! All from "volunteer" plants that sprouted from seeds that were part of our kitchen debris that goes to our compost piles.
This year's winter squashes, and more.
This year, 2013, we deliberately planted our winter squash seeds in one of the mature compost piles. As you can see from the picture above, they are doing very nicely.
We planted Spaghetti Squash from Hart's Seeds, Mammoth Table Queen Royal Acorn squash from Livingston Seed and Burgess Buttercup from Botanical Interests.
We have had a bed of Jerusalem Artichokes for a number of years which gets moved around a bit depending on where we have had room for them. They are a New England native and will grow just about anywhere. They are very tasty, almost like water chestnuts if you eat them raw.
We thought we had lost them all to the pigs we raised last fall, But lo and behold, the compost pile surprised us with a batch of them.
They are a great plant. You get a lovely display of foliage and towards fall they get very pretty yellow blossoms. Plus you get to eat the tubers which grow under the soil (or in this case) the garden compost.
This year's mature compost pile is giving us a number or "volunteer" tomato plants. They are full of blossoms and have some fruit developing. It looks like some pear tomato variety and also cherry or grape varieties. Can't wait to harvest some when they ripen!
More bounty from the compost pile!
2015 - same area but now with Ground Cherries & Jerusalem Artichokes
Compost pile planting bed - Do's & Don'ts
If you want to try this method of planting, remember to plant in a mature, fully composted pile. Especially if you use bedding and manure from farm animals as part of your compost.
The mature compost pile will have "cooked" out any bad bacteria that can be present in decomposing plant and animal matter.
Don't forget that compost piles need to be turned periodically and not allowed to totally dry out during the decomposition process.
We have found that the best way to get your compost piles going is to start one. About 3 weeks to a month later, get a new one going. Another few weeks to a month, start a third. By the time the 3rd one is cooking along, the 1st one will be almost ready to start using. If you are using farm animal waste as part of the compost ingredients, give the piles about 6 months before using for growing in.
Garden on compost
Winter squashes on what's left of a compost pile.
Compost Directly Into Raised Beds !
It is now early Spring, 2015, and we are about to redo our raised beds. We will be experimenting with composting directly into each raised bed after harvest in the Fall. Then next Spring we should be able to loosen up the soil easily without having to move compost from a compost pile to the raised beds.
Will also experiment with doing ongoing composting with just vegetable / fruit scraps directly onto growing garden beds. This will be placing a thin layer of vegetable / fruit matter around where the plants are growing and placing about 8 inches of mulch on top of the veggie / fruit scraps. If the veggie / fruit scraps are too large, we will just rough chop them into smaller pieces. This should work out well.