Monthly Archives: January 2017

New Year’s Compost Resolution: to everything turn, turn, turn.

Compost pile.

Home compost pile.

If you are still looking for ways to celebrate the New Year, in particular, another resolution to add, why not consider composting? It is a great way to recycle and keep waste on your property.

I have been composting for as long as I can remember. As a child, I watched my Grandmother adding kitchen scraps to her compost pile in rural southwest Missouri.

Myself, I’m sort of a lazy composter. In other words, I throw it all out there and then frequently chastise myself for not turning it over more so that it breaks down faster.  I have lived in several states and have had numerous piles. My compost piles sometimes have walls and sometimes are just heaps on the ground. In Oklahoma I was fortunate to purchase a home with a two-chambered compost pile with four foot wooden walls.  I did try one of the plastic barrel-type composters that you spin with your hand. Unfortunately, the clamp for the lid broke off the first year. Then fire ants built a mound on the ground at the base because I wasn’t “spinning” it enough I guess.  They built up into the vent holes along the bottom of the barrel, creating a mess. Disenchanted would describe my experience. I don’t spend much money on my gardening efforts and was excited for this item I budgeted into my plan to produce great piles of brown gold. However, getting the “finished” compost out of the hole was not easy. And frequently, not completely composted. Uggg. Back to a pile on the ground.

I wrote a paper on composting for an English class, back in my junior college days, around 1991.  The ingredients for a compost pile are nearly endless, but you want to avoid meat, cooked broths/gravies, grease, fats, and bones. These items will attract countless animals and do not make good compostable materials.  Occasionally I add hair from the vacuum or trimmings. No I’m not a stylist, I’m just cheap. Depending on the amount of heat created and moisture available (you need both), you can have nice compost created in a few months. Mine tend to take a year.  A spectacular sight to see steam rising from the compost pile on a cold winter’s morn’. Piles that are turned and aerated are rarely smelly. Oxygen is your compost’s friend!

My compost pile is filled with fruit and vegetable scraps, leaves, pine needles, ash (limited quantities only), tea bags, coffee grinds and filters, shredded paper, and well-chopped materials from pruning. Limbs and sticks do not really break down fast enough in my home compost pile, so I exclude those items. I never collect grass clippings as those clippings are needed by the lawn. If you do collect or use grass clippings, be sure they are from chemically untreated lawns. Occasionally my compost pile is filled with wiener dogs, but now that they are aging and one has experienced two bouts of pancreatitis, my husband and I are vigilant about keeping them out. I have some old pallets I have collected and will soon try to create my own compost walls.

Adding kitchen scraps to the compost pile.

Compost pile.

Currently, I collect my kitchen scraps in a composting pail (in the photo above) that sits on my counter behind the coffee pot. I inherited this can from Mother who isn’t exactly an avid gardener and found the can to be smelly and messy. Not to mention, she doesn’t have a compost pile. A gift well-intended that found its way into my loving arms.  The filter in the compost can was a good idea fraught with troubles.  First, the fruit flies were TERRIBLE. My goal was to dump the can at least every week. It never failed that the can was filled with fruit fly larvae which always made me gag. The fruit flies also laid eggs in the filter system in the lid, no matter how frequently I washed and dried it. In addition, the can STUNK, even with the filters.  In a last ditch effort to make the can efficient, I took some regular, clear masking tape and taped over the ventilation holes on the top of the lid.  This made the compost can a 100% better tool, virtually eliminated the fruit fly issue (I cannot even recall the last one I have seen) and took care of the “smell”. I have been using it now for about four years. Prior to that time I used a small beverage pitcher with a lid. I still try to empty my compost pail every few days, but when it has been a week, I am no longer greeted with a nauseating sight of “movement” from house fly maggots and fruit fly larvae.

Tip: after dumping the can into the compost pile, I walk over to one of my rain barrels (not all are “barrels”), fill it up with water to swish and rinse and dump that into the closest garden bed.  Thus the can returns to the kitchen in a pretty clean state. Should I decide to scrub it with soap in the sink, the compost debris is already gone, making cleanup a breeze.

For more reading on building your own compost pile, the University of Illinois Extension Service has a informative page: https://web.extension.illinois.edu/homecompost/building.cfm

I hope you can find refuge in your refuse. As the Byrds sang, “to everything turn, turn, turn”…and so goes the compost pile.

The Garden Maiden

copyright 2017 The Garden Maiden  http://thegardenmaiden.com

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