Here's a photo of my compost pile! I recently moved it into an empty space in the garden, so the soil beneath it will benefit as it decomposes further. This pile contains almost a year's worth of kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, several bags of leaves, lots of grass clippings, deadheaded flowers, etc. On the one hand, it's a bit of a bummer that it hasn't produced more compost--the pile will continue to shrink as the compost finishes. On the other hand, I am encouraged that despite my not really knowing what I'm doing, it looks like we really will end up with compost! And this year, I'll be sure to keep all of our garden debris, and collect my neighbors' autumn leaves! The more material, the more compost!
Here are a few things I've learned:
*There isn't just one way to compost. I do have a compost thermometer, so I know my pile has reached temperatures of 140 F, however, most of the time, it has been much cooler than that. And although I still would like to get a bin system going eventually, even just sitting there in a pile, decomposition still happens. It's not necessary to do anything at all, especially if you're not in a hurry to get finished compost.
*It's best to have a mix of "browns" and "greens." Browns provide carbon and include hay, dried leaves, and paper towels. Greens provide nitrogen and include grass clippings, garden debris, and kitchen scraps (no oil, meat, or dairy). Coffee grounds are an excellent source of nitrogen--I've heard of coffee shops leaving them outside their shops for composters! These materials don't need to be layered in a specific way--just try to get them mixed together. If you can add some aged manure, or finished compost, or even just a handful of garden soil, you'll introduce the beneficial organisms that do the work of decomposition. Avoid adding weed seeds to a compost pile, unless you're sure it will reach high temperatures.
*A compost pile will decompose faster if it has adequate air and water. I turn mine every so often with a pitchfork, and for a while, had it up on top of a wooden pallet. Other people buy compost aerators, or insert perforated pipes. Whenever I turn it, I will spray it with water as I go (ideally it will be as wet as a wrung out sponge).
*I have found that leaves decompose slowly. It helps if you can shred your leaves (a lawn mower is fine for this). I won't add extra leaves to my current pile, but I still add our kitchen scraps every day, since I know they decompose quickly.
*The Complete Compost Gardening Guide has been very helpful to me. The authors talk about how to build a hot compost pile vs. a cool one, as well as compost bins and materials. But they introduce lots of other composting ideas as well. "Comforter Composting" is similar to sheet composting--you layer materials on a patch of the garden that needs help, or use it to cover your whole garden for the winter. "Trench composting" is when you bury compostable materials, either in trenches, or in small holes near a shrub, or a larger hole in the garden surrounded by tomato plants. They talk about growing pumpkins right in compost piles--and call them "Grow Heaps." Check out the authors' website at Compost Gardening.
*Mostly, I've realized how little needs to be thrown away. Most of our grass clippings are left on the lawn, but they can be used in compost projects, or as a mulch. Same with leaves--and if nothing else, they can be left in a pile and will turn into leaf mold, a valuable organic matter for soil. If I don't throw my eggshells in the compost pile, I will crush them and work them into the soil around calcium-loving plants. It's a great feeling to nourish my soil with materials I was throwing away just a year ago. This is how it works in nature, after all!
*I still have a lot to learn, so feel free to share your tips and experiences with me! And if you don't compost, I'd encourage you to try it--in whatever way makes the most sense for you.
Proof and Certainty
1 day ago