Back to the compost. Where does it all go? We have a couple of bins...
|store bought and home-made,|
re-purposed materials bin
There are so many ways to compost. You can do the lazy method that my family did years ago, which is to just throw things in a pile. Those things can be fallen branches, christmas trees, egg shells, yard clean-up, and kitchen scraps. I only recommend this method if you can pile things quite a distance from the house. We had a large yard then, and the pile was down hill from the house. It was also far from neighbors houses. This method has no way of keeping out critters, so be ready to share. I don't remember having rats then, but we did have some bunnies who probably kept nice and toasty in there over the winter.
Since we have a small yard and countless critters, 2 of them being vegetable loving dogs, we had to use closed bins. These bins either come in black or are painted black to gather more warmth. In CA, where we came from, temperature wasn't a problem. Compost pretty much stops its breaking down activity at temperatures below 40 degrees. The black color gives you a little more time during the year for active compost. The only problem with these bins is that it is difficult to turn the compost. You want to turn your compost regularly to aid in the breakdown of material. This shouldn't be done every day. We are somewhat lazy composters and do not turn it much at all. Perhaps they wouldn't be so full if we were a little better at this chore. Gardening is not at all about rushing things though.
So, the bins are full and it's winter. What else can we do with this compostable material that I can't throw in the trash? Throw it directly into the garden! We wanted to add to our growing space through building some raised beds. But since they are raised we need to add material to fill them. We started with a little native soil, dug up in order to lay our recycled pavers down. This only filled our 200 square feet of bed less than a quarter of the way. We collected some already composted material, humic compost and mulch from a nearby town that supplies it to residents. Cardboard also went in. And then we just mixed in those same veggie scraps. Since it is winter still, there's plenty of time for it to break down. It may be cold on the surface, but under all those layers can be nice and warm, so action is still occurring.
The left picture shows the two beds waiting for spring.
So, what else can you do with compostable material? Raise worms! We've been doing this with our share of problems for about 4 years. They even made the trip across country with us! Worms you can't be so lazy about. Here are some good sites to go to for info on worms:
We've had our best luck with the worm factory. We've built our own bins. The first was slightly successful. This one was a large wooden box we had in CA. Our problems with that were other bugs. It was difficult to keep the ants out. Ants and worms do not get along, the ants will eat the worms. One spring some bees decided to call it home. That was quite a dilemma. A roommate was allergic to bees and the pest guys were going to kill all of the bees and the worms. We took care of it ourselves, but wish we could have kept them both. In the end, the big box was too big and heavy to move around much, and didn't make it to NJ. It might still be intact and a home to a new bunch of bees. We've also tried using plastic bins. Not much luck yet, but that is due to other problems. That other problem being feeding material. We were feeding them pulp from the juicer. They seemed to love it, but too much of a good thing. This material is nice and small, so easy to break down. But given the small particle size, there's not enough air space. We drowned many worms, sadly. They are now in the raised beds. Ahh, the circle of life.
Now what to do with the juicer pulp. A few customers have been coming in asking for what we have. It makes a beautiful compost for the top of the veggie garden. We covered our entire garden with a thin layer, maybe 1/4 inch or so, back in early winter.
|pulp Jan 3|
|pulp March 14|
That was one of my longer stories. I hope it's been informative. Let me know what you're doing with your scraps. I'll keep you all updated on how this all progresses through the spring and summer!