Compost Happens

Good rich soil that needs screening

Compost happens, whether you fool with it or not.  Given moisture, air circulation and the creatures that help decompose and you can compost anything.  Without these factors you have mummies.  Or zombies, but that is another discussion.  If you want to read about the many ways to compost without a heap, please read Fifty Ways to Leave Your Compost.

I am a lazy composter.  When I weed I usually throw what I pull up under the growing trees to quickly mulch down.  Excess weeds and branchy things I throw into a compost bin made of wire.  Rats and mice enjoy the structures.

Wire bins of weeds have been gradually settling over the months.

Kitchen scraps, paper towels, tissues, tea bags, paper cups and plates all go into a Rubbermaid compost bin I bought years ago.  I don’t turn the piles.  Compost happens, but it happens slowly.  A little kitchen waste goes into another bin to feed sorely neglected worms.

I am also composting in place.  A raised garden bed lined with wire to keep out gophers was empty, so I’ve been throwing in weeds and dirty chicken straw.  By next spring it should be ready to use.

In this bed I’ve been composting in place.

The Rubbermaid compost bin is in an inconvenient place.  I’d moved it in early spring and now I’m moving it again.  This doesn’t count as turning the pile, really, because the last time it sat in situ for years.  It had the best soil under it on the whole property.  Even without turning, and only over about six months, you can see that compost has been happening.

A lot of debris on top of the heap….

After I took the sides down, below the layer of debris there was about four inches of compost.

After about six months with no turning, there is great compost at the bottom

This I screen and then use in the raised vegetable beds.

My garden’s demand for compost is more urgent these days, and the amount of debris to compost is larger.  If I had a chipper or shredder, much of the debris would be composted in a short amount of time.  However I’m going into the regular compost bin operation.  I had a three-bin compost bin made out of old pallets.  I already had the green metal stakes to hold up the pallets, and three pallets to use.  Unfortunately they weren’t all the same shape or size, so the two wonderful men creating this for me, Jacob and Steve, went on a pallet hunt in their yards and came back with what was needed.

Wooden pallets make a great compost bin.

Debris and yet-to-be-collected-from-a-friend’s-house llama poo will be layered in the first chamber and watered.  As it decomposes it will be turned into the second bin, and the process begun again in the first.  Then each will be moved again and all three chambers will be filled with compost in three degrees of decomposition.  It should be easy to fill a wheelbarrow from the last chamber, screen it and deliver the rich compost to the base of the fruit trees and my raised veggie bed.  Meanwhile, weeds that have recently been gathered, especially ‘trouble’ weeds such as Bermuda grass, are stuffed in black plastic sacks and cooking in the sun until they can’t reproduce anymore, and then will be added to the heaps.  I don’t like using plastic, or contributing to the amount of plastic on the planet, but I am reusing and recylcing the bags.

Screening compost twice, once with smaller holes.

 

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