Monday, February 11, 2013

Compost: a fool-proof garden project

Never in my life did I think I would write a blog post about dirt, but I am about to, with pictures of dirt to boot. Glorious, hand-made dirt. I always knew that hand-made things feel better to me - I enjoy giving hand made gifts, we only have hand made cookies in the house, most of the decorations on the walls are handmade... but I never knew that even hand-made dirt would be more rewarding.

I guess calling it "hand-made" is a bit egocentric of me. I didn't actually make the dirt, after all. I basically just threw all our vegetable scraps in a huge pile and occasionally, when he had been extra naughty, my son dumped in a few bucketfuls of chicken poo as a punishment, but other than that God did all the work. There is a bunch of intimidating science involved and an entire shelf of books at the library on composting, but I had neither the patience or courage to learn the proper way to compost. I convinced my husband to build me an open-topped wooden bin out of old pallets and just started throwing stuff in it. The only rule was to put in only paper and vegetable products. I know there was something about "turning the pile" in some of those composting books - I think I turned ours about 4 times over the course of a year. I also vaguely recalled my brother talking about "browns" and "greens," so I made sure to add leaves in addition to all our green veggie scraps. And then in November I "put the bed to sleep" by covering it over with plywood and starting a new pile right next to it. If I am honest, I thought I would end up with a slimy stinky mess of rotten kitchen garbage, but I was wrong.

I probably violated many hard and fast rules of composting, but all I know is that yesterday I took off the plywood sheets to reveal a gigantic pile of the most beautiful black crumbly vitamin-rich DIRT I have ever seen. It felt like a magic show and Christmas all rolled into one. I was practically giddy as I shoveled scoop after scoop into the wheelbarrow. I mean - this used to be a pile of celery ends, banana peels and coffee filters and now it was just BLACK DIRT! I am still amazed. And a little perplexed that I could be so darn excited about it. I did remember a line from one of the books about composting that I ventured to crack open: "You will never have enough compost." And boy is that true. Two wheelbarrows full finished off my beautiful compost pile, and it was only enough to fill two and a half of my garden beds. *sigh* I am addicted.

I do walk to the new compost pile with a bit more enthusiasm, though, not so annoyed to be hauling a stinky bucket of old kitchen scraps. Now that I know what they will turn into, and have learned just how easy composting actually is, I am happy to do it. How about you - do you compost? If I can do it, anybody can!


  1. I compost but intermittantly. Like I'll have the kdis throw all of our veggie/eggshell/coffee scraps into our old garbage can with holes in the bottom along with some ripped up newspapers for a few weeks and then I'll get lazy and not mess with it for awhile and then feel bad about how easy it is and do it again. This winter I poured ours in my crappy vegetable bed from last year. It wasn't all the way ready, but I covered it with newspaper and pine straw and am now getting ready to order some seeds and start over!!

  2. I bet your soil is going to be AWESOME this year - all that compost probably rotted the rest of the way down. I got a spiffy stainless steel counter top compost thingie with a charcoal filter in it that makes it not stink at all - has made collecting kitchen scraps much less gross.