Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Compost Happens.

I was sitting in my garden this afternoon thinking about a bumper sticker I had seen recently. It proclaimed simply, Compost Happens. I can not think of this without that scene from Forrest Gump creeping into my mind. You know, the one where Forrest gives the idea for the ubiquitous hippie saying, Shit Happens.

Well, they do both just happen. And often they are the same thing!! Many manures make excellent compost, cow, horse, poultry, even human! Rabbit is a lucky one that needs no composting. Just add directly to your garden.

Generally though, compost simply refers to the act of decomposing carbon based matter into soil. Just about everything can be composted; some just take a lot longer. Manure, food scraps, yard waste, leaves, newspaper, coffee grounds, wood shavings, even animal bones and bodies. Usually, in a home environment composting bones and meat would attract pests and encourage funky smells. Animal foods and wastes should be composted carefully and thoroughly.

Starting a compost pile is simple. There is no need for a bin, unless you choose. We started with an open pile, eventually enclosing it with cinder blocks, when it go too large to stay in one spot, as shown below.

This is a three stage compost pile. The brown on the right is finished compost. The green in the middle is a working pile. The straw on left is chicken bedding awaiting composting action.

Layer the above materials in your pile, try to keep it even parts wet nitrogenous materials (produce, grass, coffee, urine) with dry carbonaceous materials (straw, newspaper, cardboard (not waxed), nut shells, yard waste/dry plant materials). Keep adding materials as you have them and keep it moist, if necessary to your climate. We have an extremely dry climate, so watering is necessary. In a moist climate, a cover may be necessary to keep rain out.
When your pile is large enough, 3’x3’x3′, you can start a new pile and finish this one into soil. To do this, stop adding new materials, keep evenly moist and stir it up every couple of weeks. In a few short months it will look like dark brown/black rich soil. Spread it around your garden, top dress houseplants or plant straight into it. An old compost pile is a perfect place for a new tree.

Urine is another free waste fertilizer. Urine is a fantastic source of nitrogen. Diluted with 10 times water, urine is a perfect fertilizer directly applied to houseplants and your garden. Undiluted it could burn plants up, but diluted it’s like free Miracle Gro.

Compost and Shit. They just happen. The substances that come from the Earth know to return to her when they are done; It’s like the Earth calls back that which came from her. As naturally as those things came from the ground, they return to enrich the soil and provide new life. It’s a circle, in nature, that never ends.

Only in civilized society do we completely ignore this necessary cycle and ignore the health of our soils. Let’s change that, one backyard farm at a time.

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…itsy bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms.

Over the weekend I recieved a shipment of red wrigglers. I ordered these little guys off ebay for just a few dollars. I want free fertilizer, I want free worm castings (soil) and I want worms to reproduce themselves for yummy chicken treats. So I ordered about a hundred worms and I set to making them a home. There are plenty of awesome pre-made worm compoting bins, but they cost money. Too much money for plastic, in my opinion.

A DIY worm composting bin just need three basic things; a large cavity that will hold the worms, scraps and the soil they make up, a basin to catch the good fertilizer that drips down and a lid to keep in moisture. You can add facy features like stacking bins, for more than one stage of compost, or a spout for removing and using the liquid fertilizer easily.

I started with two rubbermaid bins. Any size is fine, as long as they are the same size:

Two large well used rubbermaid bins.

Next, one bin will need small holes drilled in it. Large enough to allow liquid through, but small enough to keep worms and soil in. Lots of small holes. Like seen in this poor quality photo:

This part will be filled with shredded wet newspaper. Shred as much as you can, wet it and squeeze the excess water out. Fill the holey box with moist newspaper, place the lid on top and set aside.

Wet newspaper in holey box

Next, I made a small device to keep the weight of the holey worm box from caving in on the bottom box. The soil, food scraps and reproducing worms will get quite heavy.

device? well, just four pieces of wood and 4 nails. I used the power saw all by myself.

Once this is in place, put the holey box on top:

Finished DIY worm composting bin.

Fill with purchased worms and feed them your kitchen scraps.

There are so many resources for learning more about worm composting. Learn more and reduce your kitchen waste by turning it into good soil.



Or check out this great book on Vermicomposting: Worms Eat My Garbage

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No really! I spent yesterday hauling car-fulls of manure from nearby horse country. 28 cubic feet, to be exact. Yes, I did the math. Including cylindrical volume equation googling.

To haul 28 cubic feet of manure in a mid sized Saturn, one needs large plastic boxes or tarps, or a heavy duty vacuum, I guess. I used rubbermaid bins, the kind with a lid that you store your Christmas stuff in all year. Except mine are caked with dumpster goo and manure, year round. To haul manure: bring wide shovel, fill boxes, struggle to lift and take home, rinse and repeat. Well, the rinse is not so much necessary.

So, what do you do with all that manure? You make compost! And lots of it. I happen to have two large bales of straw that was [oops] ruined in the recent unseasonal desert rains. So to make waste useful again, I layer a nice base of rotting, moldy straw and then layer the dry crispy manure nuggets and the straw and manure and repeat, like a really disgusting lasagne. Spraying with water all the while, of course. You need moisture for rotting.

I will continue to spray and turn this pile with my pitchfork daily, or as much as my back can handle, until it all turns into beautiful black soil. Hopefully it will take no more than
18 Days!!

This is the finished lasagne pile:

Notice how much larger this pile is compared to my kitchen and dumpster waste piles.**

**Close up of the colorful compost pile back there: beautiful dozens of roses and other flowers I collected dumpster diving in the days after Valentines day.

Most of the flowers become compost, but some become money saving post-valentines gifts to mommy from son:

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