Sunday, April 15, 2012

Compost-Because a Rind Is A Horrible Thing To Waste

" Blue-Butterfly Day"
Robert Frost, 1896

It is blue-butterfly day here in spring,
And with these sky-flakes down in flurry on flurry
There is more unmixed color on the wing
Than flowers will show for days unless they hurry.

But these are flowers that fly and all but sing;
And now from having ridden out desire
They lie closed over in the wind and cling
Where wheels have freshly sliced the April mire.


Instead of sharing what bloomed today, we are sharing a pic of putting together the new compost bin. 

Putting together a compost bin is NOT as easy as the minimal instructions they give you tell you. They were all in pictures, no writing, so there ya go. Of course we put in one side wrong and it clicked in place and wouldn't come out. Hubby figured it out, thank goodness and soon we had it done.

We put her in a great spot in the sun, and named her "Bindi". Here's what she looks like in her new home:

One of our most requested subject matters is composting. So, since we just recently purchased ours, I thought this would be the perfect time to learn all about it!

Composting involves mixing yard and household organic waste in a pile or bin and providing conditions that encourage decomposition. The decomposition process is fueled by millions of microscopic organisms (bacteria,fungi) that live in your compost pile, continuously devouring and recycling it to produce a rich, organic fertilizer and valuable soil amendment.
LOCATION-  From a functional standpoint, you'll need a place with good air circulation, partial shade so it doesn't get overheated, and good drainage. Close to the garden and a water source are both good places, since it will be easier to move the materials to and from the garden and water it.
MOISTURE- The microbes that do your dirty work require water to survive, but it can be hard to judge just how much water to add and when. Too much water means your organic waster won't decompose and you'll get a slimy and smelly pile. Too little water and you'll kill the bacteria and you won't have compost.
One rule of thumb: the more green material (cut grass, weeds, leaves, etc) you put in, the less water you'll need to add. In fact, if you need to add dry ingredients such as straw or hay, soak the material first in water so it won't dry out your compost pile. In general, your compost pile should be moist but not sopping wet.
AERATION: Oxygen is also required by many of the microorganisms responsible for successful composting. Give them adequate ventilation and Nature will do the rest.

You can make sure that the bacteria in your compost gets sufficient air by turning the pile often and well. Use a pitchfork, spade or compost aerator to mix.
TEMPERATURE: As they eat, the organisms responsible for composting generate large amounts of heat, which raise the temperature of the pile and speeds up decomposition. A compost pile that is working well will produce temperatures of 140-150F degrees. At these temperatures, almost all weed seeds and plant diseases are killed. A 'very hot' compost pile will generate temperatures of up to 170F degrees for up to a week or more. As organic material heats up it breaks down and takes up less space. A compost pile can shrink up to 70% as it 'cooks'.
ADDING MATERIALS- The United States EPA, yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 23% of the U.S. municipal solid waste stream. That's a lot of waste to send to landfills when it could become useful and environmentally beneficial compost instead! 

When adding organic waste to your compost, don't squash the materials down to make more space. Squashing the contents will squeeze out the air that the microbes need to turn your garbage into gold. Include a mixture of brown fibrous ingredients and greens. Also shred, dice or otherwise make scraps smaller, which will help the resident bacteria do a good job converting the garbage into compost.

After you've added your kitchen waste, throw some leaves or grass clippings on top of it. This will help keep things balanced and reduce smells.

Ingredients that can make good compost include:

Materials to Compost
Browns = High CarbonGreens = High Nitrogen
Ashes, wood
Cardboard, shredded
Corn stalks
Fruit waste
Newspaper, shredded
Peanut shells
Peat moss
Pine needles
Stems and twigs, shredded
Vegetable stalks
Coffee grounds
Food waste
Garden waste
Grass clippings
Hedge clippings
Hops, used
Vegetable scraps
*Avoid weeds that have gone to seed, as seeds may survive all but the hottest compost piles.

MATERIALS TO AVOID: Coal ash, colored paper, diseased plants, pet droppings (cat and dog), inorganic materials such as aluminum foil, glass, plastics and metals, and pressure-treated lumber. Meats, bones, fish, fats or dairy.Synthetic materials such as herbicides or pesticides.
ACTIVATORS: You can also 'jump start' your compost pile by adding aged manure, alfalfa meal, cottonseed meal, blood meal or compost starter. You may want to add ashes from a wood-burning stove if you've added a lot of acidic materials, such as pine needles or oak leaves. Wood ashes are alkaline and can help adjust the pH of your compost pile if it gets too acidic.Whenever you add a food scrap layer, make sure you sprinkle it with soil and then cap off with a brown layer to prevent smells and flies. 

" I never have flies but an abundance of fruit flies will hang out. To prevent so many they fly up your nose (very unpleasant) I put a little container of cider vinegar with a drop of dishwashing liquid and leave it in the center. They will fly in there and not come out." 

Compost is finished when it's a dark, rich color, crumbles easily and you can't pick out any of the original ingredients. It should have a sweet, earthy smell. If it's too stringy or lumpy, it may need more time. Keep in mind that the amount of time can really vary. It can take anywhere from 3-12 months to produce compost. Decomposition depends on a variety of things including temperature, what organic matter you filled your bin with, type of compost bin used, how fine the waste material was chopped, how often you've turned it and more. 
Once you have achieved finished compost, you can add it to the soil any time of the year without the fear of burning plants or polluting water. The benefits of compost are numerous. It builds good soil structure, enables the soil to retain nutrients, water and air; protects against drought, helps to maintain a neutral pH and protects plants from many diseases commonly found in the garden; and lastly, it feeds earthworms and other who help the soil. Plus, you are helping the Earth and your family when they eat those organic edibles you grew with your own fertilizer




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Marti Browne said...

Great post on composting. Thanks for the tips! I just shared your post on FB too! Marti :)

Virginia said...

Very informative and well-written!