the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out–cultivating compost

Now that we’re revamping the gardens around here, I have been working on some new composting holding areas.  Sundays are usually compost turning day so I thought I’d repost this one.  ~cameron

Sunday around is compost turning day.  After a week of tossing stuff into the bin, I spend time on the weekend taking my pitchfork to the pile.  I find that my compost breaks down more quickly if I move it around a bit.  Doing so helps it get the air it needs to different layers as well as mixes up the goodies I put in there so they break down more quickly.

compost turned

So what do I compost?

  • any raw fruit and veggie scraps or those that have not been cooked with any meat, fish, egg, dairy, or oil
  • egg shells that I crunch up first to help in the decomposition process
  • leaves, lots and lots of dead leaves
  • paper bags, paper towel and toilet paper tubes, corrugated cardboard
  • tea bags, tea leaves, tea filters, coffee filters, coffee grounds
  • shredded: newspaper, old telephone books, non-shiny paper from the recycling bin at work
  • plant cuttings EXCEPT weeds
  • old mulch or small pieces of wood/sticks
  • shredded paper/filling used to line the chicken coop

compost unturned

While I don’t consider myself an expert on compost (you need to go visit #CompostJunkie if you want the whole shebang), I do find that my compost breaks down quickly and creates rich, organic matter that has done wonders for my veggie and fruit beds as well as around hydrangeas and other bushy plants.

So how do I compost the matter?  I create layers of the stuff I noted above.  I keep a nice compost bucket on my kitchen cabinet so that it makes for easy scrap collecting.  Once I pour those onto my compost bed, I cover with a light layer of dried leaves.  The coffee and tea grounds get sprinkled evenly on top before turning the compost. Paper and cardboard are always shredded or torn to make the job easier.

As for where I compost. I used to have a natural pit in the woods beside my gardens.  I always threw clippings, leaves, and scraps in there then found that it was making amazing food for my farm.  Unfortunately,however, when I tried to box it in last summer, I stirred up a few yellow jackets who were living in a hole in the moist ground.  Needless to say, I didn’t step foot in that area until it was cold enough for them to be tucked away for winter.

I have ended up making compost bins out of upcycled pallets, wood and dog fencing.  The key is to have air circulating around the scraps.  Putting it all in a giant trash can without holes–no way.  In the mean time, here’s what I learned from that experience:

  • Long, low pallets work better than short high ones.  By using shorter pallets, I am able to get enough leverage on my pitchfork to turn the compost.
  • Make the compost bin wide enough so you can get your hauling “equipment” in and out.

And finally, do NOT cover the bottom floor of you compost bin–this will allow for worms and other creepy crawlies to enter.  They are great for breaking down stuff and creating new organic matter.  I have been known to throw a few extra worms in there myself when I find them skittering in the leaves after a rainstorm.

the worms crawl in. . .

So head outside and scope out a place you can start your own pile.  Believe me–the extra time you spend will not only help the environment but will grow you some amazingly delicious and healthy food!

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