Thursday, May 8, 2008

gardening gold - and it's free!

Garden blogs are filled with beautiful pictures of perfect blossoms, appealing plant combinations, and incredible wildlife. Today I want to share with you the one thing I appreciate the most in a garden - the soil! The soil I prefer to work in (light and crumbly) is also the soil my plants prefer to grow in. One of the best things you can do for your garden is to add organic matter to your beds. I recently cleaned out one of my compost bins (something I will do once or twice a year) and came up with 7 five gallon buckets of rich compost to add to some new beds. This is one of my favorite garden chores - spreading this wonderful (and free) compost that I made from yard and kitchen trash!

When I was first composting, I screened my end product - but that took too much time. I always mulch the beds so a few leaves and twigs isn't any big deal.
The first 3 or 4 years, all of my compost went into my vegetable beds. Thankfully they are in good shape now and I can share it with the ornamentals.

This is what was left from the compost bin that I cleaned out. It will become my "starter". On top of this, I'll place all my kitchen waste (no protien or oils) - I now toss in paper towels and napkins too. I don't really know why I omitted them before because I have always included my shredded papers in the bin. Shredded paper is a great dry material during the summer when dry leaves are scarce.

This is my second bin. I stirred it up and sprinkled it with water and will just let it sit and "stew" for a few months. I am a lazy composter - no turning of the pile - no taking it's temperature - no adding compost booster. With time nature will do its job. But I am considering purchasing a compost tumbler to use as a finisher.

I find that gardeners are really stewards of the land - whether it's a tiny little townhouse lot or a 7 acre garden. We can all find a spot in our garden to recycle our yard and kitchen waste into gardening gold! Let me know how you do it!


Judy said...

I just got started composting in the last couple weeks. I'm shredding all my newspapers, raking up grass and leaves (well, some) and throwing in all my suitable kitchen wastes. I know it will be awhile before I get usable material out of it, but the first plus we've already seen: Last week we only had one bag of trash to throw out for the whole week!

Everything I read about composting is so confusing - the right nitrogen/carbon balance, to stir or not to stir - but I guess if I just throw it all out there together in a can, it will eventually do its job. Right?

Mary Beth said...

You are basically right - if you just throw it all in together, it will eventually do its job - but if you have too much brown material (dry leaves, paper, etc), not much will happen and if you have too much green material, it may turn mushy or grow mold, etc. Aim for a mix of dry and wet and toss a shovel or two of dirt in there too. It will add some worms and bugs to get things going. If I was composting commercially, I would pay more attention to percentages of materials and temperature - but I'm not. I also love reducing the amount of garbage that goes into the landfill!

Anonymous said...

We haven't started our major composting yet. Although we have gathered a little bit of material in a bucket we don't have the actual container ready for major composting. I can't wait to get started and it is awesome to read that people are greatly reducing their trash! Thanks for showing us all of your compost.

Meems said...

Hi Mary Beth, great post and great information... Gardening Gold for certain!

I am even lazier than you ... I don't have containers. I literally pile my clippings and mostly leaves at the back corner of my property (it's hidden from anyone else's sight) and during the week faithfully add my kitchen waste. Once in a while I add shredded newspaper or the paper from the shredder. I will use this black, wonderfully moist, compost (rich with earthworms, too) often during the year to amend new plantings... just digging off the bottom of the pile. But then 2 or 3 times a year I level the pile by adding it to my beds as mulch. I admit I have visions of someone/someday building some proper bins that I can alternate their use. Truthfully though this method has worked for me for 24 years so I'm not in a hurry to change it.

What else is happening with that new planting bed of yours?
Meems @Hoe&Shovel

Carol Michel said...

Love the compost. Now that's a 'crop' that every gardener can grow, no matter where they are!

Carol, May Dreams Gardens

Mary Beth said...

Meems - I envy your compost piles - unfortunately I don't have any area that is strictly work area - my bins have sliding doors at the bottom so I should be able to dig the good stuff out of the bottom easily. I'm going to start using that for new plantings. For the time being, my new beds are just empty. Its shady there and I'm trying to come up with a plan before I begin planting . . .

Shala - read Meems comment for info on composting on the ground - lots of people do it without a bin.

You're right Carol, Compost is a wonderful crop!

Wicked Gardener said...

So what do you compost in? I just have a big pile, which is starting to get messy.

Mary Beth said...

Wicked Gardener - I compost in square pre-fab plastic bins. But I'm thinking about getting a tumbler to finish it more quickly. You may want to read what Carol at May Dreams Gardens says about hers