Thursday, June 23, 2011

Composting...A Beginning

This summer, we decided to expand our garden and begin composting.  I sent my husband to Home Depot to get some materials to build a bin.  He came back with a square black plastic frame.  We put it together and began dumping composting materials into it.  Simple, right?  Well, no...

One day... my husband decided to dump a huge load of grass into it from our yard and it quickly became too heavy for me to turn.  I had been turning it with a small tool and that wouldn't work anymore.  So, I went to the store and bought a small pitchfork (about half the size of a a normal one).  I came home and I tried and tried and tried to turn it.  Unsuccessfully.  

My conclusion is that if you have the space for an open bin or a pile somewhere in your yard where you can compost, then it's easier to use a pitchfork.  If you have a small space, it takes more strength and control.  I wish we had purchased a compost bin that will turn with a crank.  (This may be what I ask for for my birthday next year.)  I can carry my 33 lb. son while walking for a mile, but it was hard for me to turn the compost.

Here is a picture of my bin...

This picture is of our bin and the package of peat moss that I haven't found time yet to work into the soil.  I am learning that there is always something that could be done in the garden or is yet to be done.  I took this picture through the screen of our homeschool room, so please forgive the haziness of the picture.  Around the bin is forsythia.  I was so frustrated with how dead the forsythia looked so I chopped it back--entirely.  What I discovered, though, is that forsythia needs that.  The yellow flowers grow on the previous year's growth.  So, in order to have healthy forsythia, you need to prune it each year (though probably not as drastically as I did).  I am thankful that it came back because it has provided a natural shrub to surround the compost bin and I didn't have to spend any money to buy a new one.  

But, back to my composting attempts...  Composting sounds simple, and it can be simple.  It can also be complex.  It all depends on how much you do and what you decide to compost.  It's a bit like recycling.  You can just recycle your newspapers, or you can pay attention and recycle a lot more paper and cardboard instead of being lazy and throwing it in the trash can.  (The lazy comment is for me because I find myself in this predicament daily.)

I have started reading a book called The Complete Compost Gardening guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deboarh L. Martin

This book will open your eyes about what composting is, how to do it, and how much you can compost.  The book starts off with the basics of composting--why, what, and how to do it.  The next chapter is about what you'll need.  This chapter is about the other tools you need (not just the bin).  Then the book's authors cover what you can compost (and what you shouldn't).  The rest of the book covers in more detail how and where to compost.  I had no idea there were so many ways to compost!  I have puzzled a bit realizing the quantity of grass clippings we get as well as leaves in the fall.  As I've picked up and set down this book multiple times in the last month, I've come to realize that I can expand my composting attempts and methods each year.  There's so much one can do that it's wise to take it on bit by bit rather than all at once.  

Starting small with composting is a good place to start.  The beginning part of this book will give you the whats and how.  If you end up enjoying composting, the second part of the book will give you lots of ideas of how you can compost creatively and how you can use the results of your efforts in your gardening.

So, I'm starting small.  I haven't mastered my little compost heap yet.  But, I hope to.  I know that that there's ideas in this book that will keep me busy for many years to come!

Please note that I received a complimentary copy of The Complete Compost Gardening Guide from Storey Books for review.


  1. We have a similar compost and we don't turn ours. A couple times a year we just pull wheel barrow fuls out of the bottom. I try to vary what we put in between yard an food waste. Seems to work for us.

  2. Yes, if you don't turn it, it will still turn into dirt, it will just take longer :) Adding something like dog food makes it go faster. At this point, that's what my pile is turning into--one that will decompose slowly, but will decompose nonetheless ;)