Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Upgrading the Compost Heap

So just last fall, I made a serious commitment to a real supply of compost for next spring's garden. Why bother gardening if you don't have dirt that will grow the stuff you want?

Pallets are a good building material, so I built with pallets.
I had to expand almost immediately. A lot of leaves came down this fall! Doubled the depth, and made a funky little gate.

And pretty soon, thanks to contributions from the neighbor's leaf-raking efforts, even the enlarged version was too small.

Then I realized I couldn't turn the compost, couldn't mix it.

And the straw & sawdust from the chickens wasn't doing anything more than just sitting there. It was dry and dusty, a month into the rainy season!

Time for another upgrade. I doubled the width (thanks to some extra-large pallets from a local spa shop). Now I have room to turn things. But what a mess.

And it's still all carbon: tree leaves, straw, sawdust (with a little chicken poo and horse poo mixed in).
 I spent the morning gathering stuff. I got 3 boxes of vegetable trimming from a fruit stand (including one box of lettuce trimmings, as you can see), a big bag of pulp and trimmings from a juice stand, and maybe 40 pounds of used coffee grounds. Lots of nitrogen!

As I moved the pile from one side to the other (by hand, with a pitch fork!), I layered it with fresh produce & juice pulp, used coffee grounds and shovels full of "starter": successful decomposition (thick with red wrigglers!) from the two worm bins in the back yard.

I hope I got enough nitrogen in the mix to balance the immense carbon load, but I think I got a good start. Next month, I'll fork it all over to the right side again, and add either carbon stuff or (more likely) more nitrogen to keep it even.

Let's see how this turns out come spring!

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