Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Out of Doors

It was a very orange day in the garden today! A tomato, a pepper and a pumpkin!

And all my hostas are preparing to bloom. This is right outside the back door, in our courtyard area.
This is a recent project, my new compost pile! I had a compost pile at the rental house but having moved in here in February, it was hardly weather to make a new pile here. But everytime I threw away an apple peel or egg shell, I felt like I was throwing good nutrients and next year's compost out the window! What a waste of good soil amendments! So I finally got around to putting some poles in the ground and wrapping it with hardware cloth.

My compost tips:
-My compost pile is about 3 feet square and is made from 4 metal T-posts and 1 roll of 1/4-inch mesh hardware cloth. Cheap and easy!
-I've seen a lot of plans for circular compost piles that are just hardware cloth made into a cylinder. My question for these is, how exactly do you stir the pile if's completely enclosed? I prefer an open pile that I can dig into with a stick or pitchfork each time I add something new. Stirring is important to compost to evenly break down all components.
-Make sure your compost pile is in a shady area. Sunshine will dry it out too fast and bake the organic matter to a crisp, not letting it decompose to a nice, rich compost.
-They (compost experts) say to water it frequently. I think this is a waste of water. A good pile, built in a shady spot, will keep a nice moist interior without your help. Yes, it may take a few more months for your pile to ripen but what do you have more of, time or money for a high water bill? I'll let you decide. (I don't water many things, besides seedlings right after their planted. I am stingy with the water.)
-If you have dogs, either make sure your pile is enclosed, add a gate to the front (hardware cloth panel or wooden pallet) or (if you have a dog like Sully who won't dig too much) make sure each time you add choice bits like melon rind or corn cobs that you bury them down in the leaves and grass clippings.
-Do not add meat, dairy products, sugary items or dog/cat poo. Plants like to eat other plants so keep it limited to veg. matter, and maybe some egg shells if you bury them well to keep the rodents out. If you have chickens or rabbits, their poo is just fine. Plant-eaters' poo=good, meat-eaters' poo=not good. Newspaper is ok if you shred it and don't add too much at one time. Large branches and wood chips will need to be sifted out for several cycles before they will decompose so I try not to add those.
-I keep an old Tupperware container on the counter (think Rachel Ray's garbage bowl) that I put scraps in and take out every day. I like something that is sealable just in case you have ants that crawl in the window screen like we do!

Another recent addition to our back porch is this bench, but it is not new to me. My parents have had this bench since before I was born. They found it at a garage sale, missing on spindle. My dad took the bark off a branch, whittled the ends and stuck it in there. When I mentioned to my mom that I wanted a storage bench for taking my shoes off and storing garden tools, she offered it to me but come to find out, years of being left on the back porch at their house had left it in disrepair. My dad was kind enough to rebuild it and paint it black, just for me! I love having something that has been a part of our family for so long. No, it's not an heirloom from hundreds of years ago, but the story behind it reminds me of what frugal, resourceful people my parents are.


  1. I started my compost bin about a month ago and was surprised to see it was actually working after a few weeks!

    Mine isn't an open pile, but contained in an aerated garbage bin, so I can tumble it as well as stir it.

    After reading a couple books on living a greener lifestyle, I thought a compost bin was something I had to do. And it's so easy (I think, as I haven't had any real results yet).

    And I feel so much better about all those veggie scraps (and tissues - for a chronic allergy sufferer) not ending up in the garbage bag each week.

  2. always wanted a compost!!! But here is another alternative!!! It is a beautiful compost bin....

  3. I've been lurking around your blog for a few days after discovering you through Apron Thrift Girl. I love your blog. And I love a good compost piece.

    For the record: I never water my compost piles either. I just can't bring myself to waste water like that. If it does start to get bone dry I wet it with collected rain water or water I collected in a bucket in the shower while waiting for hot water.

    My family calls me the water nazi and I'm proud of it.

  4. I've never thought to add a drop of bleach to my collected rainwater---thats a good idea. I usually just try to use it within a day or so after collecting it.

    A few weeks ago I had a bucket filled that I neglected to empty and the kids thought we were growing tadpoles....Nope, mosquito larvae. Not nearly as fun.


  5. Saw your link on Tip Junkie - I have been wanting to start a compost bin - thanks for the tips!

  6. I have a (probably stupid) question I have been wanting to ask for a while about composting. If you are adding garbage to it everyday, how is it ever ready? Don't you have to stop adding to it at some point? Maybe start a 2nd pile and rotate between them or something?

  7. Christy, good question. You're right, it's never really done when you only have a single pile. Most "big time" composters use a two or three pile system, rotating to the next pile when they fill up the first and so on. I am a composting cheater, I have always had one pile and I keep adding to the top. I don't stir the pile by tossing it completely over, I fluff the whole pile to add air and only turn the top third maybe so that the dry top gets turned into the wetter portion. When I need compost, I move aside the top and dig down to the bottom where there is fresh, dark rich compost. Then my middle layer moves down to become my bottom layer! When starting a new pile, it will take a year or two to create a rich enough base that you can dig out of the bottom layer. But once it's started you should get a good amount each growing season.