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Friday, May 27, 2011

Bin there, done that

I thought it was time to share my soil "secret" which I believe is why I get so many blooms on one plant.

Behind my lovely potting shed is a three bin compost system that always looks crazy but produces wonderful dark rich soil. It is a study in contrast of embarrassment and pride.
Embarrassment because it is the shabbiest looking compost system around.
Pride for the rich compost it produces.
Now I realize that composting is a messy business anyway, but with all of the plastic tumblers on the market, the "pile it on method" is less than pretty.
Right after the shed was built, I scavenged for pallets that local businesses were throwing out. For all who know me, it will come as no surprise that I love to hunt for other peoples cast-offs. I looked for the strongest pallets and nailed them to posts dug into the ground with my post hole digger. Next, I attached chicken wire to all the sides to hold in the "stuff". Truthfully, the bin on the left is kinda open-side and it fits all of the big grasses and branches since I don't own a chipper. Yet. It's on my wish list.

I have to admit, for the first few years, I was saving all kitchen scraps (no meat or grease) and all paper
(non-colored, non-glossy). I alternated layers of carbon (paper, brown leaves etc) and nitrogen ( fresh green weeds, grass clippings,veggie peels) at a ratio of 2 to1.
I faithfully moistened and turned the piles. I took its temperature to make sure it was "cooking".
I covered it with black weed barrier.
I am so type A!
It took two to three months for finished product. Well, that system grew old pretty quick.
It was too much work, partly because the compost bins are located in back of the potting shed which is an acre away from the house. 

So the method I now use is cold composting. I throw anything on the piles that comes from the garden/yard not diseased and no weeds badly gone to seed. I turn it once in a while to "mix it up" and dig from the bottom. If I'm eating a banana and I happen to be in the garden, I throw the peel on the pile for good measure.
It takes a little longer for the compost to be finished, but I still get beautiful, rich compost.
And its a system I can live with. Maybe someday I will put a tumbler up by the house for kitchen waste, although I am not a big fan of anything plastic. And all of that "cranking" doesn't sound fun.

Although the benefits of composting are so widely written/spoken about, with the emphasis usually on the importance of "building" the soil, I really didn't think about the impact that good compost would have on my plants. I know, crazy.
Yes, I did think the plants would benefit and be healthier, but somehow I never thought of the amazing effect compost would have on the plant being more productive!

Here on the North Fork of Long Island we have many farms and famous vineyards. This alone is a testament to the rich soil we have naturally. But when you continually take nutrients from the soil, you must put them back into the soil. 
So, when I plant a new plant, aged chicken manure, compost and existing soil from the hole get mixed together to back fill.
Each spring compost gets spread on the garden under the mulch.
And what better way to nourish the soil than with that which comes from the soil?

Peony 'Coleen Marie' with lots of buds!
lots of blooms on unsure of name Iris

I would love to hear of what others do to compost!


  1. Great info. I also do cold composting. The hot version was simply too complicated for this red dirt girl.

  2. Thanks Dee,
    sometimes easier is better..okay most times lol


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