Composting update

 After the last rip roaring post...lets get back to normal 

I have had a few emails, with questions about composting...
 if it is hard, smelly, yucky, buggy, rat infested etc etc
 Well, the answer is yes and no,
to all of those things

We started composting about 3 years ago and it is pretty much second nature around here.  
Ours is a triple bin composter,
with each bin in a different state of decomposition

The fist bin is fresh stuff from the kitchen and garden
This is where we mix the nitrogen (green stuff)  with the carbon (brown dry stuff)

I have to add it really helps to have one of those little compost buckets in your kitchen because you really get in the habit of using it.

I have a small stainless pail
with a charcoal filter in the lid 
but there are tons of good ones now,
which run around 20 dollars

All three bins get a really good soak of water 
about once a week...
It has been our experience that you need to add a lot more water than you think you will need

At this point the first bin is pretty horrible looking and you will have fruit flies
but it really doesn't smell...honest!

Remember never to add meat or anything like will smell like a trash can, won't break down and can cause all sorts of health problems.  
You can read more info in this great book called 
Let It Rot
I bought it when we first got started!

Make sure to keep the lids down because rats, raccoons, cats and dogs love this stuff!

Once things start breaking down the compost from the first bin gets added to the second bin

Some people like to add some dirt from the yard at this point 
but it really isn't necessary
 That bin (#2) then gets turned and soaked etc until most of the big leaves, fruit and grass have disappeared
This stage is where you can really start to see things break down
 and the red worms are doing their job really well

You can buy red worms, which are not earth worms but another type of worm, on the internet 

 some nurseries have them too, but once your compost gets going 
you wont need to add any more worms

The other thing you may notice at this point is how warm the compost is
In the morning you can see steam when you dig around and start turning your compost

I have read that if you get the soil too hot it will kill the worms 
but we have never had that happen...knock on wood
 The we move it all again to the final bin
You can see at this point how the bin has broken down to the point where it looks about 1/3rd full which means it's about ready for the garden
 A couple of things I like about this bin is the galvanized top 
and the removable slatted front
 I think picking a good location is pretty important too...the bin is not all that great to look at and I like the fact that its close to the citrus orchard
 because we have so much rotten fruit on the ground...daily
 and so cleaning up is much easier
 Here is how the slats fit into the front...they just pull up and slide easily back into place when you are done digging around
 Chicken wire is pretty essential too, to contain all of the debris and allow air circulation which happen to be another component of making good dirt
 This compost bin sits directly on the ground which allows moisture to get in to the soil beneath and good bugs to make their way up into the leaves and clippings

This is pretty basic construction and if you have a handy friend 
or two 
you could easily build this in a day
The materials will run about $200 dollars
 if you use pressure treated lumber and redwood, which we did in this case
 The stuff at the very bottom is the best...super dark and rich
 Your compost should smell like dirt, be full of worms and there should be very little recognizable "stuff" that you threw in, in the very beginning

If you see anything too big just chuck it back into the second bin
 and let it break down some more
 oh and look who's here 
Mr Worm....a gardeners BFF
 I don't really worry too much if there are some sticks and leaves that are not completely broken down because once this gets added to the beds it continues  to decompose really quickly

 A full tub of compost will double the amount of soil in your beds 
and a little seems to go a long way
 After mowing the grass and adding to our  kitchen and garden debris, we will add a good amount of dried leaves on top, water well 
and call it a day
 This bed got a nice dose of compost today after the Basil 
froze to death and died last week
 I double dig the existing soil, add in the compost and dig some more

This bed will get planted next week and I will probably dig it again just to be sure every thing is well incorporated...sort of like making good cupcakes!
This is such a great way to spend a beautiful fall day...and my favorite time of the year to garden
I added this last photo...just for fun

Happy Gardening

; o )

  1. I am so impressed! You say it's basic contruction-if you saw what my neighbor "made" you'd be getting the compost Oscar for this-it's really quite attractive!

  2. Oh such fun!! My Abigail (12) wants to do this:)

  3. We BUY {lots} of compost every couple years and layer it around the garden. Everything grows like crazy when it's living in compost :)

    Good for you for taking this on. I'm afraid to do this because we have so much wildlife around.

    Great info! thx for sharing.


  4. the last photo cracks me up...the watermarking looks great even on a pile of _ _ _ _!
    I plan on reading this again though and buying that book b/c when we took over this farmhouse, we inherited a large vegetable garden. We're about to start gardening in there (now that the brutal Texas summer is over). The previous owner left a huge compost bin and so it's really our duty to start working that ugly thing again..and for our plants sake! Problem is that it's not right next to the house to make it convenient.
    Your gardening always inspires me and I hope to start spending more time doing so, in the next yr...have a great wk!

  5. hi kelly girl.

    isn't it interesting that meat does the same thing in a compost pile as it does in our bodies? haha.

    anyway, i love your setup. mine is just a pile on the ground.

    i also sympathize greatly with you re your last post and your mean commenters. what is up with people? you are awesome and don't let them get to you, i try not to.

    i'm wondering if it is time to quit. some days it doesn't seem worth it does it?


  6. Thanks for stopping by everyone....I thought maybe I scared everyone off!
    The compost book I recommended says that composting is part art and part science and I think that is pretty much true. It is amazing stuff, once you get going with it. Give it a shot!

    xx kelley

  7. I just pulled up my pathetic looking basil yesterday, too! I hope someday to do my own composting, but I have such a tiny garden not sure where I would do so. You make it look so easy! ;-)

  8. My compost cuttings go into a circle of woven wire about 4 feet high. This allows me to keep it wet and watch it decrease in height as the cuttings turn to dirt. When the pile is done decomposing I lift off the wire and put it in another section of the garden to begin the process all over again. It is very rewarding to watch this in action and to know that I am part of the life cycle.

    Thanks for raising this topic. No matter what patch of ground you have you can compost. Ann

  9. Kelley,
    Some day I want to have a compost heap, I tried it once and wasn't successful, I like your idea of 3 bins. I'll save this post for future days of more gardening, less corporate work! :-)

  10. One day I'm going to try planting a veggy garden. Your blog will be the go to blog for all the inspiration I need. Your gardens are so need to write a book Kelly. Between all the great ideas you come up with and the gorgeous gardens.... it would be great!

  11. this old house we bought hadn't been raked in years. my flowers this spring were dynamite!

  12. What a great post. I so want to start a really good compost system & you've inspired me. I love what you guys have built, and may actually have to duplicate it. Blessings-Carrie

  13. fantastic! I love all the tips on construction! I so want to set one up this summer!!


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