When we first started getting ready to move into our new home, I knew there would be a garden. I also knew I had to start with a compost pile because the dirt was in such poor condition. Compact, hard soil with bare patches in some areas and mole hills in others, it was a mess. Most of our time and money was going towards getting the house cleaned and painted so we could move in. But starting a compost pile is easy and cheap!
As I was scouring Freecycle and Craigslist for the myriad items we would now need (we were moving for a small, two-bedroom townhouse into a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house) I spotted an offer for free goat manure. Bingo! The beginning of my compost and the soil gardeners every where want. I made arrangements to pick up two feed sacks full and dumped it into a little mound next to the driveway.
So exciting, but also not nearly enough to really make the food-producing garden I had in mind. Oh sure, I threw coffee grounds and banana peels out there, but I was not getting too excited. Besides, I was working at my job all day and painting and cleaning the house for a few hours after work each evening. Add to that the process of packing up everything in the old house and getting utilities transferred. I just let the manure and kitchen scraps do what they do when left out in the open air. They rot slowly.
Through all of this, my sweetie kept calling it a mulch pile or my poo poo pile. Sheesh! I kept telling him, “You just wait til you are eating home-grown veggies that taste better than anything you can buy in the store.” What really kicked things into gear though, was when I acquired several rolls of chicken and mesh fencing and some T-posts through Craigslist. With the help of my bestie, Starla, we loaded that stuff up and brought it home. After a week or so of my nagging, hubby helped me pound a few posts into the ground and attach wire in a semi-circle around the miniature pile that was growing every day.
Now it was on! I started throwing shredded newspaper, toilet paper tubes, orange peels, wilted lettuce, grass clippings, you name it in that pile. We were experiencing some unusually hot weather even though this was the middle of the summer, so every few evenings I would give the pile a good soaking with the water house. If we went to the beach, I bought home a plastic garbage full of seaweed and a bucket full of shells. If the refrigerator needed to be cleaned out, anything that wasn’t meat or dairy-related (think cheese, milk, yogurt) went into the compost pile.
Since beginning the compost heap at the beginning of July, it has grown almost exponentially. The amazing thing about composting though is that one day it can seem like it is about to reach the top of the fence and a couple of days later it has shrunk. That’s because all the good stuff is happening below the surface. Worms, micro-organisms and insects are eating the waste and turning it into nutrient-rich soil.
The composting area has also grown in other ways as well. A couple of weeks ago it got enlarged and shifted. Turning the mixture is an important step in getting the most out of your compost pile. Now one half is mostly composted material and the other half is the beginning of a new pile. In fact, we were able to add some compost to the flower bed where three rose bushes are growing. They already look better just three days after their little treat.
Stay tuned to Bean Berries for more about composting and our adventure in homesteading!