know-hows

farmers gold a.k.a. compost

No matter where we live or the scale at which we plan on gardening, we start up composting before anything else. Compost is decayed and broken down organic material that can be added to the garden to enhance the nutrients of the soil. We like to get this going first because it takes time to break down fully.

compost-piles
To get our compost pile going, we start layering equal parts of greens (kitchen veggie scraps, grass clippings, weeds from the garden), browns (dried leaves, hay, etc.), and a little compost from an old pile. If you don’t have old compost, pick up a compost starter. We will touch on that later. After creating the new pile(s), we continue to feed it with kitchen scraps, grass cuttings, leaves, weeds and any other compostable material that might cross our path.

We have a compost crock that we use to collect all the food scraps and kitchen casualties- like that loaf of bread that just didn’t make it or those bananas you swore you were going to eat. After adding to it for about a day, or just when it needs to be done, we Ryan takes it outside to compost. He digs a hole in the side of the pile, adds all the scraps, and buries it deep enough to keep any hungry friends out. We water the pile enough to keep it moist throughout, but not enough to leave it completely saturated. After that, we cover it with a tarp to contain the moisture and trap heat. When the compost piles start to get nice and hot in the middle, that means it’s working. It may not be the most ideal way to go about composting, but for now it’ll do. In the near future, we hope to build a pallet structure.

Occasionally, compost needs to be turned. It helps spread out beneficial organisms and get air into the pile. To turn the compost, we use a pitch fork to open the middle of the pile; flip it over, mix it, rebuild it, and water it down (if it needs it). Then, we cover it back up and let her cook. You know that it’s good and ready when the compost starts to look really dark and well, well broken-down (you can no longer identify scraps) with worms galore

flipping-compost

flipping-compost2Right now, we have three compost piles rolling. The two we showed above and one in the backyard. There are enough leaves from this fall for three massive piles…and then some. We like to get all fancy and call them #1 (the only pile we put food scraps in and closest to being done), #2 (the pile to the right of that and second closest to being done), and then #3 (the one in the back, a more long term pile).

Each pile has a story of its own. For now, I just want to touch on #1. It started with a mixture of leaves, food scraps, yard cuttings, and most importantly, a bucket full of compost from our TN pile. The old compost was extremely important because it helped inoculate the new pile with all of the good organisms that collect over time….a.k.a. we were in the need for speed! If we hadn’t had the older already composted material the best option would have been to buy compost starter inoculate, which has a mix of the bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms that help break down organics. It can be found at most nurseries and garden centers.

Here is how the back of the house went down. I wish I could say these leaf piles formed themselves, but it turned into a pretty good workout (and a few too many blisters).

leaf-pilesleaf-piles.
To move them, we loaded-up a tarp as full (and heavy) as we could pull to our location for pile #3.  I know a couple of folks who could use a wheelbarrow….

As we built the pile up, Ryan did the honors of jumping on it. I mean ‘compressing’ it down.

stomp-pile

 Many trips and layers later, we watered this bad boy down, covered it with a tarp and walked away… for now.

high-pile

Our compost is a nonstop machine. We use it in just about everything we do when it comes to gardening, so it is important to always have some of this gold ready to roll. With that in mind I took on the front yard…

front-yard

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