Monday, March 28, 2011

Harvesting compost

This is Harvest Monday.  See for more.
Harvesting compost.  I guess that’s my way of saying there wasn’t anything to eat out of the garden this time.  After a few days of sunny mid-70 degree days the weather turned cold, like early February, and not much growth has happened.  I got busy with the compost bin because the beds will need compost and the beds must be fed, especially the two newest beds farthest from the house.  What follows is a chronicle of how I'm handling compost this year.  Everybody does it different, and next year I'll probably go about it differently.  It's a primitive system, but until it rots into dust I'll probably continue using it.  For a very basic composting system that doesn't take a lot of space it works reasonably well.  
The shredded leaves that were added to the compost bin about two weeks ago have been decomposing really fast, but need a few more weeks aging.  Broccoli, kohlrabi, and bok choi seedlings will be ready to go into the trapezoidal bed in a few more days.  Before any seedlings are planted I needed to get at the oldest compost at the bottom of the bin and move it into the bed.
The bin consists of 4 stacked modules made from 3’ long 2x10 pine boards end-nailed to make an open box – very primitive.  I lifted the top module off the bin, turned it over and set it next to the existing bin  

The top layer of the compost pile is leaf mold that was shredded on March 12.  Blood meal and water were added to promote decomposition.  The leaves in the compost bin and in the cart were shredded the same weekend.  It’s apparent in the picture that the leaves in the bin are well on the way to becoming compost, while the leaves in the cart haven’t started to decompose at all.
I began adding shredded leaves from the cart into the new bin.  A layer of leaves from the cart was shoveled in, two handfulls of blood meal were sprinkled in and the layer was watered, then more leaves were added.  The thinking here is to get the newest material into the bottom of the bin, so I can get to the aged material in a few weeks.  
Once the first module was filled with leaves the second module was lifted off the old bin and set onto the new bin.  The rest of the leaves in the cart were shoveled into the new compost bin, filling it to the top of the second module.  I'm hoping that I can take enough compost from the bottom of the old bin to leave room for all the new material.
At this point the next module could not be lifted off the old bin without spilling compost.   I hate to move manure twice, but there wasn’t much choice but to shovel this compost into the now empty cart until the module was empty.  Actually this was probably a good thing, because the compost at this level had not been turned too well and it smelled like dog poop.  So the compost got turned over as it went into the cart and again when it went into the new bin.   This compost still has a lot of eggshells and plant stems but does not have far to go.  

The now empty module was lifted off the old bin and set onto the new bin.  It was waterlogged, heavy and a little rotten, but still holding together.  Most of the compost in the cart was shoveled into the new bin until it reached the top of the bin. 

That left the compost in the bottom module, which had been in the bin about a year, and was finished enough to go into the brassica bed – two wheelbarrow loads.   I’m going to leave it there a few days then dig it into the bed. 

The last module was then set onto the top of the new bin, the remaining compost in the cart was shoveled in and the lid set back in place.  Yes it was a lot of shoveling.   The newest material is now at the bottom of the bin, and the partly finished compost above it should be ready in a few weeks to go into the remaining beds.  From now on I plan to turn my compost faithfully. 


Lynda said...

Well that's quite a composting system! Great job! You're raised beds look pretty good, too.

kitsapFG said...

Shredded leaves are such a great base for a good compost pile. I always treasure my fall pile because it has leaves as the primary brown in it and the plants (particularly the brassicas) really seem to flourish from compost made with leaves.

Daphne said...

I always have a slow compost pile. I've just been too lazy recently to make a fast one. I ought to shred my leaves however. I didn't do it this year when I collected them as my lawn mower was in the basement. Maybe this spring when the mower comes out.

Robin said...

What a great composting system! I really like your modules.

The harvesting of compost is the most important harvest!

Todo pasa por una razon said...

Good post. Great system.

Simple Torsion

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