Three years ago, when I needed to replace an old garden hose, I decided to get some free warm water by choosing a black one. It worked! Besides being fast to thaw in cold weather, the black hose warms up a gallon or so of water on sunny days. Warmth is magic in spring, and it's great to have warm water to give to little cloched cabbage seedlings, and of course composting projects.
The old watermelon and squash vines in the Walking Compost are finally ready to rot, so I've taken steps to speed things up. During the heap's third turn, I mixed in some weathered horse manure and threaded a soaker hose through the pile as I worked. At this time of year, moisture is key to getting last year's residues moving along toward finished compost, and the easiest way to provide it is with a simple black soaker hose.
My Humble Kitchen Composter
By Deb, 3/14/08
Nearly all of the compost-worthy scraps from my kitchen go into an enclosed compost bin. This eliminates concerns about foraging critters who might otherwise feast upon the mix of peelings, cores and coffee grounds. I got the bin more than 10 years ago, through a county program aimed at encouraging residents to compost wastes instead of sending them to the landfill.
Throughout the winter months, nothing much happens in this bin, except that it grows ever fuller as I continue to feed it from the collection bucket that resides under the kitchen sink. In January and February, itís pretty well frozen solid, so contents pile up perilously close to the top. With a few warm days in March, it thaws out enough for a bit of turning and soon thereís enough microbial activity to render most of the materials unrecognizable. Itís not hot, thoughóa test with my compost thermometer shows it hovering right around the 45 degree air temperatureóbut itís warmer than my still-frozen soil pile sitting next to it. Itís also quite soggy in the wake of a winterís worth of kitchen cast-offs. Time to stir in a 3-gallon bucketful of last fallís shredded leaves to help balance out the overabundance of wet ingredients.
Photo by Donna Chiarelli
Photo by Deb Martin
Birds-nest Compost for Spring Cleaning
By Deb, 3/14/08
Windy, rainy weather has scattered lots of twigs and branches over the yard, leaving me with the task of picking them up. This is how Mother Nature does her spring cleaningóusing wind and rain to knock loose the last clinging leaves and dead wood up in the trees. Then itís my turn to tidy up and to figure out a use for this literal windfall of woody stuff.
If you want to create creating a passive, no-turn compost project, a base layer of sticks makes a fine starting point. You can imagine youíre building a really big birdís nest as you pile up the twigs in a rough circle or in the bottom of your open bin or pen. When you have other ingredients, start layering them inside the frame made of sticks and random prunings. The twiggy base will let air flow up and under the pile, reducing the need for turning to get air into the heap. Thatís good, since turning a pile built on sticks can be an exercise in frustrationóat least until they make progress toward crumbling into compost.
Photo by Donna Chiarelli
Undercover Compost By Barbara, 3/1/08
A few weeks ago, when I opened my winter tunnel to pull out weeds and dead plants, I piled up the debris in a vacant spot right in the tunnel. Itís often nice and warm in there, so I figured the stuff would rot faster in the tunnel than in an exposed heap. I was right! The pile has shrunk by a third, and there are already earthworms moving in on the ground floor.
Inspired, I filled an open space between over-wintered parsley and spinach (formerly grown in a glass-topped box and now protected from wind with row cover) with an earthworm condo. Itís a four-story affair, comprised of layers of wet cardboard and newspapers and chunky half-done compost. Between the layers, light sprinklings of grits and oatmeal will quickly rot into food for big night crawlers. As the worms drag organic matter from condo into their burrows, they will improve the soilís drainage and fertility in exactly the way Nature likes these things done.