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Composting

We never did this until several years ago when we decided to try it. Now we compost most everything – even our neighbors spent flowers, plants and leaves. They say there is nothing like compost, and that vegetables simply adore the stuff. I guess it’s true, because our garden plants sure seem to like it. We spread the compost on the garden in spring, rake it in and take great delight in the number of worms in both the compost and the garden. Worms are a good sign. It means that you haven’t killed everything by adding too many chemical pesticides.

Composting Plants Pulled From GardenRecycle Kitchen ScrapsAdding Clippings
Compost plants after they stop producing (left), Recycle kitchen scraps (middle),
Adding clippings to the compost bin (right)

How do you compost? Our method was to purchase two (and later three) plastic compost bins, made by Toro, from our local hardware dealer. These come with covers and louvers in the sides where you can insert a pitchfork and lift-up and turn-over the compost. We like them because they are small and don’t attract attention from the neighbors. Compost can sometimes smell as the things ferment, and the covers reduce the odors. It probably takes somewhat longer for the compost to really decompose in these enclosed containers, but, because we are both retired, time isn’t all that important to us anymore. You can put any type of food item into the compost bin except for things like meats, bones, fish – stuff that will attract files, animals and the police. Just remember to grind up your plants before placing them into the compost bin, this being especially true of bushes and bush branches. If you don’t grind them up, they will take years to break down, and I do mean years. Use a leaf mulcher to grind up the leaves, branches, twigs and spent plants, and they will compost (break down) quickly.

Mulching BranchesCompost binsTurning Over The Compost
Mulch larger branches (left), Turning the compost over in the bin (middle & right)

We compost always in fall. After the plants have produced their last harvest, pull them out of the ground and place them in the garden, exposed to the drying fall sun. After about a month in the sun, they will be brown, rather than green, which means that the moisture has left them, and are ready for the grinder. Then on a nice dry fall day, start up the leaf mulcher and grind up all of the plants, leaves, branches and twigs that you have in your garden, placing the grindings in the compost bins. Add some compost starter if you like, put a half bag of fertilizer on the top of the pile, and give it a good watering to start the compost process. One of the best fertilizers to use is Alfalfa meal (3-2-2), available at a local feed store, which makes an excellent compost starter and nitrogen source for the bacteria. In spring it will be ready to be returned to the garden as ‘garden gold’.

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