Back to my old friend, Compost

No photo today. My camera is in London.

If I were to separate my time in the garden into some kind of pie chart, a very large slice would be “Compost Making.” I’ve documented here, often, about my love of the stuff. But maybe the size of this pie slice is merely creative accounting on my part: not of the Enron sort or backdating stocks or whatever, but more that everything in the garden becomes compost, eventually.

My search for some nearly unattainable level of Farm Tidiness nudges me to gather any and all compostable material around here: Kitchen scraps. Fallen apples. Grass clippings. Branches. Leaves. Chicken poop. Weeds. Dead plants. Pet hair, broom sweepings. Cardboard boxes, junk mail, paper bags. All of it goes in.

I was mucking out the chicken coop Sunday, and for once I was thankful that my higher sense of order had actually NOT come to fruition. You see, I really, really wanted a concrete slab in the bottom of the coop. I had planned to put deep, deep bedding atop it to counteract the cold sink effect of all that concrete on those cold bird legs in the winter, but…well, we never got around to putting in the slab. And I am grateful!!! I muck the thing out with great regularity (about 6x a year) and when I get down to the bottom, to the dirt, you would just be amazed. The color. It is crumbly, BLACK DIRT. All that poop atop all that straw atop all those wood shavings equals microbe and worm heaven. So I scrape that stuff right up, put it in my faithful garden trugs, and layer it oh so carefully in the compost piles.

What’s with the compost love? Well, I have clay soil. It could use some lightening up, so I try my darndest to do so with all the vegetable matter I pile atop the beds. It’s helping. But even in the perfect soil of my Minneapolis garden (and it was, I swear), even the tiniest bit of compost goes a long way to ensuring happy plants.

So go out there and build a pile! Autumn is the perfect time, especially with all those leaves falling out there. And it will answer your need for tidiness.

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9 responses to “Back to my old friend, Compost

  1. Robin (Bumblebee)

    Yet another reason to add to my list of why I need chickens! I expect that by spring I’ll have won that battle around here.

    –Robin (Bumblebee)

  2. farmer, vet and feeder of all animals

    Hey El
    I have clay too—so I like mulch and compost probably as much as you do. With time it sure does make nicer “dirt” doesn’t it?
    Even though we have clay—our current house is much better than our first home were we had limestone 6 inches down below. That’s way way worse than clay. The original owners used dynamite to plant the two pecan trees that grew there 🙂

  3. i was really amused by your post, because my last ost was also about our compost…
    since sunday i made another 36 l of fine soil and my mother want to take some to her home when she come next time to visit us.

  4. Clay here in south Chicagoland too. So you include your junk mail in your compost?? Hmmm. How do you do that, may I ask? Do you have to shred it by machine first? Or just tear it up? Do tell!

  5. Hi , Just found your blog and I’m enjoying reading about your gardening and farm adventures.

    I made my first compost this year and will be using it when I plant my garlic soon. I was excited about making my compost and can’t wait to use it.

    Thanks for sharing !

  6. Robin: cheep cheep cheep! Just think: get them in March, fresh eggs by July.

    Monica: oh don’t even get me started on mulch! But dynamiting to put trees in? I’ll stick with my clay 🙂

    BIG: How funny. Shows how great compost is to those who’re in the know…and wow, you even sift yours!

    Artemisia: Check this out. http://fastgrowtheweeds.blogspot.com/2007/04/mcguyver-has-struck-again.html We shred most stuff, except plastic-y things. We’ve got worms in the basement whose castings feed the houseplants and seedling pots.

    Joyceann: “adventures” certainly is a word for it! I’m glad you found me and piped up. I’m also so glad you’re a new convert to compost: that’ll be some lucky garlic.

  7. OK El, I need a picture of this chicken house. I finally got approval for chickens and I need some ideas on the chicken house. I’m intrigued by this idea of not having a floor and speeding up the composting.

  8. Hi Matt: Go look in the entries of July of 2006, especially the first few. You’ll get the idea.

    This thing is the Taj Mahal, though; you really don’t need anything nearly so big. I built it big so I could potentially store other things (like bales of straw) in there too. As it is, the chickens have it all to themselves.

  9. Ah, yes. What wonderful workers are the chooks. Four years ago we used iron bars to make holes to put water in to use the iron bars to make the holes bigger to add organic matter and, ultimately, to plant trees. Now, after a few years of covering the ground with at least 6 inches of mulch and letting the chooks have it, the spade goes in easily to its depth. A miracle I say. Love your blog.
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