A garden is the best alternative therapy.

Compost complete!

I started a compost pile at the end of May.  I searched the internet for all sorts of designs and contraptions.  Nearly all sources explained that compost must be turned regularly in order for the ingredients to really break down.  Then I happened upon a site explaining that turning compost is not necessary, given that there is plenty of aeration.  Not that I’m a lazy person, but I just didn’t think I should have to turn compost.  I’d seen my grandfather fill up  a tube made of chicken wire and he never turned it, but it always had great looking earthy-smelling compost.   I decided on an open-slat design.  I thought that this, along with good layering of compost materials would ensure proper aeration.  So, I went to task building a two-sided compost bin.  One side would be used for layering the compost and adding food scraps.  The other side would be used for adding a whole host of other things, fresh leaves, lawn clippings, larger sticks and twigs, sod pulled up from the garden area, etc.  That way, both sides can be breaking down and I can take materials from the one side as they break down and add them to the compost layers.  I thought it would work okay.

Nearly three and a half months have gone by now.  I’ve added food scraps every two weeks, saving them in bags in the freezer, then thawing them in the sun before adding to the compost pile.  It took all of that time just to fill up the left side of the bin.  Every time I thought I was getting near the top, the compost would settle.  I resisted the temptation to turn the compost, or to peek under the layers to see what was happening.  Every so often, I would take a long twig and pierce the pile as far down as I could and from all of the open sides, trying to keep aeration good.  Last weekend I did this again, and while every other time the piercing has been followed by a god-awful stench of rot, that time there was no smell but a sweet earthy smell.    I figured this meant that the compost was complete.

This morning was completely overcast, so I thought it would be a great time to pull the compost out and take a look at it.  I put down a tarp and went to task pulling out the compost.  I wished I had thought of building a door or something on the front of the compost bin, to make removing the contents easier.  Alas, gardening is a learn as you go affair.   Removing the compost took some time, but when I was finished I had a beautiful pile sitting in front of me.  I didn’t find one of the 100 worms I put in the compost bin, although I did see a vast network of tunnels all throughout the pile.  It seems the worms probably did a better job aerating everything that I could have.   Looking through the pile, there were some bigger wood chunks, avocado pits, and egg shells that weren’t completely broken down yet, but the rest of it was a dark crumbly mass of dirt, clay, wood chips and fresh compost.

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The fresh pile of compost.

The fresh pile of compost.

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Yes, I added topsoil and sod to my compost pile.  I read that you shouldn’t but I didn’t really care.  I think I have about a half and half mixture of composted materials and soil in this pile.  In another few weeks, when I am planting the rest of the cool weather vegetables, I’ll be able to mix this in 40/60 with the grower’s mix I get from Austin Landscaping Supplies.   I think this will provide a great soil for the fall vegetables.

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A close up...

A close up...

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So far, I’m happy with my adventures in composting.  It is amazing how little trash a family of three can produce when they compost their food scraps and recycle plastic, cans, bottles and cardboard.  I think we have about two  bags of garbage a week – and the cat litter box helps contribute a lot to that!  In the future, if I decide to build another compost bin, I think I’ll put a door or gate on the front of it so that I can easily remove the contents.  Other than that, I’ll continue composting in this way and hopefully grow some plump produce out of it!

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Comments on: "Compost complete!" (2)

  1. i enjoyed your article. We have been composting for over 40 years. By using simple methods as you described we were able to turn a large area of DG into a very usuable garden. Composting does not have to be complicated. Presently We have 4 piles and 3 composters and 1 worm composter making compost. What a great way to live. If you go to my site and check out the “about us” page you will the area we turned into a great garden. Have a great day! Chuck and Judy

    • roundrockgarden said:

      Excellent, Chuck! I am completely new to this, but I am having fun with it! Like you and Judy, I don’t want to use chemicals that contaminate the soil or leech into the foods we eat. I am entirely behind a completely organic approach. Looking over your About Us page, I see you’ve got a lot of flowers bringing beneficial insects to your garden. This is exactly what I will be doing over the next few weeks, as I intend to put some potted alyssum, lantana, fennel, daisies and yarrow around the garden to attract bees and butterflies. Michelle replied, “BEES?!” But I promised her that the bees won’t be a nuisance, especially since they are their busiest while we are away at work. I want to create a habitat for these insects to flourish – there’s so many disappearing out there! My garden will be a great, natural place for them to come and get all of the chemical-free nectar they need, and they can help me out by pollinating my veggies! I commend you and Judy’s lifelong work, Chuck, and I believe you when you say that a family that gardens together stays together! Here’s to another 40 years!!

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