Sunday, January 23, 2011


After we added all the organic compost and other amendments to the soil, we had to let the garden rest.  While we waited, we turned our attention to the composting system we knew we wanted to start.  We live on a hillside that stretches about 3/4 of an acre, and there is a lot of yard waste in the form of leaves and dried California grass.  We knew that all that "brown waste" or carbon, could be mixed with kitchen scraps, also known as "green waste", or nitrogen.  When we first arrived, part of the fence in the front yard was being replaced, and there was a lot of wood that we were able to reuse.  Taylor designed the 'U'-system and we built the composters in an afternoon.  It was during this project that I learned to cut a 2x4 and 2x6 cleanly with a manual saw.  This may sound easy, but it actually takes a lot of practice. 

Once we add the kitchen scraps to the compost, then we add about three times as much carbon, that way, there is no smell from the rotting food.  There are no animal products in the composters, except for egg shells, so the deer and raccoon population aren't drawn to the piles.  We created three bins so that once we fill the first bin, we turn into the middle bin, and that becomes the active pile.  We turn it back and forth, about twice a week, all along starting a new pile in the first bin again.  We stick a thermometer in the middle of the active pile, and I have watched the pile's temperature increase all the way to 150 degrees!  You could cook a steak in the middle of that pile!  Heat is generated as a byproduct of microbial breakdown of organic material, and we  use the temperature of the compost to gauge how well the system is working and how far along the decomposition has progressed.   Once the temperature starts to decrease, we know that the organic material has been almost completely broken down and we almost have our final product. 

The last step we go through is putting the compost through a shredder, and the result is a high-quality, nutrient-filled, 100% homemade mulch that we can use in our garden or in the landscaping around the property.  We have made almost two cubic yards of compost and have much more where that came from.
So, why compost?
Compost Makes a Healthy, Thriving Garden; you really can't find a better soil amendment than compost. It loosens clay soils and helps sandy soils retain water. And not only does compost contain no petroleum-based compounds (like most commercial fertilizers do), it can suppress plant diseases and pests. Gardens that are composted produce higher yields of healthier fruits, vegetables and flowers.
Composting Is Good for the Planet; landfills everywhere are running out of room, and the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that roughly 25% of the garbage in the U.S. is made up of yard trimmings and food scraps. That's over 60 million tons each year! Instead of watching your local landfill get bigger and more expensive to maintain each month, try composting.
So that's it, the reasons we have created our composting system is that it provides a way not only of reducing the amount of waste that needs to be thrown away, but also of converting it into a product that is useful for gardening, landscaping, or house plants. 

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