Of course I compost. As a matter of fact I may compost more than garden. Or, put another way, my composting may drive my gardening and not the other way around. You see, I have always loved free stuff … like wild berries or forest mushrooms. And I love to use stuff up … in a normal month my wife and I may only have a full 30 gallon bag of trash to put out. Even when we had our kids at home it wasn’t much more. So, what uses up lots of stuff and gives you something of value for free like composting does? Not much.

I have two composters. The main one is a classic three bin composter.

It is home made from treated lumber and each bin measures about 4′ by 4′ by 4′. Raw stuff goes into the left bin,

it is turned after a month into the center bin

and the center bin is turned about 3-4 times a year into the right bin.

Final bin with red wigglers

Final bin with red wigglers

At the start of the growing year I have about 60 cubic feet of compost to use.

The three bin composter gets fed from three basic sources. The main source is lawn and garden clippings. I still have some lawn (unfortunately) but it is untreated. I run a bagging mower and all of the clippings go straight to the compost. Every Fall, I shred/mow up the garden waste including my wife’s considerable perennial garden waste. The second source is organic house waste which goes in year round.  I will sometimes pick up leaf bags from neighbors in the Fall to mix in with the house watse to provide more celulose. And then there is the kitty litter.

We use Good Mews which is recycled newspaper. We clear out the fecal matter religiously and the remaining urine soaked litter goes into the bin with the other sources. It all heats up well and the final product is fairly clean and weed free. I should also point out that the center and right bins seem to have developed their own huge colonies of red wigglers who do a great job on the final product (see above).

The other composter is a classic one barrel tumbler … purchased long ago.

We use it primarily for one thing and that is cat feces. When they break down, they go in the flower and perennial beds, not the food beds. We put some wood clippings in for celulose. We also get manure tea out of the collector that the tumbler sits on. I use it mostly for the plants that I start … heavily diluted.

All in all, we get a LOT of really good compost and we really keep down our trash and our contributions to the municipal sanitary system.

UPDATE:  Since this post is getting a bit of use by others at the start of Spring gardening season let me add a few more important points. The first is that compost needs to be moist in order to properly work It should, in the time honored metaphor, be like a damp sponge. I try not to use city water to do this because it has chlorine which kills bacteria but use what you have to moisten the content. Grass clippings and other newly cut vegetation have moisture built in.

The second point is that in small compost operations, and it is small if you don’t need a tractor to turn the pile, you will see a significant impact due to the ambient temperatures. In the winter, no matter what you do, it will be hard to keep a pile working very much. In the summer it is much easier as long as you don’t let it dry out. Like proofing bread on the kitchen counter, it does better in the summer.


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One Response to “Composting”

  1. dwhitsett Says:

    Good article on the age-old art of composting. I never have enough!

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