Feeding the beast!

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Compost bin, meet the world! World? Meet my compost bin!

It’s been such an awesome year for Mel and I in the green thumb department. We’ve built an incredible vegetable garden, which we write about frequently in the various corridors of tadandmel.com, that has provided us with a fine bounty of food. But before all of that happened, we bought our first compost bin! A bin that Melinda and I playfully refer to as “The Beast”.

It’s helped complete a pretty tremendous circle that Mel and I have been trying to achieve through our everyday consumption. Combined with the garden, we’ve got a complete sustainability system going on in our own back yard! We plant the garden, the garden produces vegetables and other organic matter such as shed stems and leaves. Add to that all the scraps we end up with after eating the vegetables and you’ve got a pretty decent pile of waste. Previously, all of this stuff would end up in the garbage, stinking up it’s surroundings and clogging the local landfill with one more un-needed bag. But now all if it goes into the compost.

And that’s not all! I also “feed the beast” with lawn clippings from our yard and our neighbor’s yards (you should SEE the looks I get on that one! I’m officially “that neighbor”). When fall comes and spring cleanup commences, I also put as much dried up leaves, small twigs, and garden waste in as well.

It all seems like pure lunacy, but consider this; 20% of all landfill content is yard waste. In fact, some municipal landfills are actually turning this waste away, because of the space it’s taking up.

Enter composting….

With composting you’re taking all of this would be “trash” and turning it into something that gets put back into the earth to nourish the soil and help your garden to grow even more wonderful, nutritious food for your thankful bellies! Then the process starts all over again next year! A complete circle of sustainability. It’s actually really easy to pull off, and, once you get into a routine, it’s actually kinda fun!

How it all works is this in a nutshell (please note that I am, by no means, a scientist/biologist):

All told, gardeners have used compost for centuries. And who could blame them? Composting is an efficient method of breaking down organic materials into an end product that is beneficial to soil and plants.

So why go through all the trouble? Well, adding yard and garden wastes directly to the soil without first composting them, doesn’t work well at all. For example, ever notice what happens when autumn comes and you don’t rake up the large quantities of leaves in the back yard, leaving them through the winter? Uncomposted and indirectly incorporated into the soil, the tiny microbes that work so hard to decompose the leaves, end up competing with plant roots for nitrogen. This duel results in nitrogen deficiency which, in the end, promotes poor plant growth. Also, on the flip side, if by shear numbers, the microbes win, they can also eat most of the organic matter in the soil, leaving the soil with less structure than before. Causing more erosion and a less stable base for our plant friends to lay down some roots.

In the end, it’s all about balance and that’s where the beast comes in!

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Since it’s a controlled environment, when materials such as leaves and grass clippings are composted, a microbial process converts them to a more usable organic material. Adding and mixing this compost to your flower/veggie beds, reduces that battle for precious nitrogen. But wait! There’s more! Compost also promotes increased infiltration, better drainage, and greater water holding capacity. Meaning less watering, which means less drought in the summer, and a lower utility bill.

The goal is to get your bin filled with 1 quarter green matter, and 3 quarters brown matter, add water and the millions of micro organisms work feverishly to break it all down, leaving you with what a lot of gardeners refer to as “black gold”. We’ve yet to use ours since we only started composting in the spring. It typically takes 4 to 6 months for your compost heap to produce good pure compost, so we’re looking most likely at the following spring, and maybe this fall if we plant some flowers for the winter. I can’t wait to see last years remains nourish the baby plants in the spring! Gotta love it!

In the mean time, it’s been fun watching our waste reduced to basically one bag of trash a week and it’s been outright fascinating watching those tiny microbes reduce a 4 foot pile of yard waste and cooking scraps to a pile a little over a foot and a half. Those little suckers put off some heat too! Average temps in the center of a well tended compost heap often reach 150 to 160 degrees!!

We honestly couldn’t be happier with our compost bin! If you have any questions for me on this stuff, feel free to drop me an email or a comment below. I’d be happy to talk about it with you! I’m no pro but I’ve learned a lot!

Thanks for listening!

-Tad

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Now playing: Thee More Shallows – Night at the Knight School
via FoxyTunes

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