Compost Success In Spite of Myself

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Growing in a bad location leads to the compost bin

Composter? or plant cemetery?

Last year we bought a nifty device called a “drum compost bin”  aka “outdoor retirement home for failed garden experiments, dead squash plants and inedible parts of an onion.”

Composting is supposedly dead simple. Once you achieve the zen balance between carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and water, then keep everything turned, watered, aerated, pampered, fed, circulated, flipped, flopped, and cherished, compost appears effortlessly as if by magic.

Compost success in spite of everything!

Compost! Ignore the recyclable bags. They take longer to break down but they will eventually do so.

Compost! -and a few recyclable bags.

We assembled the drum compost bin in under an hour, with the help of an electric drill-driven screwdriver and a few select swear words to get the panels to line up properly.

Once the bin was assembled, I threw in leaves, twigs, a half head of broccoli, and assorted onion peels, tossed in a bit of Compost Starter and water, and waited patiently for a day or so.

Not surprisingly, nothing much happened.

Over the course of a few months, I pushed more onion and cauliflower and broccoli into the mix, added in handfuls of dead leaves if available – spun the barrel, poured a glass of water once a month or so, and spun again.

Then I forgot about the compost heap for awhile… like all winter long.

Winter turned to Spring, so I threw a couple of pints of water into the bin, and spun the bin, twice. It’s now June, and I’ve added two more cups of water since March. I added a teensy sprinkling of compost starter in April, completely ignoring the rules to “Liberally sprinkle 2 cups of starter, turn compost and water. DO NOT SOAK.”

So I did everything just right (for about three months…) then threw caution to the wind, and broccoli to the heap —and a year later, I have compost!

Certain stuff shouldn’t be composted

There are detailed lists of things not to put in the compost bin. These are handy if you don’t know how to play the Animal, Vegetable, Mineral game (or don’t have access to a preschooler):

  • Animal stays out.
  • Vegetable goes in.
  • Minerals are rocks.
  • Rocks taste funny.

There are exceptions. Earthworms are animal but do a great number on compost heaps. I guess they meant dead animals stay out. No chickens, no ducks, no goats in my compost bin.

Before acquiring the nifty compost bin, I read all the instructions on how to compost, got all the nifty tools and kits and stuff, got a stainless steel kitchen compost bin for under the sink, got a special little watering can.  I even got The Complete Compost Gardening Guide, a book on how to compost.

Hint: if you get an under the sink bin, you’ll want recyclable compost liner bags. These will save you lots of washing out the bin.

Caveat Compostor

We live in the high ‘n dry desert. If you live where it rains, and if rain can get into your compost thingie, you may not need to haul a glass full of water from the kitchen every few months. Your mileage may vary.

Compost starter - add two cups, water gently, and stand back!

Compost starter – add two cups, water gently, and stand back!

Composting is not an indoor sport. I’m an indoor gardener. Most of my attempts to garden outdoors are met with disaster, catastrophe, and gales of laughter. Avoid the temptation to set up your compost doodad in your indoor gardening room. Your spouse will thank you.

Close the compost barrel lid before spinning the compost barrel. Yes, yes. I know. You can quit laughing now.

Follow the rules at your own risk. I got some nice compost by ignoring the rules. I might have gotten even better compost by following all the rules.  Or I might have gotten squat. Honestly, I don’t know.


To your garden success!
Casey – the Garden Lass


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