Composting and Other Thoughts

We Are Not Powerless

We are not powerless. I think that is the theme for my family this month. I repeat…WE ARE NOT POWERLESS. That has been floating around in my head for the last month (yup, one month, 30 whole days, I had to check on the calendar for the day that said “everything is cancelled until further notice”). Crazy how much can change in a month. But again, we are not powerless. How does composting relate to this? Don’t worry, I’ll get to it!

Spring is typically my busiest time of year. Garden prepping, spring clean ups, scheduling, finishing up on designs and getting my second wave in for mid-summer projects, as well on-site implementation. And while I am still working, much of my daily tasks have been modified in some way, leaving me to feel like I have no control over the situation. That’s when I began to seek ways to find the power over things I can control during this time of uncertainly. No, I can’t stop Covid-19 myself. No, I can’t make people stay home that aren’t taking this seriously. But there are things I can do.

I can choose to stay home. I can choose to take on homeschooling four kids with a positive attitude (because the first week was a pretty rough learning curve😉). I can do things to modify my small family business to keep it moving during this time, while also keeping my clients and employees safe. I can read and learn more about sustainable living and landscape design. I can use gardening as an outlet. I can also help others do this. That is a lot of power I still have just listed in that small paragraph.

So, if you are struggling with a lack of power right now, take small steps. Start with your garden. During this time at home, I am going to try and post more on my blog about ways you can get out in the garden (even as a complete beginner) and feel accomplished, learn new skills, spruce up you space, and remember you are not powerless in the face of this pandemic.

No, we are not on the front lines. Those people are more amazing and braver than words can describe. But we can come out of this stronger than before. Maybe with new skills, a renewed sense of community, and a greater appreciation for the natural world. My daughter looked up that the sky yesterday on hike number 36276472 since this isolation began and commented that she has never seen it so blue. That gave me so much hope and I can’t even explain why.

At Home Composting 101

So, with a renewed sense of power over what I can control, the most logical start in terms of gardening is starting from the ground up…SOIL! More specifically, composting. Here on our farm, we do large scale composting. We have tons of manure (literally, tons), truckloads of leaves from fall clean ups, and cut back vegetation from each year’s spring clean ups. I am also very conscientious about our kitchen scraps and what goes into our garbage pail (join me for a garbage challenge later this month!)  But the principles are the same for a small-scale compost pile.

We use a method called hot composting. It achieves the quickest, and in my opinion, the best results. You can cold compost and save a few steps, but it takes much longer. Let’s start with what you can and cannot compost.

Compost These

composting-kitchen-scraps
  • Fruit and veggies scraps, including peels and cores, seeds…any unwanted by product
  • Coffee grounds and tea bags
  • Eggshells
  • Grass and plant clippings (exclude large branches, put those in a brush pile for a controlled burn, with town permission of course, then you can add the ashes to your composting efforts)
  • Dried leaves
  • Wood chips and sawdust (not from treated wood)
  • Animal manure (not dog or cat)

Don’t Compost These

  • Meat, oil, or animal fats
  • Diseased plant material (burn this)
  • Dairy (save this for our pigs on our farm!)
  • Weeds (I actually add these to mine, but my internal temps gets pretty hot, so I never have issues with reseeding)

Start Your Compost Pile

Start by combing your materials. From the above list, compost gets separated into ‘green’ and ‘brown’ materials. Green adds nitrogen. Kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, and manures are greens. Brown adds carbon. Fallen leaves, dried plant materials, wood, cardboard, and hay are browns. For a small scale compost pile, you are going to want to wait until you have collected enough material to make a 3’ by 3’ pile. Try and add 25% greens to 75% browns. This will keep a good moisture level and prevent rot, while keeping the wanted nitrogen to carbon levels for optimal plant growth.

Maintain Your Compost Pile

Your compost pile needs regular moisture and oxygen added to it in order to compost properly, instead of rot. Sprinkle your pile with a hose if rainfall isn’t enough to keep it consistently damp, but not waterlogged. Turn the pile once a week. We regularly push ours up with a backhoe, but a shovel will work just fine for at home composting. Keeping it regularly mixed up will help distribute heat and help it compost faster. Also, break down larger pieces with your shovel to help them decompose quickly. If you are doing these things correctly, your compost pile will be warm in the middle, up over 120 degrees!

Time To Use Your Compost

at-home-composting

You know your compost is ready when the pile becomes a nice dark brown, crumbly consistency. The original materials are no longer identifiable. Ours is always full of red earthworms by then, which only aid in the process and help us get the “black gold” that we then put in our own and in customers gardens. To use your compost, add a top layer to gardens, both flower and veggie, at the beginning of each growing season. Better, yet, if you can, mix it into the existing soil up to 12” deep.

Look at that! From a few banana peels and a little elbow grease, we have the power to amend our soil and start our gardens the right way. Composting is an easy and environmentally friendly way to take control of our soil and our gardens!

My favorite Composting Finds

While you don’t need anything fancy to have amazing compost, gadgets, like all other aspects in life, do simplify things. The following products are those that I recommend to my clients

Two great vessels for containing your compost piles, the first one is amazing at keeping your piles mixed.

I use this on my kitchen counter. A friendly, neat reminder to compost and not throw away valuable kitchen scraps!

And this is a great resource for more composting information for your whole family!

Reach Out!

As always, I am here for you. Now more than ever. Follow along on Instagram. Stop by Facebook. Send me a Note! I love hearing from you guys. And if you are local, I am still doing plant purchasing and delivery so if you’re looking for something special and don’t want to venture to the garden center, I’m taking orders now. Landscape designs are still in the works, and I’ve been having fun helping out clients from images, measurements, and site condition reports off site. We are still open for business!

Happy Gardening Friends!

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