Wednesday, September 10, 2008

compost pile: getting started

I am reading a terrific book - Step by Step Organic Vegetable Gardening by Shepherd Ogden.  It's about 15 years old, but in the world of organic gardening, it makes it that much better.  I highly recommend it.

I have officially started my compost pile today.  Here is how I'm doing it.  In this photo, on the back right corner of the garden, you can see a wall of leaves - vines hanging down from telephone pole support wires.

In this photo, that wall of leaves and vines is in a big pile on the ground because I ripped them all down today.

Here's a closeup of the pile.  It is large, and there's some big branches in there.  Also there are all the weeds that I've been pulling up from all over the yard in the past week.  It will continue to grow as I finish up the weeding process this weekend.

Compost principles.
  1. Ingredients: fuel, heat, moisture, air
  2. Fuel: carbon.  comes from "brown material" like dried out weeds or plants, hay, etc.
  3. Heat: nitrogen.  comes from "green material", such as fresh weeds, grass clippings, or manure.
  4. Moisture: key word is moist.  Not soaked.
  5. Air:  has to be there to feed the process.
I'm doing a quick compost process, which is a bit more labor intensive, but quicker.  My plan is to let all of this stuff I cut down today dry out for about a week, and it will serve as the fuel for the compost.  I may end up renting some sort of grinder/chipper to chop the big stuff into small pieces and allow for faster composting.  Then, I'm getting a truckload of goat manure (free of charge) and will mix the manure (nitrogen source, green material, heat) with the clippings (carbon source, brown material, fuel) in about a 1:4-5 ratio.  

In about thirty days, after keeping it moist and turning it regularly to allow fresh air to enter, I should have compost.  It will be ready to use then, but I'll wait to use it until the spring, working it into the soil just before setting out the seedlings.

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