Compost for the Garden

I’ve got a confession to make:  I love gadgets.

That love for gadgets has even made it to the garden.  I have an automatic composter.

I planted my first vegetable garden in 1988, the spring after we moved into our very first house.  

houseThe house itself wasn’t much, an 800 square foot modular home that was transported to the site in two halves and nailed together.  It was our house though, and we fell in love with it when we realized we could afford it on our entry level salaries.  We were its third owners, and spent the winter we moved in tearing out old dusty carpeting, patching and painting walls and replacing kitchen cabinets.  To save on the cost of using the electric heating, we heated the house using a wood stove.  With time and unending energy, we transformed it into our cozy home and by the time we moved away 7 years later, all three of our children had been born.

While the house wasn’t much, the yard was GREAT.

The house was located on a 7-acre plot of land, 5 of which we rented out to a farmer to plant with alfalfa or corn.  The remaining 2 acres had an old silo, a pole barn and our large, sunny vegetable garden.

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That was  where I learned to garden.  Our budget then was pretty tight, so we grew as much as we could–beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, potatoes, squash, corn, beets, spinach, lettuce, nasturtiums, strawberries and asparagus.  We grew tall zinnias, marigolds and snapdragon — cut flowers to brighten our little house.  We even had chickens.  I taught our kids the difference between weeds and vegetable plants and we tended the garden together.  They delighted in finding a bean, cucumber or tomato in the leaves and ate as much as they harvested with me.

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The Mother Earth News taught me to compost.

One evening after the kids had gone to bed, l remember reading about how much composting adds to an organic garden.  Rob and I decided to build a simple 2-bin composter, modifying a design we found in that magazine.  In the first bin, I’d layer my garden scraps, mowed grass or chicken dung, covering with a bit of dry leaves, then some dirt or old compost.  Then I’d mix it all up.   Then after a week or two, I’d take the pitchfork and throw it over into the second bin to mix it up again and add some more to the first bin.  After a few weeks, I’d have great compost (and muscular arms!).  I did this for years, building that same composter wherever we have lived since.
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This is where the automatic composting gadget enters the story.

At our last house, our compost pile was located in a very sensible place…next to the garden.  In addition to lawn and garden clippings, I’d pile it high with kitchen scraps.  At that house, that was a big mistake.  We lived in the woods, and pretty soon we had every hungry critter in the woods right next to our garden.  You might be able to guess what happened next.  It wasn’t very long before they found the garden and had a lovely feast.

That was one of our great garden catastrophes.

So I stopped putting kitchen waste in the compost, but complained every time I threw it all away.  My kids, now grown into adults, heard my yowling and gave me a Nature Mill Composter for Mother’s Day.  It works amazingly well, humming along as it turns the compost on a regular schedule.  It creates great compost in a couple of weeks instead of months.  I used it faithfully for a couple of years, but then got busy and put it away.  It’s been sitting in my garage for a couple of years now.

Recently, I pulled it out again.

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I need compost for our patio garden and have LOTS of kitchen scraps, so I added the papaya, kale, carrot and pepper scraps I had leftover from dinner last night to the composter.  Dry ingredients also are required, such as sawdust or leaves.  Fortunately, Rob had just raked the front yard.   There was also some old compost remaining in the composter and I figure that once it’s moistened, the good microbes will wake up and begin feasting.

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Once that was done, I turned on the composter and let it work for a while.

Disclaimer:  It looks pretty nasty in there, so I’m going to show you a pretty flower that is right next to the composter that you can look at for a minute as you decide whether you want to read this post to the end.

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Here’s what it looks like this morning (remember…I warned you!).  It’s all mixed up and starting to break down, but will look very different in just a few days.

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Nature Mill tells you to add some baking soda, so I’ll add some later today.

Happy Composting!

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Here is a great review for the composter.

 

 

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. Annie R | 24th Mar 16

    I could have used one of those automatic composting thingamagigs when I tried it years ago … You could smell the compost pile three blocks away!

    • Stella | 24th Mar 16

      It’s pretty great–It is made of thick styrofoam and when you close it tightly, you don’t smell anything at all.

    • Stella | 25th Mar 16

      🙂 When you open the bin, it does get a little rank…. Fortunately it is surrounded by thick styrofoam that keeps the odor in if it’s closed.

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