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RE: Backyard composting

  • Subject: [cg] RE: Backyard composting
  • From: Connie Nelson <gardenfoolery@yahoo.com>
  • Date: Sat, 7 Feb 2004 14:41:03 -0800 (PST)

Two years ago as a relative "newby" to the fine art of composting, I attended a local Arbor Day garden show.  Gee, it looked so easy!  Just dump the stuff in the bin, toss it once or twice, and wow, instant compost.  Didn't help that the thermometer stuck in the middle showed a toasty 160 degrees after a mere two days. 
So I took home two of the "cheapie" black compost bins and filled one and waited, and waited and waited.  For three months I waited and nothing really happened.  Oh yes, it became more compacted, but where was the legendary "black gold" I had been promised??? 
The upper body strength Adam referred to appeared beyond me.  This from a woman who routinely lifts 75-100 pounds and can beat all 3 of my teenage sons in arm-wrestling.
Then I described my scenario to a local composting expert when we were developing our community garden.  Especially the part where it took 45 minutes to turn it as I forked it out of one bin to another  She looked horrified and rightfully so.
Turns out there were instructions I somehow missed.  The bins are made of lightweight black plastic, peppered with small holes for circulation, and with the two ends overlapping and secured by 3 screws.
The appropriate method is to unscrew the bin, move it next to the existing pile, re-attach the screws to resume its circular shape and pitchfolk the pile into the newly located bin.  Time involved: about 7 minutes on a slow day.
As my kids would say, Geez, duh Mom. 
I can now produce a very respectable product in 2 1/2 to 3 weeks with weekly turning.  Would be faster if I did it daily, but I DO have a life; somebody has to pull those pesky weeds.
Due to limited planting space, I've begun gardens in the easement bordering my back yard and a very heavily traveled residential road, raising the eyebrows of the local county enforcement people (but that's a whole other story).  There is no soil, just varying degrees of rock and rock fill.  The compost has produced incredible blooms and herbs that don't seem to understand the word winter.  I'm scratching the snow off to pick parsley and thyme.  Even my iris are 4" high, which is definitely going to be an issue for them.
Without the compost this would not be possible.  I couldn't afford the remediation necessary, plus I'm way too impatient for it to produce results.
At the end of the season I just roll up the bins, tuck them under the cedar tree and pray for a speedy spring.
Green wishes to all,
Connie Nelson
Spokane, WA

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