Compost Trials: The Heap   Leave a comment

Now that the rainy season is over (ahem) and the ground is dry enough to start digging again for our pit composting, I’m finally getting around to doing a post in this composting series about what we’ve been doing over the winter/rainy season. At first I slogged on with the pit composting but that didn’t last long after the rains really started. You know how shovel-fulls of dirt are heavy? Well shovel-fulls of saturated dirt are even heavier. My back was complaining bitterly as the rainy season started and I was still trying to dig. Plus, it is extremely messy (and a bit sisyphean) to dig a hole in mud, fill it with kitchen waste and then refill the hole with mud. And since I wasn’t keen on actually doing the work in the rain, we reached a point where the holding bucket was overflowing and a backup holding bucket had to be recruited as I waited for a dry daytime hour to allow me to dig. I confess to being a bit mulish, and I am aware that a sane person would have given up way earlier than I did, but I finally realized that I needed to try something different and that the best alternative at the time was “the heap”.

The heap started by accident/through laziness last summer as I was removing dead brush from the planters in the front yard. At first I was chopping branches into smaller chunks by hand and using the pieces as mulch, but as I started working on the rosebushes that strategy broke down. I procrastinated chopping up the dead rose branches and just threw them in a pile in a corner of the driveway where it grew to be quite tall. Then I de-thatched the front lawn and since I was exhausted by the end and could no longer think straight I just threw the armfuls of thatch on top of the rosebushes to deal with at a later time. Eventually Mike prevailed on me to at least move the pile into the back yard where it wasn’t publicly ugly, and when I did so I realized that the stuff in the pile was already starting to decompose. At that point it was officially declared part of our composting strategy, ostensibly to deal with large amounts of yard waste (like several dead rose bushes and a couple cubic yards or so of thatch).

When pit composting became impossible due to rain, I realized that the heap was a viable alternative. Neither Mike nor I is really comfortable with throwing kitchen waste in an open pile in the summer because of odor and insect swarms, but in the winter those negative side effects are significantly less to non-existant. So the pile has a layer of rose branches at the bottom, then a layer of grass and weed thatch, then a layer of kitchen scraps with some yard waste mixed in, and is now topped off with some interspersed layers of grass clippings from the waist high beauty that was our back lawn, and grass plants and iceplant ripped from the planters. The top layers of grass and iceplant will keep the noxious gnats and flies from being a problem from the old kitchen waste and hopefully keep in moisture. The next plan is to get a black tarp to cover it for the summer and just let it be. I have no delusions that it will be particularly fast composting since it is on concrete, contains lots of large hard branches, and was not strategically layered; but eventually everything organic decomposes.

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Posted June 28, 2011 by mayakey in gardening

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