Friday, February 12, 2010

Composting and Gardening, part 2

As promised, here is my "two bin" composting process and how to harvest it.

When my very first bin filled up, I was uncertain as to what I should do next.  I knew three things: it needed to "cook" a bit longer before I could use it, there wasn't any room to add anything new, and I didn't want to stop.  I decided to start a second bin.  They were labeled Bin A and Bin B.

Year 1- Start A and fill as much as you can in one year
Year 2- Start B and add your materials.  Don't add to A.  It's cooking.  Just stir it up once a week or so.
Year 3- Harvest A and refill with left over uncomposted materials.  Don't add to B, but stir once a week.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

This process worked really well for the 4 years I had my compost bins running.  You could probably even have a 3rd brewing and then you'd have even better compost!

Harvesting is super simple.  You can Google and find all kinds of sifting screens, but I'm lazy and my way works well for me.

Most of my compost went to starting new flower beds so I just dumped the bin out where I wanted the compost, shoveled buckets full to use in other locations, and set to work tilling it in!  If there was a random apple core or pineapple top, I tossed it back into the bin.  I made sure to leave a few inches of compost in the bin as a starter so I didn't have to completely start from scratch.  Don't worry about random nut shells or anything else small.  They will continue to cook down in the garden.

At the end of the growing season, you can empty the flower pots right back into bin and the cycle will continue.  I like to reuse my potting soil so I have a bin that the soil goes into while the dead plants and roots go into the compost.  When I go to fill flower pots again, I use roughly 50/50 or 25% compost and 75% soil- depends on the type of plant and what kind of soil they like.

Tomorrow- amending Middle Tennessee's crappy soil!