I know, we’re all sick to death of hearing about compost. Even I, a dedicated composter, am beyond tired of the subject. But let me share a secret with you. It couldn’t be easier. At least the way I do it. Yes, of course when I STARTED composting, I did it like I do everything: with a gusto. I researched ad nauseum. Bought the “starter,” “activator,” “WHATEVER you call it.” I had a thermometer and a special composting bin! Oh baby, I was gonna make some mean compost.
And I did, but what a Pain In The ASS!
Now, as in so much of my life, I have streamlined. My current system, shown above, is a two-bin system, big enough to hold real garden and household refuse. Let me repeat that: BIG ENOUGH to hold REAL garden & household refuse. I see ads for those stupid little boxes or balls that you roll around and laugh. What a joke. Please, do yourself a favor and save your money. (Unless, of course, you are a 74 year old widow and only generate about 2 bags of garbage a month and live in an apartment-then that size should be fine). For anyone who actually has a yard and cooks, those little 3 x 3 jobs are way too small.
After figuring that out, I upgraded to a ComposTumbler that promised finished compost in a dramatically short amount of time. So EXCITING! And it was HUGE! Plenty big for real life. (And also expensive! But who cared! Think of the money I would save on fertilizer! Or so I told my husband…) The ComposTumbler actually did work. The only problem was, it required work on my part. In order to get that compost quick, I was required to crank the damn thing every single damn day. That worked for about 2 months. Then, as always, I got lazy. (For crying out loud, it’s compost! Do I really need the stress of laying in bed at 11pm and suddenly sitting bolt upright and exclaiming, “I forgot to crank the compost!” I’ll save that level of excitement for forgetting to lock up the chickens.)
So the two bin system it became. Over time I have perfected my approach, which I helpfully lay out for you here.
1) Fill it up
2) Forget it
3) Empty in the Spring
That is simplified of course, but actually quite accurate. Assuming you are just starting a two bin system, you fill up one side over the course of the season and that winter. Stop adding in the Spring and begin using the empty side until next spring. You do nothing to the first side after it is full. If it is exceptionally dry, I might water it now and then. I might crawl on top of the heap and occasionally jump up and down to flatten it out. I don’t turn it, I don’t add anything else. Honestly. I just let nature take its course.
In the spring, the first bin that had been overflowing it’s boundaries and spilling over the top is reduced to an impossibly small amount. I fill up my garden cart — usually two times — spread it over my garden beds, eventually emptying the first bin completely.
Because my system is not a “hot” one, I do not add weeds that have gone to seed because the bins do not reach an internal temperature high enough to kill the seeds. This is the one thing I am fairly fanatic about. Given the amount of weeds that I battle day in and day out, year in and year out, I think you can cut me some slack on that one. I just keep a big pail with weeds and when it’s full, I either throw them into the garbage, or lob them into the marsh (where they probably take root, bloom and blow seeds into my garden anyway. So really, what’s the point?)
Where was I?
Also, because I never turn the pile or do anything to it, and because I never chop the compost additions into small pieces that rot quicker (because that, too, is a giant pain in the ass), As I fill the garden cart with the finished compost, I hand-pull any sticks, gourd skins and occasional egg shells that have not completely decayed. These items I toss on top of the other bin. When I am done emptying the side I am working on, I will place those partially decayed sticks and twigs and refuse on the bottom of the just emptied bin, allowing much-needed air circulation at the bottom of the pile.
Then, I spread the compost all over my garden. It is the only fertilizer I ever use. Over time I have watched as my heavy clay soil has become practically perfect.
Except for the weeds and bugs, of course.