Thursday, January 21, 2010

Composting and sustainable living

Composting to me is a big part of being a responsible gardener, it is an important part of becoming sustainable. Composting my garden scrap, my chicken manure keeps everything I produce in my yard and I recycle it right back into my garden. It is the perfect cycle of life. The more compost I make, the less I have to get from outside my doors. The less fuel is needed to sustain my garden, the better it is for the environment.

Even though in my community all the yard waste gets recycled into garden compost and I also can purchase the garden compost from my local composting facility, I think my homemade compost is much better then what I can buy there. These large composting facilities are not just composting yard waste, they get most of their compostables from the forest and wood industry, which means it is very heavy on wood, very little green vegetative matter in there. Too much wood in compost throws the balance of nutrients out of order. I was not too pleased with the quality of the purchased compost. I know we can produce better soil at home.

I have gone through different composting set ups, since ever I had a garden. When I first started, money was still tight so we couldn't afford any of those new recycled plastic compost bins. But you actually don't need them to be successful in composting. It is more important what you put in the bins then what kind of bin you use. Back then my husband was able to get some wooden crates and wood pallets, so we easily put two together with steel ties from the hardware store, with the help of the rabbits we were raising then, we made some wonderful compost for this garden. When we started our first garden this compost in just 2 years turned the barren, clay, compacted soil into a rich, dark vegetable garden soil.

I am using now several bins and have them on both sides of the yard because we have a large double lot on a hillside which made it difficult to haul all the yard waste from one side of the yard to the other.

In my vegetable garden I use 2 wire bins which we wrap inside with cardboard, so the yard waste does not fall through. The cardboard is compostable so does not contaminate your compost.
I use another bin just like those right next to my chicken yard to collect the chicken-manure and the yard waste until I can shred it and use it. 
They sit in a corner of the yard which does not get as much sun and in the winter is a bit cooler then the rest of the vegetable garden, so not very useful for growing.

 I also have another bin which right now sits temporary outside of the vegetable garden area, because I have to first move the old in-ground sprinkler you see in the picture to make room for it. It is a green, made of recycled plastic bin and I will be using it to finish the almost finished compost.

After I have collected enough material in the first wire bin, I use bin # 2 in the vegetable garden to start the compost, layering the different vegetative materials in the proper amounts. As it starts composting down, which usually is by the time my first bin has collected again enough material for my next batch. I scratch the partially composted material through a wire sieve made of  hardware cloth into bin # 3 and throw the stuff which still needs more composting back into the same bin it came from. After the bin # 3 is almost done composting, but still shows some non composted material I again sieve it through a finer hardware cloth into the plastic bin # 4 to finish it off. This for me eliminates a lot of the constant turning the compost and works just fine for me. I get some nice looking compost with it and now since I have my chickens it will be even better dirt for my garden.

My other 2 compost bins I have on the other side of my upper garden.
This garden is mostly ornamental aside of a herb garden and is closer to my house, this is where I put all my vegetable scrap from the kitchen and what ever compostable clippings are coming from my upper garden. It makes it a lot easier to clean up the upper garden and because it is close to the house I don't have to walk through the whole yard in the winter rains just to throw my kitchen scrap in it.


tina said...

You have quite a good set up there. I think your home made compost must be the best and even better since you made it.

DieGartenFrau said...

thank you Tina
My compost definitely has come out better then what I got at my local Forest product company. It still seemed to lack some nutrients which, I had to do with missing animal manure which is an important ingredient in rich compost. Now I have chickens I have seen it faster composting and it also looks much nicer then before. I only got the chickens last spring, so using the new compost this season will be interesting science.

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