Make This! Everything a gardener ever needed to know about composting
by Deirdre Long
dlong@annistonstar.com
Mar 17, 2013 | 5743 views |  0 comments | 500 500 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The warmer weather and longer days this past week have had the lawnmowers humming, weed eaters whirring and power tools grinding. OK, that last one might just be me and the guys remodeling the house down the street, but the hum of outdoor activity means spring is near.

I got the vegetable garden started this week. Instead of attempting a spread in my front garden, I’ve teamed up with a friend with some land in Coldwater, and we are doing one large garden of raised beds together. We got broccoli, cauliflower, red and green cabbage, onions, brussels sprouts and lettuce in this week, with plans to add peas, carrots, radishes and even more as the weather warms up even more.

Even though I don’t plan on having a big garden at home, I’m still composting. And I’ve learned a couple new tricks thanks to the book “The Complete Compost Gardening Guide” by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah L. Martin.

Before I read this book, my compost pile was just that — a pile. I dumped the kitchen scraps on the pile, which was in an ugly scrap wood box, and turned it every month or so. That method worked, but it also attracted some unwanted critters into my yard — and while the dog may think it’s fun to chase possums during his nighttime potty breaks, his hip dysplasia and arthritis disagree.

But now my compost “pile” is neatly contained in a 32-gallon outdoor trash can, an idea found in the book. I can secure the lid on the barrel with a bungee cord and roll it around the yard to mix it. It’s virtually critter proof, and looks much better than the old box, which has a new home at the big garden.

This book certainly earns its title of “Complete” — it’s 318 pages crammed full of everything you need to know about composting, whether it’s examples of different kinds of bins or a breakdown of the carbon and nitrogen levels in different animals’ poop.

The best thing I’ve found in the book so far, and something that I wish I had thought of years ago, is to use bales of hay or straw in planters for vegetables. You dig a hole in bale, fill it with compost and soil, and start planting. The bale may last for a season or two, and you just throw the whole thing in the compost bin when you are done. It’s genius and much cheaper and more space efficient than building raised beds.

And, oh, the things you can compost! I was just composting my kitchen scraps — coffee grounds, eggshells, all the leftover veggie bits — but now I know I need some dry materials, too, things like paper bits and dry leaves, to balance out all the nitrogen from the greens. You can also compost at different speeds.

My old bin method was slow and steady, but with the right ingredients (who knew that dry dog food was great for composting?), you can have a batch ready in about six weeks … just enough time for all those summer vegetables.
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