Thursday, April 19, 2007

How to Compost #4: Mix the Materials

First off, a thoughtful, interesting article was posted at the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday. It's called You Cannot Save the Earth by columnist Mark Morford. Check out the article and if you have any thoughts/opinions (I do, of course), please post a comment & let me know what you think. Thanks to Tom's Music Film Ohio Politics n Stuff for the link!

So, turning the compost. I am already weeks behind the idyllic composting schedule I had set up in my mind when I started this thing. I figured, begin in March, have compost in May, just in time for Spring planting! Except I didn't factor in one important element: Maine weather.

The reason you turn a compost pile is to make it decompose faster. When you turn the pile (either in a tumbler or with a pitchfork if you have a basic pile) oxygen goes in, carbon dioxide waste is able to be released, and your garbage decomposes faster. Also, if your compost begins to smell like rotten eggs, turning it (giving it more oxygen) will make the smell go away (at least, this is what I am told). Want a more scientific explanation? Visit the Cornell University site.

You can never turn your compost and it will still decompose. But it may take a year or more. The more you turn it, the quicker you'll see results. My plan was to turn our composter every couple of days, aiming for finished compost in 6-12 weeks.

Of course that was my plan. Until I could no longer access my backyard because of the giant snow mountain created by our (much-appreciated, don't get me wrong!) neighborhood snow plow. And then during the torrential rains that followed (knocking out lots of electricity and our roof shingles, not to mention flooding our basement), I somehow didn't feel like heading out to check on the compost.

But today! Honestly. Truly. Beautiful sunshine! Wispy, white clouds! Our composter has been turned. Based on the fully intact and healthy-looking carrots we deposited a couple weeks ago, no progress has been made in the compost bin since March. I blame cold temperatures and lack of turning. Kevin blames the State of Maine for their inaction against the unacceptable weather conditions (can't somebody do something about all this snow?)

Soon, though. I think the worst is over. My new goal: compost in June. That's still plenty of summer to use compost in my garden, right?

Here's the link to the Time Magazine article "51 Things We Can Do to Save the Environment" that Mark Morford mentioned in his SFC article.

On a smaller, less global scale, here's a link to a simple, short, and handy list of What to do in the Garden in April.

Missed anything in this series? It's easy to catch up:

Step 1: Make it a Priority
Step 2: Choose a System
Interlude: Nature Tried to Kill My Composter
Step 3: Collect Organic Material
Step 4: Mix the Materials
Step 5: Moisten the Mixture
Step 6: Wait
Interlude: The Lightbulb Change
Interlude: The Yogurt Change
Interlude: The Sponge Change
Interlude: The Leftover Change
Interlude: The Napkin Change
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part One
The Sort-of Sun-Mar 200 Review Part Two
Sun-Mar 200 Compost Update
Sun-Mar 200: Starting All Over Again

Step 7: Use Your Compost
Step 8: Sun Mar 200 Garden Composter Review

1 comment:

Peter Chen said...

Hi Josephine,

I actually came to thank you for leaving a comment in my post Easy Bookmarking for your blog and to let you know that I have responded to your comment.

I am pleasantly suprised to see a post on composting and am always glad to see someone doing something like this. I have other blogs:
Enviroman Says
Backyard Organic Farming.

Peter
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