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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Compost Harvest

I wrote about raccoons causing problems with my Green Cone Composter (GCC), and about having to use a purple bucket trug for a makeshift cover, then I wrote about the GCC in more detail and mentioned that it was ready to empty. I had help yesterday for a few hours and that is one thing that was accomplished. Then Husband/Best Friend/Chief Photographer encouraged me to take photos of the harvest.

Once the top section was removed, I discovered that I had let the composter get too full. The plastic basket section that is underground is almost as deep as the green cone is tall. The basket was full and compost reached half way to the top inside the green cone. I kept putting off emptying it, and I don't remember how long it had gone since the last harvest. But, it was too long.

We emptied it completely; the contents filled two large wash tubs and half of a large bucket trug. Mostly it is fine material and the clumps crumble easily. Eggshells had cooked during the heat stages of composting so they crumble easily. There are some small sticks and coarse matter that can be put back into the composter and run through the process again, or they can be used as a nice mulch material.

I have two round sifters with different gauge holes. I can use the size matching my need at the time. The smaller size is good for adding small amounts to potted plants, and the larger is very good for plants in the ground. Using them helps to break up the lumps and fluffs it up nicely.

Another accessory that has been a great help is the probe aerator. It is just a metal stick with a handle and on the other end are movable wing-like flaps.

When I insert it into the pile of compost the wings collapse against the rod enabling the probe to go into the compost. But, when I pull it out the flaps open and catch material and rearrange it. By using it repeatedly, I am able to "stir" the compost and incorporate air into it without having to remove the contents and turn it as I did with the old piles of 'yore. When I do that process I can see results by the next day or two. Oxygen is important to the composting process.

In all, it is a rather neat system. However, I think it would be best to have two of the composters. That way I could say to myself: "OK, that one is full enough. No more new material for that one until it has finished composting. Then I will empty it and start over again." In the interim, all new material would be placed in the second composter. Once it is full, the first one would be harvested, new material would be added to the newly emptied first one while the second composter finishes up.

I think I may have just talked myself into getting a second one.


Anonymous said...

I like your round sifters Barbee, they look like they would be easy to use. You should definitely get another green cone composter. That way you can make twice at much compost. Did that help to convince you? :)

kd said...

Thanks for sharing your compost technique. I've got a circular black bin with vent holes (now raccoon-proofed) but find myself fighting a constant battle with odours. I aerate, add soil, compost accelerator, leafy & woody stuff along with the juicy fruit & vegetable bits. I guess it's a matter of falling into the right rhythm.


Beth said...

Barbee - I applaud anyone that has the time and patience to have their own compost system. I tried to talk my husband into it but he's afraid it'll be too "smelly". Do you find that to be true?

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom said...

Great post on compost. Sorry couldn't stop myself. I really like that composter. I am still using the wooden box set up. It sounds like yours is easier to harvest.

Barbee' said...

PGL (Virginia, U.S.A.): Ha, ha, I think so!

kd (Canada): That is a bit puzzling. Sounds as though you are doing the right things. I assume it is rain proof and is not getting too wet. Could be a ratio problem, it takes only a little of the wet, juicy, or green material to a lot of the dry carbohydrate. Maybe it needs more oxygen. Does it get turned or stirred frequently? Each time it gets more oxygen it heats up again and that is what you want it to do. When it starts cooling down, stir it again so it will heat up again. After a while, it will quit heating up and then it is about ready to use. At some point, maybe when it is getting too full to stir and aerate, you have to quit adding material and give it a chance to finish cooking. There are many styles of composters on the market and I don't know exactly what yours is, but I hope this helps and you will be able to correct the problem. I read that if it begins to have an odor, that means it is too damp and a good thing to do is to add peat and mix it in. I had to do that one time and it worked, not immediately, of course, but within hours. It is a lot of hard work doing all that mixing and turning and stirring, but good exercise, I guess.

Beth (North Dakota, U.S.A.): Well, as you can read in kd's comment, sometimes it happens. A compost pile or composter that is in correct balance to me smells like fresh mushrooms or a wood on a rainy day. To me it is pleasant. If it gets out of balance it smells really bad. This little green cone composter I am using is just outside my garden door where I go past it frequently. The only time I noticed an odor was when I put too much broccoli or cabbage trimmings in it. Another time was when the raccoons removed the lid and it rained into it and got it too wet and out of balance.

When we moved here the compost pile was halfway down the hill. In wintertime I didn't like taking my kitchen materials all that way once or twice a day, and besides sometimes it was wet and the clay path was slippery. That is when I bought this composter and installed it right beside the door where I can stay on the old brick path.

Barbee' said...

Aunt Debbi/kurts mom (Texas, U.S.A.): I appreciate your pun :) As long as you are cooking for a family, you need the larger box. There are only two of us and we don't do a lot of cooking, so this is sufficient for us. Besides, you have the monkeys to help with the turning. When you are old like us, maybe a little cone composter will be enough. Loved your posts about taking your moms garbage home for your compost pile. I do that when I go places, too. Even had one college student helper who brought things from her parents' house. I thought that was great of her. I also enjoyed your post about the three flower pot composting system with red worms. I am going to try that as soon as I find three matching pots of that size. Thank you for the comment.

tina said...

Pretty good looking compost. I see you got the font adjusted. I like mine big for sure and yours looks great too.

Barbee' said...

Thank you. I'm thinking that much of it can be used as-is without having to sift it. Will see once I get to digging into it. Actually, we have already used a little of it in the planting of a clematis.

I appreciate your helping me with that font change. I just knew that yours looked much better than mine.

tina said...

Not better, maybe larger that is all:)I wouldn't bother sifting that sweet compost at all.

hap said...

Thanks for sharing this technique. I am in the planning stages of creating my own compost system. This looks like a good one that I may have to borrow from.

www.jordochdjur.se said...

At last, a name for the compost-stick! Aerator probe! Tank you very much - I have missed that word in my vocabulary until now.

I am the only one in our family who really enjoys working with the compost, so when it's time to empty it (we also have a green plastic container, but a different design) the rest of my family stay indoors.

Working with the compost gives med great satisfaction. It can be quite heavy sometimes, but after having seen what good it does to our trees and vegetables, I feel it is a wonderful investment of time and energy.



Barbee' said...

hap (I don't know where you are from, and can't remember the name of your blog - help!):
Good luck with your composting. It is great stuff for the garden.

jordochdjur/Monica (Sweden): I am happy to learn that you enjoy composting, too. It seems to me to be another way of working with nature, and a great way to make good use of all that waste material. Turn it into good dark 'gold'. There is never enough of it, so I have to consider who in the garden gets to have this good food. I think the Hostas will enjoy much of this harvest, and maybe the peonies, and the Hellebores, and....

Annalunda said...

Dear Barbee!

Thank you so much for visiting me and for your kindly comment! It made me happy you like my blog and took you the time to read it :)
I hope you will come back of course - and I have visited you back and I found a nice blog and a lot to read. I have to come back to read and see more so I have faved you.
Today it is sunny here but it is almost autumn now... today I will plant a couple of roses. Thanks again Barbee - I appreciate your visit and nice words a lot!

Love Annie

Barbee' said...

Annalunda (Sweden): Hello, again. Thank you for visiting. Oh, good, you will have more roses. I love looking at your roses. You have a beautiful and romantic blog :)

TC said...

I'm the lazy composter and don't put near the effort into it as some do. It's quite evident you're a pro at it. I had one of those big, plastic, black unsightly compost bins but turning stuff in there was a real chore so I quit using it. Now I just pile stuff up, it takes longer, but the end result is the same: black gold!

Barbee' said...

TC (Pennsylvania, U.S.A.): I know what you mean. I have done some of that style, too. Nowadays, sometimes I just take my bundle of daily trimmings and pullings and hide it under or behind a large shrub and let nature take its course. I think it would be fun to have one of those that can be rolled about the yard to do the turning.

TC said...

Did you know you have a very popular blog? Congrats! :~)


Barbee' said...

No, I didn't! Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I had not seen that page. Blotanical has so many sections, I guess I have missed some of them. I appreciate your giving me the link. That was interesting to see. Thank You!

TC said...

You're most welcome. :~)

Barbarapc said...

Barbee - what a tidy system - and that looks like great soil! If you need another nudge to get another cone - here's my vote.

Barbee' said...

Barbarapc (Canada): Thank you for dropping by and nudg.. I mean voting :) I am seriously thinking about it. But, I will wait until spring to put it in, because there are several spring bulbs in there. I would rather not dig up the best of them. Right now, I have no idea where they are. Hmmmm, guess I could look at some old photos of that area. Also, do not want to block the sun from the existing one. How do small ideas get so complicated!

catzgarden said...

Hi, Barbee - You left me such a nice comment - I stopped by your blog tonight, but I already visited you the other day, too!

I am new at blogging, but I had no idea how wonderful the blotanical community would be - I'm amazed!

And now, for all you avid composters: I recommend rabbit poop. No kidding. I lived in an old farmhouse, and the soil was mostly sand. But I started mixing the bunny cage droppings -hay and all- in with my compost, and miracles occurred!

It was a happy accident - nothing I planned. I had some Four O'Clocks that self-seeded right near the cage, taking advantage of the bunny's hard work - and honest to goodness, they grew SIX FEET TALL! The other Four O'Clocks in a different part of the yard were only about 3 feet tall. Once I started mixing in the straw and all into the compost, the dahlias were supersized, the deutzia burst into a cloud of bloom -

Here in Santa Barbara, we have an organization called "BUNS" - it's a bunny adoption program. Check it out on this link: http://www.bunssb.org/

Anyway, you are all wonderful and interesting and I'm so glad my son talked me into the world of blog!

Barbee' said...

catzgarden (California, U.S.A.): Another Big Welcome to the world of blogs, and gardening bloggers! We are glad you are here! Your blog is lovely and I enjoyed my 'visit to Santa Barbara and back'. Regarding bunnies: Yes! They make the best fertilizer. It is one that can be used without composting. I have had two rabbits over the years and know that they do make good pets if one has the time to train and socialize them as much as you would a dog or cat. I went to the link you provided and read about that organization. I am glad to learn that such groups exist. I no longer want pets, but I do wish I knew someone who has a rabbit so I could get some of the fertilizer they may not be using. I have read of an interesting setup (I think it was in Organic Gardening Magazine about 25 years ago.) where some people constructed the rabbit's hutch, then under it was their vermicomposting area set into the ground. The rabbits waste fell through the floor grid into the worm bed and the red composting worms processed it. I thought that was a clever arrangement. I better close for now. Thank you for coming by, and for leaving a comment.

The Hunky Gardener said...

Gat your humus on!

The Hunky Gardener said...

Get your humus on!

Phil The Gardener said...

Composting is rewarding in the end for all of the pain it is. I like your cone shaped composter and stirring rod. And yes if you generate quite a bit of material it works well to have a second one.

Barbee' said...

The Hunky Gardener (Canada): It will be 'on' many places throughout the garden. I also have a garbage can full of rotted leaves which will be doled out selectively.

Phil The Gardener (California, U.S.A.):
Oh good, another gardener who thinks I should purchase another one! Phil, thank you for stopping by and reading awhile.