There is definitely something to be said for the fruits of the fall garden clean-up labor: As the bumper sticker puts it, “Compost Happens”. We have been chipping away at the gardens adding more and more debris to the Mother of All piles. At home my compost scares me a little. I can work for an hour, easily filling one or more wheelbarrows full of weeds and debris and then wonder where the heck to put it because my bins are already long past full. It’s hard to believe now that when I’m ready to use the compost there won’t be enough. Part of my problem is my chosen method. Bins – even big ones – are too small, too confining for the kind of compost my garden – probably any garden – is capable of generating unless I was very very diligent about snipping debris into smaller bits and then turning it regularly. Being a lazy gardener at home, I am rarely diligent about anything. I also have trouble keeping myself from adding fresh debris to the bin that’s nearly finished. (There’s space in that bin!) But even though I am willing to fill up a truck with town compost whenever I don’t have enough of my own, I’d rather keep my own debris in hopes of not having to borrow from the town again. (I know what goes into my own compost – and what stays out…) So now I have piles by my bins and piles by the piles and a deep desire for an easier system and better discipline. What do you do when your garden generates more debris than you have space for? Have you settled on a compost method that works?
Here at Blithewold we make giant piles as opposed to filling bins. Piles are a perfectly acceptable method, though a little unruly/ugly for most home gardens and on the slow side unless they’re also turned regularly to aerate and speed up decomposition. But if you’ve made it through the first 18 months or so waiting for black gold, you’re golden for good as long as you keep on heaping on. Fred and Dan, using the tractor’s front-loader, periodically turn and shift our piles and I wish they’d come to my house too. Our piles are rarely hot – we don’t make lasagna layers of brown and green debris or pay any particular attention to ratios – so weed seeds do tend to survive and I’m noticing that fact much more now that I’m using the compost in our potting soil mix. A layer of black plastic for a few months covering a nearly done pile might do the trick though, we’ll see.
Another bonus fruit of garden clean-up labor is the harvest of, in the case of our Display Garden potager, the Mothers of All beets (Bull’s Blood) and cabbage (Deadon Hybrid). Many thanks to Cathy “Harvest Maven” for providing scale and making sure those final harvests didn’t go anywhere near the compost. Happy Borscht season!