Thursday, February 7, 2013

Turning Soil - Day 1

 Composting: My Winter Workout

It can really hurt when a shovel breaks!
  I decided to completely turn my compost yesterday. It was a lovely 56 degrees out and I knew it needed to be done. I've gotten away with minimal work on it this winter but with Spring quickly approaching I wanted to make sure it was on track for starting my grass. I also knew I was overdue for some photos.

Above is the shovel I have been using since I moved into this house. It is old, heavily used, and has many memories. Since I've been lazy and only shifted my pile this winter (instead of fully turning) it was sort of packed down and heavy. This meant I got to use the pitch fork to loosen and the shovel to lever out the contents. In the process of using the shovel as a lever it snapped. My suggestion: don't put all your weight on an old shovel handle. My ribs took the punch like a champ but I still won't be doing that again soon.

Below is what I call Compost Corner. It's the spot I sunk my old plywood box (that would have otherwise been tossed out) into the ground. It is far enough away from my house that it won't offend my nose even if it gets kinda funky. So far so good - no crazy smells even close up. The box did have 4 sides but I got tired of trying to dig out the contents that were down deep. I went ninja on it. Now it has 3 sides and a detached lid!

I call this "compost corner" - as if my yard is big enough I could map locations on it.
You can see the pile I dug out in the upper left corner of the picture. Up close the darker color (and lovely earth smell) are more obvious as well as the large chunks of hard dirt from my yard. The white in the pile is all my shredded junk mail.

I learned a lot in the process of doing this.
    - My pile needs to be watered more often. It was just a bit dry to work at optimum levels.
    - I need less brown waste (the tan weeds you see piled in the lower left corner of the pic) and more kitchen scraps. The areas where kitchen scraps had been buried were better composted and had a richer looking soil leftover than areas where the weeds were. Also the weeds are taking way longer to break down than anything else. Part of me thinks I should call them weed trees since they were over 6 foot tall when we moved in.
    - I need to make myself flip this pile more often. The parts near the top that get shifted more frequently are already a useable dark compost. The bottom of the pile didn't get enough air circulation and almost nothing broke down at all.
    - I need to mulch the giant weed trees before I put them in. The smaller branches were decomposed but the thumb width and thicker trunks were hardly touched.

I largely consider my first attempt at true outdoor - in the winter - composting to be a success. Sure, I'll do even better from now on but at least I didn't fail!

More updates to come later. In the meantime if your bored hop on over to my other blog and see what it's all about!

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