Can you garden without composting?
I’ve heard rumors of gardeners who don’t have compost bins. I’m not sure what they do with all the trimmings and leaves and weeds that every garden produces if they don’t have compost bins.
Perhaps that’s just something some gardeners don’t want to talk about. Sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” as they put it all in bags and send it out with the trash.
Guess what? I haven’t always done the best job of composting everything that comes out of my garden. But over the years, I’ve learned and reformed and now I do a pretty good job with it. I’ve got all kinds of composting going on…
Compost bins – check! I have three 3’ x 3’ bins, the minimum size you can have and still get enough heat built up for good composting action. I spent most of Saturday this past weekend cleaning them out.
Compost tumbler – check! I have one. I fill it, tumble it, and then harvest from it a few times a season
Chipper shredder – check! I have two, both are electric. I got one a few years ago, and it does a good job of chipping plant debris into tiny pieces. Then I got a chipper this spring to review, and it also does a good job, though it doesn’t chip as finely as the other one, but has the wonderful collection bin.
Compost sieve – check! I made one out of half inch hardware cloth and scraps of wood. It fits perfectly over my wheelbarrow. I throw a few shovelfuls of compost from the bins or the tumbler on to the screen and then push it all through with my gloved hand. What doesn’t go through the screen goes back into the compost bin. What ends up in the wheelbarrow is black gold!
Worm composter – check! I purchased a worm composter a month or so ago at the Indiana Flower & Patio Show, and got the worms about two weeks ago. I’ve got it set up in my sunroom, which sort of horrifies some people, but I like to horrify people sometimes with what I do for my garden. Already, I can see the worms are getting settled in and doing their thing. I’ve even noticed some worm castings in the bottom tray.
Compost Thermometer – check! I recently purchased a compost thermometer because I want to see how hot my compost piles get in the summer time. It’s not so much that I’m planning to alter the proportions of green and brown plant material, it’s more a curiosity thing. Though once I see what the temperature of one of the piles is, I don’t know what I might do with that information.
I probably have broken a few rules of composting.
I don’t turn my piles regularly. I just pile on whatever I have and then periodically harvest what’s in the bottom.
I don’t worry about the proportions of green and brown plant material. I just pile on what I have and hope for the best.
I don’t water down the piles. I just wait for the rain.
I don’t buy any additives to speed up composting. I just add a few shovels of good garden soil when I start a pile, and whatever organisms are in that soil, that’s what gets the composting going.
I don’t always chop up every branch I throw in the bins. I just wait longer for them to break down.
I sometimes end up digging a big trench in the fall and burying some stuff because I’ve run out of room in the compost bins.
Yet, in spite of my sloppy composting techniques, I can report that I always get compost and my compost bins never smell. And I’ve never had problems with mice or rats, either, though I think some squirrels have gotten in there before and buried some black walnuts.
Somehow it all works and compost happens.
This is a “in progress” view of cleaning out the bins last Saturday.
You can see the sieve on top of the wheelbarrow, and the three bins, and a pile of compost on the raised bed.
This is what the bins look like after I finished harvesting the “good stuff”. The first bin is now empty, the second bin is about one-third full and the last bin has room on top for more, too.
My sister-who-doesn’t-garden once told me that the compost isn’t much to look at. She was right, so I use this bamboo screening to keep it hidden, but still accessible. That “sign” is really a tool rest I made, by the way.
This is my latest venture into composting, the worm composter.
I’m still working on the first tray, as you can see, or rather the worms are still working on the first tray, with two more trays to add over time. Go, worms, go!
My compost never smells, thank you very much, but I can’t say the same for this Korean Spice Viburnum, V. carlesii.
It smells wonderful! Go now and plant this shrub somewhere in your garden where you will walk by it all the time in the spring, if you live in zones 4 – 7. You will be so happy when it blooms.
Just as happy as you are when you harvest good, dark, rich compost from your own compost bins.