Wednesday, October 29, 2014

How to Practice Compost Witchcraft

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and caldron bubble.” William Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act IV, Scene I.

Of all the Halloween “spooks” I wager us composters most closely resemble witches. You know, when you’re out at your compost bin dancing barefoot in the moonlight holding a stick overhead…oh, I’m the only one that does that?...Well…ahem…let’s see what we can learn from those witches.

1. Follow the Spell Recipe with Care. 
A good witch knows what disaster an extra “eye of newt” can bring just as any good composter  knows too many food scraps or not enough water can lead to an unbalanced pile.

2. Don’t be Afraid to Add the Gross Stuff.
Slippery black banana peels, slimy carrots, rotten potatoes; composters know this stuff is compost gold. And, hey, at least you don’t have to add “wool of bat” or “poison’d entrails.” Compost witches have it easy.

3. Communing with Nature Creates Magic.
Sometimes the best place to clear your head is with a pitchfork in hand out in your backyard. Witches understand the power of nature too whether dancing around a bubbly cauldron in the woods or flying over treetops on a broomstick.

The magic we create by changing food scraps and yard trimmings into a rich beautiful soil amendment is the most rewarding and powerful spell of all. Except maybe the time I turned my ex into a toad, that was pretty rewarding (cackling).

Here’s my compost remake of Shakespeare’s witch scene from Macbeth
Round about the compost go;
In the slippery banana throw.—
Carrot, that in fridge unknown,
Days and nights has thirty-one;
Rotten flesh of apple therein,
Decay thou first i’ my charmed bin!

Okay, I’ll stop. 

Here are some of our other ghoulish Halloween posts to celebrate the best holiday of the year!
Compost Like a Vampire
Three Warning Signs You Compost Pile is a Zombie
Smashing Pumpkins

Happy Halloween!!!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Harvesting Compost from a Simple Backyard Bin

Guest blogger Joy Landry

It’s compost harvest season so now is the perfect time to reap the benefits of your summer composting efforts before winter arrives.

This was my challenge last weekend as I surveyed the fallen oak leaves and a pile of straw in my front yard from a recent gas line repair. My compost pile was getting close to capacity and was going to need room for all that natural material scattered about the yard.

My compost pile is not very fancy – it’s a small square of plastic-coated wire fencing in the corner of the backyard. However, it allows for easy access. After shoveling away the top layer of recent grass clippings, vegetable trimmings, apple cores and banana peels, I uncovered that wonderful, rich dark compost. Another year of natural materials quietly decomposing now yielded the perfect mulch for the shrubs I had planted in the spring.

I made five trips around the house, lugging loads of compost in the old Red Flyer wagon (yes, it’s 30 years old: reuse, reduce, recycle!). As a result, my shrub bed was insulated for the winter and the compost pile was ready for the next season of leaves. After an hour of raking, the compost pile was a nice mix of oak leaves and straw, all first mulched up by the lawnmower.
I felt quite pleased with my composting yard work – too bad the maple in the backyard still has to drop its leaves. Well, that’s a project for another weekend!

Happy composting!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Fast and Furious or Slow and Easy?

Guest blogger: Jenny Lohmann

Some people like it slow and easy, others fast and furious. It’s the yin and yang of life. What’s this got to do with composting, you ask? Well like life, sometimes the way you treat your compost pile changes with the times.
Your leaves are ready to come down and you can happily collect them for a year’s worth of brown stuff (carbon). What you do next is up to you-slow and easy or fast and furious.
photo courtesy of
Any seasoned composter knows decomposition occurs quicker when leaves are shredded and food scraps chopped. This type of composting is for those who fit the fast and furious type. When you decide raking is all you need, not bothersome shredding and chopping, you’re of the slow and easy persona.
Either way, you’re guaranteed to generate compost, it’s just a matter of how quickly. I get frustrated with my slow decomposing oak leaves, so I’ve taken to running them over with the mulching mower to shred them. Others have nice chippers and shredders but until I come upon one at a flea market or the like, it’s not in my budget.
Besides the size of your leaves and food scraps, turning and watering are other factors which will determine the rate of decomposition, but please remember not to turn in the winter .
No matter your type or if you fluctuate between the two, in the end you will create an organic, microbial love fest for your soil.