As I sit here at the computer trying to think of what in the world I want to share today, my bananas are turning blacker by the minute. Which reminds me that I need to compost them. Which reminds me that it’s currently too dark outside to do such. Which reminds me that it’s getting late. Which reminds me that I promised myself I would post something today. Which brings me back to my rotting bananas.
So let’s talk about composting, shall we?
Just over a year ago I told the Hubster that I wanted a compost bin for Christmas. That’s it. Nothing fancy-schmancy. Just a big ol’ dirt barrel to put kitchen and yard waste in.
Seeing as how Santa brought me an iPad instead of a composter, and I am really more gadget-girl than pioneer-woman anyway, I didn’t complain. But I also didn’t know how I was going to compost anything without a proper bin. However, with the handy-dandy iPad I could sit on the backyard swing and do all my research. Win-win, right?
I eyed my newest flower-bed and determined that its small, round shape might be just perfect for what I needed. It spans about 4 feet in diameter, and essentially is about 15 inches deep. I began to read all about composting, and most of my reading told me that I had a snowball’s chance of composting in anything less than a four-foot deep barrel or pile.
I got discouraged.
Then I got determined.
That’s how I roll.
I learned about white-hat bacteria composting and black-hat bacteria composting. (Who knew, right? It’s like the Yin and Yang of decay.) Basically, if you close up the waste matter and allow it to rot with stagnant heat and no air circulation, you get all the bad bacteria which will eventually decay the waste matter into dirt (black-hat dudes). On the other hand, if you allow your waste matter to stay humid yet open to air circulation, you get the beneficial bacteria (the white-hat dudes.)
FYI, I can’t find the original source of this life-altering information. I hope I am remembering it correctly.
Now, although I was encouraged by the fact that my little open-air compost pile was going to promote the white-hat bacteria, I am far too impatient to sit around waiting for anything to decay. So, as you know, I bought worms. I wanted some hungry little fellas who were willing to eat through all the stuff I threw into the pile. There have been a few times that I thought the worms abandoned me, but I find that with each new addition of goodies, they seem to multiply profusely.
It is also important to note here that I had to lay a wire covering over the top of my compost pile so that Mabel (or any other wandering yard guest) wouldn’t snoop around in it. But Mabel is going to snoop around in any and everything, whether we want her to or not. Case in point:
(Busted! Sadly, this next pic is too small for you to see the dirt clinging to her bottom lip.)
I knew I didn’t have to worry about Mason digging in it. Unless he were to smell pizza or a McDonald’s cheeseburger, he couldn’t care less what’s in the pile. And that’s how he rolls, thankyouverymuch.
So what goes into the compost pile? Almost anything. All fruit and vegetable waste, provided it has not touched any oils or proteins. I throw in some plant cuttings, pine straw, coffee grounds, basically anything growing that I pluck from its place goes into the composter. And I have even been known to throw in some bunny droppings and their all-natural bedding waste. (Animal droppings are okay as long as the animal is a vegetarian. You want NO protein in the pile, or it will smell.) All this being said, I am extremely careful not to put anything that is not expressly compostable or organic in the pile. For instance, bleached coffee filters are a no-no as far as I am concerned, as are paper towels. I now buy the If You Care brand natural coffee filters (catchy brand name, eh?) and I notice that they break down and disappear rather quickly. It is important to keep in mind that whatever chemicals are in the scraps will also be in your compost.
This picture shows how my fruit and vegetable waste is put into a small hole dug into the compost. Then it gets all covered up with dirt, sprayed with the hose, and left to decompose (or get eaten by the worms). It usually takes about two weeks for a pile like this to completely turn to compost.
Is my compost bin going to provide me all the renewed compost material that I need to refresh my garden each spring? Not even. But, it’s a great source of potting soil for the few pots that I insist on keeping going, and if I can ever guarantee that Mabel won’t destroy new plantings, then the hostas and hibiscus that I have planned for that bed in the distant future are going to LOVE living there.