Gut Rumbles

March 15, 2005

a compost bin

I wonder how many tree-hugging, lunatic environmentalists know how to make compost? Mama did it for years and always had the prettiest, richest BLACK dirt in her garden. For a while after I moved to Effingham Country, I saved my lawn clippings and vegetable table scaps in plastic bags and I would bring them over to toss into the compost on weekends.

Once I started a garden of my own, she didn't get that good shit anymore. I saved it for myself. She taught me how to make compost.

You can build a compost bin out of wood or chicken wire. If you use wood (I did), just make sure you leave enough space between the boards for plenty of air to get in there. Dump lawn clippings, sawdust, peanut hulls, fireplace ashes, dead leaves, vegetable scraps from the table and just about anything else you can think of that isn't meat and allow it to decay. Wet it down with a water hose and keep it moist.

Turn the compost with a pitchfork every couple of days. Roll it around so that it can breathe and you'll get aerobic decomposition--- it won't stink. In fact, it smells rich and fecund and you'll sprout a big crop of red wiggler worms in there before long. The worms are good for the compost, too, because they help to aeriate it. (Mine was going so good that I once considered starting a worm farm.)

If you pile up compost and DO NOT stir it, you'll have anaerobic decomposition occur and the bin will smell just like rotting garbage. You don't want that, so go agitate it every couple of days. Keep it wet.

I built my bin in two sections. The first part was for new stuff and the back part was for stuff almost ready to spread in the garden. All that vegetation will break down, decay and start to look just like potting soil if you do it right. I would take that almost-ready stuff and pitch it into the back bin with a shovel, and continue tending both sides the same way.

I became a very good composter and that stuff is GREAT in a garden. Not only did you spare the landfills from disposing of your waste, you created wonderful home-made dirt. Plants love it. When the back bin was ready to use, I spread it all over my garden. I grew some good stuff that way.

Plus you get an added bonus in using compost in your garden. Never did it fail that I had a crop of cherry tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers and cantelopes spring up as "volunteers" from my home-made dirt. Those seeds are hardy and they survived the compost operation.

If you garden, start a compost bin. It's good for the garden, good for "the planet" and good for growing things you never planted.

Try it. You'll LIKE it.


Use to do the exact thing for my garden. Unfortuately, it also contributed to screwing up my lower back. Now have to buy it and pay to have it spread on flower beds.

Posted by: Chevy Rose on March 15, 2005 01:45 PM

I love my compost heaps. There is something very satisfying about putting in 'trash' and getting out wonderful black dirt.

Love it.

Posted by: Ames on March 15, 2005 03:41 PM

Yep. Can't grow decent tomatos without good compost.

Your mama was a wise woman, and I want to thank you for sharing her with us.

Posted by: og on March 15, 2005 03:53 PM

Compost is wonderful.

Posted by: Melissa on March 15, 2005 04:06 PM

Coffee grounds, including the paper filter, and egg shells were real good and kept my worms happy.

My biggest problem was keeping the hubby out of my heap.....he wanted all my big crawlers for FISHING! Caught him at it quite a few times...war broke out on the home front!

Posted by: Maggie on March 15, 2005 07:55 PM

I forgot about the coffee grounds and eggshells. EXCELLENT compost material.

Posted by: Acidman on March 15, 2005 08:16 PM

Several years ago, while sitting at the drive through at McDonald's, and listening to talk radio, I heard a report of a restaurant in D.C. that served compost.

It was the 'hot, new' place in town.

It's been more than ten years, and I still get skeezed out just thinking about it.

Posted by: jmflynny on March 15, 2005 08:25 PM

Beethoven, Mozart, and Debussey did some incredible composting! Their compostitions live on to this day!

(Sorry, Acidman, it was just too good an opportunity to pass up...)

Posted by: the friendly grizzly on March 15, 2005 09:30 PM

I was given a compost bin as a present a while ago. It had some pathetic guide that was nowhere near as helpful as what you've just shared. I bet it even works in the southern hemispere!
T hanks.

Posted by: Grinder on March 16, 2005 05:16 AM

My neighbor has a bunch of horses and a tractor w/ a bucket. He loads it! All I have to do is shovel it off the truck. Yeah, life is good! Along w/ the chicken house cleanouts & I'm turning this nasty sticky clay into something worthwhile. It's getting better all the time.

When my kids were little, I had them all trained. I'd say, "What is compost?" They'd say, "Compost is your friend." I still get that answer now.

Posted by: jmon on March 16, 2005 09:13 AM

When my husband insisted on starting a compost heap a couple of years back I thought he was nuts. However, he grew up on a working farm so I generally let him make the gardening decisions. The black dirt from that compost bin grew the most amazing vegetables I'd ever seen or tasted. I actually learned to can and freeze after that becuase I didn't want to waste any of those perfect veggies!

Posted by: Christine on March 16, 2005 09:21 AM
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