Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Composting! A Way Of Giving Back

I follow several blogs that deal with gardening and one of the subjects brought up continuously is composting. While no way would I describe myself as being a professional composter, I would say that it is one of my favorite subjects. I have always had a large composting system, staring out with a very large cinder block unit that took up a good portion of the utility section of our landscape here at Menagerie Manor. That system worked well for the years that I actively ran an animal rescue, and our family was larger then as well so there was larger volumes of compostable waist in those years. But now there is just MeMa and myself and I no longer have the number of animals sheltered within so I removed the old system and have installed two commercial units that suffice our needs.

Whilst attending one of our Garden and Patio shows a couple of years ago I purchased a stacking worm farm with the idea of composting some of the kitchen waste whilst benefiting myself with a constant supply of fishing bait and food source for our two resident box turtles that relish a meal of worms.

Back to the compost. I have the two units because I turn the compost regularly to help speed the process so by the following spring the whole thing is ready to use in the garden. So about every three weeks I use a pitch fork and dump everything from one unit into the other leaving one unit empty and continue to add fresh layers to the now full one. Then in three weeks time I flip everything so that any fresh stuff added is now on the bottom of the previously empty one. I should add that during this whole years process that I am removing, for use in the garden, about a wheel barrow or two of nice dark compost each time I flip the compost.

Here is a list of things that I layer into the composting system.

1. Junk mail ( I shred it in our home office shredder)

2. Newspaper (can be shredded or opened single sheets laid out between layers)

3. Tissue ( not toilet tissue)

4. Vacuum cleaner debris ( our vacuum cleaner bags are completely compostable, no metal or rubber fittings.
I do tear open the bags and spread out the contents and bag so it breaks down quicker)

5. Coffee grounds and filters

6. Tea grounds (loose or bagged, I remove the staple)

7. Kitchen waste (any food waste except dairy and meat)

8. Grass clippings ( I usually layer news paper or shredded paper so that the clippings don't mass together thus slowing the break down)

9. Leaves (except rhododendron as they don't compost well and have you ever wondered why nothing
grows under these shrubs)

10. We raise our own chickens for the eggs, so I crush the shells and add them which is a great source of

11. Garden debris, anything that I take out of the planting beds or pruning. (If it is branches or anything hard or rose clippings then it goes into our yard recycle bin to be hauled away every other week).

MeMas ladies get a good portion of the kitchen waste as well. I also add portions of kitchen waste and shredded paper to the worm farm, just in smaller amounts as to not overwhelm the farm. Keep in mind that the worms don't actually eat what you put in, they eat the bacterial organisms that feed off the debris. In the winter months I move my worm farm into the greenhouse so they will stay active all year long. The great thing about these worm farms is there is no odor. And a added bonus is a constant supply of worm farm "tea" that we use as supplementary fertilizer in the greenhouse.

The compost system will slow down in the winter but since mine are covered they continue to heat up somewhat and thus stay active to a point. Another thing to monitor is the moisture in your compost, without it the system will not work. When you dig down it should be moist not dry and not wet. A soggy compost is a smelly compost that will just sit and rot.
So each spring I empty the compost and I usually have two to three trays of soil from the worm farm. This goes directly into the garden. I use raw sawdust in the chicken yard and dig this under every month to help keep flies away. In February I dig about a shovels depth off the top of the chicken yard and add this too the vegetable garden because by that time the sawdust has broken down the chicken poop so it wont burn vegetable crops when planted in the spring. I feed the chickens an complete organic feed with no chemicals added. Looking back on this post it is a bit jumbled, sorry for that but I get so excited about this whole subject so if you have any questions I will try and clarify them for you.

Happy composting!


  1. This is really some good information, and I know I should do this, but I just haven't--At some point I'll get my act together! :-)

    ~Kim @ Golden Pines~

  2. Wow, you really DO get on board with the composting !
    Thank you for all of the wonderful information, I shall share it with the compost sergeant around these parts.
    We composted yesterday, and made a wonderful concoction of potting mix !
    Thank you for sharing this,

  3. I have to admit that when I started, it seemed like work but when that first spring rolled around and I emptied the compost bin the results were amazing. After 36 years of adding compost to the soil here I can pretty much start anything in the garden with success. And now the effort involved is just second nature.

  4. I like jumbled. And you know I loved reading this post, Doc. :)
    What are the commercial units, if I may ask; and where did you get your worm farms? Because we use a lot of worms when we fish, not many lures at all.
    Happy Friday to you and MeMa, Doc!

  5. Linda,
    The compost is made by Rubbermaid and the worm Farm I bought at the Garden Show but you can go on line and order the kit, just type in "Worm Farm". Happy Friday!

  6. Thanks for the information, Doc. Much appreciated! And thank you! :)