Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Compost update

On June 7th, I last remodeled my compost piles, and outlined that process in a detailed post. Today is July 14th. I worked the bins again this morning. It took me about 2 hours.

The black gold pile was down to about 8 inches. It had reached the point at the bottom of the pile where I had layered large sticks. That is the signal that it is time to rework the piles. First I removed all the black gold from the bottom of the finished pile and wheelbarrowed it to various staging areas in the garden for use in the near future. I also set aside approx 2 wheelbarrows of black gold for use in the layering of the new pile.

Once the black gold pile was empty, I rebuilt a bottom layer of large sticks and reset my big 4 inch aerating pipe. Then I removed the slats seperating the two bins and forked the stuff from the top of the green manure pile down on top of the sticks. I recently trimmed my privit hedges, so I had a lot of green stuff. I layered it pretty thick (6-8 inches). Then I spread about 2 inches of black gold on top. The hope here is that the bacteria in the black gold helps get the green stuff fired up. We haven't had any rain to speak of lately, so the pile needed an infusion of water. I sprinkled two gallons of water on top of each black gold layer. I continued the green/black/water layering process until I had reached a point in the bottom of the green manure pile where the stuff was more black than green.

The bottom 24 inches of this bin (formerly green manure) will now become my black gold bin. I used my 8inch digging fork (favorite tool) and sifted this compost very well. I tossed aside all the big sticks in the foundation layer. Any partially broken down compost was sifted over to the top of the new green manure pile. What remains is a nice fluffy black gold that is about 95% of the way to completion. I am hoping that the sifting, sorting, watering, and aerating process helps get this pile fired up again and takes it the rest of the way. But it is certainly usable right now. Just for giggles, I added about a pound of bone meal to each pile and stirred it in.

Two things that I have traditionally done in the past, that I didn't do this time - 1. layer with mushroom manure 2. chop the compost with hedge clippers as I bring it over from green to brown pile. I was trying to complete the project in one early morning work session, so I cut some corners. We'll see if my laziness makes a difference in the end result.

So between this post and the June 7th post, you have witnessed a complete summer cycle in my compost piles. It took 5 weeks for us to distribute a full bin of compost and in that same 5 weeks, we built up another full bin of green material. By the time it was ready for aeration, at least a third of the green pile had already converted to usable compost - with very little help from me. Is two to three hours every five weeks too much to ask for a constant supply of beautiful, healthy organic material?

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