Sunday, December 7, 2008

November 24th: Compost Update and Fall Cleanup

Over the last 2 years, I've experimented with different ways of composting my food scraps. At first, I chopped my scraps coarsely and threw them in a bucket on the roof, with no drainage. That resulted in a pretty soggy and smelly mess. Then, during the growing season, I began chopping my scraps and liquefying them in my blender to use as top dressing for my watermelons and tomatoes. (I know, gross. But, sometimes a gardener will do crazy things in the name of good compost. The blending and addition of water allows for double quick decomposition. In this blenderful, you can see my banana peels, beet greens, and orange rinds.)
Out of growing season, I continued to blend and dump my liquid scraps into a compost bucket with drainage. This all worked pretty well, except that it is kind of a pain to bring my scraps on the roof, and this made me lazy so the scraps would be stinky and messy. But, I think I've finally come up with the perfect compost system. I have placed a bucket on my fire escape, so now I only have to open my window to deposit my blended scraps. I leave the bucket covered loosely, to keep flys out, and that's that. This makes things easier and I do it more often now, so the scraps don't get stinky. When planting time comes, I'll just take the whole bucket to the roof and use the finished compost in the garden.

This process doesn't work quite as well for large garden scraps, but I have developed a separate annual cleanup system for these. Right now, the outdoor garden is definitely dead until Spring. Back on November 24th, I took advantage of a warmer day to do my final garden clean up. It probably took less than an hour, and involved cutting off all of the strawberry runners that I'd let run wild, hacking apart what was left of my tomato plants, and pulling up the shriveled squash and watermelon vines. I put all of these remnants in my compost buckets and covered them with soil from other buckets. It is now an annual ritual to rotate some of the soil between buckets in order to cover all compostable plant matter. This worked fantastically last year. By the time Spring planting time came around, almost everything was decomposed completely and my buckets were in good shape for planting. I'm hoping I'll see the same results by Spring 2009!

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