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A Lesson in Composting

May 22, 2011

I didn’t have a compost pile, so I bought a pile of compost:

That’s it up on the left, much larger than it looks. There’s a bag of peat moss to the front left.

I laid it all out on the garden space to aid in distribution:

Then I tried doing a test patch of distributing the compost:

Then I tried double digging some of the test plot:

Double digging consists of digging up a trench, and then digging down another foot or so. Many people incorporate a thick layer of compost. You should also try to remove all the rocks and stones. It is an incredible amount of labor and is very time consuming. It outright sucks. I’m using “gardening when it counts” as my guide to gardening and the author, Steve Solomon, recommends against double digging and says it is not necessary and is even counterproductive. I tried it to be sure, I believe that’s how my grandfather dug his garden, and my conclusion is: fuck that shit.

After distributing the compost, and double digging some of it in, I took a break and read another seed catalog online that I had been meaning to get to for about six months. In it they listed the same compost I am using and included a much more comprehensive listing of ingredients than what was on the bag or the website. In that list was “manure” and I realized that this compost must have factory farmed manure in it. FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK. I contacted the company and they confirmed that there is in fact the waste products of poor tortured animals fed a diet of GMO corn in this compost. That’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid and I just dumped it all over my garden…or at least one good corner of it. I’m really dang glad I used a test plot. The company did have fantastic customer service though.

After thinking about it I decided to make that contaminated corner into a butterfly garden:

In time I will fill in the concrete blocks, the clay pipe, and the kitchen sink with dirt and plant them too. So far I only laid down a packet of flower seeds intended to be used for a butterfly garden: http://www.botanicalinterests.com/products/view/7009/Bring-Home-the-Butterflies-Seed/page:2/category:flowers

This has been a lesson in how not to compost. If you want a lesson on how to compost, or if you just want a nifty new blog, check out The Bifurcated Carrot: http://www.patnsteph.net/weblog/2006/04/composting-and-mulching/

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 22, 2011 12:48 PM

    How far out are you? Might there be some restaurants or hotels in town that will let you pick up their slop? Cheap fence, add pig-quick composting machine and cheap. Here in Hawaii we have so many wild (actually feral) pigs that you don’t even need to buy the pig you just go catch one. Best of all is the pork you get after the composter is done working.
    Yard service companies, horse borders….do you have a truck? In California you could get mushroom compost by the yard for a fair price. Of course they grow a lot of mushrooms in CA. What do they grow in NH?

  2. May 22, 2011 2:22 PM

    Howdy,

    I’m about 6+ miles from the nearest town. I am too damn picky to use anything from anyone, and have a difficult time making an exception for the things I have to buy. I want a pig or pigs, but am leaning towards getting goats first to fight the invasive species. I might instead get sheep, but I probably should get more pasture land created first. I keep coming back to goats as they will be able to eat the much too wide range of plants I have currently.

    For compost this year I’m planning on buying some grassfed cow compost.It’s unfortunately a couple of hours away. I’m planning on using that for the main crop of potatoes (Nicola, I got 50 lbs of seed potatoes and am hoping for 500-1000 lbs yield), and perhaps other vegetables if there is enough remaining.

    In NH it’s greenhouse and nursery products, dairy products, apples, cattle and calves, and sweet corn. Maple syrup too of course.

    My composting plan is to find the nearest grass fed operation and use their manure to make my own compost for next year, incorporating that into the vegetative waste I will be producing.

    Also finally figured out what to do with my brush pile of brush piles (literally at least 7-8 large brush piles, most old some new, put into one big pile) – hugelculture. I hadn’t read of it before, you take old rotting wood and pile it up and cover it with dirt or mulch and use it as a raised bed garden. I’m hoping to build a 20 foot tall pile…should be interesting.

  3. July 2, 2011 12:30 PM

    A 20′ high pile! That gives new meaning to the raised in raised bed. You’re gonna need a ladder.

    Here’s a simple and very manageable approach – http://permafarmer.blogspot.com/2011/06/hugelkultur-how-to-make-mound-magic.html

    If the piles are that big, get your yourself a chipper/brusher that handles branches up to 3″. The smaller the material, the faster it decomposes.

    Regards,
    Mike

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