Brooding On

How (Not) to Compost

So, ummm, do as I say and not as I do. Okay?


See that lovely plant growing in the middle of my compost pile?  If my pile were well-tended, that really shouldn't happen.  Ideally, my compost would be "hot" or fast.  That means that it is well-aerated, kept moist, and turned frequently to produce the optimum environment for heat and rapid decomposition.  Hot piles reach high temps that will break down even the seeds from last year's garden plants that have been tossed on the pile.  

So, that lovely plant (which is certainly some type of cucurbit, though it has yet to bloom, so I'm not yet sure which one) is giving me away.  I've actually failed here in two ways.  So, please, learn from my mistakes.

Mistake #1:  I didn't turn my pile at all over the winter.  Yes, that's right -- not at all. I also haven't watered it, and since compost piles prefer to be about as moist as a wrung out sponge, I suspect my pile went through patches of time wherein it was too dry, even during our wet winter.  

So, my pile is a "cold" or slow pile.  A slow pile is one where you, say, pile a bunch of leaves in the fall and the next fall you go to pile leaves in the same spot again and say, "Hey, look!  All those leaves have broken down.  That's pretty cool!"  In other words, you do nothing whatsoever, and Mother Nature works her magic despite your negligence.  She's good like that.

For the gardener, a hot pile is much preferable because the turnaround time is so much shorter, and you'll have usable compost in a couple months' time.  (You'll know it's usable when you dig through it and can no longer distinguish what once made it up.  Instead of banana peel and coffee grounds, all you have is dirt.  

Mistake #2:  I really shouldn't have even put last year's garden plants onto the compost pile. Since I had such squash bug issues, I should have burned all of last year's garden debris.  A really well-tended compost pile would get hot enough to kill off overwintering insects, but my sad, little cold pile clearly didn't.  

The bright side, of course, is that I've got some kind of plant growing that will likely produce for us some type of fruit, if we're still here to enjoy it.  And since it's rooted in pure compost, it is one VERY happy and well-fertilized plant.