From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 1 October 2013, Ask a Pro
Should I be putting compost on the garden now?
I can’t think of a time when it is not good to add compost. The fall is an especially good time, though. You will be protecting your garden from the driving winter rains that compact the soil. The compost helps to insulate the soil and allow those millions, oops trillions, of worker microbes you have to continue to do their magic. The warmer the soil, the more busy the microbes. In the spring, the soil will be so primed for growing your plants; you will be startled at how vigourous your veggies will be. So, yes, find a sunny day and spread a layer of compost on your garden. If you want to take it a step further, plant a winter cover crop on top.
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We are setting up Speedibins in local school gardens! The kids are leading the food garden charge. Read Leslie’s excellent blog about the latest installation from the Duchess of Dirt page. http://duchessofdirt.ca/installing-speedibin-composters-at-the-school-gardens/#more-3307
From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 3 September 2013, Ask a Pro
Will my composter work better in the sun?
Surprisingly, we have found that the composters do better in the shade. If they are in the sun they tend to dry out too fast and need to be frequently watered to keep the worms and microbes damp and alive. The heat from decomposition comes from the thermophilic (heat-loving) bacteria, not the sun. These bacteria are just as enthusiastic in the shade. Worms are happiest in a temperature between 15 and 25 C. And worms like it dark. If your best option for the location of your bin has to be a sunny spot, just make sure that it stays damp. Keep the lid on to slow evaporation. However, sometimes on rainy days I leave the lids off for lazy-girl watering. The worms are grateful. And happy worms make salubrious compost!
From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 6 August 2013, Ask a Pro
I saw a news story about maggots in some curbside pickup greenbins. What’s going on?
Admiring some compost
Yes, that is a bit of a yuck issue. Happily it is easily controlled. Maggots are fly larvae and
have about a 7 day life cycle. They are attracted to protein sources – meat and bones primarily – and thrive in warm weather. To get rid of them, you need to prevent access to the fly treats. For your greenbin, there are several strategies. Wrap meat in paper. Or freeze it first. Or cover with leaves or soil or even greens. Wash and dry the greenbin after each pickup. Larvae hatch in about 48 hours so it’s best to put the stinkies out just the day before pickup.
You can compost meat and bones in the metal Speedibin composter also. Just make sure that they are buried several inches into the compost. Flies won’t dig through two inches of browns or soil. But do not put meat and bones in plastic or open bins or you may have worse problems than harmless but icky maggots. We have found that compost worms love meat and fish scraps and the resulting compost is luxuriously fertile!
From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 4 June 2013, Ask a Pro
My composter is filling up and now we have tons more yard waste. Do I have to get another composter?
With some easy management, most households can get by with one composter. When your bin is full, let it sit for at least a week. In the meantime, you could freeze your kitchen scraps if they get out of hand. Then shovel out all that rich living earth. Scoop back the pieces that are not composted into the now empty composter for reprocessing.
Prepare your empty bin by starting with some fluffy carbon-rich material like straw or dry leaves (that you cleverly saved in the fall, right?). Add the stockpiled kitchen scraps and start layering your carbon-rich browns and nitrogen-rich greens. Layer in some scoops of that dark worm-satiated compost that you shoveled out. Always top off with a layer of browns. You’ll have a second batch of compost before you know it!
The compost that you shoveled out will still be curing but go ahead and use it all over your garden.
Of course, you could always get a second bin and alternate between the two.
From the Comox Valley Echo, Tuesday 7 May 2013, Ask a Pro
Do I need to add an activator to get my compost started?
No. If you have a reasonable balance of carbon and nitrogen materials in your compost, you do not need an activator to start the decomposition. The needed micro-organisms are plentiful from the ground under your composter and on the leaves and scraps that you add. Just keep it damp and airy.
Inoculants are different in that they supply the bacteria and fungus needed, not nutrients. Tumbler composters usually come with inoculant as they are not connected to Earth. Again they can be had for free from old compost, like a sourdough culture, or soil from your yard. Store bought soil is less effective as it is often sterilized first.
If you are starting with a brand new compost system and can’t wait for the bugs to get going, here are a few readily available activators: dog food, alfalfa meal, manure from grass eaters (e.g. horses or rabbits, NOT dogs or cats!), dandelions, yarrow, comfrey, blood meal, fish meal, beer and ammonia. But the best activator of all … is pee. You figure out the logistics on that one!
In celebration of International Compost Awareness Week, we had a contest for your best garden tips. The prize is our favourite composting book, The Complete Compost Gardening Guide by Barbara Pleasant and Deborah Martin. By random draw, the winner is ….ta da … Leslie H.
Fabulous tips all! Thanks for sharing.
I’m off to sprinkle coffee grounds on the carrots, crush egg shells on the tomatoes and build a yeast/water trap for the voracious slugs. Happy gardening everyone!