Composting is an adventure. From all around our home and yard, materials become present at various times throughout the year: kitchen scraps are created, yard projects come up, cover crops are chopped back, and autumn leaves fall. It’s easy to throw materials into a bin, but it’s a challenge to manage a limited number of bins and a variety of materials.Last fall, we were using two black plastic compost bins: one contained our ongoing compost pile and the other was filled with autumn leaves. That was all we needed at the time.
At the beginning of the spring when everything thawed out, the compost bin was about half full. I was happy to see that the pile looked and smelled wonderful, with much of the old kitchen scraps unrecognizable. There were a few orange peels, peanut shells, and other distinguishable items from last year, but mostly, it looked like earth (I let out a sigh of relief that there were no foul odors from too many greens or nests of mice inside.)
I wanted to turn the pile, but it was too heavy to adequately mix within the bin. I realized it would be easier to turn it into our other bin.
The second compost bin was about 3/4 full with leaves. I had been planning to let the leaves turn into leaf mold, but it was looking like I would need them to add browns to the compost pile throughout the summer. In order to free up the plastic compost bin, I constructed a simple wire leaf bin next to the plastic compost bins. I moved the leaves over to the wire bin and then turned the compost pile into the second plastic bin.
Over the course of the last two months, we’ve continued to add kitchen scraps, yard waste, and some leaves. It’s starting to look like the compost bin will be full in a month. In the event that the compost is ready by the fall, we made a compost screen to sift out any large materials that haven’t decomposed yet. With another bin to turn the compost into, it seemed we would be able to keep the pile heated up for the remainder of the summer.
However, a project came up where we ended up removing a large amount of sod. Without a good place to lay the sod, we threw it into the second compost bin as a place to store it (our neighbors probably wouldn’t have appreciated a sod mountain in plain sight). This took away our second bin which leaves us unable to turn our compost pile into the other bin.
What can be done with a relatively large amount of sod? Reading online, it sounds like it takes a long time (2-3 years) to decompose. I don’t want the sod to occupy our second bin for that long. Lasagna gardening could be able to incorporate it if I added raised beds to our vegetable garden, but I don’t have a timeline for that future project. We’re now thinking that we might be able to layer the sod under new soil when we regrade next to our house. It would help raise the ground level and hopefully decompose on its own time. And if some of the sod grass is still alive and starts growing again, it’s not a problem in this case.
Another question in my mind is where to add our kitchen scraps and yard waste when our current compost pile is full. I want to keep the current pile together so it heats up well and I like having another empty bin to turn the compost into. With only two bins, that doesn’t give us a place to start a new pile. I can see why a three-bin system is a recommended way to go, but if I had a third bin, would I just find a need for a fourth one?
One idea for temporary composting outside of our two-bin system might be vermicompost. I’ve been interested in having a worm bin, but have been worried that it could attract bugs to our basement. Recently, I heard about Rob Frost’s outside worm bin and this has gotten me thinking about vermicompost again. Would it be possible for us to do this outside? Surely, I should start inside first to get to know the process better on a small scale.
And so, the adventure in composting continues. What a joy to be able to learn firsthand how to efficiently manage our organic wastes and to work at creating our own black gold! Our compost corner may look a bit shabby in our polished neighborhood, but to me, it is a very rich place.