I Dig Compost

by Eilene Lyon

The Putterer warned me several weeks ago that the compost bin was dangerously close to running over (he usually empties the kitchen slop pail). One of my spring rituals is getting the finished compost out to put in my barrels and vegetable garden.

EarthMachine
This is the style of bin I got from the City of Durango. EarthMachine (via Kauai.gov)

We have one of those Darth Vader-style bins that don’t facilitate turning, so I do what I can to empty it from the bottom access port, but it really needs two: front and back. Because we live in such a dry climate, I have to add water, and the stuff close to the vents always dries out. Conversely, the bottom and center are like piss-pots.

I won’t subject you to photos of my dinner-remnants-cum-dirt. But I really have to introduce you to my worms – they are such diligent, hard-working, red round wrigglers. They’re the best!

IMG_8669

In mid-summer, many other decomposers wander through the morass, picking out their preferred pieces of garbage to dine on, but in early spring, only the worms are still active. I do my best to preserve them all – not always possible.

It’s a learning process, when I do the clean-out, to see what actually composts and what does not. Avocado peels – NOT. Nor the plastic stickers on them. The stickers on bananas, as well as the peels, are good to go.

Sometimes something that went into the bin looking disgusting emerges looking good enough to eat: the shriveled potato now plump and wholesome; the moldy quarter of cabbage regrowing into a bright, clean new head. Guess I shoulda just put ’em in a pot of soil!

This year, I pulled out some teabags – teabags! Wait a minute. Whoever heard of non-compostable teabags? Well, I hadn’t cared for this particular tea and the bags were individually wrapped in what looked like plain white paper. But no, the paper had a plastic lining that didn’t compost at all. Hmm. Well surely the bags themselves… Nope. I pulled a used bag out and it hadn’t composted, either. That’s just wrong. Mostly, I’ve switched over to loose tea to avoid excess packaging anyway.

You might think it would be icky and smelly to dive face first into the compost bin. Not so! This year’s batch had a delightful, almost cinnamon-y scent. Very clean and enticing, actually. And it grows vegetables from garbage. Does life get any better than that?

Garden 003

Feature image: Toni Reed on Unsplash

40 thoughts on “I Dig Compost

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  1. Our compost bin was attacked by Bush rats. They chewed through the plastic! I tried a Bokashi bin. The veggies go in, I spray some mixture that stops the decomposition ( it pickles it) and then I put in in a larger bin before it goes in the garden. I open the large bin and yuk! It’s full of grubs. It’s not supposed to but it stinks. We put it in a hole in the ground and leave it for a couple of weeks. Then it’s ready for plants. The best thing is our rubbish bin that gets collected only has some plastic that can’t be recycled and some occasional meat scraps. Meat can go in the Bokashi bin but I’m not risking the smell. Once I put prawn shells in. Revolting. At least the Bush rats won’t go near it,

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    1. I’m not familiar with the Bokashi bin. We have pack rats here. They destroyed my hot tub. Once a bear disassembled my bin, but didn’t rummage through the compost. Mostly, the critters leave it alone.

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  2. I’ve been toying with the idea of a compost bin, but I’m not sure the squirrels and raccoons would leave it alone. Still, you do inspire. I’ve never heard of non-compostable teabags, btw. How could that be?

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    1. Ally, it’s a mystery to me. We’ve had bears check it out and once one took the bin apart but left the compost alone. The one decomposer I don’t like is pill bugs. They damage the vegetables in the garden.

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  3. Catchy title! I needed this inspiring read this morning, thank you. I love composting. I’ve had open bins, that I’d move from one bin to another. I’ve had just a big open compost that a bear would visit on his rounds about every two weeks, and now I have a similar bin to yours, only square. I always look forward to digging out the dirt every spring and adding it to the veggie beds. There are certain things I don’t put in…I find it takes a couple of years for banana peels to decompose, egg shells, some tea bags, avocado. I also have a box for just leaves. I find I have to add water to the food scrap compost or rodents will move in. I had that experience last year for the first time and (now that I no longer have my mouse whisperer at my side) I don’t want that again, and we had salamanders, those I can handle. I also keep a poker and I stir my compost about once a week in the summer. If it is done right, there is no nasty smell and the black gold is well worth it.

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    1. What is with those non-compostable tea bags?! We’ve had bears and raccoons check it out, but they never been a real problem. Oddly, rodents never have bothered the bin. Our mice prefer dog food! (Which now gets kept in bins.)

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      1. It may have been the bird seed that brought the mice around (I have stopped feeding the birds) and then they discovered the compost. But if you keep it wet, they won’t set up home!

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  4. Reading this made me so happy. My compost bin doesn’t spin either so that’s annoying but you take what you can get when you’re on a budget and find one clearanced at Aldi. Lol. I started working on a flower bed last night and look forward to pulling some fresh compost very soon!

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      1. I probably don’t have enough ready to make much difference with food this year and I have a flower bed that’s been neglected for more years than I’m willing to admit. Time for a little TLC! Seriously. I was out there for an hour last night and made very little progress. Honeysuckle had invaded and mixed in with a thorny rose bush. It’s not pretty!

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      2. Yes! I’m looking forward to it! There are some anchors to keep – the rose, an azalea and another shrub of some kind. The rest of the space appears to be just weeds and maybe some day lilies. I’ll fill with transplants and some seeds I already have. Looking forward to the planting part but the cleaning is a real job!

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  5. Life does not get much better! Some of my happiest gardening memories involve me sitting upon the compost heap, sieving out the bigger bits. So, I get your enjoyment of working with the stuff.

    Up here in Northern Ontario, we agonized over the decision to build a compost pile – what with the bears and other varmints that it would attract, we decided to not. That made me sad.

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    1. That’s understandable, Maggie. We’ve had an occasional bear in the neighborhood, but north of us, they would be a bigger problem. I have to take down the bird feeders soon, because they attract rodents in summer, followed by snakes (sometimes rattlers). The hummingbird feeders have to come in at night in summer. We just do our best to get along with the critters and minimize damage.

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  6. I didn’t know until recently that most tea bags have plastic in them. We don’t have a compost bin any more. Until recently, the council collected food waste and I used to put tea bags in it, then had to stop apart from a couple of brands that were guaranteed plastic free. Food waste collection is one of the casualties of the current crisis.

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  7. I love this post. I, too, compost, but I just have a boxed off area in the backyard. Last year we still had our chickens who LOVED to rummage in the pile. They helped turn it as well. I never noticed any of my scraps rejuvenating into new vegetables though! Did you do anything special to facilitate that, or do they grow on their own?

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  8. I love worms too! I actually had a pet worm for a bit as a child, since I wasn’t allowed a proper pet. I also didn’t know that all teabags weren’t compostable – we put all our food waste in a separate bin that the council collect once a week, and we’ve always just thrown teabags in there. I need to check if the brands we buy break down!

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    1. A pet worm? That’s too funny! I don’t know how you might test your teabags. I suspect that in a commercial composter, they would all break down. Just make sure the plastic-lined wrappers don’t go in unless marked compostable.

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