It's always with a fair amount of hesitancy that I resort to one of those '_______ for Dummies' or 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to ________' books. Part of me thinks, 'Well, I'm not a dummy (or a complete idiot).' Another part of me worries that, even after reading the book, I might not get it (whatever the topic is), thereby confirming that I am, indeed, a dummy (or a complete idiot).
And so it was with this usual amount of trepidation that I borrowed The Complete Idiot's Guide to Composting from the library. Nothing to fear. There really is very little to composting. As the author says, composting happens. Just put your carbons and your nitrogens together, sit back and wait a bit and before you know it, stuff starts decomposing into compost.
Granted, there are many things you can do to improve the quality of your compost, physically manage your compost, speed up the compost production, etc. etc. I've decided to take the passive approach: put stuff in a pile and let it rot.
I started last fall, mainly because the chickens had just arrived and they throw off prodigious amounts of manure. What to do with it? Kevin likes to grow flowers, so I figure compost could only help with that. Also, it couldn't hurt to put it around other stuff, e.g., bushes. Kevin's also planted some potted vegetable plants; I'm sure some compost would do them good.
(The real challenge is keeping the groundhog away from the potted vegetables. Last year, he planted containers of lettuce, carrots, herbs, tomatoes, etc. Twice the lettuce was just about ready to pick and the groundhog came by sometime -- we never saw him -- and mowed it down to the nub. We'd also find the carrot tops crushed because he'd sit on that pot in order to better reach the tomatoes. The groundhog is just doing what groundhogs do; if we can't outsmart a groundhog, then we're in bad shape. Plus, they're super cute looking.)
I did start out more involved with the compost. I placed the pile near the back porch; also near the garden hose. I would water the compost pile a couple of times a week. I'd also turn it. Then winter came and it wasn't possible to do either. In the spring, we're planning on fencing the chickens into a back corner (we let them free range over autumn and winter, but then they foul the whole yard; containing them in the corner will allow us to enjoy the rest of the yard in good weather without fear of stepping in it). I'll probably move the compost pile there. Further away from the house and the hose so I won't be watering it. I also won't be turning it, but then I have the chickens to aerate it.
Seems like they love nothing better than that time of day when I let them out to free range the yard and I add fresh old stuff to the compost pile. The above is an old picture. Yesterday, I noticed that they've pecked away at the sides of the pile enough to get to the good, dark stuff in the middle. Good work, girls. Win-win situation.
I think the no-freeze date around here is mid-May. Ooh, maybe I'll put some of my black gold in my hanging baskets of annuals.
If you're interested in composting, here are a couple of links: