Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Good and the Bad

I've been slowly getting my garden put to bed for fall. I know I've been doing this for a month and I'll be doing it for longer as I take more things out of the garden. Earlier this week I finished up double digging the last bed that I was going to do this fall. I finished putting on a layer of compost. I've got enough compost made already to cover all the beds that I will be using in the spring, but not enough to finish all the ones that will be started in the summer. But by then I might have enough compost ready to complete the chore.

Much of my compost comes from the yard waste I get from my garden and yard, but both sides of the house (we are two townhouses) compost their kitchen waste in a covered black composter located next to my pallet bins. I don't want to compost in the main bins as we live in an urban area next to two towns with rat problems. I don't want to attract the rats. I put hardware cloth under the composter so rats can't get in. I didn't bother with this at my last house as we lived in the woods and never had an issue with the wildlife getting in as long as the top cover was on.

But recently I noticed the cats were watching the composter. They would sit right above it all afternoon. Dang there were mice in the composter. You can easily enough make a composter rat free as they need a much larger opening (typically the size of a quarter) to get in, but mice can get into just about anything. I thought I'd had it good enough to keep them out too, but a composter is very attractive to mice. It isn't just the kitchen waste that gets put in. It is the worms and other insects they love to eat. A mouse buffet. Every fall I open it up and empty it out before winter anyway, so it was time. I didn't want to give them a good home all winter long. Mice are not friends of the garden. Usually the cats can keep them in check but the cats can't get into the composter so I had to do the work myself.

And the compost pile was worm heaven. I dumped the contents of the almost full composter onto the half finished yard waste compost that I turned over a month ago. I'm hoping by summer it will be ready to use. Most of what was in the black composter was really ready now. The worms had done a good job of breaking it all down. The only recognizable things were the citrus and the cabbage cores. Citrus is way too acidic to break down easily. It usually needs more time. And I swear cabbage can live through anything. Which is good since I want to store the cabbage from my fall garden for months over the winter. And I was happy to see that this year the corn cobs all broke down. Last year they didn't. I think now that the worms have found my yard, composting will be much easier. And yes I did find the flaw where the mice were getting in. One side of the soil had gotten lower and it left a gap. The gap as how been fixed.

And if you can't tell by what I've written already, I'm a lazy composter. I don't turn my piles on a regular basis. I just let them rot down slowly. Worms won't go into a hot pile, but they love the cool ones. So my compost will be more of a worm bin than a real composter. I'm fine with that. Worms are wonderful.


  1. My pile is full of worms. It is amazing how fast the pile shrinks when worms do their job.

  2. My compost-making method is very similar to yours, and it works very well without too much palaver!

  3. I have compost like that, but with the added fun of rats. There are rats everywhere in my town. I'm in the management stage, but I'm about to hire a rat contractor to really seal the house up. Sigh. No compost turning here, either -- no time!

  4. Such a beautiful sight. I've had a compost pile for over a year now and I still haven't used any of it...