Tuesday, April 28, 2015


I have two small black bins. One for composting the kitchen scraps and one for holding finished compost. The later was almost empty. In addition I have four pallet bins. Two hold leaves that I collect in the fall and two are for my working compost. I don't keep any of these bins very active. Worms probably do as much of the breakdown as anything else. It is hard sifting compost with the number of worms that proliferate over the summer. Even now when things are cold there are a lot of worms working.

Most of the garden got compost last fall, all except the overwintered kale and spinach beds. I'll need that compost in June when I turn the spinach bed into melons. In addition the kitchen scrap bin gets pretty smelly as it melts out from the winter. Even though it is covered it gets very wet and goes a bit anaerobic. Which means as soon as possible after it thaws I need to turn it. When I turn it in the fall I tend to get nice compost out of the bottom, but things don't break down as much over the winter when it is frozen.

The third pallet bin (left to right) was empty. I started by turning over the second pallet bin into it. When I had a good foot at the bottom, I put a couple of buckets of the kitchen compost on it. Then more of the garden waste from bin two. I repeated that until the kitchen bin was done. I spread the chore over two days. Now it is finished.

Well almost finished. The kitchen bin is finished, but I had to quit turning bin two as I hit ice. The rest of that is frozen. Now that the covering insulation of all the compost is gone I'm sure it will thaw quickly. I'll do bits of it as it thaws out each day. At this point I'm sifting what is there for finished compost. I want to get any bits that are finished sorted out from the sticks and half decomposed material. And I was desperately trying not to kill any worms while I was doing it. I was shocked how many works resided just above the frozen block of compost.

Compost is not the only thing I've been working on in the garden. I've been busy planting a few things. Above is the marjoram. I also planted winter savory. Seeded radishes. And received and planted my Lee #8 saskatoon (also called a juneberry or serviceberry). This morning the only plants that I had outdoors were extras from other plantings.

Which is good since it was time to bring down another flat of plants. These are the last set of baby Asian greens, the Brussels sprouts, and the zinnias. I covered them because it is getting warm enough that the root maggot fly might be out and about. The basil was in that flat too, but I took those plants out and left them upstairs with the six lettuce plants. There are just twelve plants left upstairs. It almost seems like it isn't worth keeping the lights on. I will though until it warms up enough to put the plants outdoors. I don't have any south facing windows. Just southeast and southwest. The lights will be better for them.


  1. We use a similar composting system which sometimes houses dozens of toads over winter.

  2. Nice to have most of your starts in the ground. I'm a bit over a quarter done, half of what's left is tomatoes and peppers which you don't grow anymore. Those will be hanging around under lights for another month.

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  4. So great to see how you set up your compost! When I put together my new setup, I assumed I'd eliminate the old black bin, but now that I've read about your process, I will definitely keep it going. Great info, thanks!

    1. The black bin keeps out the rodents since it has a lid. Well not the mice. One year I had mice in there when I was turning it over. Though I have hardware cloth underneath it so they can't tunnel in, they chewed a hole through the side. But it does keep out the racoons, rats, and squirrels.

  5. I'm hoping to get my pallet compost area up this year as well...I've always liked your setup and will be attempting to create the same type of thing. I still have a ton of stuff under the lights - and it's not going to get any better considering how backed up I was and am now trying to squeeze in almost a months worth of sowings onto the shelves.

  6. I can't believe there's still ice lurking in your garden. When I have too much sifted compost I keep it in the plastic bags that potting soil comes in. It dries out far too quickly if I keep it in a bin. The bags are slightly perforated so any worms that end up in the sifted compost keep on doing their thing in the bags.