Saturday, August 13, 2011

Composting Update

It's been a few months since I posted about our fantastic bokashi composting system that I'm using for our kitchen scraps. (For more on bokashi, check out this recent article on Sustainablog.) We're now long since finished our first round with bokashi, and have been waiting to start the next step. (The plants that I fed the tea in the meantime have definitely perked up a bit, although some of them developed some white fuzz on the soil surface from the new beneficial microorganisms that the tea added.)

Enter our new tumble composter:

After a lot of research, I went with this one from Lee Valley, although it was more expensive than others on the market, because it had better reviews and the ability to make compost tea. It's also Canadian-made. (The other one I had wanted, while considerably cheaper, has been knocked by reviewers for a leaky hatch that also can let rainwater in, doesn't allow tea collection, and it's made on another continent.)

We do also have one of these things in our garden:

But by putting it in a really sunny spot next to the house to encourage the composting process, I also put it in too dry of a spot, and just couldn't seem to keep it wet enough to keep the process going. Drying out will be much less of an issue with our new rolling contraption.

Here are some photos of what we put in, back in early July:

- for the green stuff, some salad greens and veggies that were starting to go slimy in my fridge, some fresh lawn clippings and dandelion leaves, and trimmings from the garden (a lot of the weeds I get can grow from root pieces so I'll send those off with the garbage for my municipality to compost in their award-winning industrial-strength composting system instead)

- for the brown stuff, the top layer from our old composter - which are lawn clippings that have been left to dry out (we don't use pesticides or herbicides so I feel comfortable with that) - in about equal proportion to the greens already in the new bin

- the rather yucky contents of the bokashi composter, which are thoroughly pickled and just need the finishing step where the pH is brought back to neutral

- a couple of dried-up organic veggie transplants that never made it into the garden, along with the soil they were in

Oh, and a handful of the bokashi bran for good luck - even though this will be an aerobic process, not anaerobic like in the bokashi container in the kitchen - and a couple of handfuls of topsoil. I also rinsed the bokashi composter out with the garden hose, and poured that liquid into the tumble composter so that everything was nice and damp. Since then, we've tried to give the drum of the composter a solid tumble once a day. We haven't been super diligent about doing it daily, but the kids are pretty enthusiastic about helping to turn the drum.

Today, since we had more fresh grass clippings, dried grass clippings, some dead annuals, and kitchen scraps to add, we opened it to take a look. The volume of the material in the composter has reduced down, in the space of a month, from half-full to about a quarter-full, although it's not much lighter. The smell and the presence of flies definitely indicate that the material is rotting. I'll have to check with my composting gurus to make sure it looks like it is supposed to, but we never got the other style of composter to the point where is smelled, so I'll view that as progress. =D

After topping up the drum to about two-thirds full of material and giving it a solid tumble, I closed it up again, and the plan is to tumble it daily and check on it weekly from this point on.  Wish me luck!

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