The smell of a finished compost can usually only be described as sweet, or earthy. Unless you have done something wrong then the list of describes grows exponentially. I have seen both sides of the proverbial coin in my journey to make good compost from elements that are here on the homestead. This time however I have a winner.
The story of this batch of compost begins with the acquisition of a 55gallon plastic drum. In the beginning of the summer I acquired two of these barrels and turned one into a compost tumbler. Through plans found on the Internet and the alluring promise of a 14 day batch of black gold, I set out for compost glory.
Once we remove the delusional lens of ambitious hopes and dreams, we clearly see the reality of the task. The plans for the compost tumbler were straight forward, and easy to follow. It was built in less than an hour from components that were already on the homestead. The correct quantity of organic components to make the compost is where the project slid off course. My previous knowledge of the composting process was found lacking. Throughout the summer I have been tweaking and modifying the different components of this batch, looking for that “just right” goldilocks utopian blend. I think after quite a bit of tinkering, and experimentation I have it.
The initial mix at the beginning of the summer was very heavy on the browns due to the early start that I got on the project. I used a wheelbarrow load of old flower trimmings from the front flower bed, old growth from the season before. To compensate for the lack of fresh green elements I used coffee grounds that had been saving up in the freezer through the winter. Into this pile I added one chunk of sod. The sod was to add a little bit of aggregate soil to the mix, and to get the already working microbes introduced into the blend. I found that this mix dried extremely fast and required the addition of water almost every day, but it was working. One of the early missteps that I made was not chopping the old growth fine enough. The dead stalks went into the barrel at their full lengths. I found that this tangle ended binding around the center pole of the tumbler, creating what looked like a football shaped birds nest separated from the majority of the nitrogen rich coffee grounds.
The battle with this mix went on for quite some time until the stalks eventually lost enough of their consistency and no longer clung to the center pole. This created a nice looking pile of organic matter in the bottom of the barrel.
Stay tuned for part 2 (hands are sore from tiny iPad keyboard)