Pot Composting Final Steps

This is the last and final post for my little series about home small Pot Composting which started with Pot Composting Made Simpler and Easier. All that is left is to write out the final step to help the compost mix compost. This is a simple step, and open to any modification you think will work for your composting process.

When I have filled a pot and I am ready to start filling the next empty pot, I add some liquids to the compost in the making. First, I take a long handled plastic spoon and starting at the center push the handle down and out so it ends up on the bottom and edge of the pot.

Use a long handled spoon to help with your pot composting

Use a long handled spoon to help with your pot composting

I make five or six of these airways. The number you may want to make will depend on the size of your pot. I decided the airways created by the spoon handle allow the liquid I add to mix into the compost and provide a little air into the mix.

The amount of liquid you will make depends on how damp your compost is. My compost by default is very dry. I make about two cups of liquid. Remember, the bottom of the pot has a drain hole, so any excess liquid will drain into the pot below.

Use the spoon handle to make airways down to the base of the pot

Use the spoon handle to make airways down to the base of the pot

As I am not sure how balanced the proportions are, though it should not matter. I mix the following ingredients together:

1 1/2 cup warm water

1 teaspoon UN-sulfured molasses

1 teaspoon Brag Apple Cider Vinegar. The type with the mother in it.

1 teaspoon Miracle Grow powder.

I stir the liquid well. You will tell when it is mixed enough if you use the spoon with the molasses on it to stir with. Once the spoon is clean you mix is all ready.

Slowly pour the liquid over the compost material starting from the center and working out.

Once you are done, cover the pot with the next empty compost pot.

So far my little pots of compost are breaking down very fast compared to throwing it all in a large bin. Because the pieces are small, the liquid feeds whatever microbes are active, and the miracle grow helps break down the brown, the process is working well.

Let me know how this works for you and any changes you make for your home composting?

Pot Composting, How to Layer Greens and Browns

I have been going explaining what I think is an improved way to compost using small pots. In my first post on Small Pot Composting, I explain what I like and do not like about composting in general.

I also provided a link to Pot Composting that started me on Pot Composting. One of the main drawbacks for small family composting, is lack of materials and abundance of problems. I hoped when I started Pot Composting would solve most of the issues for small scale composting.

Pot Composting is a way around the problems small families face using traditional composting methods. One problem with the video method is, you may notice that the compost does not look too much like compost as we think of compost.

In my second post on Pot Composting,  I write about collection, storage, and proper sizing of your kitchen waste for more effective results. When the amount of material to compost and the size of  a compost bin of choice are small, adjustments must be made.

As these compost bins, in this case, small clay pots, not a lot of heat is generated, and little high energy composting takes places. Being realistic about what the end product will be, and the process changes from large scale composting.

I left off with having enough scraps to add another layer to the compost pot. I started with a new pot, as the second pot is full and I am done with it for now. The first item to do is ready the kitchen waste. If you jumped in here, you may want to read the first two posts which I linked above.

I use both scissors and masher to make the scraps small. Use what you have handy. A cutting board and knife will do the job as long as you ensure the pieces are less than 1/2 inch around. The smaller the better. Ensuring whatever you are going to add to your compost pot is free of pesticides and weed killer is important.

If you are not careful and you add some of your neighbors grass clippings for example, they may be coated with both fertilizer and weed killer. The fertilizer is good for your compost. Weed Killer on the other hand does not generally discriminate between your flowers, vegetables and weeds.

Adding to your pot is easy. Starting with an empty pot follow the steps below layering as you go. Always finish with a layer of brown material. This helps deter pests such as flies that would enjoy to snacking on your green waste.

Place 1/2 sheet of newspaper folded to the size of your pot in the bottom of your pot. Ensure the newspaper covers the drain hold in the bottom of the pot.

Add a layer of soil, weeds that are not in seed, or any other green or brown waste on top of the newspaper 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Spread it out evenly. Try to keep the layer closer to 1/4 inch thick seems to work better.

Layering Compost

Brown and Green with a newspaper bottom is all you need to do

Spoon out the collected and chopped kitchen waste on top of the soil. Be gentle and try not to stir up the bottom layer.

Smooth out the kitchen waste, and cover with another layer of of soil, weeds that are not in seed, or brown waste such as leaves, or small twigs mixed with soil.

Cover your pot as you do not want flies hanging around your small compost bins. I use another pot, with a layer of leaves and twigs in the bottom as a house fly deterrent.

You are all set, repeat these steps until your pot is full. In the next post, I will explain how I modified Pot Composting to make everything work faster.

Kitchen Compost Scrap Storage and Preparation

This is part two of Pot Composting Made Simpler and Easier. I explain how to do  small pot composting with a few improvements..

Here is the first modification I made for small Pot Composting to work for me. I collect all compostable kitchen scraps into a small bowl beside the sink. At the end of each day I move them to a crock pot insert in the garage.

Compost Storage

Collection Point for Home Composting

This crock pot insert is a temporary storage until I have enough kitchen waste to make a green layer in the pot. Keeping it separate form the composting pot itself keeps flies and other insects out of the compost batch.

When I have enough green kitchen scraps collected, as I do in the picture, instead of putting it all directly into the pot, I first chop it up. The bottom picture is what I use to make the pieces smaller. One is a type of masher I found at a thrift store for $2.00. It works very well at making bigger pieces smaller.

The second item I use for chopping is a well used pair of kitchen scissors. I simply put them in the crock pot blades down and start snipping. This to is a very good method and fairly fast. It is cleaner than the masher as there are only the two blades to clean pieces of green waste from.

Mash and cut

Tools used to reduce kitchen scraps for compost

I find that pieces between 1/4 ” to 1/2″ work well and are decomposing quickly. I thought about using a blender as that would really chop the kitchen waste up. The downside to a blender is the water used in processing.

I have used green smoothie liquid in the past on my indoor plants with mixed results. Some plants thrive on the liquid and some plants are not in the least happy with it. If you wish to try using a blender, and watering with the juice, start cautiously.

About the crock pot inserts. I found four in two different thrift stores. They ranged in price from $4.00 to almost $10.00. Of course the crock pots with a removable insert cost a little more. They both will work.

Crock pots with non-removable inserts can be taken apart by loosening the nut on the bottom of the crock pot. This is a one way trip for the crock pot. When the middle nut is removed, there is one long copper wire wrapped around the pot providing resistance to to liner’s removal. The liner should come out with a firm pull. Unwind all the wire, and the pot is ready to be used. Be forewarned, they are not pretty to look at, but the inside is what is important.

If keeping kitchen scraps in a container is something you would rather not do, try this. Use a plastic bag or plastic container to hold your scraps. Keep the bag or container in the freezer. Everything stays fresh until you are ready to chop it up. Some thawing time will be needed before you start however.

Keeping kitchen scraps in the freezer is how I started. I found it a chore to open the freezer, take out the bag, open it, put the scraps in, close the bag, and put it back in the freezer. When summer is in full swing, I may be back to freezing myself.

Next article will be about how to put everything together in the pot for composting.

Pot Composting Made Simpler and Easier

I am very excited about this composting system modification I have developed for easier home composting! I have been composting for a long time now with varying results. Most composting in the high desert is slow composting. In dry areas, composting takes a long time for anyone who follows traditional composting techniques, especially at home.

Home composting in general is problematic in the Southwest. There is difficulty finding enough free material to compost in the proper proportions at the same time, if you have a full size composting bin. I find generally there is a lot of brown material available, and a shortage of green material for composting.  A small family does not generate enough kitchen scraps to balance with any real amount of brown material.

I have been using a large barrel for composting. The barrel is cracked on the bottom. With an open bottom barrel, by placing kitchen scraps in it, the barrel becomes several  cockroach’s favorite buffet.

Going outside after dark with a flashlight, seeing several well fed roaches, moon bathing near the barrel is not a pretty site. The number of roaches is not quite as bad as the cockroach mulberry diners I write about here, but they do run a close second. Seeing a small number of cockroaches is seeing too many for me.

I started looking on the web for a solution a few months back. How can a city dweller compost on a small scale, without a large investment in time or money? Secondly, how do you keep cockroaches out of the compost bin? I found this youtube video named, “How to make organic compost at home“. The video is only a few minutes, and provides a basis for what follows.

Small Space Composting

Home Composting made easy

After seeing the video, I appreciate the concept of the system. Four clay pots are manageable. I appreciate the way one pot is filled, moved to the bottom of the stack, then a second pot is started. Pot stacking saves space. The system works as is. To me the created compost tends to look more like dried kitchen waste and not compost as I think of compost. I wanted to make this system better.

I like the idea of using small quantity of kitchen waste. Unless several people are in a household, kitchen scraps suitable for composting are always small quantities. If you are looking for a simple, and inexpensive small scale way to compost, this is a good composting system. This system if how it looks is not an issue could be inexpensive to set up.  This is a simple compost system to use made easier with a a few changes.

I tinkered with this system, using ideas being used in and around composting to achieve better results. In later posts, I will explain improvements I have made to this system that make it easier and more fool proof. More to come in future posts.

 

 

Hen Loose of the Hen House

Here in Albuquerque it is not unusual to see coyotes trotting down the street in the very early morning. In the day time Road Runners travel through yards looking for lizards or mice. Nor is it unusual to see huge thirty inch Owls sitting silently on lamp posts looking for rabbits, cats, or small dogs for dinner while walking the neighborhood at night.

Seeing a chicken in the front yard scratching around a tree stump is something I have not seen before. I went outside to get the morning paper and there it was. Inspecting the dirt as if she came every day for a light snack.

A nice healthy hen scratching her way through the loose soil looking for savory things to eat. She scratched around for about ten minutes and headed up the street. I bet her owners wondered where she went off to.

Chicken that flew the coop

Looking for a snack before moving on.

Rain Gutter Tomato Garden

I have spring fever. I have had spring fever for weeks now, or so it seems. Living in the desert and wanting to garden has led to interesting learning. Patience and Spring go together in the high desert. Warm days do not mean the last freeze is gone, and Spring is really here.

My first gardening learning was about new methods of gardening was Square Foot Gardening SFG. I have a SFG box still waiting to be opened and put together. In the back yard on the porch I have vermiculite, and three different types of bagged compost, and peat moss waiting. I have two five gallon buckets of chicken manure. I am still on the fence about SFG for here though. The system seems to want more water compared to other gardening methods or gardening systems.

In March of 2013, if you follow my blog, you know I wrote a post about Tomato Gardening in Self Watering Containers. Self Watering Containers work very well, use the minimum amount of water, and are almost trouble free.

I planted tomatoes in the six self watering containers I made. Spring and my spring fever were out of sync however, and it was a series of take them in the house, put them out, take them in. I do not think the tomatoes enjoyed the climate changes and the handling from frequent movement.

The tomatoes grew well though until about July, when my tomato plant action slowed down to a crawl. I had thought it was the very hot weather taking its toll. The tomatoes  were using a lot of water of course, but they never ran dry.

To make a long story short, my tomatoes ran out of food! I did not know I needed to keep feeding them, as they make short work of available food in their limited bucket homes. I had a harvest, and the tomatoes tasted good. They fell short in size and quantity however.

This year I have some tomatoes starting from seed, but have my doubts about how they will do, if they make it at all. I am afraid I do not have a good window to put them in. The little white specs are form me treating a fungus gnat infection. So much for saving money and buying cheaper unheated compost.

Tired Tomato Seedlings

Looking kind of sad

Being always curious, I started looking for an ever more lazy way to garden. I started on a search for  low water use gardening technique.

I found Straw Bale Gardening or SBG. Everything looks easy and promising. I even bought the book. Slowly though as I read more into Straw Bale Gardening on the web, water usage was becoming a cloud hanging over the process. There is a certified SBG gardener in the state, but none  close to me. I have four straw bales I’m not sure what I am going to do with yet.

Reading about alternative gardening systems, I found Olla (oy-yah) gardening. Ollas are clay pots filled with water sunk in the soil. Water leaches out through the pot and waters close by plants. I may make an Olla based Square Foot Garden this year as an experiment. I am thinking maybe four milk jugs with holes facing out?

What I have finally settled on for this year is a method developed by Larry Hall of Branerd, Minnesota. Larry is credited with a number of container gardening innovations. The one that has caught my eye is Rain Gutter Grow System. Here is a link to one of Larry Hall’s videos explaining the Rain Gutter Grow System.

I went out today and bought lumber (4 2x4x10′), vinyl rain gutters (2), end caps (4), nails, screws, and silicon sealant. So far I have invested almost $70.00 into the system. I still need floats (2), a couple feet of tubing, and 2 tubing T’s. I have the buckets already, so no need to spend money on buckets.

On the bright side, the most digging to be done, will be leveling the gutters. Same as Self Watering Container Gardening, they will be almost pest free as they are off the ground and out of reach of most insects.

The way I see it, a Rain Gutter Garden is a Self Watering Container Garden with a bottomless water holding container. How much easier can it get than this? I think I will make a modification of the basic system, and cover the gutters with something to help keep water from evaporating.

Assembly is still required however. I have two or three weeks yet, before it is safe to think the last freeze of the year is over. I know from the high afternoon winds, spring is on its way. With desert living above 5000 feet though, it is possible for more freezing weather to show up before spring actually arrives.

Which reminds me. I put in a rose bush last week. It had started to leaf out in the store, three little sprigs. This week after two good waterings, the growth has died out. I am not sure if the rose bush died of something or has decided to go dormant. Any thoughts about this?