Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall Harvest

Alas, all of my fall vegetables succumbed to the Great Drought of 2010 (except for a few pepper plants surviving on the runoff from my neighbor’s watering). But even though all my plants are crispy fried, I was still able to harvest my favorite crop of all- compost!

There are many ways you can harvest compost and you certainly do not need to harvest in the fall. In fact, spring may be ideal since you’re working the soil and planting seeds. But if you’re a single bin family like ours, harvesting in the fall clears room for the inevitable glut of leaves and the winter food scraps.

Bottoms Up
If your bin has a door in the bottom, this is a great way to harvest compost in small amounts throughout the year. Just open the door and shovel out what you need, tossing bits back in that may not be finished. Once you start hitting really unfinished material you’ve harvested all you can.

The Big Shebang
I like to harvest all of my compost at once. Besides receiving a ridiculous amount of satisfaction from shoveling it all in a wheelbarrow and standing back to admire my bounty (yes, I’m easily amused), I can also spread the beautiful compost around the garden in bulk.

If you have a single bin set up and want to harvest the compost all at once, you’re going to have to pull out the elbow grease. Either remove the bin off the compost or reach in from the top to shovel out everything that is unfinished into a pile (preferably in buckets or a wheelbarrow). Once you hit the brown, crumbly good stuff, shovel that into a new pile. After you’ve harvested everything you can, dump the unfinished material back in the bin.

Warning- Only use this method if you like (or don’t mind) seeing all the creepy crawlies working in the pile.

Two Bins are Better than One
If you have two compost bins, or one of those fancy schmancy three bin systems, you won’t need to pull off the unfinished material to get to the good stuff. With two bins just add to one while the other one “cooks” then harvest when complete and switch.

Three bin systems are a whole other ball game and you will see a separate post on them in the future.

To Screen or Not to Screen
I don’t screen. It may be that I’m just too lazy or that I don’t mind finding the occasional peach pit or pieces of egg shell in my compost. As I’m harvesting my compost, I pull off the stuff that’s too big and put it back in to the bin.

However, if you would like evenly-sized, so-scrumptious-you-could-almost-eat-it compost, you will want to use a screen. A compost screen is basically ½ inch wire mesh fastened onto a square through which you can sift the compost. Here is a article explaining how to make one:

Look for a future post about what you can do with your beautiful finished compost.

Happy Harvesting!

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