Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The Headless Horseman’s Guide to Backyard Composting



“His appetite for the marvelous, and his powers of digesting it, were equally extraordinary”
  -Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

To gather these composting tips, I traveled to the mist covered, rolling hills of 18th century Sleepy Hollow, New York. With the glow of a full moon visible through the newly bare tree branches and the cold breeze just hinting of the winter to come, I interviewed everyone’s favorite Headless Hessian to see what wisdom he could share about backyard composting. Here is what I learned.

  • Never Stop Collecting – whether it is food scraps for your compost pile or the heads of unsuspecting victims, persistence and consistency are key. Even in the winter, continue to add to your collection (e.g. compost pile) and your perseverance will pay off.
  • Mist is Your Friend – nothing makes creeping up on horseback behind Ichabod Crane easier than a nice cloaking mist. A full out rain would be too wet and a clear night would provide no cover at all. Likewise, your compost pile should be as wet as a wrung out sponge (link) for optimal composting.
  • Sunshine is Not Necessary – we imagine Sleepy Hollow as forever shrouded with gray cloud-covered skies but you could still manage a steaming compost pile with the right materials. Compost piles create their own heat through microbial activity and do not need the sun, or paranormal influence, to transform “waste” into a dark, crumbly soil amendment.

Luckily, I managed to escape my interview with the Headless Horseman with my head intact. Perhaps bonding over the shared passion of composting will make me and the Hessian forever friends.

If you love Halloween and composting as much as I do, check out past Halloween posts:




Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Harvesting a Compost Tumbler in Three Steps



In the last post, I explained the step-by-step process of harvesting compost from a standard, sit-on-the-ground compost bin. But what about composters who use tumblers? Yes, you’re special and deserve your own post.

Before we begin, this post covers harvesting compost from a tumbler. For other tumbler-related advice check out this post.

Step One: Stop adding food scraps for three weeks before harvest. This one is hard, guys. But unless you have a really fancy double-barrel unit or you are okay screening out the unfinished compost, you have to stop adding food scraps and let the compost “cook.” You could stash the scraps in the freezer during that time or invest in a backup compost bin.

Step Two: Keep turning the bin during those final few weeks of composting.

Step Three: Dig out your brown gold and enjoy.

You can screen the compost for an extra satisfying finished product. If after three weeks of “cooking” your compost is still not progressing, you may need to troubleshoot. 

  • Is it really dry? Add water. It should be as wet as a wrung out sponge.
  • Is it really wet? Add shredded leaves or newspaper. 
  • Is it still not breaking down? Add a few shovels of good garden soil to boost the microorganisms.

Any other tips to add? Please post them in the comments below.

Photo credit: Cara Harpole