Thursday, October 29, 2009

Compostin' Galore, a tribute

Fall is the time to rake up leaves in much of the country. Can’t burn ‘em anymore. Your city or you’ll have to make compost.

My Dad was trained as an engineer and has always looked upon science as a firm, reliable basis for much of modern life. He always used the most modern, chemical gardening products. For years, I imagine he looked upon my organic escapades as voodoo science at best--until he started to visit my California gardens and my client's landscapes. It was the highlight of my compost crusader period to get a phone call from Dad saying that he had begun a compost area for each fall's bounty of leaves. I think he appreciated the tidiness of the compost bins I used. Being a resourceful guy, he decided to use free pallets instead of the expensive, solid redwood walls I built. He gathered pallets from various loading docks to make the walls of each bin. He alternated six to eight inch layers of leaves with two inch layers of horse manure with bedding sawdust and adds 30-0-0 fertilizer if a pile didn’t heat up enough. At first he made only two bins. After seven years of leaf composting, in the same dedicated and ambitious style he has brought to everything in his life, he had six bins, with a total capacity of 22 cubic yards--nearly half the size of a small garage! He is certainly was the "Captain-of-Compost" of Olivette, MO.

The best hot compost piles requires a minimum size of one cubic yard. This is the smallest size for a proper ratio between the mass of the interior, which must stay at a certain temperature and moisture content, and the surface area of the pile's exterior, which is giving off valuable heat and moisture. Virtually none of the expensive plastic or metal compost bins for sale have an interior volume of one cubic yard. I think my Dad had the right idea for a good bin material at an appropriate cost--wooden shipping pallets, for free.

(I use past tense as he sold the house three years ago after taking care of a ½-acre lawn – and a family of four – for 40 years. He happily lives in a much smaller place with no lawn to mow or compost to make. At 86, it’s time to retire—some.)

Let me know what you think.

Visit my web site to learn about my new book on drip irrigation and other gardening books.

NOTE: The comments section at the bottom of the post has disappeared. Click on the "___ Comments" button or the title under the "Blog Archives". Thanks, Robert

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