Composting: a quick-start guide

Ryan riding along....adding nitrogen-rich material to the compost pile!
Ryan riding along....adding nitrogen-rich material to the compost pile!

Compost is my favorite part of farming; decay is an absolute miracle of life! You start with a big pile of brush, that looks like garden refuse to most people, and you end with a warm, moist, sweet-smelling, black and crumbly fertilizer that boosts yields, strengthens plants against pests, and adds flavor to vegetables.

If you want to get started in your back yard, start saving your fallen leaves. Just rake them into a pile and leave them.

Next to your leaf pile, you'll want to lay out a thin, 20 cm layer of leaves, at least 1 meter by 1 meter.

When you have kitchen scraps (including paper towels, napkins, and coffee grounds), throw them onto your square layer. Grab a handful of leaves from the pile next to your layer and cover it to keep away flies and animals.

Whenever you do some weeding or pruning in your garden, add a new green layer to your compost layer cake. Cover with leaves. Rinse and repeat!

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It's a good idea to water your compost layer cake at least once a week. More is fine, less is fine.  Decay is a forgiving craft.

Tips: --don't worry too much about having perfect layers. It's just an easy way to get the carbon rich material (brown, dead leaves or grasses) next to the nitrogen-rich material (manure, or green leaves and weeds) to speed up decomposition. --Build your pile in the shade so that it stays moist. Cover with a tarp if you have one to lock the moisture in. --As you add layers, use a pitchfork or rake to pull material from the center towards the edge. You want to maintain straight edges, otherwise you'll end up with a dome instead of a flat cake. A dome will cause rain and water to run-off the pile rather than soaking-in, and microbes need that water!

Our new community recycling program at Rancho Buen Dia

image blog
image blog

We asked the community to bring us carbon-rich material that they were otherwise throwing out. It's been a great success, and we now have a lot more to work with! Thank you! After working with the material, we've realised that we'd like you to keep sticks to a minimum. While sticks are compostable (on a scale of years rather than months), they make the pile a lot harder to work with. So until the day we have a bobcat tractor to do our heavy lifting, please send us stick-less garden refuse.

We are also accepting kitchen scraps. A lot of you want to minimize your garbage, but don't have space or time for a compost pile. You can bring those scraps to a bin we have set up right in front of the farm stand in Todos Santos and we'll add it to our compost piles, where it will go into making next year's organic vegetables even more nutritious!

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