Kitchen Scraps + Leaves -----> Tomatoes

Compost Update: 6.23.2005
Well, the fornicating worms weren't enough. I'm afraid my composting activities have sensed my deep-seated Republican thoughts and just won't decompose. I dumped the worms and pilot size compost into my big composter and churned it up. I found a zillion ants! I suspect my balance is simply off. It's about 2/3 moist leaves and 1/3 kitchen waste. I'll keep churning but I think I just have a pile of waste.

Compost Update: 5.12.2005
Well, one co-worker a million of you have asked about updates on this post. For about 3 weeks I shook my mini-composter of kitchen waste and leaves about once a week and kept it moist. No change. Yesterday I put in a pile of worms from my neighbors compost heap and put the mini bin in my garage (so it wouldn't overheat in the sun) and will keep an eye on it. In the 7th comment, a reader gave me this link for composting recipes too. Thanks!

Original Post: 4.19.2005

worms currently ravaging
leaves and kitchen waste
and hopefully mating like rabbits
Here at Dave's Beer we are enamored with all things fermentable.

It's getting close to the time when we plant our favorite fruit, the tomato. Unfortunately, our compost heap died this winter. We set it up by layering leaves and good old food scraps. It was pretty hot for a couple months but then died. The heap is mostly still in the form of leaves rather than nice rich compost. I guess we buy some topsoil this year. But, in the meantime, I'll be experimenting with a small-scale tumbling composter; a hole-punched plastic container that I shake daily for aeration. Before I dump over a hundred bucks on something like this, I want to verify the turnaround they claim (in the order of weeks).

This image is a shot of a plastic container with holes in it so it can get moist. It contains a weeks worth of scrap food and about 3 times as many leaves (in mass). I'll water it and shake it daily to promote the microbial decomposition. I'll post the final appearance when it turns.


Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with the subject but I came across your blog while searching for a bread recipe and have been delighted with your postings ever since. Don't know how you find time to do it but, please, keep baking and bloging. I wanted to know your opinion on bread machines, the kind you use and what kind you would recommend for a beginner. I want to start baking our own breads and was inspired by your blog. I have had a few frustrated attempts in the past but feel really encouraged to give it a try with the help of a bread machine. Counting on your tips. The oven you use is eletric,isn't it???

Dave said...

Don't worry about off-topic posting here, this isn't a snitty news group. Thanks for stopping by. As you've noticed, I'm posting less frequently lately. Just a phase. I'm gearing up for a run of sourdoughs soon though so stay tuned ...

I use a bread machine for kneeding only. It's especially useful for slack, sticky doughs. I don't know what brand I have but it's the cheapest one Target had. It's my work horse. I use the dough cycle and remove the dough to bake in my oven (which, incidentally, is gas now). I think bread machines are awesome for kneading. I don't clean the bowl either, just chip out the residual dough before using - saves a lot of water.

Thanks again for stopping by.

WhiteTrashBBQ said...

Well, I'm glad that I don't need to be on topic to post. I love your site. And your appearance on Weber Nation.

I linked you from my Blog, http://whitetrashbbq.blogspot.com
Check it out. And if you like it, please link to me.


Dave said...

Hey BBQ man! Thanks for stopping by. Been following your site for a while now. I like it.

Anonymous said...

This might sound terribly uninformed of me, but how does a compost die? I'm thinking of starting one this summer to help with the veggie garden and I'm afraid I'll just end up with a stinking pile of nothing. Can you help?

Anonymous said...

Hey Lauren,
Well, when I started it last Fall, I monitored the temperature and it was usually 80-100F with an outside temp of only 40-60F. Eventually, it just cooled to ambient temperature.

Someone told me this past weekend leaves aren't the best for composting; they can take much longer than, say, grass clippings. So, I think tumbling may not be the miracle cure here but proper feed for the compost. E.g., correct portions of green and brown and table scraps. Or, maybe just put the leaves through a chipper to resize them smaller. Not sure.

Anonymous said...

You can actually find compost "recipes" and info on what went wrong on sites like this: http://www.metrokc.gov/dnrp/swd/composting/recipe.asp

I've had a compost pile for years and have had good luck with it. I don't like to do a lot of fussing (doing the necessary turning, for instance) so instead I just plan on the process taking a little longer. I keep two bins and fill one up, then start on the next. I generally fill the bin over one summer and then pull compost out the next summer.

Most of the time the top of the pile isn't fully composted but the bottom is and I have a door that lets me get to the bottom of the pile.

I have more green than brown - which does help - and I actually run my leaves through the lawnmower to grind them before placing in the bin, which also helps. The only holes I have in the bins are in the sides - you want some air but you want to control the moisture so you are better off monitoring it and adding some now and then as opposed to letting the rain soak it. Also, worms LOVE coffee grounds so if you occasionally add a layer of grounds (Starbucks gives theirs away) you'll really draw worms which hastens the process. Oddly, though, grounds are considered "green" material.

Hope one or two of those ideas helps! Once you get it going it's really great - my tomatoes are the envy of everyone! :-)

Dave said...

Thanks for stopping by and your suggestions! Yesterday, I noticed not much had happened so I got a pile of worms from a neighbors compost heap, I'll see how that does. I think your idea of using two bins on alternating years is the best I've heard for those of us who don't want to fuss much with it. I also need more green in mine. Thanks again.

Rainey said...

On compost: 1) You'll do best in the long run with about 50% leaves and 50% grass. Although the grass will heat things up if you don't have enough leaves the grass will turn into a gross slimy thing that isn't really high-quality compost.

2) There's no such thing as a "dead" compost pile. It only "sleeps". ...unless, of course, it's done. So get thee to a Starbucks or another high-volume coffee shop and tell them you're there to help them get rid of their used coffee grounds. Them puppies will heat up your compost pile and provide it with bulk as well. It will be "cookin' " again in a flash.

On bread machines: Hooray for all of us who are smart enough not to waste time washing out the buckets of our bread machines and squander all the good wild yeasts that are building up in there!

Dave said...

Hey Rainey,
Thanks for chiming in. I think my fornicating worms are doing the trick on my mini composter. They've made pretty short work of all the leaves but I will go and get my grounds from a local Starbucks. They owe me at least that much for their prices. Thanks for the suggestion

Rainey said...

I guess you have a pretty small set-up going on at your house. Worms are a great asset to small composting operations. If you have the space outside, I really recommend that you set aside a spot where you can get 3'x3'x3' going. That will work sooo much faster and get you a significant amount of beautiful soil.

Meanwhile, I just ran across this simple article that features composting with coffee grounds and also specifies what is "green" (those coffee grounds -- go figure!) and what is "brown" so you can try to keep a balanced mixture. http://www.gardeners.com/gardening/content.asp?copy_id=5522

Happy fermenting!

Elise said...

Hi Rainey,
I love worm composting! I used to have a worm compost bin right outside my kitchen window on my deck in San Francisco, when I lived there. The best way to do worm composting is to dig a hole in the ground, put in kitchen scraps (no animal matter), add some worms, cover with lots of grass clippings. In my worm compost box it was scraps, worms, covered with shredded newspaper.

The worms will produce not regular compost but more of a fertilizer for your soil.

Check out this book: The Worms Eat My Garbage



Elise said...

Oops, I meant Dave!

Anonymous said...

Hey Elise,

I give up on the compost. I just can't get the balance. I still toss my table and yard scraps in the composter and lately, it seems to be decomposing quite rapidly but we'll see.

Thanks for the reference.