With two full seasons behind us now, it’s been an interesting exercise to look back on all the episodes we’ve done, the places we’ve been, and the subjects we’ve covered. And the bottom line is, wow, we’ve done a lot!
With such diverse subjects, we’ve still been able to feature areas we know well and feel passionate about the topics covered. But I have to admit, when it comes to writing the outlines for each episode, some come easier than others. Such was the case for this show on backyard composting.
As some of you may know, I have “a thing” for compost. (If you want to see how much, here is how I ended up looking like I do in this photo.). I will always be in awe of just how many good things compost does for the health of any garden, especially when you consider the process of how it’s made—which couldn’t be easier. So it may come as a surprise when I tell you that writing this outline, in some ways, was even more difficult than the others. But that’s only because if was able to include everything I wanted to cover, we’d be shooting a two-hour pledge special, rather than the usual 16-minute feature.
Thankfully, with much restraint and the help of our Consulting Producer Todd Brock and fellow compost aficionado and co-Executive Producer Theresa Loe, we were able to narrow the focus and story to a few main points.
I finally had to face the fact that this wasn’t going to be the “everything you wanted to know about compost but were afraid to ask” show I had envisioned. But I do think we were able to successfully take on some of the biggest questions and demystify the process a good bit by the time we were finished.
When we wrapped for the show we still had way too much content. After the initial guest interview (also a bounty of unused content) with our fabulous academic authority, Dr. Julie Grossman, every segment had to be cut short in the final edit. In fact, with every episode, it may be the most challenging, ongoing battle we fight. With only a finite amount of time to tell the story, and so much more you want to say, something always gets left on the cutting room floor.
This episode may have more of that than any other show we’ve done. In fact, for several days after we wrapped and the crew was hunkered down in their editing suite back in Atlanta, I obsessed over what we should have said or could have shot that we didn’t.
Reminding myself that we did all we could in the time we had helps ease the second-guessing. I hope we’ll eventually resurrect some of that unused footage as bonus material, just like all the other segments from other shows we dream about adding to the website someday. But it we never get around to actually using those pieces, perhaps, at the very least, that old footage will make good compost ingredients. Let’s hope that never happens.
Watch the full show here, Episode 225: Backyard Composting.
How often do i need to move the compost to the next bin over? I’m not clear on how the 3 different sections work.
Joe Lamp'l says
No worries Heather. A lot of people are a bit confused on how to work with the 3 bin system. And for good reason; it’s not a perfect system. In theory, the first bin is for uncomposted, raw material, the middle bin is in-process material (partially composted) and the last bin is for finished compost. But if you’re constantly moving from the first bin to the middle bin, while at the same time, transferring from the middle bin to the finished bin, stuff’s gonna get mixed together–so in practice bin 2 and 3 will likely have various stages of composting ingredients at any given time. So don’t try and make this a perfect system. It’s not, but it helps. Ideally, a 4 bin system would allow you to fine tune the in-process compost but that starts to get too big and impractical for most of us. We don’t need to over think this. Compost happens in nature without any help from us. So even if you did nothing but pile up raw material, it will eventually break down. But with the 3 bin system, we’re simply trying to speed up that process and create a system to harvest the finished compost more quickly. Keep moving the contents from one bin to the next as the ingredients breaks down by about 50% from it’s orignal state. Not an exact science but neither is the 3 bin system. Good luck!
I too enjoy the benefits of composting. I have a tumbling composter bin and it is so easy! Love that black gold. I have a question though. Maybe some expert will see it here and help me. Can you add charcoal grill ashes to the composter? I have seen both views online and can’t seem to find a definitive answer. Some sites say the charcoal is bad for some plants, but don’t say which ones. Others say go ahead it adds good things to the soil. Yikes! Can anyone help me?
Joe Lamp'l says
Hi Beth. Everything in moderation. I add it periodically to my compost, but mostly as a way to recycle it. But too much ash can throw off your soil pH and there really is no value to what it does add. It’s best to discard it elsewhere. I spread it evenly in the woods behind my house and do not consider it a good addition to my compost or soil.
I think I will discard it elsewhere as you suggest. Unfortunately, we have a very small California-sized lot, barely any green space and definitely no woods. In fact, I have my whole garden installed on the cement RV driveway pad. I use the big plastic storage bins and have a whole irrigation system I designed myself. Once everything is up and growing, I can stop hand watering, and all I have to do is turn on one faucet and the whole thing gets watered. I have the hose running through each bin. I am adding a section on the west side of the house just for corn this year. Wish me luck, as I have not had good results with corn in the past, as of yet! I’m determined to get a few good ears of MIrai!
Joe Lamp'l says
With the corn, just be sure you plant enough. It is pollinated by the wind and many stalks growing close together and in several rows will help. Good luck!
Can I hand pollinate by shaking the pollen onto the corn silk?
While wood ash is said to be useful (in moderation) controlling carrot rust fly larvae, and can be added to compost in moderation as Joe said, charcoal ash sometimes contains chemical binders (glues) that you don’t want in a vegetable garden.
The ubiquitous “it depends” is appropriate here because without knowing the specific brand of charcoal and what binders they may use it is impossible to say whether it is okay to add or not.
You might try contacting the charcoal manufacturer to ask what, if any, binders or additives are used in the charcoal.
Joe Lamp'l says
Great advice Jeremy. Thanks for adding this useful information!
The possibility of glue being in there is enough for me to rule it out! Not all that appetizing! 🙂
Angela At Frugal Gardening says
Thank you for this posting. I am always advocating composting to fellow gardeners locally. Composting is truly a rewarding experience.
Donna Royce says
I have another way to hold your pallet compost system together other then the way you are mentioning on your show right now.
Rather then all the ways of building it you suggest now, try using very heavy duty, LARGE cable ties (Otherwise known as “ZIP TIES!”)
I work and camp at the MN Renaissance Festival and if one camps there for the entire run of the festival as I do, it is smart to build a platform to put your tent on to get it up off the ground and keep dry when it rains.
Most people will use the pallets and ply board provided by the festival to make a temp. platform and then take them apart and stack them up there till next year.
I pre built one to that was ment to just drop and go to pick up at the end of each season and it turned out to be a permanent setup. But when I set it up for the drop and go idea I used the VERY LARGE, 175 to 180 Lb. test, cable ties (Otherwise known as “ZIP TIES!”) to hold the entire thing together.
After two years, I was allowed to make my platform a permanent thing and a friend helped me to get it rebuilt for that. When we started lifting it up to put legs on it and to make it a bit higher, we found that the ties had held the entire two years but had to be cut off to be replaced by deck screws.
The ties would not hold for what we needed anymore but it did show that they will hold in the long run on flat fround!
So. Try using these ties rather then rope or wire if you wish to tie your pallets together for your compost bin.
Lady Donna Royce
I love composting! I cannot understand why more people don’t take part in it.
James Mann says
I really enjoyed this post as both my wife and myself are having so much fun with gardening,
Not sure if I would be ready to start diving in the compost bin though. 🙂
The little compost bin we found behind the garage when we bought this home is great. It’s one that’s black plastic and looks like a little silo, but to small. It does have a door at the bottom which makes it easy to take compost out but also to mix it up when it needs it.
I watched the compost video and was so impressed we are planning to build a three bin compost bin like you did.
That was a fun episode – just watched it last night. You may not need this where you live but in urban/suburban areas (I live outside Boston, MA) the greens/browns aren’t always easily available.
For fun I tried making “urban compost” from free and readily available materials: newspaper and coffee grinds. I kept 1000 lbs of grinds from the garbage and got great compost for free! (Compost was tested by the UMass Soil Lab.) You can see the “how” as well as the soil lab test results on my website here: http://arlingtonheet.org/2011/11/fast-urban-compost-saving-energy-outside-the-home/
Keep up the great shows!