My view of composting

I have never figured out how to build a compost heap that would heat up enough to kill weed seeds. The compost manuals make it sound simple, but it isn’t! (See lots of really good composting advice from the Chester County Solid Waste Authority, though.)

For me, patience is the key. I just make a big pile and turn it over every couple of months (more often is better, of course!). If it’s not turned over, pockets of wet leaves or dry branch parts can form and sit for years.

My heap is long, narrow, and tall. I leave a blank spot from which I remove usable compost, and then I move the next 4-foot segment into the gap. it’s a once- or twice-a-year rotation. I do have a bad habit of putting sticks in, but try to break them up into small pieces, so that they will decompose faster and also so as not to create potential roofs for rodent lairs.

Any stick thicker than about half an inch I set aside to take to West Chester Borough’s Public Works for them to compost. Also, I take them my collected “gum balls” (prickly, super resistant seed pods of two extraordinarily productive sweet gum trees), which are almost indestructible, but which can serve as effective, though not really attractive, mulch. They also deter slugs from crawling into, e.g., strawberries.

How about kitchen foodcyclings? Those can’t be put in an open compost heap because they will attract rodents like rats and voles. I have observed those cylindrical composters. into which you pour your scraps and turn the crank to rotate and stir together the contents. My experience is that the composed matter becomes an unsavory black mass, very heavy to turn, and ultimately rusts through the cylinder. In short, an unpleasant operation.

Some cast-offs, like corn husks or pea pods, have little food value to rodents and can go into the ordinary compost heap. I have been burying other kitchen scraps in the ground and covering them with a large flat stone, or group of stones, to keep out scavengers. Theoretically, that produces some methane from anaerobic decomposition. but it also produces carbon-rich compost and keeps the scraps out of the trash flow. So, on the whole, a plus as far as I can see.

Kitchen scraps are a particular problem, because they can’t be put into yardcycings collected by your municipality. Burying them under a stone doesn’t take a lot of space. Just don’t include meat! And be sure the stone overlaps the hole you dig by a few inches.

Something else to keep an eye on: compostable packing materials, made out of plant materials like corn starch. I got a shipment of cereals from Bob’s Red Mill the other day, packed in the white blobs shown in the photo. Yes, it was compostable! I put some water on it and saw it begin to dissolve, then poured it out on the compost heap, where it rapidly returned to nature, as you see underway on the left. Below, as they arrived from Bob’s Red Mill.

About politicswestchesterview

Nathaniel regards himself as a progressive Democrat who sees a serious need to involve more Americans in the political process if we are to rise to Ben Franklin's challenge "A republic, madam, if you can keep it," after a passerby asked him what form of government the founders had chosen. This blog gives my views and background information on the local, state, and national political scenes. My career in higher education was mainly in the areas of international studies, foreign languages, and student advising, most recently at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, from which I retired in 2006. I have lived in West Chester since 1986.
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