Posted: Aug-02-2004 at 7:01pm
An idea has crept in and is taking hold in my brain . . . I just might not make my own compost! I had plans to replace my 2 black bins from Metro with a 3 bin wire mesh and wood compost system but now . . . maybe not.
It all started a few weeks ago when I visited a lovely garden in Lake Oswego. We visitors were commenting on how lovely her garden looked and asked what she used as top dressing for her beds. She said it was compost. "Do you do your own composting?" She said she did in the sense the Grimm's is her middle man. She pays them to haul it away, make it into lovely compost and then buys it back for her garden. She said she could do her own but decided she'd rather save space for her garden and she has been happy enough with their product.
Hmmmmmm. . .
So I began to look at this as an option for myself.
The bulk of what I compost is grass clippings. But since I intend to buy a mulching blade for our mower (for hubby's birthday? Naw, better not.) that will become close to a non-existant addition for my bins. I don't compost weeds because I know I'll never heat my pile enough to kill the weed seeds. I usually have a lot of material in spring and fall when I do my clean-up but the bulk of that is woody and I don't have a chipper (nor do I want one - they scare the daylights out of me!). Tree leaves get removed from delicate plants if they are large and left in the beds if they are small. Leaves on the lawn will get chewed up and left on the lawn.
I have a worm composter and that gets heavy use. I could always add garden material to that bin . . .
Hmmmmm . . .
If I home composted, I know the compost would be organic and free from disease. Even though Grimm's meets Metro's standards for compost and I've never had any problems, there is always a chance. But Grimm's is close by so picking up from them (the cheaper option to delivery by far) is easy. Plus I can get as much as I needed and finish a project without waiting for my compost to finish.
Hmmmmm . . .
I'd be able to move the wood pile/nursery pot/planting stakes, etc area, further down that fence line and enlarge the side yard planting bed, which would greatly improve my view out my den window.
Hmmmmm . . .
Since I have periodic shoulder and neck problems, turning a compost pile might be, literally, a pain.
Hmmmm . . .
Any other compost drop-outs out there? Why did you decide to not make your own? Happy with this decision? I'd love to hear from you!
Posted: Aug-02-2004 at 7:13pm
I started composting, and realized how much more convenient it is to let someone else store the product while "it ripens". Besides, a lot of material from a yard condenses into a very small amount of compost.
By spending less time turning compost, more compost actually gets put down, since that time is converted to spreading and working in what I purchase.
Posted: Aug-02-2004 at 7:34pm
As poster number three, I also agree with those above. My advantage as a veggie grower is that I can green manure/till in, as in the four beds of buckwheat I've done this summer.
I am now just building large piles each year, 6'x8', with straw bale sides to hold whatever I need to throw in. After two years, whether I turn them or not, they are mostly ready for use. If not, what's left and the straw go into the new pile for the next year (and yes you do have to control the weeds).
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 7:48am
In the suburban sprawl I see no way to create enough compost from what I grow to feed my addiction, er, garden. So I must import to suppliment my three foot diameter compost ring. And Mr. Vaden hits the center of the process, by buying the finished product more gets used, a bunch more.
(edited for rude comment about paying twice)
Two yards please, compost and manure. OK, four yards, I got empty garbage cans.
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 8:51am
I generate too much waste to have it hauled away, so I will continue my large pile in the lower 40 (read 1/2 acre). I too have to watch for the weeds but that is easily taken care of by covering it with an old tarp. What's really great is when the compost is done the soil underneath is great too!
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 9:27am
I have a lot of garden waste also. It might be more difficult to have it hauled away. Also, I like knowing what goes into it. I might consider having it hauled away, and then buying it back if there was somewhere close in SE Portland. Any one know of a service like Grimm's in SE Portland? Call me cheap, but it does kind of gripe me that I would be buying it back but it might be worth it. What are the costs to have it hauled away? It would be nice, as you mentioned Lisa, to convert the compost area into beds!
About the weed seeds. I try not to let them go to seed but that's not always possible. I guess I need a thermometer to actually see if the weeds I have are from my own compost! LOL.
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 9:55am
Oh, yes, I already import compost to supplement what I make at home. There's not much chance that I could have piles sufficiently large enough to cover my needs, unless I take out some garden beds and that just seems contradictory to my purpose. And undesirable - less plants? no way!
I've begun to wonder what I do differently than you, Debbie and Jeanne, because I simply don't seem to generate much garden waste. The bulk of it at present is lawn clippings, which would seem to imply we have a lot of lawn but we don't. Our property is probably only 20%-25% lawn. Maybe it's because I lean more towards woody material than perennials? Or is it because I like the lazy method of composting; I leave garden material where it falls. The yearly addition of Coral Bark maple leaves to my front bed has made wonderful duff in this area and improved the soil. I have also done the "chop and drop," a method I heard first from Ann Lovejoy. As I cut down perennials in spring, I snip and drop them in the beds to slowly compost over time. It isn't such a huge amount of material that I have to worry about the breakdown stealing nitrogen from my plants.
I'm still mulling this over in my mind. I must admit to a slight twinges of conscience if I don't compost - as if I will be less of a gardener. But then again, I don't do my own propagation either so why worry about not fulfilling another of my ideals of an accomplished gardener.
Still hoping for more musings on this subject!
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 10:20am
Ahhh the guilt thing, you can't be a real gardener unless you compost. Well I am here to tell you, guilt is the gift that keeps on giving, so just say NO to guilt.
I think why people began to get into composting is because it was a way to keep from sending yard waste to the landfill. What a waste! If you have a small lot where every square inch is precious, than perhaps composting is not appropriate for you. Especially if your garden isn’t generating enough waste to begin with. If you are sending your garden waste to be made into compost and buying it back, there appears to be no problem that I can see.
You see you are keeping a company in business, people are employed because of this business, taxes are collected, and the infrastructure of your city is supported. I could go on, but see there goes the guilt, because you are doing a good thing.
Even though I make a lot of compost, it still isn’t enough for my gardens. I used to chip a lot and let it fall but it was beginning to be painful for my hands, so I stopped. I have wild areas such as salmon berries that are constantly trying to creep out of their large allotted space and they generate many chippings. Oh and the blackberries, I turn my back on them and they become monsters ready to devour my garden, my home, the cat, me. . .
I have a ½ acre, part of which is not developed yet so I wind up with lots of compost. We also have large maples that generate many leaves. I couldn’t afford to have my waste hauled away it is excessively much. Perhaps as I get my gardens under more control my waste will be less but then I always need more compost so I don’t mind the amount of waste my garden generates. Actually, I need to quit calling it waste, perhaps “unrefined compost” or “compost in the rough” would be better terms for it.
I still think we should consider and encourage composting, but also be understanding that not everyone can or “should” (a guilt word) compost.
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 10:40am
It has got to make sense for you or DON'T DO IT!!! I like making compost because I enjoy and am fulfilled by the process and I enjoy the physical labor part of it too--nothing let's the steam off a red head at the boiling point than turning a big pile of compost! It also is a nice foil to my stress-full office job. Bellevue makes it easy by carting away the stuff that's not easy to compost free of charge. Ok those are my reasons but everyone has a different set of circumstances. By the things you've listed, I'd say you shouldn't! and be happy that you've simplified part of your life by not! If it's drudgery or a chore for you, for heaven's sake! Let someone else do it and be happy to pay them to.
I've been recently thinking that my time would be better spent not cleaning house.....I'd rather make compost!
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 10:43am
it sounds like a nice idea for someone who can afford to pay for something that is free twice. i also practice the "chop and drop" method that your talking about lisa and it sure does reduce the amount of things to compost. i seem to generate a lot of waste to use in my compost anyways even with that method. the only thing that is hard is the wait for your great dirt. so i do end up buying extra compost from else where.
Composting or not doesn't make you less of a gardener. just cause i don't always organically garden does that make me less?
As to the paying to have soemone haul away my waste, wouldn't it be cheaper to dig a deep hole and bury it and in a few months you have your compost that you didn't have to pay for in the first place let alone twice. the pit would eliminate the above ground space for your bins so you would still have your extra bed space. locate the pit somewhere in the backcorner with a cool painted garden door over it. then you have artistic interst as well as killer dirt..lol.
On another note..if i had the means(money)i would think it was a great idea. no worries and great compost when i got it back.
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 10:59am
Aaarrgghh....My earlier-in-the-season elation with my new compost bins and hot compost is long gone. Really long gone. The stuff I have the most of (cedar and fir tree debris) just doesn't compost at all. And I'd need to buy additional compost anyway as need outstrips the supply. I still have the bins, and there's compost in there, but I can't bring myself to use it when I can buy beautiful, finished, sifted product instead.
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 1:21pm
What is the ratio of acreage of feeding land (the forages) to that of the consuming land (the vegetables)?
This would depend on the quality of the soil. In a delightful old book (Farming with Green Manures by Dr. C. Harlan, published in 1883), the author describes working to a 3:1 ratio, but in a very efficient manner. He had a 20-acre field of clover that he mowed three times during the summer. Each time he mowed it he raked the clippings from 15 of the acres onto the remaining 5 acres. By the end of the summer he had an enormous quantity on the favored five acres. He plowed and harrowed that section and grew vegetables there the next summer while he mowed and raked to concentrate the clippings on a second 5-acre parcel. That new section grew vegetables during the third year, while the first piece went back into clover.
Eliot Coleman, who wrote the above, believes that with productive land you can reach a 1to1 ratio. As I recall Mt. Vernon, George Washington grew plots in seven-year cycles with only 3 of them salable crops.
My point is it will always be tough to grow enough compost for just the fert needs let alone the weed mulching. We will always need to 'buy' for those, either by fallow land or purchasing a finished product.
Also recall that most grazing animal owners import hay from the eastside of the Cascades because our hay is deficient in nutrients.
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 1:26pm
Wow, some great discussions!
I agree Lisa, Emily, if you don't like to compost, spend your time on something you love and buy the lovely, finished end product! No guilt needed! LOL, Theresa, I find I enjoy turning the pile on a cool day. Nothing beats the exercise or the stress relief like turning a pile of compost. I may not be a red-head but with Italian and Irish blood, I find it a great way to blow off some steam too!
Lisa, I wonder if having old, established plantings makes a difference as to how much material you have for composting. All spring I find huge pockets of oak leaves everywhere from my neighbors tree that I have a lot of material along with weeds, plant and kitchen debris. Of course, most old plantings are camellias which I can't compost and ends up going to the land fill once a year. I wonder if Grimm's would take that kind of stuff? Maybe I need a chipper.
LOL, sparklemama, I got so tired of raking up oak leaves out of iris beds, from under the porch etc. that I finally filled up a hole from a small dead, tree we took out with the leaves. I'll let you know how it turns out!
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 1:37pm
In my mind, I have certain goals set to learn or attain that move me along the path in my growth as a Gardener (capitalized on purpose). These goals are purely mine and I hoped I didn't mislead you into thinking that if someone else doesn't meet my ideals, I judge them as missing the mark. That wasn't my intent at all.
We don't pay additional to have our yard debris hauled away; it's all part of our garbage fee. Even if I continued making compost, I'd keep this service because my home compost just doesn't heat up enough to kill the seeds of never-say-die weeds and the pathogens of diseased plants. Eliminating this cost would be penny wise, dollar foolish, IMO.
The amount of compost I make is such a drop in the bucket compared to the amount I need that buying a little more isn't a huge investment. Plus picking it up saves us money. I asked once about having them deliver and dedided that 2x the price wasn't worth it at all! Besides I feel that the money I spend adding compost regularly is paid back by the health of my garden, which means I don't need other things such as new plants to replace the dead or diseased ones or pesticides. It seems to all work out in the end. I just love when that happens.
LOL, Debbie and Theresa, you might make "I'd rather make compost" your slogan and I might make mine "Just DON'T do it!" (pleading forgiveness from Nike, of course). And since my first rib seems to have popped out again (painful!) I think heavy turning of compost isn't necessarily something I want to commit to. Now if they could figure a way to shoot something like super glue to keep that darned rib in place . . .
Oh, Emily, that is too bad! All that effort, all those good intentions and still so much frustration.
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 2:53pm
Emily - you need to live next door to me! I could use those needles and cedar "leaves" to line my paths out in the woods. I am being overtaken by stinging nettles. Maybe this fall we can do a swap where I'll bring you some bags of Cedar Grove Compost and you can give me some bags of your cedar and fir debris!
Lisa - no guilt about any of it! It's my mantra - no guilt. Life is too short for that stuff. The only person who can make you feel guilty is yourself.
I like compost but it's slow and can be weedy and I usually only use my home-made stuff for the bottom of planting holes. But I love the smell and I get enjoyment turning it. If I had a trick rib like you do, Lisa, I'm sure I wouldn't feel the same! Feel better soon, by
I think I understand the guilt a little bit, though. It comes from the desire to "do it all yourself". That somehow paying a gardener to do the work is wrong (it's not). So is paying a maid to come in to clean your house so you can garden wrong? No. Or going out for take-our food so you have more time to garden? No. Or buying an expensive tool that helps make gardening easier? No. But it does seem like cheating to those who can't afford to do those things. But it's not. Someone worked for the money in the first place.
Refer back to your high school physics class and the 2nd law of therynamics (that everything migrates toward a more and more disordered state) and that the only way to counteract the disorder is to apply "energy". Energy is defined in many different ways but money is a form of energy - it can literally move mountains. So there is really no difference between working hard to move materials and paying someone to move the materials. Either way you are putting energy into the disordered chaos.
Buy compost, Lisa! As Deb pointed out, you are helping the economy! And I'll keep turning my compost pile and keep all that "energy" in my pocketbook for buying plants! We're both doing the right thing. No Guilt Allowed.
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 3:54pm
Okay, that does it! I'm going to become a compost flunkie. And be proud of it! Thanks for everyone's feedback and rationalization assistance.
Wheeee, now I get to plan for a whole new garden area! I'll use the compost in my Metro bins for it. I'll only have to haul it about 8 feet to its new spot. I can manage that! Yippee!
Posted: Aug-03-2004 at 8:28pm
Wanda--I'd be glad to organize any sort of swap. Since we don't get to put organic debris out with the trash (no recycling of any kind out here ) we have to burn it or pay to have it taken away. Any since the natural materials landfill is a long way off, there are high trucking charges involved--one year I realized that the heap wasn't composting on its own and that I just needed to get rid of it and the pick-up and disposal cost was more than $600.00. I certainly wouldn't charge you anything out of pocket...you'd be doing us a favor by taking the stuff away!
Edited to add that I actually love the IDEA of composting and the reward when I see it steaming away and I find the mild physical labor enjoyable...it just doesn't finish up the way I want it to.
Posted: Aug-06-2004 at 8:25am
Compostaphile and Compostaphobe -- To rot or not to rot . . .
Posted: Aug-06-2004 at 9:19am
LOL, Debbie. Very funny. I like your new tag line!
Posted: Aug-19-2004 at 3:40pm
You all inspired me to go out and turn the compost heap,but now I am perspired and pooped. You know the book says you need to add soil to the pile, We're short of soil that can be added. What do you compostaphiles do about that?
Someone asked about compost available in SE Portland: MacFarlane in Milwaukie and also Mt Scott on 69th and Foster both sell and deliver compost. Vern Nelson, the Oregonian garden columnist warned that it is wise to wait until spring to buy compost, as the compost has had more time to release the herbicides that may be in the composted material.--My sister lost many of her perennials, because the farmer she bought her composted manure from thoughtfully sprayed it all with herbicide to kill the weed sprouts. Herbicides do not discriminate. An equal opportunity destroyer
Posted: Aug-19-2004 at 4:34pm
I wouldn't sweat it cj. The theory is it helps add the micro beasties that process your compost but they are everywhere anyway. If you are determined, they only recommend a handfull or two, so that shouldn't be too hard.