Hit the Dirt! It’s Composting Time

Hit the Dirt! It’s Composting Time

Hit the Dirt! It’s Composting Time

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The earth is waking up and the trees are stretching their sleepy arms to the sun. Whew. Winter is over. But work is just beginning. Songbirds are nesting, flowers are budding and the chickens are laying. Chubby Mealworms is busy providing those critters their snacks so you can think about the flora that needs to sprout, root and bloom. Growing a garden is easy when you have some help. Yup. Helpers.

The secret crew

Your soil may not say much. It is the strong and silent type, but underneath the layers work is getting done. Microflora and fauna are gearing up. When soil temperatures rise, the teeny fungi, bacteria and molds jump to life. The biodiversity of a single spot of garden dirt is a cosmopolitan playground. A single tablespoon of dirt contains billions of these…teeny buddies.

The microscopic marvels break down compost and leaf litter to create more dirt and to provide nutrients for growing plants. Worms and other creatures burrow through the layers, aerating the soil and providing extra composting activity as they munch on kitchen clippings and plant waste. Worm castings are a famous soil amendment that comes along as an added bonus!

Worm restaurant

Your compost bin is a worm and microorganism café. The menu is hard to resist. Building a compost bin is easy and it is a great way for you to be a green hero. Reducing what we toss into the dustbin and landfill is nothing to "toss off." Each one of us plays a critical role in maintaining the environment and decreasing our carbon footprint. Composting limits the burden and enhances your bit of the planet.

 

  • Set out a compost container or make your own. Find a corner of the yard that gets some direct sunlight. Dig up a square of soil and fence the area off. Use your imagination! You can weave a compost enclosure from willow, grape or wisteria vines. You can purchase picket fence sections, use old pallets, or unroll some good ol’ chicken wire.
  • Chicken wire is a fantastic frame to allow your clematis, peas, beans, cucumbers or squash to shimmy up. Always think outside the fence and try to re-purpose and get structures to multi-task.

     

     

    Multitasking Tip: Building perimeters and fence lines are fantastic growing zones. They create micro-climates and support structures for growing a selection of edible and ornamental plants. You can significantly expand your growing area by planting along these structures. Set your peas or beans along flowers for a spectacular and tasty showing.

     

  • Begin your compost pile by placing hay, leaves, pine needles and other rakings on the loosened soil. Place some old compost or garden soil on this base. Now you are ready to toss your kitchen scraps onto the budding heap. Chop up large food waste (like cabbage leaves, grapefruit rind halves or corn husks) for faster decomposition. Toss in the coffee filters and grounds. Crush up eggshells and the shells of oysters or mussels. It takes a while for clam shells to break down, but they slowly release their calcium into the soil – and that’s a wonderful thing!
  • Do not add cups of used oil or meat products to the compost. Bones are fine, but be aware that they will not break down and will attract wildlife - like skunks and foxes...and rats. Milk is a great additive, as is spent tea and finely shredded paper towels. The smaller the matter the faster it can be broken down.
  • Those chickens, rabbits and horses have been busy. Toss their waste into the compost tub.(inc egg shells) You will probably have more manure and bedding than one bin can handle. Do what farmers do, or “doo,” and set out an area of the property to compost the manure. These middens need to be shaped into a mound or stack. The heat from the decomposition is quite astounding! Your steaming manure pile means all is well.
  • Note: Large manure piles (from cattle or horses) that include uneaten straw or hay can actually, in certain conditions, get hot enough to catch fire. Turn your pile if you suspect things are getting a little too hot.

     

    Warning: Never add printed articles or receipts. Dog and cat waste must never be used in the bin. Do not build your bin with any treated lumber or older boards with lead paint. Never add pharmaceuticals or any dangerous liquids or powders. You do not want to add any potential toxins to the pile. Compost piles are pristine little ecosystems.





     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Bonus Feature 

     

     



    Have you ever turned your pile over to find a thick shelled, segmented orange worm? Did the worm have legs in the first sections? You found a darkling beetle larva. That is a mealworm! These beetles live in almost every spot on the planet and their worm youngsters are seen in barns where grain spills... and in the ground. Animals and birds relish these live and kickin’ treats. The next time you hit the dirt, keep an eye out for wild mealworms. There are many species of these beetles and Chubby Mealworms bring you one of these in a convenient package - so you can get out there to garden!