Friday, July 16, 2010

Adventures in Composting

The Lazy Composter: A Cautionary Tale

Last summer I began composting with the best of intentions. Nature Dad built me a nice raised bed for some veggies (here in NC the soil is orange clay and rocky), and I wanted to compost.

Gardening went okay. If you saw my post last summer about my peas, you saw that we had a bumper crop of snap peas that we all loved—not a one of which ever got cooked, as we ate them right off the vine. Nature Dad also spied a large pallet with some framing around the sides behind our local Ace Hardware; we thought would make a good compost bin. So he asked if we could have it, and they okayed it! And so it began…..

Into the compost pile went so much stuff—egg shells, veggie peels, past-its-peak produce, and other acceptable types of organic matter, including some grass clippings. I turned it periodically. After Halloween, I even threw our jack o’ lanterns in there and some snake gourds that we’d bought at Vollmer’s Farm in Bunn, NC—they looked like our last name’s initials and made the perfect spooky accessory on our Halloween-decoroted front porch!

Well, the cold weather came. Then spring sprung. I’d kind of forgotten about my compost pile. Let this be a lesson to all you mainstream suburban folks out there experimenting with organic living: never, ever, neglect your compost! It must be turned periodically. Purchasing a $200 composter is one way to take the work out of this, but I’m wary of just how “green” I can be by using a plastic manufactured barrel (though I am sorely tempted to buy a rain barrel and save on watering costs).

As you can see, before I knew it, My “compost” pile had become a fertile ground for growing things—I had tomato plants springing up, pumpkin vines, and what looked like miles of another vine—one with huge leaves and delicate white flowers that opened in the evenings. I decided to leave it so I could figure out what it was. Then one day I received my answer in the form of several rapidly growing snake gourds! These plants are threatening to take over my garden, but I am keeping them, if only to experiment with training them into letter shapes—my guess is that is exactly what whomever grew the ones we found at Vollmer’s did. So far I’m not having much luck, but it’s great fun. Through my research, I also found out that there’s a Gourd festival in the fall at the NC State Fairgrounds, and I’m planning to go—turns out there’s all sorts of fun you can have with these things!

And maybe next year I’ll have a pumpkin patch and pass out free pumpkins to the neighbors. As long as the HOA doesn’t catch me!

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