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Giving the compost a little help


Composting purists would not at all approve of the way I compost, but frequent readers of this blog know I appreciate the K.I.S.S. principle (even though that acronym reminds me of a bad kitty poster in my third-grade classroom). This means that I don’t overthink composting, and generally just throw the stuff in the bin, knowing that nature will do its thing eventually. (This of course doesn’t include any animal products, other than dog hair, which is plentiful around here, fats, perennial weeds or diseased plants.) Another word for it would be laziness.

Anyway, if you’re composting properly, you are keeping a close eye on the ratio of browns to greens (essentially carbon-rich material to nitrogen-rich material). And since it’s natural to have a lot of browns in fall and early spring and a lot of greens throughout summer, technically you are supposed to story the overflow of this material in a separate pile or holding area. Or, if you’re me, you just throw it all in there and hope for the best.

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I do believe those are actual sunbeams coming through the tree branches in this picture of my overstuffed compost bin.And yes, I do just store the pitch fork in there like that.

But sometimes the pile needs a little help and that’s the case with mine right now. It’s chock-a-block with leaves from both fall and cleaning out the beds in spring. And while those leaves will break down at some point, I need some compost and the sooner the better, so I gotta get that baby cookin’.
The solution: Alfalfa. A 50-pound bag of of alfalfa cubes can be picked up at the feed store for about $10 and while I think it is a little ridiculous to pay for composting materials, it’s the price I pay for being a lazy composter and that bag will probably last me at least two years. Alfalfa is a really good green because it is especially high in nitrogen.

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Mmmmmmmmm, alfalfa slushy (say this in your best Homer Simpson voice).
So I stick a few handfuls of alfalfa cubes in a five-gallon bucket then fill it up about three-quarters of the way (just so that I can haul it without spilling the resulting slurry all over my pants) and let it “brew” for 45 minutes or until all the cubes are broken down and the whole thing is like a big ol’ stinky slushy that some horse would love to have.

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I use the handle of the pitchfork to make several holes in the pile, top, then fill them up with the alfalfa slushy before tossing the whole pile to aerate it.

And instead of layering this into my compost bin (which would necessitate removing a lot of the material in there) I just use the handle of the pitchfork to poke several holes all over and as deep as I can go and pour the alfalfa slushy in there. Then I toss the whole thing like a giant dead leaf and alfalfa slushy salad (aren’t you hungry now?) to mix it all up and properly aerate the pile.
I’ll bet within the week I have a nice steaming pile. Compost pile that is.

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