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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Compost in Winter

This is our slowest time of year. There is not much daylight so even if it is a mild winter (like it is so far this winter) and you have a bunch of crops planted in hoophouses, things still will not grow fast-crops or weeds. So there is not not much harvesting to do nor weeding to be done as compared to what will start happening in about 2 to 3 weeks when the day length gets longer and the sun higher in the sky. So we do not do much. But we are not completely dormant.

3 compost piles, the one in the foreground is still being built
and the other two have been freshly turned

One thing that can be done this time of year is composting. We have 4 compost piles cooking that were built this past fall and have been turned a couple of times since they were completed (one of the tricks to good compost is once you start turning the pile and letting it cook do not add more material) and should be ready to use by mid to late spring.

Eugene does pretty much all the compost turning because I have a bad rotator cuff in my left shoulder (from a riding accident I suffered on my 17th birthday during a 3-day event) that goes out after 1/2 hour of such work making my left arm useless for several days if I rub it down with arnica, longer if I do not.

Putting compost on beds is something we can do as long as the piles are not frozen and there is no snow on the ground (okay we can apply compost on top of the snow but if there is snow, generally the pile is too frozen). since we do not have a lot of compost right now Eugene in the photo is putting down a scant layer which will feed the critters in the soil that will in turn feed the plants.

Before we can apply the compost it has to be screened. Here we have Eugene carrying the tools of the trade (sans a wheel barrow to put the screened material into), a soil screen and a shovel (the dog is optional). Screening is simple-take a shovelful or two of compost, drop it on the screen and sift it through leaving the big uncomposted chunks and rocks behind. You are left with material suitable for putting on beds or for making soil for soil blocks and other seed starting.

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