Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

Making Better Compost January 16, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 9:41 am
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Recently a friend, who cooks for her family of four and just moved into my neighborhood, asked if I could use her extra food scraps for my compost, not having room to compost them herself.  I said “Sure!” and set up a bin on my driveway for her to conveniently drop off her kitchen scraps.  I filled it with leaves for the carbon component and vowed to try to be a better composter. After discussing compost with a friend, and re-researching the perfect compost, I realized the pile in my back yard, into which I bury kitchen scraps, toss spent plants from the garden, and soil from potted plants on the patio in the winter, lacked brown material, the carbon component. The ratio of carbon “brown” to nitrogen “green” should be 25 to 1.  I knew my compost pile was full of happy worms, which is a good sign, but in an effort to raise the carbon ratio, I stopped a local yard maintenance guy with a trailer full of bags, and asked if any of them were just leaves.  He said yes, and gave me 2 big bags.  (I could have raked a large portion from my own yard, were it not for the persistent rain.)  So, I dumped the leaves onto the large pile to get rained on which will help the process.


Fresh Leaves on the Compost Pile


One of my past problems with making compost, is that I haven’t had a place for finished compost.  Theoretically, there should probably be 3 piles, freshly started compost, mid-way compost, and finished compost.  Since I am constantly adding to this pile, I never allow it to finish.

So, going forward, I’m going to refrain from putting anything new into this pile, and just turn it and let it do its thing until Spring.  All new scraps and leaves will go into the bin next to the pile, including the contents of the bin on the driveway.


Bin for Fresh Compost

That should work, right?



8 Responses to “Making Better Compost”

  1. Marc O. Says:

    Looks encouraging, Carla. I’m about to start a 3rd pile and will probably enclose it with shipping-pallet sides. I also drive along streets that have a lot of oaks (though not Live Oaks) and collect people’s brown paper-bagged leaves for my compost. Or I import pine needles from my parent’s yard in Houston. But that’s another story.

  2. I guess we gardeners are all slightly nuts, taking other folks’ throw aways. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Thanks always, Marc.

  3. mollyjade Says:

    I keep two compost piles. An active one, which I add new stuff to, and a resting one.

    When I’m ready to switch the two piles, I pass all the “resting” compost through a screen (just a large wood frame with chicken wire stretched across it). The finished compost falls through the screen onto a tarp or wheel barrow. Anything too big to pass through the screen goes into the other compost pile (which will now be the resting pile).

  4. Carla Oldenkamp Says:

    The first citizengardener class that I attended last weekend included making a compost bin out of pallets. Dick Pierce taught us how to make one “the right way” Of course, according to Dick. He likes to get his pallets from the Tx Coffee Traders because they are smaller and more uniformed in size.

    BTW, Zilker Park is giving away mulched Christmas Trees today. They say to come and get it soon, cuz it will go fast.

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