So, I've been piddling around with composting for about two years now. We've had the Tumbleweed compost tumbler for about a year and a half. I've harvested the compost approximately every six months, so we've had three harvests.
Here's the thing: I'm still not sure I'm doing it right.
I put in our vegetable-based kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, etc, and "brown" materials like leaves in the fall, shredded newspaper in the spring and summer. I turn the thing regularly. I'll admit I don't chop kitchen scraps or even yard scraps into tiny pieces to hasten the decomposition process--I'm just not dedicated enough to take it to that level, I guess. I don't own a compost thermometer, either.
And eventually, like today, I get some promisingly dark brown, earthy- (not nasty-) smelling stuff. It just tumbles out in balls--anywhere from little dime-sized crumbles to softball-sized or bigger clumps. I can manually chop them into smaller bits, like I was doing in this bucket, with this scoop. But I wonder whether the components have broken down sufficiently to benefit the garden where I spread them.
I'm not sure about the correct procedure for emptying the composter, either. My unscientific method is: unscrew both end caps, dump the stuff on the ground, rake it together and shovel it into a bucket, where I haul it and dump it wherever I want to spread it.
I'm sure I'm wasting at least a little bit this way. But I figure it might benefit the plants immediately surrounding the compost area.
Here's a recent new addition to my composting area--an open, wire bin. I'm layering green and brown materials here, too. The only problem with this, so far, is that it has attracted a family of mice, who are living under some railroad ties buried along the back fence. I don't so much mind these critters in my yard, but I bet my neighbors would. I don't want them in my house, though.
I won't poison them--that seems overly cruel, and I've heard about the problems posed up the food chain to dogs and birds of prey. I'd rather not trap them, either, if I can avoid it.
I'm hoping that by starting the compost over in the tumbler, and letting the open bin rest with no new additions for a while, the mice will just find food elsewhere and decide to move. Any thoughts/suggestions are welcome!
Here's the inside of the tumbler, post-harvest. Clumped around the middle are bits of shredded newspaper.
Here's the empty veggie bed, awaiting compost.
And here's the newly added compost. Exciting, I know.
I guess I won't know whether I'm going about this compost business the right way until I see what happens with the veggie garden this fall, after I've planted it (September) and given the plants a month or two to do their thing (October-November).
Any advice from fellow gardeners would be gratefully welcomed!