The next phase happens around this time of year as we clean up the garden. The goal is to turn this first pile into the next bin over. Much of the material on the top is dry uncomposted material, but as we dig into it we find nice, black, finished compost. The goal is to layer this old matter with the new material from the garden. So we put the old brown material on the bottom of the new pile, then a thin layer of fresh green matter on that, followed by finished compost. We do this until we’re all out of material, continuing to alternate a larger layer of brown matter (old straw mulch, dried leaves and veggies, etc) with a thinner layer of green matter (fresh green veggies, and even coffee grounds) and then burying it with soil or finished compost. This pile will cook all winter. We’ll probably turn it once or twice throughout the winter to keep the process moving, and will hopefully be able to scatter it around the garden and fertilize the soil with it next season!
We also have a bin just for leaves. This is for “leaf mold,” a particular and very special form of compost used for raising baby plants and inoculating the garden with beneficial microbes. To make this, make a layer of leaves in your bin that is 1′ deep, and then sprinkle a layer of fine sand across the top of it. Water this in, and then repeat. Pile it high, water it well, and watch it shrink and compress down into a fraction of its size. Continue to water it for the next year and prepare to be amazed the following fall!
Our final pile is made of sticks, twigs, branches, and other small pieces of wood. I organize them by filling the wheelbarrow with sticks, and then turning it over where I want it. This makes for a “loaf” of sticks. I’ll use these later to bury deep beneath perennials and beds for drainage and fertility.
And that’s how we compost at Colterra. It gives a glimpse into a few of the techniques any home gardener can use in order to turn every bit of organic material they have into fertility for their garden, and therefore, their future paradise.
Good luck, and happy gardening!
AJ & Nicole Carrillo