it's okay to play with your food

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Com(post) Part 2

Our compost is just about ready to be used! It's a rich, moist, dark soil with a few chunks of banana peel and cardboard popping out. Apparently when I was in Texas, my housemate John opened up the Envirocycle to find the compost covered in mold. I had warned that such a thing might happen if the compost became too wet, and that an overdose of dry cardboard should help get the necessary balance of carbon and nitrogen in check. John ripped up A LOT of cardboard and the Envirocycle was practically filled to the top. Within a couple of weeks, like magic, the Envirocycle was about half-full and the mold replaced by dark compost.

Since I’ve been back I’ve only added a bit more cardboard. A few isolated chunks of mold remained so I’ve been focusing on a) getting rid of them completely and b) letting the current batch completely break down before introducing any new plant waste. I can’t say I really know what I’m doing, but this strategy makes sense in my head.

A common concern about composting is the potential for unwanted odors and animals. The only smell from our bin is a musty, earthy scent and the only critters are a swarm of fruit flies that never stray far from the compost bin itself. My worry now is knowing exactly when it’s ready to use, particularly on my indoor plants… are the flies going to be a problem? Will they follow the compost into the house or will they want to stick around the composter where the real action is?

The timing works well too, as I finally planted in my community garden plot a couple weeks ago. The Newbold Community Garden opened while I was out of town, which changed my garden agenda for the summer: veggies will go in the community plot, herbs inside my house, flowers in the planter out back. With the help of my neighborhood ankle-biter buddies, I planted tomatoes, two varieties of eggplants, cucumbers and frying peppers. At home, I’ve started parsley, basil and hot peppers. Since I planted late, I used seedlings (except for the hot peppers which I actually planted before leaving town).

I’m also planning on getting my soil tested for lead ASAP. It’s a hot topic right now, with the rising popularity of gardening in the past couple months. In Philadelphia, they sell lead testing kits in West Philly for $10. (I don't have the exact information right now, but I'll post it when I do.) Tomatoes and eggplants don’t absorb lead as readily as some other plants do, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be ok in the end.

And in case you missed it, here is another peak at the article on urban composting from April's Metro, with a quote by and shout-out to kitchenplay.

And for comparison's sake, here is our compost in February, when we first started…

Our compost today…

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