What Happens When You Don't Touch Your Compost Pile for 3 years?

By Julie Sews - 12:18:00 PM

Our 3X3X3 chicken wire outdoor compost bin 2011
We started composting about 3 years ago with an open outdoor chicken wire compost pile.  We put our leaves, shredded paper, and kitchen scraps (no meat or animal products) faithfully into it but neglected to turn it hardly ever.  I'm embarrassed to say we probably only turned it 2 times a year.  And we have never used our own compost.  Well this year we were excited to harvest our black gold thinking we wouldn't need to buy any compost this year.

What We Found: The Good and Bad
So what did we find?  Well it wasn't as great as we hoped for.  It was compost at the bottom of the pile, just not as much as we had hoped for and what there was had roots in it.  I think since we didn't turn it enough plants started growing in it and later died with the temp getting to high leaving behind a dense root system.  The problem wit this is we have to break up the roots now. 

The good news was we have so many bugs and worms in our compost helping it along.  I had contemplated buying some worms at a bait shop to add to the compost pile to help it along, but never did.  Guess I didn't have to.  Yea!  We add even more life to our garden because lots of the worms and bugs came with the compost we did use for our garden.

So How Much Compost Did We Get After Not Touching our Bin in 3 yrs?
We used 5 gallon buckets to transport the compost to our garden.  We were going to buy a wheel barrel this yr but after having difficulties finding one that was American made and considering the cost to how often we would use it we decided to hold off on getting one.  We are also trying to avoid buying anything that we would hardly use and just sit and collect dusts in our garage and basement.  Having a garage sale recently brings that home.  Anyways I digress, we filled about 3 and 1/2, 5 gallon buckets.

What We Plan To do With Our Compost Pile Now
Turn it often!  How Often?  I plan to try to have a day of the week to turn and stick to my schedule (unless it rains), so about once a week.  This is based off of my interpretation of the City of Minneapolis Composting info page, which has good info as well on how to start composting.

We plan to cut up some of our kitchen scraps more like banana peels, melon peels, and corn cob, for example.  I think the little extra time will be worth it come next year.

I plan to add our leaves for the fall to our compost bin now that we have more room.  Since in last Nov we went from 70 degrees to a huge snow storm in a week we didn't finish all our fall clean up and never finished raking we still have our leaves.  That actually worked out well!  According to Mother Earth Magazine 2 yr old rotted leaves are the ideal thing to add to your soil as an amendment.

Click Here to see a video of a squirrel stuck in our compost bin last year

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