Published Friday, October 16, 2020
By Victoria Torley
Oh that lovely compost – so many variations, so many uses. Quick methods and slow methods. Let’s start with a quick method, a method known as the “hot pile” because it, well, it heats up!
First let me define the ‘stuff’ that goes into a hot pile. There is brown stuff and green stuff. Brown stuff is dried straw or hay (okay, not that ‘brown’ – it’s the dried part that’s important), tiny twigs (although they take longer), dead leaves, dead plant stems. Dry stuff. There is a caveat in Costa Rica when it comes to those leaves. A lot of our mature leaves – the kind that fall from the trees – have a waxy coating to discourage predation. Before you use them on a compost pile, chop them up!
Green stuff is vegetable scraps from the kitchen, grass clippings, weeds you’ve pulled out. Don’t worry too much about weed seeds, they are going to get heated beyond viability.
So, now we have brown stuff and green stuff. Pick your composting spot (1 x 1 meter is good, of 3 x 3 feet) and spread the brown stuff in a layer about 10-15cm (4-6 inches) deep. Lay it right out on the ground so worms can assist you. Then lay down a green layer 7-8cm (3 inches) thick. Cover the entire pile with a few shovels of soil and wet them down.
Then start over with brown stuff, green stuff, and soil until the pile is about a meter tall (three feet is good). Turn the pile every two weeks or so and keep it damp. We have had curls of smoke from a really good pile. In a month or so, you will have wonderful compost, no weeds, and you will have gotten rid of icky cabbage leaves and beet tops. Want to speed it up? Add a little raw manure – just a little – as ‘brown stuff.’
But, a hot pile takes some attention. Don’t let it dry out, remember to turn it . . . maybe you want something easier, like a cold pile. Now you just pick a spot and throw in all your garden and vegetable kitchen waste.
Easy, simple, but wait.
This method takes a year or more to produce good compost. It does not kill weed seeds or get rid of diseases.
Because it is cold, scavengers may congregate around the vegetable peelings. We had a cold pile – then we had rats. Not something to look forward to.
Pick Your Pile – a little work and faster compost, a little time and a slow yield.
Plant for the Week
Oh no! She has pictures of bugs again!
These are not caterpillars, these are amazingly tasty green beans grown in the garden behind Las Delicias in Nuevo Arenal. Metric Man and I agree that they taste more like sugar snap peas than the traditional green bean of the states. They grow on vines in full sun and should be available now. I like them sliced in salad or used with dip. Delicious!
Editor's note: More information on this article or about gardening, Ms. Victoria Torley, gardener columnist, can be reached at email@example.com