Most everything that comes off our garden ends up in the compost pile until it goes back on to amend the soil.Â We have three wire cages that each hold about a cubic yard of material, as well as a periodic pile of stuff that hasn’t been chopped up to speed decomposition.Â The pile was getting pretty big, and since it’s right out in the middle of the garden I decided yesterday that it was time to deal with it.
I’ve discovered that our rotary lawnmower does a good job of chopping up most garden debris and does it faster and easier than the chipper-shredder.Â The trick is to spread a somewhat thin layer of stuff on the ground and then slowly lower the mower over it a little at a time.Â I not too much time after dinner yesterday I reduced the big pile down to a handful of bags that I dumped in a freshly-emptied bin.
When I got to the bottom of the pile I discovered a smaller pile of compost ready to put back on the garden.Â This was the remains of a previous round of shredding that was too wet to chop up so I just left it in a pile. After a winter to age and the worms to do their thing it was nice rich soil.Â I screen it through 1/2 inch hardware cloth to get out the sticks and anything else that’s too big to go through the holes. Then I spread the stuff on the garden wherever there’s bare soil or I think it would benefit from some compost.Â This time around both the flower and veggie beds got some.Â There’s still more to spread, which will probably get worked into the vegetable garden as I plant more seeds in the next week or so.
I know there’s a tradeoff using gasoline to chop up my garden waste, but I figure the benefit of returning the nutrients to the soil outweighs the cost of burning fuel.Â If I didn’t chop the stuff up we’d probably have to haul it to the clean green site, burning fuel and not getting the benefit of the compost.