Thursday, March 13, 2008

Swarming With Earthworms

Today was the first time I'd turned my compost pile since sometime back in 2007. I just assumed there had not been much activity in there, what with the winter freezes and all.

But apparently my earthworms couldn't wait to get started. With the first shovelful I uncovered a swarming mess of them, hard at work turning all that garden debris and grass clippings and chopped leaves into something I can dress my vegetable beds with.

Turning the pile injects oxygen, which stokes the bacteria in there to get them working faster. Also, you don't want your compost pile to turn anaerobic, which invites a whole other breed of micro-organisms that will make the pile smell like garbage.

My pile is standard size: about three feet in each direction. It takes me about 45 minutes to move the whole thing into an adjoining bin, where it can finish the decomposition process. Not in time for my spring plantings, but I'm guessing this will be fine fodder for the tomato plants.

Turning compost is a contemplative act. Ronald Reagan retreated to California to chop wood. George Bush likes to clear brush on his Texas ranch. Me, I just put on my windbreaker and work up a little sweat turning my compost. For any of you organic food lovers, this is where it starts: making dead stuff into life-giving soil

At times like these, when it's just me, the earthworms and the occasional fire truck screaming past our urban plot, I try to think pleasant thoughts. Sometimes I am bothered by a rumination on the whole sorry story of human venality and destructiveness. I keep shoveling. Composting brings me a little closer to planet earth. It's one thing I know I can do and not go wrong.


David Hall said...

Good on you Ed. We should all try a compost bin out. I love having a dig around in mine - and weird how potatoes grow like wildfire in there?!


Ms. Jan said...

Ed, I love your blog and am a dedicated reader even though I never comment. I turned my compost yesterday and it was soggy in the middle, but with a ton of worms and sow bugs. Gotta love those little critters!

Ed Bruske said...

David, glad to hear you are a fellow composter. As spring turns into summer, we'll see all kinds of things sprouting in the compost bin--potatoes, tomatoes...

Ms. Jan, I was afraid my compost would be too wet. We've had periodic heavy rains this year, real soakers, that seem to arrive just as things were starting to dry out. I'm trying to get most of my planting in now before it starts again tonight.

Pam said...

I've been composting since Nov 2006 and agree with you that it's a glorious passion. It's possible that I've been a little too devoted to this activity and may have turned my pile too often, like once a week round the calendar. It's taking a lot longer to break down than I expected. It's been 2 wks since I last turned it and it's very hard to leave it alone a bit longer. To help me get my compost fix, I ordered a pound of red wigglers a few wks ago and am keeping them in my kitchen, actually about 18 inches from where I'm currently sitting. I feed them banana peels and apple cores and check on them quite often. Very satisfying. Now I just have to wait 3-4 months before I can harvest their first crop of worm crap.