Friday, April 29, 2011

My Composting Conundrum - GARDENERS I NEED YOUR HELP!

Yesterday it rained, the day before I spent writing for three different blogs, so Tuesday must have been the last time I ventured into my backyard.

Spring Has Sprung
As I stepped out about an hour ago, I noticed that life had spring up all over - I was overcome with weeds throughout the walkway, at least three baby maple trees  springing up within the weeds (how apropos for Arbor day!), the peach tree is in bloom, my tiger lilies have grown up to my knees and the wisteria is readying to climb all over the back fence again this year. After witnessing all of that I don't know why I was surprised when I opened my compost bin, but having visited it and layered it only three days ago, I was. The last thing I expectd to see in my compost bin was this:
 It's beautiful. It's exciting. However, I have no idea what it is!

And one more thing - it's not alone!

Here's another baby one
And the other corner...

A couple of weeks ago I gave up my hopes of having a hot compost pile when I discovered that all of the "brown" materials I had been using were among the slowest to decompose. Alas, without steam emanating from my pile I simply had to trust that I was doing the right thing and that, in time, my rich soil would be produced. One issue with a compost pile that is not hot is that any seeds added to the mix will not be killed with the heat. ...Although I consciously understood I there would be no hot compost, I seemed to have forgotten that very important detail about the seeds until seeing my beautiful new babies.

The Good News

As an insatiable optimist, I am always looking for the positive spin on things. So here are the pluses:
  • The soil in my bin can support life, perhaps even better than I can! (I am never very good at growing anything from a seed.)
  • My goal this summer has been to grow food in my backyard, while I am still waiting for my tomato and asparagus plants, potato and pepper seeds to arrive (along with a nectarine tree!!) some food has already started growing! I am on my way!
The Puzzling Part - Gardeners WHAT DO YOU SEE?

I called this post "My Compost Conundrum" for a reason - I am completely confused. I have no idea what I am growing back there and I am afraid I might kill it if I just start digging it out to find out! Here are some of the things that I have put in the compost bin that may have had seeds with it:
  • bell peppers ~ this would be awesome since the bell pepper plants were all sold out and I am relying on my ability to grow something from a seed (see above for reference to my lack of confidence in this area) to get my bell peppers going in the back.
  • pumpkin ~ while cleaning out my backyard I noticed someone simply moved a jack-o-lantern from the front of the house to an ignored corner of the backyard after Halloween. I shoveled the orange goo (which did include seeds) up and threw it in my compost bin.
  • apples ~ I have been eating apples like crazy lately and I have been chucking the whole cores right into the compost. Could I have an orchard growing in my bin?
  • potatoes... maybe? ~ I have put potato skins/peelings in the compost. They might have included "eyes." I worry about this possibility because I know if you grow potatoes in a patch of soil, then that soil should not be used for potatoes or a number of other plants in the following growing season. If they are potatoes is my compost ruined?? 
  • zucchini ~ I feel like I had to compost a part of a zucchini that got gross because I didn't use it in time. It was either a zucchini or a yellow squash - something like that. I was sad about it, but flt a little bit better about it knowing I was composting it and not just throwing it away.
Beyond that, I am stumped. I am sure I will be thinking of new things every hour, but those are the biggies. I know one of you fabulous gardeners took one look at those pictures and knew INSTANTLY what we are looking at here - so let me know!! Even if it is not on my list above, that probably means I just forgot to list it!

My Questions for ANYONE to Answer
  • What the heck am I growing in my compost bin?
  • How did this happen? Is my compost too wet? Is it because I didn't turn my compost? 
  • Is this good news or bad news for my compost?
  • How and where should I transplant these plants? Should they go in a pot/container, or into my garden?
  • Did this ever happen to you?

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