Monday, August 1, 2011

What's Brown and Dirty and Crawling with Worms and Small Bugs?


A couple of weeks ago Becky and I buried a pile of leftover food scraps, used coffee grounds, filters and melon rinds in a hole in the ground that we dug in my Dad's backyard. We are very interested in using composting as part of a sustainable/high yield agriculture approach in Nicaragua over the next five years.

I read Composting for Dummies which said that it could take 6 months to a year to get usable compost. I was a little dismayed to think that it would take that long. Enter Nurse Karen Thompson! She is a composting authority (recognize her authoritaaay!) and she assured me that it wouldn't take nearly that long. The conversation went something like this (emphasis on the word something)

Me: "But Karen, Composting for Dummies said that it would take 6 months to a year to produce usable compost..."

Nurse Karen Thompson: "You don't need no stiiiiinking book, (insert swarthy Mexican accent here) but you are a dummy so I agree with the book on that point...

Me: "So you don't think it will take 6 to 12 months for organic material to break down to the point that it can be used in a garden?"

Nurse Karen Thompson: "Honey, dig you a hole, put some food scraps in it, cover it with dirt and dig it up again in two weeks..."

Me: "Two weeks! Wow! That's a lot shorter than what the book said...

Nurse Karen Thompson: "Trust me."

Me: "Ok."

Well, for the record she was right! Becky and I went over to Mom and Dad's house this afternoon, two weeks from the day that we put the food scraps in the ground and sure enough we had compost! In fact, we thought that maybe we weren't digging in the right place because I was pretty sure that we would be able to identify the food mixed in with the dirt. WRONG! We finally found one piece of an eggshell so we knew that we had found our spot. We were both amazed, two weeks was all it took.

We are going to do another turbo composting experiment starting later this month and we will be taking pictures and measuring the pH of the soil on a regular basis over the course of about three weeks. I will post on that once we get it rolling!


  1. One thing I do for my garden is use a leaf mulcher. Every year I sweep up the leaves in the mulcher/vacuum. I then dump them on the garden and eventually till it under. It makes a huge difference in the soil as well as keeping out grass. Its a little work but a big pay off.

  2. You might find this interesting for the long term.