This site is an archive of For the latest information about Susy and her adventrures, visit the Cultivate Simple site.
Thank you for all your support over the years!

Harvesting Compost

April 23rd, 2011

There’s something very satisfying about harvesting compost. Perhaps it’s the fact that you made something from the waste that many people throw away. Maybe it’s because you can almost see the rich nutrition for your plants. Or it might be that it saves you from spending money on compost from the store. I don’t know exactly which one of these I appreciate most, but I certainly enjoy the process of harvesting compost each spring.

I’m a very laissez-fair composter. I don’t turn my pile, or worry about rations of green and brown. I simply throw stuff in the pile as it becomes available. I do keep a pile of dry leaved nearby for layering in with kitchen scraps during the winter to avoid everything getting slimy and gross. I also add a shovelful of soil every now and then for added microbes and other goodness. I start a few new piles each spring when I harvest the old piles. I add to them throughout the year and the next spring I end up with about 1/3 of the each bin filled with compost (which amounts to a few wheelbarrow loads of compost). Some of this gets used to make homemade potting soil, and the rest of it gets used in the garden.

Do you compost? Do you turn your piles? When do you harvest compost?

21 Comments to “Harvesting Compost”
  1. Jennifer Fisk on April 23, 2011 at 7:02 am

    I sort of compost in a very haphazrd non scientific manner. I have no kitchen waste because it all goes to the chickens. When I clean out the chicken litter of shavings and manure, I pile it somewhere in my woods. I dump the contents of my lawnmower grass catcher on top of it and mix it a little. It rests and does it thing for a year or so. In the summer, I also add bunny doo to the pile. During the winter, I put the contents of the bunny cage trays right onto the garden so there is a layer just waiting to be tilled into the soil. The straw mulch around the garlic gets tilled into the soil after harvest. In some respects, my garden is one large compost pile.

    Reply to Jennifer Fisk's comment

    • Susy on April 23, 2011 at 8:51 am

      Can’t wait to have bunnies/chickens for kitchen waste & garden fertilizer!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  2. farmgal on April 23, 2011 at 8:04 am

    I run many compost piles, and yes, havesting them is a thrill, as I do have a active small farm, and use deep bedding with the barn critters, plus the gardens, and my small tree lot, I do produce a good amount of composting materals.

    I like to make compost piles over area’s one year in advance where I intend to add to the garden, and give it a turn once or twice,and then just spread and till in.

    I had a compost pile in each garden area, plus the big barn compost, twice a year I get Farmer R down the road to come and move it with his tractor, and turn the pile, then I set it up to get water run off one side of the barn roof and it rots down into black gold.

    I mix different critters poo’s for some composts and for others I only use one kind depending on what I am growing in that part of the garden, each poo has different rato’s of things, and so they can be used in a tailored way for the plants, and then I have the non-garden compost piles, working away in what we call “no man’s land”, it will take years for sure but we are slowly building up the area.

    Reply to farmgal's comment

  3. Chicago Mike on April 23, 2011 at 9:06 am

    I have been trying to compost and I think I have a pretty good pile going. I also try and compost in my beds over winter, it works okay, but I think I overdo it sometimes. The first time I tried I put down too much grass in one shot and created this impenetrable layer. Not good. Just turned the beds the other day and found WORMS WORMS WORMS. I love that!

    Reply to Chicago Mike's comment

    • Susy on April 23, 2011 at 9:17 am

      You know it’s a good compost pile when you see worm, worms, worms! I found tons in this pile while harvesting since I added sod last summer from a new garden area.

      Reply to Susy's comment

    • Xan on April 23, 2011 at 10:15 am

      If you’re actually in Chicago, Mike, I think there’s something in the water this year. I’ve never seen such a population of worms in my compost– wigglers and nightcrawlers and tiny little whatsits.

      Reply to Xan's comment

  4. Daedre Craig on April 23, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Sounds like my composting tactics are the same as yours. I don’t turn the pile or worry about making the perfect ratio of carbon to nitrogen.

    I will take my bins apart in the next couple weeks and spread the good stuff on my garden. I usually just make a new bed wherever the compost bin is currently located, spread it all out, and then move the bin to a new location for the next year. This method saves a lot of wheelbarrow trips!

    Reply to Daedre Craig's comment

  5. Sonya C on April 23, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I compost my kitchen scraps and yard waste into large black tubs and a trash can. I usually turn them every few days, I love to watch the soldier fly larva wiggle around and then the birds come a pluck a few out to feed their young. My only problem lately is that the fire ants seem to abound within my pile. Just have to be careful!

    Reply to Sonya C's comment

  6. Xan on April 23, 2011 at 10:18 am

    You only really need to turn your compost if it’s a “hot” pile, so that the temperature in the center doesn’t get so high it kills the microbes. Most backyard compost piles aren’t big enough for this. I used to be able to maintain three piles– done, cooking, started, but had to sacrifice one of them to rain barrels (just ran out of space). I’m pretty laissez-faire, too, and get about 2-4 cubic yards of compost per year, which I mix for my own potting soil, and use to top dress the grass and ornamental beds.

    Reply to Xan's comment

  7. glenda on April 23, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I throw it all in a pile and marvel at the results. I can spend days hauling and spreading my compost. It’s one of the most satisfying activities ever! I had to move my compost area this spring. When I first moved here the compost area was located in the shadiest area of my garden. The big old elm trees came to the end of their lives and now I have a very sunny area to be converted to rich beds for my tomatoes and peppers. Love love love composting and compost!!

    Reply to glenda's comment

  8. Lynda on April 23, 2011 at 11:37 am

    I cheated when I started composting…I had the local mushroom farm bring me a TRUCK and TRAILER load of mushroom compost. Now I dig a hole and bury whatever trimmings don’t go to the chickens, worms or hogs…usually not much. But the barn and coop cleanings go in and whenever I harvest worm castings half go into my compost tea barrel and the other half into the compost pile…and it is the favorite place for my chickens to hang out.

    Reply to Lynda's comment

    • Susy on April 23, 2011 at 6:47 pm

      I’ve always wanted to buy a load of mushroom compost!

      Reply to Susy's comment

  9. Renee on April 23, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    I don’t have huge amounts of waste to compost, so I just use the “garbage can composter” method. I drilled a bunch of holes all around and on the bottom of an old trash can. I layer used newspaper-based bunny litter from my pet rabbit, kitchen scraps, and yard waste, but don’t pay much attention to the blend either. I just add more dry “brown” stuff if it looks too mushy, and avoid adding dry stuff while adding more “green” stuff if the pile doesn’t stay moist. Then every once in a while, I give it a roll around the yard to blend. If it gets too dry in the summer, I add water to keep it sponge-damp.

    Works like a charm, my garden loves it!

    Reply to Renee's comment

  10. Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm on April 23, 2011 at 1:45 pm

    I compost haphazardly too, or directly into the garden. Usually throughout the year, I just toss it onto the garden where it sits, breaking down, until it all gets tilled under in spring. I sheet compost by addng all my compostable materials to the base of the plants in the garden in the summer months. I do make an actual compost pile for mid winter, when I can’t reach the garden. I won’t walk through 3′ of snow to get to the garden, so I make an actual compost pile near the house.

    Reply to Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm's comment

  11. MAYBELLINE on April 23, 2011 at 4:21 pm

    Composting is something I need to get back to. Seriously. Have you bought compost? It’s ridiculous to pay for stuff you’re throwing away. Thanks for the encouragement by not preaching to stick to a rigid recipe.

    Reply to MAYBELLINE's comment

    • Susy on April 23, 2011 at 6:48 pm

      I always figure mother nature does it best by just layering things naturally and letting them compost as is. So I do the same.

      Reply to Susy's comment

  12. Beegirl on April 23, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    We have kept the spinner going all year with good results. Just added some maples leaf shreds from last fall and some sawdust to the batch today. Nothing better than compost!

    Reply to Beegirl's comment

  13. Sincerely, Emily on April 23, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I have a compost tumbler and then a 4’x4′ area as a back up. I basically throw everything in the tumbler until it becomes to heavy for me to turn(it’s the kind that has hand holds to turn manually – not the hand crank kind). It tends to get real “muddy” in there so I add shredded paper often to soak some of that up and help it all break down. When the tumbler gets too heavy, instead of using that 4’x4′ area I find that I am digging little trenches in the garden and just putting the kitchen scrapes right into the veg garden between the plants. I really like the composting process. Emily

    Reply to Sincerely, Emily's comment

  14. Stephanie on April 24, 2011 at 12:11 am

    I started a compost pile for the first time a while back. My method is a lot like yours, I just put stuff in the pile and let nature takes it course, lol. I went to check on it last week and the top is still pretty chunky, but I stirred it up and was pleasantly surprised to see the loveliest black crumbly soil underneath! It’s not enough to fill my boxes, but it will make a nice addition.

    Reply to Stephanie's comment

  15. CarolG. on April 25, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    When I have space again, I will go back to my mother’s method. She would dig a 4 to 5 foot cube in the garden and throw kitchen waste and other stuff in it with the occasional shovel full of dirt to cover up anything nasty. Over a period of years my mother turned the yellow clay in her garden into black loam. For now, I have piles of compost.

    Reply to CarolG.'s comment

    • Susy on April 25, 2011 at 6:50 pm

      I like to trench compost in certain parts of the garden as well. My parents always did that during the winter for composting.

      Reply to Susy's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

Read previous post:
Friday Favorite: Old School Games

Growing up we had an Atari gaming system. We never got beyond that, my parents didn't buy us tons of...