First year composting debrief...suggestions?

October 26, 2014

I started composting for the first time in February. I used crates to make a 3-bin system, and put in food scraps wrapped in newspaper for the first few months, then switched to food scraps mixed with stump grindings from a large tree we took out. They've not been hot piles, because I've added stuff gradually instead of in batches, and I didn't turn them regularly. When bin 1 was full it went into bin 2, and when bin 1 was full again, bin 2 went to 3, 1 went to 2, and I started filling up 1 again. We get regular rain in the midwest, so I just let that do the wetting. So lazy composting.

Meanwhile, I made 2 4x4 SFGs in the spring, filling them with Mel's Mix (vermiculite, peat moss, 2 kinds of compost (cow and mushroom)). The veggies started off well, but most things died off or never fruited. A friend who gardens a lot said she thought I didn't have enough nutrients.

Yesterday I went out to put the first of my veggie beds to rest for the winter. I took the compost from bin 3, which is 6-8 months old, and mixed it in with the SFG bed. With the exception of a couple corn cobs and pine cones, everything looked well composted. It was dry on top and wet on the bottom, but earthy throughout. Composting is magical!

So the veggie bed now looks great, but I'm wondering if that's enough. Was my failure this year because I only had 2 kinds of compost instead of 5 in the mix? Will this fix it? Anything else I should be doing with my beds to make them better next year?

Also, there were no earthworms in the compost or in the garden beds. Since my piles aren't hot, I would have expected some sort of fauna, but there was nothing. What can/should I do about this?

I moved compost bin 2 into 3, and in a few weeks I'll put my other garden bed down for the winter. Then hopefully my 3rd bin will be cooked by spring to put...somewhere.

I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have about what I'm doing right/wrong and how to improve my composting or my garden soil.

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