Composting Surprises, A Poke At The “Dirty Job” Folks

A few days ago I posted on several social sights, garden groups, and just asked folks in the street, a query. Simply put it was, “What was the weirdest thing you have ever found growing in your compost?” The results were numerous, as well as humorous. Some folks were actually wondrous of what they had found before. Some had just quit, because.. So here’s the compiled list, and I’m sure I will be adding more later. So here it is.

What is the weirdest thing you have ever found growing in your compost?

Black Soldier Fly larvae,  mushrooms, Snakes, Grubs, Peach trees, this years garden from old seeds, baby Rabbits, Mice, Rats, Raccoons, various Snakes, more snakes, Pumpkins, 6 kinds of Squashes, 9 types of Tomato, Melons, Potato, “Squashcumbers”, Zucchini, Apple tree, Avocado, Peanuts, Coyote, well, it was on the poll, Dahlias, Amaryllis, Day Lillies and other assorted bulbs, Juan Valdez’s donkey, (I guess there was a lot of grounds there), Almond tree, Cherry tree, Peach tree, Mango, Marijuana, (hmm, really? I need to check in on that soon?), Peppers, various Herbs, Praying Mantis, Hornets, Turtles, Opossums, Gourds, Toads, re-sprouting House Plants, things they thought were dead, Strawberries, several types of knives, and funny, a few said when it was missing, they knew it was in the compost, and found it, the “compost turning tool”, a t-shirt, old plant tags, supposedly “biodegradable trash items, kitchen utensils, an egg to see if it boils in 140 degree compost (bored gardener?), it did, trowels, 4 times the right glove, never the left, wedding ring (whew!!), Worms, and Lizards. Then there were 9, “nothings”. They had access to free composted horse and cow manure. Hmm. Wondering about where the livestock owner gets their hay, if there was 2-4D involved with the crop.

Funny, the one thing no one said, and I have never seen it either, was someone else, turning the pile, just me. Some said, they just quit the garden bed, and let Ma Nature grow in the compost, and had spectacular gardening pleasures just from the “grab bag” idea. Things germinate as the weather permits. My experience is if it’s growing in there, I leave it or transplant it. I’ve never seen Ma Nature shop in a “box store”, and I know, I worked as the on site Garden Specialist at one for over 13 years. Never waited on her. Most people are ad followers, and simply over-comfort their gardens to failure. Sometimes, benevolent neglect, is the key.

This was a fun poll, especially since I had over 350 responses in 2 days from all the groups and face-to-face encounters. Most were seasoned gardeners, and knew their dirt. The beginners were wonderful in admitting their failures, and are learning, “eh, just toss it in” techniques. Wait until those folks learn “Soil Solarization”, like composting on steroids!! So thank you to all the likes and answers, obviously, this is a matter that needs to be enhanced on.

January to any Gardener

Time For Dirty Knees and Nails Folks!!

January to a Gardener anywhere, is renewal. It’s overcoming last season, just like finishing any saga in any life. “Where did I go wrong, what did I do right, what happened to make me right, wrong…”

Whew! What a relationship we have with the Earth. No matter what we do, we are, in a complicated love triangle with Ma Nature. All we have is memories, good or bad. Corn was sweet, beets were tender, Peppers had Maggots, Tomatoes, well, Hell, just pulled them out. Wait!! No Tomato Sandwiches? Home made Salsa or Chow Chow? I had Cukes, no Squash because of mold… Radishes? Can’t remember where I planted them. Don’t even start on the Carrots..

OK, stop, just stop, and let’s chat about the excitement, start, dreams, outcome. Right now, I’m excited about the coming season. I will start, gardening my soil, cleaning my beds, tools, and seed racks. I will look back on my journal and plan for the new beds, rotate my crops, and find that damned “Companion Planting” chart I depend on. Dreaming, comes later. makes you “Over Hope” the outcome.

Polar Vortex, or whatever that last deep, DEEP, freeze we just had, is just actually Ma Nature’s way of helping. See, we have over planted, over chemical, and under planned, for too long, most of you. And now, you just want to buy your produce. Let these weather phenoms guide you. They aren’t new, just needed, for a gardener.

As I write this blog entry, today, it snowed a couple of inches, and is gone a few hours later. It’s coming again, a few more times before it’s over, and I wait. I have forced Hyacinth and Tulips indoors and watching the Forsythia to get some cuttings in a few days. Daylight is getting longer, and the blue is coming again in the sky. Buds are starting to shoot on the Magnolias and Blueberry. And, I wait.

The big Bon Fire a week ago, has smoldered out, leaving valuable ash and other nutrients in the veggie garden. And that, I can’t wait for.

So in the grow room, I have the racks up, flats cleaned out and the Manure Tea steeping. It will be time in a few weeks, to start the Peppers, Tomatoes, and Eggplant. In the mean time, I will have already started all my Herbs and they will be in the garden, pots around the grill, and just random places in the landscape that has already been cleaned out for the dormancy time of Winter. Earlier, I cut back all the Ornamental Grasses, next month, I will do the same with the Roses. Spring bulbs were put in back in November, and I see the Crocus already pointing out some…..

I have had to “Humidify” all the Tropical plants once already because of the dry heat inside. Simply put in the bathroom while I took a hot shower, then left them a day. Perked right up. Not time to feed yet, another month and they will start coming out of their Winter funk, they will be ready. I found some Fungus Gnat issues earlier because of the warmish days, but I treated with Bt bits. Same as the Pond Dunks, but look like Bacon Bits. Sprinkle a bit around the soil and water good, leaching down into the soil. It’s safe, except for the bugs. They work great in the soil and pot saucers outside in the Summer as well for flies, ants and mosquitoes.

So what is January for to you? Email me and let me know. There is a lot more work and planning to do, but most is just to keep me from being in trouble. Let me know how you plan, what you start and how. Next month I will chat about Solarizing garden beds.

January is almost done, we’re gaining daylight, and the angle of the Sun is climbing. Don’t get caught buying produce, or admiring everyone else’s blooms!!!

I have started my lecture circuit already, and if you want me to come give a garden talk for your group, please email me and we’ll discuss the specifics. I am at #5 already and 2 more soon. Some I will be able to host here at the farm in Ashland in smaller groups of 25 or less. So many ideas come from them towards others and no one feels inferior about asking questions. So let’s get ready to get dirty!!

email me at

“I love leaving gardens in my wake..”