Compost (Part 2)


Written by Chris

April 20, 2021

Click here if you missed reading Compost (Part 1).

This week an exciting event happened at Toppled Barn Farm! We unveiled our very own farm-crafted compost!

Dr. Johnson of New Mexico State University invented a system of composting that saves a lot of work because it allows for oxygen to reach all layers of the compost pile without having to constantly turn it. If you would like to nerd out on compost, Dr. Johson is your man! You can watch a video of him here explaining everything you ever wanted to know about the Johnson Su Bioreactor named after him and his wife.

So, almost a year ago, we started filling up five of our own modified bioreactors to make our own compost. It was a long process that took us all summer and into the fall to fill them up.

The advantage for us is we know exactly what ingredients are going into the compost. The first ingredient is woodchips from a pallet maker in Winfield that uses untreated wood. We put them through a chipper/shredder to make them even smaller. Second, we add our own grass clippings and garden waste. We mix those together with water to soak everything thoroughly and dump it into the bins. The third ingredient we add is Azomite rock dust which adds some micronutrients for the microbes to digest.

At first, the compost heats up. It’s a balancing act because you don’t want it to get too hot but hot enough to kill any potentially harmful pathogens and weed seeds. The highest temp we saw was about 180 degrees. After the temperature peaks and the compost cools down to around 80 degrees we add the final and most important ingredient of all. Worms! This fourth ingredient is where the magic really happens. The worms eat the materials and produce valuable worm castings, also called vermicompost.

We were very much looking forward to digging into the compost to check the results.

First the bad: It wasn’t as “done” as we had hoped. We would have liked to see the woodchips broken down more.

The good: there were tons of worms! Even though we only added a handful of worms to each bin, they must have loved their cozy environment and repaid us by producing babies.

Our biggest takeaways from this project are to 1) increase the ratio of grass/garden waste to woodchips, 2) add the worms sooner to give them more time to do their job before winter sets in, and finally, we need to be more diligent with keeping the materials consistently moist.

There’s a real satisfaction in making our own compost. We know exactly what ingredients go into it. We are recycling materials and besides the initial cost for the bins, it’s virtually free. We can’t wait to dial things in even better this season for a superior, organic product to enrich our soil and help produce those nutritious veggies for you!

Side-by-side comparison – purchased compost (above left) is darker. Our compost is a lighter brown…
but has worms!

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