Question from Sharon:
I’m here on the central coast of CA and we have citrus trees, pomegranate, and fig in our yard. No official compost pile yet, but what about grinding up citrus rinds and fava bean pods, etc. with the lawn mower, and burying the mash around the drip lines of the trees? Will citrus rinds rotting under citrus trees ruin the PH?
But be careful digging under trees since you might harm their surface roots. I certainly would not recommend putting citrus rinds under fruit trees, especially not under citrus trees. It’s fine to mulch under citrus with aged manure or any kind of clean mulch, but we always want to pick up fallen fruit and dispose of it properly. It is fine to put a few citrus rinds into an active compost pile since they will rot along with everything else and if the compost is hot it will destroy any destructive fungi, but if you have a lot of citrus rinds, this means a large amount of carbonaceous waste. It will be difficult to compost since there won’t be any nitrogen to balance it out. I will tell you my own experience, since this may suggest to you a better solution.
I drink fresh orange juice everyday that I squeeze myself. I do the same for house guests when I have friends or family staying with me. Thus I have a whole lot of orange peels. For over two years I have been chopping up these rinds and putting them into a Solar Green Cone. The Solar Green Cone is a completely closed system that works by, in a sense, cooking the stuff inside it with the heat of the sun. Mine took every single thing from the kitchen for over two whole years before filling up. But my next one will be home made since I don’t have another sunny spot.
A couple of weeks ago I purchased a new large-size, plastic trash can. I cut the bottom off it with a large, sharp French kitchen knife, and it was easier to do than one might think. Now I am going to have a hole dug exactly the same diameter as the trash can and 3/4 as deep as the trash can, in an out-of-the-way spot. Then I will sink the bottomless trash can into the hole. I will then put the lid back onto it with a bungee cord over the top (from handle to handle) to foil our local family of raccoons. I intend to put all my orange peels and other kitchen waste into this buried trash can. Eventually everything will disintegrate. Meanwhile all the goodness will sift down into the ground and bring worms. This will be airless or anaerobic rotting since there won’t be any oxygen. Anaerobic rotting is more like fermentation and thus it is a smelly process, unlike proper composting. With the lid on, however, one won’t be able to smell it, it won’t attract animal pests, and it will save water since it will take everything, even bones and meat, that one would otherwise puts down the kitchen garbage disposal.
The above system is the one I suggest to you while you are figuring out how to begin a proper compost pile. I got the idea at least thirty years ago from a robust old lady who was an avid vegetable gardener and had dreamed up this method of composting to foil animals who were getting into her compost pile. It has taken me this long to get around to trying it out myself. In her case, she installed three of these homemade trash-can composters in a row next to her vegetable garden, and she used them for every bit of composting she did. When one filled up, she would jump on top of the contents to squash down the contents and make more room, and when she had filled up the third one she said it would be time for her to start digging out the first one and adding the compost to the garden. Then she would start the whole process over.
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