Tag: compost

Exciting new acquisition

bucket of fish heads and guts
It’s a perspective thing — the bucket is over half full.

I haven’t determined exactly how I’m going to incorporate fish waste into my close-to-totally-disorganized garden, but it will have to be dog-digging-proof. I have decided to make a substantial fence. But deciding is short of doing, and we happen to have a puppy who likes to dig — and meanwhile no fence.

Beyond remembered tales of American Indians dumping a fish head or carcass below each corn plant, my fish-in-the-garden story is this: shortly after arriving in Mexico in 2007, I attended an organic gardening class by a massively overweight American woman who happened to be very good at growing things. Actually, exceptionally good. She was also an outstanding cook and baker, and, unh huh, liked to eat. She had a plastic-lined pit in which she made compost tea from fish, and shared her secret source. There was, she said, at the end of a short two-block street that ended at the railroad tracks in Pátzcuaro, a place where they processed fish from the lake. You had to knock on an unmarked door, have containers, explain your request, and then, Hod willing and goods delivered, back out the two blocks, because there was no way to turn your car around.

Sorry, that’s above my pay grade.

She also explained how they cultivated contacts in the daily mercado for composting. They had to they dress down, relate to the locals, develop trusted relationships in order to get the valued vegetable waste. Wow. Heavy social investment.

Reference: there is no way a home gardener can get enough compost from home vegetable waste. You need organic materials from somewhere else.

Anyway, visiting a project of ours on Calle Independencia near the cemetery in Pátzcuaro, I discovered something amazing: garbage trucks appear there every afternoon. Guys with hand trucks and 55-gallon barrels go into the market and bring out the waste. I showed up day after day, with a plastic tub like the one I bought here, and soon they wanted to know before they went into the market: was there was anything in particular I favored? Onion greens? Carrot tops? It was deliciously ironic.

But it got better.

One day, a little truck pulled up. Fish waste. From the fish place. You know, the one where you had do a little ritual of obscure door-knocking and reverse-driving. I said to the garbage kid (remember, I’m an old fart, so everyone is a kid), fish is OK in the garden, eh? and he enthusiastically agreed and personally took my plastic tub to the truck and proudly filled it with fish heads and bones and guts, and placed it in the back of my several-years-old Toyota 4Runner.

Fortunately, I had a plastic-rubber floor liner. Because, in his enthusiasm, the kid had maximally-filled my plastic tub. And despite my caution, over the first tope — speed bump — I heard the flop of a fish carcass. On the next another. No matter. I could always hose that stuff off.

The problem arose — as today — when I realized that I had arrived home shortly before dinner time and actually had to do something with this treasure. In Mexico, it involved feverishly turning over my extensive compost pile, inserting fish waste, re-covering and weighting down plastic sheeting so our animals couldn’t get into it. It worked. And apparently fertilized magnificently, but by then we were the hell out of Mexico. Another story that I probably won’t tell here.

Meanwhile, here, a couple concrete blocks over the bucket this evening. Tomorrow? Stay tuned 😉

Thanks for reading this. Gardening is weird at times, no?

Busy day

I moved the table saw outside to deal with ripping 330 cm (10.8′) boards

I was disappointed how long it was taking to make compost — basically, three buckets’ worth in five years. So I started reading about worm composting, found a design that looked good, figured I’d order some worms — without remembering something.

So I built a little worm farm.

Worm composter
Removable hinged lid keeps rain out
Worm composter
I transferred compost-in-progess from the barrel we’ve been using to the bottom bin. We’ll put fresh worm food in the upper tray until it’s full, then add the next. When the worms run out of food below, they’ll migrate upward, leaving the bottom bin empty of worms and full of wonderful worm castings!


I also built my first hydroponic unit.

Hydroponic grower, Uruguay
The raised portion *should* allow enough room for the plants’ air roots, meaning I don’t need to oxygenate the water. We will see! Needs a plastic lining.

I started making compost tea.


And I discovered that my first attempt to sprout sunflower seeds wasn’t unsuccessful after all. They loved the non-composting compost barrel!





Our local comadreja (possum; translates as weasel) has wrought havoc in my little 1/3 barrel compost pile. Like most things garden I do these days (I had a wonderful garden pre-internet), it’s a half-assed affair, without enough mass to heat up and, on rainy days like today, getting entirely too wet.

So I decided to transfer its contents into a full-size plastic barrel with drainage holes at the bottom, in which I have tried unsuccessfully several times to grow potatoes (to be fair, once in the campo where the alambreros (fence guys) upended it, dumping the contents, so they could stand on it.


However, once again I have grown a rich crop of something unplanned: a dense, wriggling mass of worms. I don’t know how they got in there, but obviously they find it a good environment. In case you’re not a gardener, worms = good. When we moved here, we could not find a single worm on the property. We looked. Now we have an abundance.

Garden update: I have several of these type things in the garden now. This plant (predictably) didn’t make it. I did harvest and dry some insanely hot little orange peppers from here a week ago. The first year here, we had volunteer tomato plants everywhere; the second year squash. And the first summer in the country we had an abundant supply from plants I didn’t plant.

Maybe this summer will be the one I actually get my gardening act together. Just need to take a quick look at my Google+ account first ….