Bowdoin Organic Garden

The Year of the Tomato

Story posted July 28, 2010

My Early dreams from the beginning of the season of hedge like tomato plants has finally come true.  After many weeks of careful tying and moving we have recovered our walkways and the tomatoes are looking great.  Seth told me the other day as we were picking our first tomatoes (while standing on opposite sides of the tomato row), "I can't even see you through the tomatoes".  Yes!  With this amazing growing weather its even looking like the 6' tomato stakes are not going to be tall enough.  To add to the excitement we have added cucumbers, eggplant and summer squash to our latest harvest, and our peppers are looking better and better every day.

We have found the time over the last few days to dig into our compost pile, which we measured at 110 degrees, great news for compost.  The crop residue from last year along with some food scraps from the kitchens, and straw make for great compost.  As we let one pile of compost rest and finish, we have added another bin and are starting to fill that up with more scraps from recently removed crops.  Compost is an exciting and interesting topic.  I was once told that all farmers do is move dirt (or manure or compost) from one place to the next place.  In a way this is true, but there is a science to it.  To make good compost there has to be a balance of carbon heavy material (wood chips, straw, hay, mulch, wood shavings) and green nutrient rich material (food scraps, manure, crop residue, grass clippings).  We don't add any fats, oils, dairy products, meats, or citrus because they break down slowly and can attract unwanted pests.  Along with these two components the good microbes that break down the material into dirt again need water and air.  They usually get enough water from the plant material and we never need to water our compost.  Too much water leads to very little air in the mixture, and bad bacteria growing.  If you smell your compost and it smells like rotting and it is not very hot, I am willing to bet its too wet.  For this reason I like to add a lot more of the wood chips and straw to my compost to help soak up excess water and allow air pockets to form, keeping to good microbes alive.  Happy microbes make happy compost, and a happy farmer...

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