Frost and Compost Happened

When the weatherman yesterday said we had a chance of "patchy frost", I didn't catch when. This morning I figured out that "when" was today. These impatiens were slightly touched by the frost.Really, it would have been a "mercy killing" if the frost had killed these two impatiens, with those clashing colors. But, it wasn't a killing frost, so by afternoon, the impatiens looked mostly okay.
Except they still clash with each other.

But soon enough, we'll have a true killing frost and then I can put these impatiens out of their misery. In the meantime, garden clean up began in earnest this morning. With temperatures barely in the mid-40's, I headed out to the garage to begin task number one on my Saturday to do list, cleaning up the garage enough so that I can start bringing in containers, garden ornaments, and tender bulbs. I was able to mark that off my list by lunchtime.

After lunch, I headed out to the compost bins to turn the contents, and dig out and sift any compost ready to harvest. I had in my mind that there wasn't going to be much compost this fall because I never turned any of it and I didn't try to add the right proportions of green (wet) and brown (dry) plant matter. I just threw in whatever trimmings and rotten vegetables I came across.

But once again I was wrong.

I lifted the top layer of plant material off the first bin, and wow, it was all compost underneath. After sifting through that, I moved on to the second bin. More compost! I only got about half way through that bin when I ran out of time and had to quit for the day. I'll work on it again tomorrow and maybe even a few days after work. There is that much compost!

I'm stockpiling that compost on one of the raised beds in the vegetable garden because I just wasn't prepared to have this much compost right now.

If you are a gardener and you don't have compost bins because you think composting is too complicated, think again! It's easy. Here's what I do.

I have three bins, each approximately three feet by three feet, one cubic yard.

I throw in whatever I have, paying no attention to what's green and what's brown.

I water the vegetable garden with a sprinkler and since that is where the compost bins are, they get "watered" about once a week, too, if we don't have rain.

In the fall, I remove the top six or so inches of plant material that hasn't decomposed, and then shovel the finished compost into a compost sieve that sits on top of my wheelbarrow. I made the sieve myself with scraps of lumber and hardware cloth. What doesn't go through the sieve goes back into a compost bin.

There are just a few things you should not do with compost. Don't put dog or cat poo, meat, or some weeds like purslane, into your compost bins. Don't try to compost in less then a three foot by three foot bin. You won't get good heat build up in that pile, which is necessary for the composting process.

That's really about it. Compost just happens! It's one of the many miracles of the garden.

Here's an update on my 'to do' list for Saturday.

1. Straighten up the garage enough so I can start to bring in garden ornaments, pots and summer flowering bulbs that would not make it outdoors in an Indiana winter.
2. Harvest some compost from the compost bins, prep them to be filled again. (In progress)
3. Weed and clean up the vegetable garden, pick tomatoes and peppers.
4. Water trees (which I can do with a sprinkler, so it won't take much time.)
5. Go buy a new tree. Plant the tree.
6. Check for moles. (Didn't find any!)
7. Take pictures for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.
8. Read a chapter or more in the current selection for the Garden Bloggers' Book Club, Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden by Eleanor Perényi.
9. Start to put some stuff away in the garage.
10. Empty the worst of the container plantings that are more eye sores than anything else.
11. Inventory all bulbs purchased for fall planting and determine where to plant them. I won't plant them for awhile yet, and no, it is not helpful for anyone to point out that planning should have been done before buying.
12. Dig out the forsythia that came back after I cut it down to the ground.

Guess what I am doing tomorrow?


  1. Wow! Good for you, Carol (especially the compost). I didn't get anything done here because I went off doing other things. Well, I DID repot a houseplant and prepare to bring it in, and pull a handful of weeds...and clean the house...and harvest more tomatoes...but not the things I'd planned. Oh well. Compost happens....:-)

  2. Is it dumb for a person to be jealous of another persons compost? I guess maybe to those who are not gardeners it is. Anyway, sorry for coveting your compost. I think it is wonderful you got that much.
    I wasn't sure if we actually got that frost or no, I couldn't tell. I have so much to do, I hope it holds off for a few more days> According to the ever-changing Indy forecast, I think we might be O.K. the rest of the week.

  3. No frost here, yet, although a couple of nights ago they were calling for patchy frost here, too. It looks like we're good for another week, but you know the weather in the midwest...

    You've been BUSY! Puts me to shame. I did get the garlic planted though. And I hacked off some of the brugmansia. That was like cutting off my arms. :-(

  4. The thing that leapt out at me was making room in your garage for tender plants -- something completely outside my experience! (What garden ornaments are you bringing in, and why?) But then, you probably don't have to provide shade to stop your tomatoes becoming sunburnt! I've officially stopped using compost heaps but haven't blogged about it yet.

  5. Frost! I love the look I get into real seasonal gardening by reading blogs! Chances are it will be a month or two before I see frost...although I'm contemplating pulling more tomatoes tomorrow that have slowed down setting. Maybe I'll peek at my compost too...although with one bin I won't have enough to stockpile!

  6. Carol, that's a terrific list (and congrats on working your way through it), and an inspiring compost discussion! I'm going to have to check my compost pile, probably later today if it stops raining. I'm guessing I must have something down at the bottom -- I hope so!

  7. I admit that when I first read your To Do list, I was intimidated. After all, you rebuilt an entire stone wall in the time it took me to plant a packet of sunflower seeds (that's a post in itself). So I feel a bit relieved to see that you didn't knock everything off your list in one day. Gives us dawdlers hope, you know.

  8. Carol, multicolored impatiens always go together, no matter what the color. I always figure mother nature knows what she's doing when she puts pink & red flowers together. After all isn't pink just a pale red?

  9. Hi Carol - people plan where they're going to put their bulbs ??? :)

    I'm going to be out all day tomorrow so I've posted for GBD a few hours early.


  10. Jodi, it sounds like you got a lot done, and maybe it doesn't seem like a lot because you didn't have a "to do" list?

    Robin, it's as natural as compost to covet someone else's compost. I think we are safe from any more patchy frost for awhile, as it is supposed to warm up again, and hopefully, rain!

    Kylee, I do know the weather in the midwest... "if you don't like it now, wait a minute, it will change"!

    Chookie, I am curious why you have stopped having a compost heap. No, I don't have to shade my tomatoes and the reason some things go in the garage, one word... COLD. We have cold winters here in USDA Zone 5.

    Leslie, If I hadn't gotten out early, I would not have noticed the frost. I'm about ready to pull up my tomato plants, too.

    Genie, I am confident you will find compost. And I'm happy it is raining where you are in Iowa, because that means it is likely to rain here tomorrow.

    MSS, I'm looking forward to your post on planting sunflowers, sounds like it did not go as planned. And I can dawdle with the best of them, like now, I'm dawdling reading blogs.

    Sue Swift, Sure, people plan where to put their bulbs, as in "someplace in the garden, oh, over here looks like an empty spot".

    Eleanor, but nature didn't put this combo together, I did. It really, truly does clash.

    Thanks all for the nice comments. Now I need to get back outside and finish mowing my grass, which wasn't on my To Do list, but I had to do it anyway.

    Carol at May Dreams Gardens

  11. Carol:

    I LOL at your clashing impatiens as I thought I was alone in the clashing combos! It happens and they still look lush! You are so ambitious. I planted over three hundred bulbs yesterday. Today, I took a nap! Going out to shoot some photos. You are always inspiring!

  12. Carol, it sounds like we are doing some of the same chores. I had to straighten my "gardening" porch so I could start bringing yard ornaments, pots, etc. in. It does make me feel good to accomplish some tasks, and you have inspired me to see where I might add another compost bin. I just posted my GBD list. Don't know if I'll quite make the environmental blog, but we'll see. Thanks!

  13. I need to make compost this year. I have been without compost too long. I like the free(if I can find any) wooden pallets.

  14. I dread what the frost does to the impatients. So far I've only seen patches of white on roof tops but no frost on the grass. I hope it keeps up this way for a few more weeks since many of the annuals are still blooming well. We have that candy cane impatiens as well. Luckily we planted it all by itself so it doesn't clash with other plants but I don't think we'll buy that one again. ;)


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