FOR YEARS MY FRIEND ANDREW, a better gardener than I by far, has been telling me the secret, but I just wouldn’t listen. Like I do, Andrew creates a lot of debris from his giant garden and nursery. “Run it over,” he said, whenever I’d complain about the daunting size of my heap. “Just run it over with your mower to pre-shred the stuff.” Well, I finally did.
Facing the overstuffed, impossible-to-manage reality of my 40-by-6-by-8-foot heap, I raked the top 2-foot layer (the still-whole stuff, like last fall’s leaves, in the photo below) onto the ground beside the pile, removed any enormous or woody pieces, got out the tractor, and performed my first act of hit-and-run composting. Wow. What a difference a drive-by makes.
In no time I had reduced the dry stuff formerly on top by probably 75 percent in volume, creating what will make a great (free) mulch (bottom photo) for rough areas like the vegetable and cutting rows. And I had gained access to the enormous volume of finished compost beneath it. (Next step: to screen that for use.)
Drive-by composting is my new favorite task, and next time I won’t wait: I’ll pre-shred the stuff when I collect it in fall, just like Andrew told me to, helping get the decomposition process off to a faster start.