Compost Maker Plugged Up, Peas in Flower

A bit late on the post this week; been fairly busy lately and we had some strong storms pass through yesterday – so you’ll notice some of the photos below look dark because of the storms.

The big “news” for this week is the compost tea system.  A few weeks ago, I dumped the old mixture that I had in the barrel that makes the compost tea.  This had been in the barrel since last year – and I figured it was time to rotate the batch.  The batch that was dumped had full leaves along with good chunks of left-over veggies.

The new batch was finely shredded leaves and grass clippings.  The grass clippings came from the neighbor and the leaves were from what I mulched up last fall.

Needless to say, because everything was very small and finely chopped, the compost tea barrel plugged up.  I was attempting to run some water through it – and I stopped when the barrel was full.  It is then supposed to equalize amongst three other 55-gallon drums next to it – but it never did.  I waited a good week.  Here is a view of the barrels.  When I took this, I didn’t have the one barrel on the right added – but all of the compost is in the white barrel – and they are all then hooked up to equalize between four – so I can then pump it back up into three barrels for the rain water system.

Compost Tea System

So, the inevitable had to happen.  I took the pitch fork and started getting as much of the material out of the barrel as I could.  It was incredibly smelly and my neighbor was not happy.  He always likes to sit out back on the porch each evening and I heard him say “That has one helluva odor to it” as he got up, went inside, and slammed the door.  I think I made him mad.

Anyways, I got as much out that I could – and it still wouldn’t flow.  I was ticked off at this point, so I just took the barrel – even though it probably weighed 300 – 400 pounds, and pulled it off the 2×4’s that it sat on.  It was a bit too big for me and as seen above, this area is on a fairly steep hill so it all completely spilled out and knocked me to the ground.  I was soaking wet in compost tea!  nasty!  It really bothered me that all of that high-quality compost tea that was just brewed in brand new compost was completely wasted – but what more could I do!

So, I had to come up with another solution.  The small spigot on the white barrel (as seen above) simply wasn’t cutting it and the flow was not good.  So, I got some 3/4″ PVC fittings, drilled a hole close to where the spigot was, and this is where the new attachment will be – with a ball valve on the outside.  This should certainly help the flow dramatically.

I knew that wasn’t going to be enough, however.  How would I prevent it from plugging up again – or pushing some of the compost material into the other barrels?  Well, this part was a pain.  I came up with a different solution afterwards, but the idea was to get some treated lumber and put some of the patio screening over the top of it – and use small push pins to hold the screening in place.

So, the 1×6 treated lumber was cut.  Oh my – next problem – wood floats with water!  So some adhesive that adheres to plastic and wood had to be added across the bottom.  Can’t punch holes or screw the wood in from the bottom – because then that would just create a leak.

So, below, you can see the structure I setup in the bottom.  I also tried to “pressure fit” the wood to the barrel to help keep it in place.  You can see the new 3/4-inch hole where the PVC is attached for the new outlet with a LOT of sealant around.  I put sealant around the PVC on both the inside and outside.

Compost Tea Brewer

OK – now, next problem.  I simply was not happy with the idea of using the patio screening.  Why?  Well, once it was tacked down, it couldn’t be removed.  In addition to that, patio screening is not that strong – and as you can see above, there is zero support around the perimeter of the barrel – so the weight of the compost material would simply have fallen right through.

I was mad.  All of this work on this thing and I simply had no idea how to go forward.  I needed something rigid, fairly strong, that would allow water to pass through.  A screen was absolutely what I needed – but it just isn’t strong enough.

So, I went looking around the garage – and found some 1/4-inch concrete backer board that was used for the bathroom project last year.  I was ecstatic – because it was just BARELY big enough to use.  But, it was a lot of work to perfectly cut out a circular area from it.  The idea here was – to simply make a circular cut so that it would fully work around the perimeter – then cut out an area in the middle where I could then attach the porch screening.

But, after I finally was able to get the board to fit into the barrel, I had a second though – maybe it would just be best to drill holes all over the backer board – so that way no screening needed attached – and then I could remove it when the barrel needed cleaned.  So, that is what I did.  A few hundred holes later, I finally had ONE section done.  It took a long time to do.

Compost Tea Brewer

So, there is half of it.  Yes, I didn’t do absolutely perfect around the perimeter of the concrete backer board, but for the most part, this should work very well.


Alright, that should have been a post all in itself!  But, I must carry on and show some pictures of the garden for the weekly update as well.

Starting off – more Honey Treat corn was planted; a total of 51 were planted into black plastic three-packs with water put in the tray and the clear plastic cover over the top.  Only about 18 of 75 grew in the garden – even after soaking the seed for about 36 hours.  The trouble was – after I planted it, the weather turned cool into the high 50’s and mid 60’s.  Hybrid corn simply does not tolerate cool soil temperatures so I fear most of the seed simply rotted.

Honey Treat Corn Planted

As of Wednesday, four of the corn have sprouted thus far.

Next – the watermelon was transplanted into the watermelon garden.  This area is between the patio and the side garden next to the house.  We grew a couple of crops of potatoes here, but the soil was too harsh so it was fully excavated and compost put in.  Out of the seven Crimson Sweeet watermelon that came up, three of them were planted and we’ll give the others away.

Crimson Sweet Watermelon

What else?  Peas!  The Cascadia Snap Peas have been flowering lately – and there are some pods beginning to form.  The Cascadia Snap Peas are only supposed to get three feet tall (so they say), but just like the Dwarf Grey Sugar peas that were only supposed to get three feet tall, they keep on growing.  The fencing is five feet tall.

Cascadia Snap Peas Flower

Cascadia Snap Peas

Over the past weekend, I also decided it was time to mulch the potatoes in the back garden.  That took quite a while to do and allergies really flared up during that process – but, it got done.  Was absolutely surprised how much it took!  I have two large dumpsters full of leaves – and it basically took a full dumpster to much the potatoes!  I still have to mulch the potatoes on the left side (near the peas) and the front gardens too!

Back Garden & Mulched Potatoes

Over to the side garden, this shows the whole view of the peas, cauliflower, and broccoli.  Some of the Premium Crop broccoli have begun to form heads – but none of the Green Goliath broccoli as of yet.

Side Garden

Premium Crop Broccoli

None of the Snow Crown cauliflower have begun to put on curds in the side garden, but continue to grow well.

Snow Crown Cauliflower

But, what is interesting – is there are two cauliflower plants in the flower bed that have curds growing already.  They are spaced out more than what I did in the side garden – so we’ll see if the side garden provides any produce.

Snow Crown Cauliflower

OK – about half-way done now.  A quick peak at the potato “bin” that is also all mulched up:

Potato Bin

And the patio garden is doing very well.  I transplanted the lettuce that had finally sprouted after a long period of time into the garden this past week as well.  I think there is more than enough salad here now – more than we’ll be able to eat!  But, I’m also surprised that it seems the only first three rows of lettuce are doing well – and the other rows don’t seem to be growing at all.

Patio Garden

In the red cups above – those are the cucumbers that have been growing.  Two of three Burpee Pickler cucumbers sprouted (seed is three years old now) and all three of the H-19 Little Leaf Pickling cucumbers sprouted.  You can also see one of the Anaheim Hot peppers in the bottom right corner that is doing fantastic – compared to the extremely slow-growing California Wonder peppers in the front.

And for the last four pictures – a quick view of pink Peony that opened up.  I’m quite surprised; we got these put in and transplanted last year from cuttings – and they have blooms already.

Pink Peony

And the strawberry beds.  We picked about 6 ounces of strawberries this week – and there are already loads of them that need to be picked again.

Tri-Star Strawberries

The Ventura celery and the Copra onions.  I think it is time to pick one of the celery plants; there are 16 – 18 celery plants here and even if we were to pick one each week, the majority of them would go bad by that point with the heat of the summer coming.

Ventura Celery & Copra Onions

… and lastly, one portion of the front garden.  I took a picture of both – but the other one was very blurry and wasn’t worth posting.  The other area of the garden is where the corn is at – and not much worth seeing there with only around 18 Honey Treat corn in there.  But, this row shows the radishes down the middle, the variety of tomatoes in the back, and the peppers close to the front.

Front Garden

1 thought on “Compost Maker Plugged Up, Peas in Flower

  1. I had a similar problem with my compost barrel, had to use a coat hangar to clear the spigot. My current thought is to just put all the compost into a pillowcase inside another pillowcase.

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