Recently I purchased a Hot Frog tumbling composter, which has two spinning bins. We struggled a bit putting this thing together, but in the end it’s pretty nice. I’ll update progress as time goes on, but here is my experience so far.
A Serious Gardener Needs Good Dirt
This year I am getting into gardening more seriously. I dislike where I live, but I am determined to make the most of it. The backyard has been mostly neglected since my wood-sided raised bed began to crumble. The price of wood is too high to re-build it, and by now it is packed down and full of roots and unusable. It has become a place for weeds to grow.
My yard is small. Digging a garden is hard work, and Florida “dirt” is made up of sand. I’ve opted for buying, and building, raised beds. This also helps a lot with invading weeds, grass and roots. But buying all of this is not cheap, and I also struggle with finding decent, affordable dirt.
Early Spring is a good time to begin Florida vegetable gardening. This year I started some organic seeds in little eggshells and then transplanted them to grow boxes. I shelled out money for the boxes, dirt and seeds. Getting started is not cheap, but once the planters and dirt is purchased, it gets better.
This is where making my own compost comes in. I can stop buying soil and amend gardens with organic compost material. I plan to save seeds from the organic plants I’m already growing.
I know the basics of creating a compost pile, because I made my own compost in New Hampshire, but now I am in Florida and it’s different. How different? I’ll let you know. The Hot Frog is purchased (link below), put together, and filling up with vegetable scraps, leaves, and yard stuff. I’ve never used something like this to make compost. It’s pretty cool… so far. I have one side about half full and give it a spin often.
Hot Frog Directions Are Lacking
After I ordered my Hot Frog by FCMP Outdoor and like the fact that it is made in Canada and not China. (this is an affiliate link to Amazon. If you purchase through this link I could earn a small amount.)
The two big wheel-like bins come in a big box with a mess of green metal piping that needs to be put together to make the stand. The directions are mostly non-existent. A little diagram is included. On our first attempt the thing was crooked. Something was wrong. That happy face / sad face thing on the paper told us why. It was kinda weird, but fixed the problem.
It took both of us to hold the barrels and feed the long pole through the middle and connect it to the legs. So, you may need some help putting it together.
Once it was together the correct way, and the big bins were added, I dragged the whole unit out to the backyard myself. It’s not very heavy when empty.
The sun is changing location, but I want the composter to be mostly in the shade. I fear that direct sunlight in this climate will burn everything up inside. I can pull it back further when summer hits so it will mostly be shaded. I plan to keep an eye on the inside temperature. It is easy to move – that is a plus.
Presently, it is sitting in the back corner of the yard where the banana trees and big shrubs grow at the edge of my property.
What I Like About Hot Frog
This Hot Frog composter has two separate sides. This is good for starting a batch of compost in a small area. Once that side is full (how full?) I will begin to add material to the other side.
The green sliding doors are marked “Start” and “Finish” which doesn’t really make sense, but it keeps the two separate. So, I began with the “Start” side and added oak leaves and dried banana leaves along with bunches of vegetable scraps. Each day I usually add a little bit more.
One complaint that I read in a review was that water can get in, and drips out, of the unit. I can see how dripping could occur with the holes in the side. However, compost is not supposed to be wet. My unit is on the grass so dripping is not an issue, but I don’t want the compost to become soggy.
As for how water gets in, I suspect through those same holes. In my photo below you might be able to see the little flies coming out of the hole. So far, it’s my only issue – the tiny flies. Apparently they are harmless.
Why You Should Consider Composting
If you are already an organic gardener, you should consider composting your own materials. Don’t over think it. Learn the basics (what to add) and you will find it to be quite easy to do. Add natural ingredients, and nothing from the yard if you don’t know what it is. You don’t want to add some kind of poisonous plant to the compost bin.
Since I’ve become a more healthy eater, I have a lot more vegetable scraps. Instead of throwing them out, I currently put them on top of the soil in my grow boxes. It’s sort of a quick composting attempt, and better than simply throwing good scraps into the trash. Old lettuce leaves scattered over the dirt can help hold moisture in.
Sometimes vegetable bits can help keep raccoons and critters away also – (think prickly cucumber stems and stinky onions). But each time I would do this, I would also think about doing compost the correct way.
I have all the elements needed to create good compost. Grass, leaves and vegetable matter is really all it takes. Most everyone has those things. Once the compost is ready, it can be added to vegetable gardens and will add extra nutrients to the soil and hopefully attract earthworms.
This sustainable way of growing crops and flowers helps the environment and your own health.
Florida’s Unqiue Compost Material
March is Fall here in Florida. The oak trees lose their leaves and catkins (long brown things) everywhere. I’ve been adding them to my composter along with vegetable bits.
After the cold of winter (don’t laugh) we also have dead banana leaves, which I cut up with scissors and also added to the bin.
Spanish moss can be added to the compost pile. It is also useful when potting plants. Stick some in the bottom of the pot for drainage.
Compost Organic, No Chemicals Allowed
The big problem in Florida is that many people spray their lawns with chemicals to kill the bugs. Florida is a buggy place. It used to be a jungle swampland. Now, people who want to live in paradise do not want bugs destroying their idea of an ideal place to live. Lawn service companies are constantly spraying lawns.
If your yard is full of chemicals, you can not add lawn clippings, leaves and garden matter to the compost bin. Chemicals will kill the good bacteria and things that are needed to create soil from compost matter. Not only that, the chemicals will end up in your garden, feeding your plants, or killing them.
I believe in letting nature take care of things in the garden. But, once again, here in Florida, that may not be as natural as you think. Our ecology is already being threatened by invasive frog and lizard species. I’m guessing this will play a role in organic gardening here.
Below is my photo of a big brown anole, or Cuban anole (lizard). Read more about the native green, and invasive brown, anoles. South Florida is not the only place with invaders.
Check out this massive list of non-native reptiles at the Florida Fish and Wildlife site. There are no photos, but what a long list!