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December 04, 2007


rodney piner

Right on. A freind forwarded this to me. I have made compost for nearly 30 years, tried all types of piles. The best I have found I got from Eliot Coleman's books. Old Hay or Straw as the outer wall. I used about 30 bales I got for 50 cents each from a farmer that could not use as they got wet. Works great and no need for turning if built correctly. Last year I added an addition 6 inches of soil to the top and large sheet of plastic and used as a super heated cold frame. Even had to vent more often than normal, but grew great greens and lettuces. What straw had not composted, about half across bale, made great mulch in the rows. Composting is easy, anyone can do it, and if done right in the fall, will be ready for use next June. some more myths busted, such as 16 months to finish if left alone etc.

Love Apple Farm

Jessica: I've got that book, "Teaming with Microbes" in my Amazon store under Vegetable Gardening Books. If anyone wants to get it, just click on that store. I haven't read it, but I just ordered it. Perhaps after Christopher and I read it, we'll offer it up as a raffle prize to the folks on my email newsletter list.


There is this great book I found called "Teaming with Microbes" by Jeff Lowenfels. Its such an easy read, explaining all about soil microbiology and composting. Its so amazing to see a whole new world, a literal ecosystem, thriving in the soil. Once you understand whats going on you can never go back to chemical fertilizers!

I love composting and brewing my own compost teas, the results are amazing! I have some great info on active aerated teas I would love to share sometime. Let nature do all the work!

Thanks for all the positive messages. Its great to see someone do what they love and go so far with it!

-A sonoma county admirer



I was afraid to compost my tomato vines because I was afraid of possibly transmitting disease. But you know, this year I didn't have a problem with wilt. So maybe I should've put them in the compost pile?


Interesting article. We had to cut down a dead tree recently. We left a pile of sawdust and small wood pieces where the tree was and added grass clippings to the mix through out the summer. Its nice to see you validate what we were doing. Its nice to think that composting can be done without using kitchen waste. While that could be helpful, I object to the smell in the summer.

By the way, I was recently at Manresa where the waiter was promoting their tomato feast. I had to smile because I purchased a bunch of your tomato plants this Spring and enjoyed the tomatoes immensely. I am sure that Manresa adds some very nice dressings but the real star of the show are the tomatoes. Look forward to purchasing more this coming Spring

Carol O'Donnell

AHHH! No turning, I love this idea. With all the Fall leaves I'm going to build one today. And the two-tier, or three-tier idea. I love that too. Simplify, simplify this is my new gardening mantra.
Thank you,

Helen in Boulder Creek, CA

Thank you for the composting tips. My purchased composter (one where you add yard waste to the top and scoop compost out a door in the bottom) is too small to generate heat or break things down quickly. My secondary compost--a big pile of leaves and lawn clipping, seems to be composting much more quickly. So I'm thinking I'll make a compost pit like my folks did when I was a child.

They simply dug a 4x4x4 hole in the ground. The advantages are that it's easy to rake leaves and grass directly into it, and after a few years you can simple dig a new hole next to it, mixing the dirt from the new hole with the compost in the old one, and have a ready-to-use garden patch.

Has anyone else done this? Do you think I should line the bottom of the hole with twigs for an air space? Or with newspaper to hold in moisture?



Thanks so much for all the valuable info. Your compost article makes me want to start doing it again. I'm a bit of a I'd like some suggestions on a composter that I can purchase that is easy to use, easy to turn, etc. Years ago I had a stacking kind from Smith Hawkens, but I have dogs and they love to dig in the dirt left behind when I restack, so I'm looking for something self contained. Any suggestions?

Richard Blau

Thanks for your recent focus on COMPOSTING -- a subject that can empower amatueur gardeners, and even children, to lend a helping hand and make a difference in the world around them. Enhancing soil nutrition, reducing reliance on petrochemical fertilizers, and promoting recycling all make composting a vital process that can help roll back the negative affects of urbanization on the soils around us. Even in a small back yard, composting can make a difference on so many levels!

Rebecca Dye


Your site is beautiful and has great information. This is a great service!

Cynthia you look really amazing in your photo. Is Manresa restaurant right in Manresa by La Selva? I've never heard of it.



wow, that really makes me want to be more brave about composting! I just recently got going on my garden, and it drives me crazy that my city doesn't compost kitchen scraps and green waste. Maybe a trial run is in order- though I hope you're right that it isn't smelly.


You can also wire pallets together for a very easy multi bin system. If you happen to be in the Green Waste District get a bin for free. 1-800-665-2209

Patricia Messer

I think we'd all like the big fast composters, But I've seen what adding already composted material can do when added to the new mix of things-- Makes it a little faster, Then just saw a Bokashi that seems to be faster and more managable. It also composts meats. I love finding new ways to garden that help reduce waste as well.
I love the feeling I get from my garden. The Love Apple Farm is such a great example to us all.


Hey Cynthia!

Reading this post made me miss the farm so much! (Even the nitty-gritty of unloading pungent kitchen scraps from Manresa!) I can't wait until I have a place where I can start my own tomato garden using everything I've learned from you... I keep referring people to your website, and I need to buy some of your seeds for my boss (if you're selling them this year)!!
Hopefully I will be able to come visit Love Apple Farm in January =)


Kathy St. John

Hi Cynthia,

It's so great that you're sharing even more terrific information about gardening with others. My garden is killer this year because of you and I'm a new composting convert because of you too.

Thank you so much for contributing a tomato class for two to the Mission City Community Fund Annual Charity event. It was a much sought-after and unique silent auction item that really added to the fun (and profits!) of the event.

All the best,

Kathy St. John

cathy watson

Hi Cynthia,
I enjoy how your website has grown and learn much from all the articles on growing, harvesting, composting, and utilizing tomatoes and vegetables. Especially, I am thankful for your class in heirloom tomatoes which provided me with the seeds for my first garden and all of your email tips on how to improve the garden. Friends and neighbors alike enjoyed the Jaune Flamme variety the most and they were amazed at the twenty or so different plants that I grew, which provided them the great taste of fresh garden tomatoes. Keep up the good dissemination of all your gardening expertise. We can all use your secrets and helpful knowledge. Thanks, Cathy

Jeffrey Michaels

Love the 87 varieties of Tomato pix's - and just in time to remind me how much I miss my tomatoes! Warms the soul to see them buggers again.

Keith Winkelman

We inherited a concrete wire setup much as you described. I've had a lot of success with just adding to it but I'm just about to overturn the big, full one and start a new one next to it so you're article is very timely - especially the first layer. I had been concerned about that and had been thinking about what to do to get air in that first underlayer. I'll save the corn stalks and trimmings from the fruit trees this year and layer them at the bottom to start.


Keith Winkelman

We inherited a concrete wire setup much as you described. I've had a lot of success with just adding to it but I'm just about to overturn the big, full one and start a new one next to it so you're article is very timely - especially the first layer. I had been concerned about that and had been thinking about what to do to get air in that first underlayer. I'll save the corn stalks and trimmings from the fruit trees this year and layer them at the bottom to start.



PS....My Heirloom tomatoes, Azorean Red & Hawaiian Pineapple..were soooooooo hugh and tasty this year that I am considering entering then in the SC Fair next year! Thanks again for your diligence and hard work....I remember the disaster from last year and I am so glad you didn't give up! Catt



I searched high and low for a tumble composter and finally found a great one, hardly used, on Craig's List for $25! It pays to look around.

BTW...I love the tomato cages I got from you and I think I owe you more $$$$ for them...please let me know and I will send a check....Happy Holidays and you are a wonderful inspiration to the gardening community! Take care, Catt

Felisa Hoogendy

Hello Cynthia,
Just a note to let you know how much I've
appreciated your website, even before you
became Grow Better Veggies. I've attended
a couple of your workshops and always came
away inspired and determined to grow the
greatest heirloom tomato. My rewards have
been many, especially enjoying and sharing
all the different varieties we've come to know and love through your experience and efforts.
Now you have added a new dimension, winter
vegetables. The plot thickens and I look forward to another productive chapter in
Continue your good work and continued success with Manresa.


we've been composting in very small metal garbage containers...while, i've known about using wire circles, i haven't done it here due to the racoon and coyote population: we live a bit further up the hill out of boulder creek. however, builting it up to 6 feet tall would probably do the trick! thanks for the idea!



Hello, Ms. Cynthia: what kind of wood are you burning in the fireplace? My Bob The Builder brings home wood, and no way in the world are those ashes, from residential homes, going into our garden via any route you can think of. Nor the commercial paper towels. Mostly because I/we = too lazy.

: D

I have other questions, but I am going to ask Bob first, because (as we all know) he gardens: I point.

But if you tell him he doesn't need to turn his compost piles, he might explode, so break it gently, please, dear.

Always a treat to visit you. And looking forward to Turkey Day. Mmmmmm, turkey.

Double ----> : D

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