Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My New Tool

It was my birthday a few months back and my dear mother-in-law gave me the best present.  A gift card to Lee Valley.  Lee Valley is a mail order and retail store that specializes in tools and accessories for woodworking, garden and hardware.  Everything from books and propagation supplies to shovels and fertilizer.  For me, looking through the Lee Valley catalogue is a little like a child being given the Christmas Wish catalogue.  I want one of everything.  So it took me some time to decide what I wanted for my birthday gift but I finally settled on the Compost Aerating Tool.

Normally I use a fork to turn my compost but it can be back breaking work and frankly doesn't do the best job.  The top layer tends to get turned over but the bottom never really gets touched.  The compost aerating tool looked like it might solve this problem.  It's basically a rod that you insert into the compost.  The tip of the rod is quite pointy so it's easy to insert.

When you pull the rod back out of the compost wings fold out and pull up the compost with it thus aerating the compost and mixing it up.

I had some reservations about ordering this tool as I was unsure how sturdy it would be.  The compost can get quite heavy and I worried this tool might bend or break or simply not be able to lift the mixture to my satisfaction.  Well, I'm pleased to report I was wrong.  When the tool came in the post I discovered it is made solely of steel and is coated so it won't rust.  It's exceptionally strong and sturdy and I was able to plunge it 4 feet deep into the compost without a worry.

The photo below shows the bin to be mixed.  You can see there are layers of apples, straw, sawdust and sod. These layers have settled quite a bit in the last month as well so there's quite a bit of weight there.

But within a few minutes it started to look like this.

So easy.  Just plunge the tool in and pull up.  I'm able to bring the compost right from the bottom of the pile and pull it to the top.  I'm smitten.

If there's an issue I have with this tool is that it's too strong.  Either that or I don't know my own strength.  My compost bin is lined with wire and I've found I have to be very careful not to plunge my new tool into this wire.  If you take a close look at the photo below you can see my mistake.

Serious oops.  I was attempting to get as close to the edge of the bin as possible but ended up plunging the aerator diagonally through the wire.  Because the wings fold out when you attempt to pull up I was unable to pull it back out the way it went in.  Wire cutters were necessary in the rescue attempt.

Despite the setback I'm still in love.  For $30 this thing has taken what used to be a pain in the arse kind of chore and turned it into a fun 15 minute job.  Exactly what a tool should do.  Make things easier.


  1. I absolutely love Lee Valley, and sometimes end up ordering stuff I can't even use, just because. But this tool looks simple and useful, and you've hooked me with your description and pictures. I just have a big pile, no bin or mesh to worry about. This could work for me... it certainly has for you!

  2. I also love Lee Valley and have ordered all kinds of great items from their catalog, plus I love to visit the store in Halifax.
    I'm glad you posted about this tool because it would probably work well for us also.
    You certainly have lots of apples in your compost bin.

  3. Don't you just love that 'kid in a candy store' feeling? I get that from plant catalogs, like White Flower Farm or Plant Delights. BTW, I must be the odd man out, I've never heard of Lee Valley but will google it as soon as I can. I could always go for some new garden tools.

  4. Laurrie - I completely understand the affliction. Not sure I can fully admit just how much stuff I own from the Lee Valley catalogue. However, I do really like this tool and I can see I'll be using it a lot with my big compost bins.

    The Witch - When I lived in BC I used to go to the Lee Valley store all the time but boy I'm glad they have a catalogue as we don't often get to Halifax. Unfortunately a lot of apples from our trees weren't usable this year so our compost has been overtaken.

    Debbie - Lee Valley is a Canadian company which is why you may not be familiar with it. If you're interested they do sell internationally. I've linked to their website in my post and it's also included in my 'Favourites' section. I warn you though, you might get hooked!

  5. When I have a bit more time, I'll have to go look at the Lee Valley website. What a great mother-in-law you have! If I thought I might get one that gave such great gifts, I might be tempted to consider marriage again. LOL. But, seriously, I definitely need to look into getting a compost aerator. -Jean

  6. Oh oh...another Lee Valley tool I can't live without now that you posted about it. Looks like it really does a great job!! Liked your photos also, showing work accomplished.

    Good thing Lee Valley sell wire cutters too eh))).

  7. Jean - the in-law game is tricky isn't it? ;) I'm surprised more people haven't heard of compost aerators, I would have thought other companies would produce a similar product. But that's what I like about Lee Valley, they always seem to have the newest greatest gadgets that you haven't seen anywhere else (and of course I absolutely have to have all of them!).

    GardeningBren - I think the longest and hardest part of the job was trying, hopelessly, to free the aerator from the wire and then searching for the wire cutters. Good thing I like this tool a lot.

  8. Lee Valley rocks! What a cool looking tool you got and what a fabulous job it did turning over your compost.

  9. I will have to look into Lee Valley. I can't help but notice that you must have had quite an apple crop this year.

  10. Lee Valley is one of my favourite places to shop too - though more for carving tools than for gardening though I'm sure that will change once I move to PEI. I have a dremmel and buy lots of diamond bits to use with it for carving wood and stone.
    Enjoy! and sorry about the OOPS:)

  11. Another Lee Valley fan here! I've seen that tool too and wondered how it worked so I'm glad you posted about it. Time to start dropping Christmas hints, I think. ;-)

  12. Melanie - another Lee Valley fan! Seems there's a few of us here :))

    Lifeshighway - Apparently this was a bumper year for apples in our area. We've had our hands full, literally. Unfortunately the trees have not been cared for in some time and there were issues with a lot of the apples so many ended up in the compost.

    Jane - you carve! that's wonderful. Have you ever posted some of your work on your blog? I'd love to see what you do.

    Liz - We have Lee Valley wish lists in this house! It's a terrible addiction, and there always seems to be just one more item I can't live without.

  13. these are the most wonderfull tool .. i use them down at the pub where there are 9 of the black plastic composters to work with .. makes so much difference .. enjoy yours ..

  14. Jane - I'm wishing I had bought it sooner. I can see how it would help with that many bins, even with just 2 bins it has reduced the time to turn the piles and does it far better than anything I've used before.