Friday, 27 September 2013

Compost help

Calling all composting experts!

Time for another confession. I have never started a compost heap before. When I first started researching organic gardening the most important thing stressed by everyone was to start a compost heap. Some even suggested percentages of each type of matter I should be contributing to it but I have found it is sometimes difficult to measure as the pile gets larger. I do not have a compost bin nor a tumbler so I started my compost on a pile of leaves next to my shadehouse and under the gumtrees. The leaves themselves I figured were already an ecosystem as they were probably a foot deep before I started adding layers. This position gets both direct sun and full shade, depending on the time of day.

To cordon off my heap I used one side of the shade house and two old single bed bases to form a three sided, well aired compost bay. I added everything included on the list I compiled from all the sites I read:

Fruit and vegetable scraps - no onion or citrus
Twigs - not too big, just enough to aerate
Grass clippings 
Charcoal dust - from the bonfire brought up in a wheelbarrow
Hair - my daughter is a hairdresser and cuts her brothers hair

I left it for two weeks, watered it a couple of times but did not cover it which Paul thought I should. Should I put a tarp or something over it? I did surprise a small brown snake the first time I added scraps but have not seen one since. We would need to be careful if it does require covering though. We also get huge goannas here which I expected would be attracted by the food far I have not seen one. Touch wood, they scare me more than the snakes.

I got a fork to it on the weekend and turned the heap over several times. I could see a bit of breakdown in the very bottom of the pile but the top layers were fairly dry.

I added some shredded paper, some more soil and scraps and will check back again after the rain this weekend. How often should I turn the heap over? Do you think I have the right mix of ingredients?

The finished result
Whatever the result, I have discovered great satisfaction in recycling my food scraps. Reminds me of when we had chickens, which I miss, so the chook house project is gaining more importance on my list. I have had to put a sign on my scrap bucket so it does not get filled with meat scraps, bones and onions. The kids are also learning to save the citrus peel to make vinegar based cleaner. I always have a jar or two of it going in the kitchen at all times.

I was wondering if anyone has used a bokashi bucket? The idea of being able to recycle the meat scraps as well is appealing to me, so that may be on my Christmas list...but I understand there is an ongoing cost with the bran.

I will make a great organic gardener one day...the main thing is I have made a start on my apprenticeship and composting takes a few months I believe. I have plenty of those to spare.

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