Friday, September 4, 2015

Come On Let's Talk Dirty! - Compost

Compost to the gardener is black gold. Every garden should have a compost heap of one sort or another, it's a vital ingredient in a healthy garden. It feeds and conditions your soil and it's good for the environment as it takes care of household scraps and your garden's green waste. 

Unless you are lucky enough to have the room for a three bin open system, which would make you a lot of compost and you're willing to turn it regularly, most gardeners like myself, only have room for an enclosed bin. The closed bin is a hot composting system and if mixed right will produce you compost fairly fast, as long as you place that bin in a position where it will get plenty of sunshine.

The enclosed bins come in various sizes, and I have found, having tried both, that the ones that also have air slats featured in the design, as compost does need air, work better than those that don't. 

 Just like the cold bin method, you do have to ensure your compost is aerated and within an enclosed bin you cannot really turn it, but you can use a tool that you insert and twist. This tool, (a picture of my own one is seen to your left,) will introduce space and air into the mixture. You still need to do this even if your bin has air slats. I also prefer compost bins that have an open bottom and which you place in direct contact with the soil. By having an open bottom to your bin you allow access to those lovely worms that work so hard for you in your garden.  

Making compost is not hard, you just have to get the mix right, that is the right balance between brown material (paper, cardboard dry leaves, straw) and green material (kitchen scraps, garden waste etc.) Compost also needs air and to be damp. Too wet or too dry and your compost will not turn into that black gold that smells right - no bad odours. Also the addition of extra nitrogen in the form of organic fertilisers can and should be added. I add usually a little blood and bone to one of the layers. 

The trick to good compost is to build it in layers. You can start with your green waste, that is scraps like vegetable peelings etc. Egg shells, just crush them up and don't waste those coffee grounds, tea leaves or tea bags as your compost will love these and they act as an activator to breaking everything down. Throw in your garden green waste, but do chop it up small. Even weeds can go in a hot compost bin as long as they haven't gone to seed.

Now, to the no no no's of kitchen scraps. No meat, fish or dairy. I do believe too that your dear worms are not too fond of onions, garlic, chilli and citrus (although I have to admit I have put all of these things worms don't like into my bin without any problems, but not very often.)  A big NO to  dog/cat/human waste - you don't want any of that shit! It may not be safe to use - so don't put it in.

Next layer can be your brown waste, that includes paper, shred it up, but not the glossy type though, newspaper, kitchen roll is all good, cardboard, save those inserts to your toilet rolls and kitchen rolls and rip 'em and chuck 'em in!  Don't waste those dried leaves in your garden, they're all brown waste and of course straw.

Sprinkle on top of this some blood and bone, or well rotted manure, chook, cow, sheep etc. or even some organic pelleted fertilisers.  Also I don't waste my spent potting mix. When a plant pot is finished I empty it's contents into the bin.

Now you can start your layers all over again!

You need to keep your compost damp but not wet or too dry.  If it's too wet, how do you know this? Well, it may not smell as good as it should. Aerate it and put in some of those dry ingredients I talked about earlier. If your worms are exiting your bin, the chances are it's too wet or you've added those ingredients those little darlings don't like ^_^

Some people advocate not composting tomato plants, capsicums and potato plants, because they may have developed a disease, and you do need to keep your compost disease free. However, I do compost tomato, capsicum and potato plants, all you have to do is check those plants out, if they're clean they're fine. If you suspect any plant of any sort has a disease then the best thing to do is bin it, not compost it.

There you have it, compost is the gardeners friend, so go on make yourself a lovely heap!

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