So some really close friends of mine have just moved into a new house and we are planning their backyard. Usually when I go for a visit, if they have any scraps they are boxed up and brought home to our compost bin. While I absolutely LOVE this, I sort of think maybe they should start their own, so I encouraged it. And then came the looming question: What is compost?
So I have been taking it for granted that I just know what it is and what its advantages are. We actually produce more waste than our worm farm can cope with, given paperwork and garden clippings, chook bedding etc. So compost is all of this simply broken down until its basically a sticky muddy goop. Yeah, I get pretty scientific with this stuff I know.
Next question please! What does compost do?
Well I am SO glad you asked. Its a fertiliser, a soil improver! You are basically taking all of the waste your household already produces and making it into FREE fertiliser for your garden. HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!
Once the compost is ready, just dig it through the top layer of your soil, 20 to 30cm deep… and then start again on the next lot!
Okay, I’ve sold you. But what now? How do I make compost?
I don’t want to keep you here all day, so would recommend you do some research yourself on the million ways to build a compost system. Basically, there are two ways – an open system is the one where you literally see a pile of stuff in the corner of someones yard just breaking down as they occasionally turn and wet it. The system I have is a closed compost tumbler, and you can buy one here.
There are pro’s and con’s to both I think but the main reasons I chose my tumbler are
- Small/compact – I only have a small area in my yard
- Closed system – I live REALLY close to my neighbours, our blocks are only 10m wide. So if I made any mistakes and attracted pests like rats or flies my neighbours would be really unimpressed with me.
- Easy to turn – where with a pile I would have to physically fork over the compost (well if I want to speed it up anyway) the tumbler is really easy to turn
- Small batches means quick compost – and I am really impatient. So I figure if I can have compost sooner, and have two at different stages (the tumbler is split into two chambers) I get to use it more often.
Does it smell?
If you bugger it up it will. Oh don’t fret, its easy to fix. Compost is an aerobic system, so has that gorgeous earthy smell. If it starts to smell sour or foul it is likely it has become anaerobic.
Compost should be made up of 25-30 parts Carbon to 1 part Nitrogen.
Carbon – Also known as ‘dry’ or ‘brown’ material. I use pine shavings from my chook bedding, I also shred up all paper in the house – receipts, tags from clothing, paper bags from buying flour or sugar etc.
Nitrogen – Also known as ‘wet’ or ‘green’ material. I use kitchen scraps, garden clippings, chook poo. While you technically *can* compost citrus, alliums, meat and dairy it does require a lot of monitoring so I avoid these. They would count as green.
If you get that sour smell its too green – add some more brown. Alternatively, if it isn’t breaking down at all it needs some more green material to get it going. Make sure the system remains moist but not wet.
Tumble or turn regularly for quicker mulch and aeration!
Thank you for composting, you are doing the environment a favour.
Composting saves this waste entering landfill where it will take much longer to break down and breeds toxic mold. Watch the below clip comparing bioturbation with and without soil fauna. Landfill contains very little fauna while compost has plenty.
Bioturbation with and without soil fauna by MicropolitanMuseum – see more like this here.