Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine - - Your Garden - by Laura Rit­ten­house www.lau­rarit­ten­

Com­post­ing gu­rus ad­vo­cate fill­ing your bin in al­ter­nat­ing lay­ers of green (grass, kitchen scraps, fresh leaves) and brown (straw, dead leaves, news­pa­per) ma­te­rial in a 60%-40% ra­tio. Zealots even sug­gest adding lay­ers of an­i­mal ma­nure. Then, at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals, you’re to move all the con­tents from bin 1 (ac­cu­mu­late) to bin 2 (break down) then, later, to bin 3 (use).

That may be fan­tas­tic ad­vice, but it doesn’t work for me. Why? Be­cause I have ma­te­rial to com­post when my gar­den or kitchen pro­duce it, not when my com­post heap wants it. And, mov­ing a pile of com­post be­tween bins is back­break­ing work. And, I don’t buy ma­nure for my com­post – it’s a zero cost, high value fac­tory in my gar­den.

So, what do I do? I load a bin with what­ever I need to get rid of and, when it’s full, move on to the next bin. Even­tu­ally the con­tents of the first bin break down and I empty it. And so it goes.

While spo­rad­i­cally throw­ing or­ganic ma­te­rial in a heap, I have learned a few things that speed up the com­post­ing process. My top tips are:

1) Keep it damp. Dry com­post stops pro­cess­ing.

2) Cover the heap (card­board works) to slow evap­o­ra­tion and main­tain warmth.

3) Chop the ma­te­rial as small as prac­ti­cal.

4) Stir the com­post – reg­u­lar stir­ring (I ac­knowl­edge that mov­ing the pile is best) speeds up pro­cess­ing dra­mat­i­cally.

One ur­ban myth I’ve found un­re­li­able is that worms al­ways thrive in good com­post. Worms stay away from high tem­per­a­tures so they’ll of­ten only live at the bot­tom of a hot heap.

My best ad­vice is to com­post how­ever it works for you – the “rules” def­i­nitely pro­duce a great com­post in the min­i­mum time, but com­post­ing isn’t just about the end prod­uct, it’s also about man­ag­ing waste. So don’t stress, just com­post!

If you’re in­ter­ested in gar­den­ing, join us at the Mac­quarie Towns Gar­den Club. We meet at 2:00 p.m. on the first Thurs­day of each month at the Wind­sor

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