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