Top com­post’s all in the mix

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Tino Carnevale

ONE of the things I like most about gar­den­ing is that it’s one of the few sub­jects where we cel­e­brate rot­ting veg­e­ta­tion, blood, bones, urine, hav­ing worms and ad­mit­ting a fond­ness for poo.

One of the great­est gifts you can give your gar­den is the gift of com­post and by far the best com­post is the stuff you make yourself.

Mak­ing com­post is not un­like bak­ing a cake, ex­cept you use a slightly larger fork to whisk the mix.

With com­post as with a cake, it’s about hav­ing the right in­gre­di­ents and adding the right ra­tios of those in­gre­di­ents.

Tech­ni­cally you can add any­thing that was liv­ing but is now dead to your com­post bin and it will com­post but adding meat can, and will, at­tract ro­dents.

‘ This may re­quire a small amount of sweat on your be­half. The more of­ten you can turn and mix up the ma­te­ri­als, the more of­ten you will get com­post ’

There are four main in­gre­di­ents you need to make com­post. Ni­tro­gen – green stuff such as veg­etable scraps and lawn clip­pings and car­bon, brown stuff such as dried leaves and woody ma­te­rial and fi nally, air and wa­ter.

Bac­te­ria and fungi which are re­spon­si­ble for com­post­ing the ma­te­ri­als in your bin use the car­bon as en­ergy like we use car­bo­hy­drates and they use the ni­tro­gen to grow and mul­ti­ply.

Your bin or pile needs to be at least 1m ³ for qual­ity, quick com­post­ing to oc­cur, ideally they should be placed in a shel­tered spot out of di­rect sun­light to stop the piles from dry­ing out.

If you have no shade in your gar­den, cov­er­ing the top of your bin with a piece of old car­pet or tarp will help it stay moist.

Keep the amounts of air and mois­ture in the mix even; not too wet or too dry.

Fresh com­post smells like the sweet­est earth. If you get the mix right, your com­post will not smell.

If your bin is too dry the ma­te­rial will even­tu­ally break down, it may just take a lit­tle while longer.

To rec­tify this, sim­ply wet it with the hose and add some more green. If it is too wet the ma­te­rial will turn to slop and re­lease a rather brac­ing per­fume, if this is the case you will need to add some brown and turn the com­post.

This may re­quire a small amount of sweat on your be­half. The more of­ten you can turn and mix up the ma­te­ri­als, the more of­ten you will get com­post.

The ideal ra­tio of in­gre­di­ents to keep these com­post­ing or­gan­isms happy and healthy and do­ing their job is be­tween 25- 30 parts of brown to one part of green.

I’ve never both­ered to be that ex­act though be­cause not all brown and green was cre­ated equal. Some green con­tains more ni­tro­gen than other green and some brown has more car­bon than other brown.

Gen­er­ally I like to put a 10cm- 20cm layer of brown with a thin, roughly 2cm layer of green. Your or­gan­isms break fi ner ma­te­rial down faster than denser ma­te­rial so break­ing ma­te­rial up will pro­vide you with com­post sooner.

Fleshy stalks and roots can be bashed with a mal­let to break them up whereas paper, leaves and other veg­e­ta­tion can be laid out and run over with a mower to sep­a­rate into fi ner ma­te­rial.

If you are ever short on brown you can use paper or straw, in fact a cou­ple of bales of straw is a great way of mak­ing a de­cent amount in one go.

If you need some green you can use a small amount of blood and bone, used cof­fee grounds or if you’re re­ally des­per­ate, some wee. It is the best plant fer­tiliser and soil con­di­tioner you will ever use and it’s ab­so­lutely free.

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