Com­post Guide

There’s noth­ing more sat­is­fy­ing than nour­ish­ing your plants and soil us­ing com­post you’ve cre­ated your­self.

Good - - CONTENTS - Words Kahu de Beer

The dos and don’ts

Grow­ing up on a farm, we did things for fun (and pocket money) that city kids wouldn’t dream of. Our fam­ily would of­ten rally to­gether and make a whole event out of driv­ing the quad bike and trailer down to the pad­docks and col­lect­ing horse ma­nure. We thought it was awe­some. We’d sit on the sides of the rusty trailer as we bumped along the dirt tracks and then com­pete to see who could col­lect the most. I’d like to say that I did it for the gar­dens and the com­post heap for which it was des­tined, but I was def­i­nitely in it for the money.

Start­ing a com­post doesn’t have to re­quire day-long work­ing bees to col­lect ma­nure. All you need to get started is the bin it­self – these range in price from about $45 for a ba­sic plas­tic one to around $300 for a top-of-the-range com­post tum­bler. Or, you can make one your­self. You don’t need to be a DIY ex­pert, you just need a ba­sic struc­ture that has ven­ti­la­tion and a cover of some sort. Some op­tions to use are bam­boo poles, or un­treated planks.

The com­post­ing process is na­ture’s way of re­cy­cling or­ganic mat­ter and cre­at­ing a nutrient-rich en­vi­ron­ment for new things to grow. It is the ab­so­lute best way of sup­ple­ment­ing your gar­den soil as it adds nu­tri­ents and ben­e­fi­cial or­gan­isms, aer­ates the soil and wards off plant dis­ease. It also pro­vides a nat­u­ral al­ter­na­tive to us­ing chem­i­cal fer­tilis­ers.

More and more peo­ple are be­com­ing aware of the ori­gins of their food, but it’s also worth con­sid­er­ing where our food waste is go­ing. It’s easy to just throw some­thing in the bin think­ing that’s the end of it – but in fact, it will con­tinue to have an im­pact on our en­vi­ron­ment. Com­postable waste com­prises over half of all land­fill, re­leas­ing harm­ful meth­ane gases, when it could be turned into a re­source for grow­ing nour­ish­ing food. It makes a lot of sense to start your own com­post bin; it will save you money, dras­ti­cally re­duce the amount of rub­bish you throw out, and is some­thing pos­i­tive and re­ward­ing you can do that doesn’t re­quire a huge ef­fort.

What to com­post

As a gen­eral rule, any­thing that has been alive at one stage can be com­posted, but here’s a guide. Lawn clip­pings An­i­mal (her­bi­vore) ma­nure Kitchen waste Cof­fee grounds Eggshells Fresh plant ma­te­rial Seaweed Light prun­ings Ash (from un-tanalised tim­ber) Pa­per and card­board (prefer­ably shred­ded) Old leaves and plant ma­te­rial Straw or hay

Some weeds (it’s best to avoid es­pe­cially vig­or­ous va­ri­eties that have gone to seed)

What not to com­post

Plas­tic Metal Treated wood Dis­eased plant ma­te­rial An­i­mal (car­ni­vore) or hu­man waste Meat or bones

A thriv­ing com­post

There’s a method to cre­at­ing good com­post, in­clud­ing get­ting the right mix of en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors Warmth Po­si­tion your bin in a sunny spot: warmth ac­ti­vates your com­post. Mois­ture Keep a lid on your bin, es­pe­cially dur­ing win­ter or rainy weather to make sure it doesn’t get too wet. In warmer months you may need to give it an oc­ca­sional wa­ter to keep it from dry­ing out. The ideal con­sis­tency should be that of a damp sponge. Ven­ti­la­tion Your bin should have gaps in the sides to al­low for air flow; oxy­gen is es­sen­tial for de­com­po­si­tion. Turn­ing your com­post ev­ery week or two will keep it aer­ated. Lay­ers Al­ter­nat­ing lay­ers of green and brown mat­ter, along with an oc­ca­sional sprin­kling of ad­di­tives such as lime and soil, makes for a healthy ecosys­tem in your com­post bin. Each layer should be roughly 10cm thick. Green mat­ter Fresh or­ganic mat­ter such as an­i­mal ma­nure, kitchen waste, seaweed Brown mat­ter Dead leaves, card­board, pa­per, mulched branches The right acid­ity The op­ti­mum pH for your com­post bin is about 6 or 7. Many will be more acidic than this: a hand­ful of lime ev­ery now and then will help to bal­ance the pH. Mak­ing sure you have sim­i­lar amounts of green and brown waste will also keep the acid­ity lev­els in check. Fruit flies are a sign that your com­post has be­come too acidic. Micro­organ­isms and earth­worms These will en­ter the com­post bin when it has con­tact with the ground. Adding a bit of soil to your com­post now and then will en­cour­age more ac­tiv­ity. When your com­post is ready to use it will be dark brown and earthy smelling. The ma­tu­rity time of the com­post heap will de­pend largely on fac­tors such as its in­ter­nal tem­per­a­ture and the health of its micro­organ­isms. For best re­sults, fork com­post lightly into the soil around es­tab­lished plants or in­cor­po­rate into the soil be­fore plant­ing.

“It makes a lot of sense to start your own com­post bin; it will save you money and dras­ti­cally re­duce the amount of rub­bish you throw out.”

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