- 6 tips to keep your com­post cook­ing

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Contents -

As tem­per­a­tures tum­ble, the process of com­post­ing slows down, but it doesn’t stop al­to­gether. The out­side lay­ers of your com­post heap may be cool, but the in­side lay­ers will con­tinue to de­com­pose if the right ma­te­ri­als are added.

The de­com­po­si­tion process is driven by mi­crobes, so you need to add ‘food’ con­tin­u­ously, a mix of ni­tro­gen and car­bon. Ni­tro­gen ma­te­ri­als in­clude grass clip­pings, fruit and vege scraps, chicken ma­nure, tea leaves and cof­fee grounds. Car­bon ma­te­ri­als in­clude dry straw, torn pa­per, card­board, small twigs, dead leaves, old pot­ting mix, saw­dust and wood ash.

keep the in­gre­di­ents as warm as pos­si­ble. You do this by lay­er­ing ma­te­ri­als on your com­post heap (as you would for hot com­post­ing) and keep­ing it wa­tered. With enough car­bon, ni­tro­gen, wa­ter and oxy­gen, the com­post heap heats up quickly, and mi­crobes mul­ti­ply and break down the ma­te­ri­als. Ev­ery time you throw in a bucket of kitchen scraps, top it with a layer of brown leaves, saw­dust, or other car­bon ma­te­rial. The car­bon layer acts as in­su­la­tion, trap­ping heat in­side.

Chop ev­ery­thing into smaller pieces. Ma­te­ri­als added to your heap in win­ter are best chopped finely so that they break down more quickly. The eas­i­est way to do this is to run your lawn mower over them a cou­ple of times. Chop twigs and cut­tings to a size no big­ger than 5cm.

Wa­ter. Even dur­ing win­ter your com­post heap needs mois­ture. Win­ter winds can suck your heap dry, and mi­crobes need wa­ter to sur­vive. If your heap is cov­ered from the el­e­ments, make sure you wa­ter it reg­u­larly.

In­su­late the out­side of your heap. Hay bales stacked around the heap help keep it warm. You can also cover your heap with a tarp or black plas­tic to pre­vent heat from es­cap­ing. Another op­tion is to line your win­ter com­post bin with thick card­board or poly­styrene.

Lastly, make sure you site your com­post heap in full sun. There’s noth­ing like so­lar power to keep your heap warm. The mi­crobes will cer­tainly thank you if they’re toasty warm dur­ing win­ter.

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