Tino Carnevale:

Pro­vid­ing pretty much all the goodness a grow­ing plant needs, com­post is the world’s best fer­tiliser and soil con­di­tioner, writes TINO CARNEVALE

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS - with Tino Carnevale

On why mak­ing com­post just makes cents

Mak­ing some­thing for free that you can’t even buy is pretty cool.

Com­post is the re­sult of the de­com­po­si­tion of or­ganic mat­ter. For the home gar­dener it is a way of re­cy­cling waste prod­ucts from the house­hold as well as the gar­den into what is one of the great­est tools in a gar­dener’s kit­bag. It can some­times be easy to for­get how use­ful this gor­geous ma­te­rial is.

I suppose it is al­ways in the back­ground as some­thing that gar­den­ers just do but I feel I need to give it the re­spect that it’s due. In my opin­ion it’s the world’s best fer­tiliser as it con­tains all the goodness a plant needs, and makes those nu­tri­ents read­ily avail­able to the plant.

It is also a soil con­di­tioner. Not only will it im­prove the struc­ture of your soil but also in­crease both its wa­ter hold­ing ca­pac­ity and drainage and it acts as a nat­u­ral soil fungi­cide in­oc­u­lat­ing your soil with ben­e­fi­cial mi­crobes and fungi. You may have heard of manna from heaven, well com­post is manna from terra. Any­thing that was once alive but now is dead will de­com­pose but that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily mean that you want it rot­ting in a pile in your bag yard.

Cer­tain in­gre­di­ents come with reper­cus­sions. Your av­er­age back­yard com­post sys­tem is not set up to process hu­man waste or an­i­mal bones for ob­vi­ous rea­sons. Tech­ni­cally meat can be com­posted but it is guar­an­teed to at­tract some un­wanted squat­ters of the furry kind, and putting in weeds with vi­able seeds or dis­eased plant ma­te­ri­als can sim­ply spread your prob­lems.

There are four ba­sic el­e­ments that these helpers need to cre­ate com­post: air, wa­ter, ni­tro­gen and car­bon. The ra­tios of each of the in­gre­di­ents used will greatly dic­tate the speed and qual­ity of break down. The first two are pretty straight for­ward. If your heap is dry then add wa­ter and if it is too wet and low on air, lift it with a fork and give it a turn.

In gen­eral, ni­tro­gen is your green stuff, grass clip­pings, green leaves and food scraps. Not all green is equal though, it re­ally de­pends on how fresh the ma­te­rial is. Fruit con­tains a lot of ni­tro­gen and adding too much can cause your com­post to be acidic and sludgy. If you are low on

green ma­te­rial you can use a ni­tro­gen fer­tiliser to as­sist. Then there is car­bon, this is brown and con­sists of dried leaves, stems and roots. If you are short of brown, then shred­ded pa­per and card­board can be used to bulk out your mix but it is best to steer clear of glossy pa­per if you are plan­ning on us­ing the com­post in the veg­gie gar­den.

Tex­ture is one of the most im­por­tant as­pects of speedy com­post­ing. There are many or­gan­isms that help you in your com­post bin: bac­te­ria, fungi, worms and ne­ma­todes, slugs, snails, spi­ders and flies … you get the idea. Worms have tiny mouths and although tena­cious they tend to strug­gle on dense ma­te­ri­als like stems and lumps of wood so the more you can smash, cut or break up your ma­te­rial the eas­ier they will find it to process.

There are a num­ber of ways that peo­ple ap­proach the com­post­ing process. The Latin word com­posita trans­lates to some­thing put to­gether, mean­ing com­post­ing can be as sim­ple as a pile.

You may have heard the terms hot and cold com­post­ing and re­ally, these are pretty much the same thing. The only dif­fer­ence is that with a hot pile you need to col­lect all the ma­te­ri­als at the same time and cre­ate one dense mass. This means there is a greater amount of de­com­po­si­tion hap­pen­ing at once, which gen­er­ates the heat. With a cold bin you are adding small amounts reg­u­larly, so the rate of break­down is spread over time.

Com­post­ing can be as sim­ple as dig­ging a hole or even bet­ter a trench, putting in a good layer of fresh or­ganic mat­ter and then fill­ing it back in. Make sure not to make the layer too thick as you want to avoid sludgy, anaer­o­bic con­di­tions. When done right this is one of the most ef­fec­tive ways of im­prov­ing the lower level of your soil.

If you need to break down larger pieces of twigs and wood, the huglecul­ture method works a treat. Though it re­quires a bit of pa­tience, work and plan­ning, it’s ba­si­cally the big brother of trench com­post­ing. I dig a trench, lay in the wood and cover with green plant ma­te­rial, cap it with soil, and mulch with straw. You can then plant the whole thing out with pump­kins and let them ram­ble.

Mak­ing some­thing for free that you can’t even buy is pretty cool. It saves room in the rub­bish bin without tak­ing up too much space on the gar­den. A com­post pile would have to be the best gift you can give to your gar­den.

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