Information about work, life and play in Regional Australia

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Regional living - the lazy person's approach to gardening 3: the importance of a good compost heap

I cannot over-emphasise the importance of a good compost heap. For a lazy gardener like me, there is nothing so satisfying as the thought that you are growing some good compost even if the rest of the garden does not have a single plant!

Remember this is the lazy man's guide to gardening. I do nothing posh with the compost at all!

Rule one. Do not allow your wife to force you to buy one of those plastic compost bins. They look neat, but do not work.

Rule two. Mowing or weeding should not be regarded as a chore, but as harvesting to get material for your compost. This is quite a different perspective.

Now look at the garden. A good overgrown spot with space on one side is great. Overgrown is good because you can fight the weeds with your heap. Space is good because you need to be able to turn the heap.

You should have a waste container in the kitchen for all your scraps. This is one source of raw material for the compost. You need more.

I have tried to compost most things, including paper. Paper is not good. Beside you need it for other purposes. Meat scraps attract maggots. So you want all forms of vegetable material.

Start by searching round for leaves, grass or weed to form an initial heap. This needs to be big enough so that you can poke a hole in it and pour in the kitchen material, then cover it over. Add to the pile as you go along.

Rule three. A compost heap shrinks to around one third of its size as material breaks down. I make the point only because you need to get the heap to a fair size before you go to the next stage. So keep adding material to it.

Before going on to rule four, you need to be aware of the difference between aerobic and anaerobic reactions. Aerobic requires oxygen and gives you that sweet compost smell. Anaerobic takes place in the absence of oxygen and gives you that sour smell.

Rule four. To get that sweet smell, you need to turn the compost to bring in air. That is why you need space, to turn the compost to the next place in the bed.

This brings me to rules five and six.

Rule five. Add something like dynamic lifter at periodic intervals because this aids the breakdown. It can also be helpful to add a little lime because kitchen scraps tend to get a little acidic. Think of the influence of the balsamic vinegar on all your salads!

Rule six. Add a little water from time to time. This helps the reaction.

Each time you add new material to your compost, that is stuff that has to break down. At a certain size, freeze your compost and start a new one.

After a little while with this process, you will have a never ending supply of compost for your garden beds.

1 comment:

Jane and David said...

Hi Jim, thanks for a simple and common sense explanation of compost heaps. We're looking forward to starting up a vegie patch soon on the basis of our very prodigious heap.

It's good to see a blog about rural and regional Australia. Please feel free to pop in to, which is focused on rural and regional Australia. We'd love to hear about your thoughts and more gardening tips there!