Making your own compost isn’t as mysterious as many new gardeners might think. It’s the natural decomposition of organic matters that revert back to their original state and provide a great basis for much of our gardening. Start with 3 wooden pallets up-ended and tied together or staked. Make sure the ground is clean and free from debris. Step 1
There are two basic material requirements with compost: Carbon and Nitrogen Carbon gives the volume while Nitrogen provides the fuel. The ratio of carbon:nitrogen is 4:1. Collect all your carbon sources. If you don’t have much then try and source some from other areas around your community. Step 2
Sources of Carbon If you need more carbon try sourcing shredded paper from offices, hay from a rural supplies outlet or directly from a farm and pine needles from a plantation. You could even approach a local mill for bags of sawdust. Leaves Newspaper Dryer Lint Corn Stalks Cardboard Old Potting Mix Sawdust Shredded Paper Pine Needles Dead Prunings Hay & Pea Straw
Nitrogen will fire your compost up and help generate some microbial activity to keep the heap ticking along. Collect all your nitrogen sources. If you don’t have much then try and source some from other areas around your community. Step 3
Sources of Nitrogen If you need more nitrogen you could ask your local restaurant if you can keep a bucket in their kitchen for vegetable scraps. Or, approach a café for some of their coffee grounds. Or, talk to a lawn mowing contractor about keeping some their clippings. Lawn Clippings Vegetable Scraps Seaweed Weeds Hair Coffee Grounds Manures
What else can go in the heap? There are many other materials that can go into a compost heap but have little or no benefit apart from being recycled Here they are… Vacuum Dust Wood ashes Onion Skins Egg Shells
What can’t go in the heap? There are also many materials that can’t go in the compost heap because they either attract vermin or they harm the other materials. Dairy Products Oils and grease Dog or Human Poo Bones Meat (Cooked or Raw)
Starting a compost pile is all about layers. A layer of carbon followed by a layer of nitrogen. Top it with another layer of carbon and so on… Use your largest materials on the bottom of your heap. This is good for two reasons; (1) It helps keep air moving through the heap, and (2) there is more chance for them to breakdown on the bottom than at the top. Step 4
Some gardeners recommend that you mix materials prior to setting up the compost. My advice is that it doesn’t matter if you plan to turn the heap at least every week. Keep layering the materials with mobs of bulk (carbon) and then added fuel (nitrogen). Keep a hose on hand to water the heap as it grows. After each addition of nitrogen water that layer in really well. Step 5
The final heap will look quite busty but it will drop down as the decomposition begins to start. Leave the heap in this state for two (2) weeks without turning. Keep it moist. Top the heap off with a good smothering of fresh lawn clippings and water again – just in case. I place a piece of PVC pipe in the middle of the heap to help keep some airflow through the pile. Step 6
Two weeks later… As you can see, I’ve been adding food scraps on top of the heap over this time. Now it’s time to do the first turn and it will give you some idea of how it’s going. Step 7
There a two ways to turn a compost pile. If you have space then run with 2 or more bins forking the contents from one to another. If space is at a premium you can do it with one bin using this tool. Click the video to start it… Sourced from Clean Air Gardening
You should notice when turning your heap, that some of the materials are quite warm and are covered in a white powdery substance. This is good… Once it’s turned, you can leave it for up to a week before turning again. However, the more you turn the compost heap the quicker the materials will decompose. Step 8
After 4-6 weeks of continual turning your compost should be at a point where it’s ready to use. When all the materials are no longer recognisable and the heap looks more like organic soil. The heap should no longer be hot but it may still be a little warm. How do you know when it’s finished?
Once you have this great organic compost, what can you do with it? Don’t use compost directly as potting or seed raising mix. You will need to add some other ingredients so that plants get the best start. There’s a recipe on the next slide… Caution… Compost Uses <ul><li>Turn it into a compost tea liquid fertiliser </li></ul><ul><li>Make your own potting & seed-raising mixes </li></ul><ul><li>Use it as a soil improver </li></ul><ul><li>Mulch garden beds </li></ul>
Neville Sweeney from selfsufficientish.com has a great article and recipes on how to make these… Recipes Making your own potting mixes Ingredients Click here. Vermiculite or Perlite Your own compost Sand Peat moss or coir fibre
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