Grow Your Own, Make Your Own

a journey of discovery

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Preparing compost: giving it some TLC

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As I’ve already mentioned, I’m not terribly good at growing vegetables. I dabbled in vegie growing when I was a child, but didn’t really do much more until I was well into adulthood. I have set up a small vegie patch in our front garden, mostly so that our two dogs won’t dig up my little plants. I have a tumbling compost system which has been OK in terms of having a place to put our vegie scraps, but I think I still have a lot to learn about creating a really good, healthy compost.

The key to good compost is balance. It needs nitrogen, carbon, air and water. It also needs to be allowed to heat up to about 55’C in the centre so that any harmful bacteria are destroyed along with any weed seeds that may have made their way in there.

According to Clive Blazey and Jane Varkulevicius[1] in their book “The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden: grow the best fruit and vegetables for good health and flavour” (The Digger’s Club) the best recipe for a good compost is:

25% high nitrogen like raw manure or green legumes;

35% green plants like fresh lawn clippings or vegetable waste;

35% high carbon material such as straw, dead leaves and paper or cardboard, and

5% gritty material such as rock dust, bone dust, wood ash or compost from the last good batch.

 I once added my sub-standard attempts at compost to the soil in my garden and ended up with some free tomato and butternut pumpkin plants, as the seeds hadn’t broken down. It was a lovely surprise, but not really what I’m looking for every time! At the moment my compost is sitting in a tumbler getting vegie scraps added to it constantly without being given the time to break down. It is exhibiting the symptoms of poor compost – it is black and doesn’t have a pleasant, earthy smell. Jarod Ruch[2] says that “Good, well-aerated compost should be fluffy, crumbly and a very dark-brown chocolate colour rather than black.”

Its time to give my compost some TLC before the cooler weather sets in. The plan of attack? I’m going to add some shredded paper to boost the carbon, get some chook poo to add to it. I might even add some stinky blood and bone to the mix to beef it up a bit! Right. By the time I have to plant my autumn/winter vegies, my compost is going to be awesome! Watch this space!

I also need to figure out what to do with my surplus vegie scraps while the tumbler contents are breaking down. There are two options I can think of. One is a worm farm and the other is a container called a bokashi bin. Have you ever used either of these composting systems? What would your preference be out of a bokashi bin and a worm farm?

 

[1] Blazey & Varkulevicius (2008) “The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden: grow the best fruit and vegetables for good health and flavour” The Diggers Club, Victoria, Australia.

[2] Blazey & Varkulevicius (2008) “The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden: grow the best fruit and vegetables for good health and flavour” The Diggers Club, Victoria, Australia p35.

 

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