With the advent of Compost Awareness Week starting yesterday, I thought it was high time that I update you all on our composting system. As most processes tend to do, this one has changed and been adapted over the years: 1. we actually lost both of our worm farm bathtubs the summer before last, and 2. I’ve had to learn to be a bit kinder to my back, and have therefore started composting insitu more to cut back on digging.
We still have two compost bins behind the chook run, dedicated to manure composting (usually horse) along with a straw and some vegie scraps, but the other two have been moved to Beds 1 and 5 so that when the bin is ready to be used, all I have to do is lift the bin up carefully and spread out the compost – no digging out in an awkward space!
I took these pics as I was preparing the weekly top-up: the buckets are food scraps from a family we collect from (don’t panic, they’re only about half full), the white bag is horse manure, and the other, colourful bag is shredded paper. Each bin had already had a generous handful of comfrey leaves put down on top of last week’s straw topping, then the shredded paper went down to absorb the food liquids, then the food scraps, then about half of a bag of horse manure to cap off and keep out flies. Give that a good hose down to moisten the manure and paper and put the lid back on. Done!
In addition to this, before planting out the greens in Beds 3 and 4, I put down a layer of comfrey, vegie scraps and straw, and let it compost insitu for a few weeks before planting out. This is the basis of no-dig gardening and is by far the easiest method of getting compost into your gardens and encouraging worms and other goodies to continue living there. No equipement needed. No digging required. Just good healthy soil feeding productive, happy plants, and in turn, happy us!
A new addition to our system is a compost bay behind the shed. We made this one mostly as a result of going on holiday in November last year and coming home to find the backyard taken over by pumpkin vines (which made a huge mess but didn’t actually provide any fruit). It’s simply 4 wooden (untreated!) pallets, screwed together at the corners (the front one is just tied on with old baling twine for easy removal) and covered by a left-over sheet of fencing tin (ex-worm farm lid), weighed down by a few lumps of waste concrete. It is now a receptical for all the larger materials, plus more manure, vegie scraps (if I get too much for the other bins to cope with), straw, paper, etc (changing it up as much as I can). And it now houses a rather large (and hopefully productive) sweet potato vine.
We also, as of Saturday, own a commercially-produced black plastic worm farm! I haven’t had one of these since I was a kid, and I wouldn’t normally say ‘yay for plastic’, but I’m hoping it will be a bit easier to manage than the bathtubs, again no shovelling out of castings, its more rodent-proof (we had a rat living in one of our old tubs ) and I can move it if it gets too much sun (pretty sure that’s what killed the other tub). So hopefully I’ll get a chance to set that up this week as well!
Another addition, this time up at the farm, is a humanure bay. I know, I know, human waste is not a topic that is widely considered to be savory, but I want our farm to be completely off-grid and sustainable, and that means dealing with *all* of our waste. As you can see, it looks much the same as the bay behind the shed here in Brisbane, but it has far more straw and wood shavings in it to nutralise any liquids. Its also in full sun for most of the day, which should cook any nasties over the next 6-9mths. And it has no smell. I check.
So that’s our composting. Its a lot. But believe it or not, our soil is actually pretty rubbish here – mostly very fine silt/sand that, if we can manage to get water to go in at all, it flows straight through and takes any nutrients with it So I’m constantly topping up beds and mulching to try to maintain good soil.
Any questions, let me know!