Sunday, October 7, 2012

Troubleshooting Compost

Just give me the facts madam.
You say your compost is too smelly?
That cockroaches or vermin have taken up residence?
That’s your compost is slower to mature than a good red?
Well madam, the Compostchick Patrol can certainly help.
Now it's spring, we need to get out compost out of the winter doldrums.

Keep a brick or heavy pving on top to prevent the lid blowing off. Grow comfrey near the bin. I break off a couple of leaves and them to the brew everytime I add scraps or cuttings as it helps break them down.

Smelly Compost
Can be caused by a lack of circulating air in the heap. A common cause is having too much food with too few dry ingredients in the mix.

How to fix it:
* Fork in dry leaves or garden mulch.
* Add garden lime, dolomite or woodfire ash to the heap to reduce acidity.
* Turn the compost to add air.
* Combine nitrogen-rich ingredients with sawdust or shredded newspaper before adding to the heap. If you have chooks, add some of their old straw as it will be loaded with manure.
* Give your compost heap a ‘floor’ of crossed planks (old garden stakes are excellent) to ensure good drainage.

Pests/ Vermin
Get a cat. Seriously, when I found mice in one of my six cone bins (they never get in the tumbler) I borrow a cat. Amazing how fast a lazy old tom can move when presented with dinner on the hoof.
However, if you are living sans feline:
* Remember to always cover food scraps with a layer of garden vegetation or soil – then cover heap with something heavy such as really thick carboard, Hessian, some old underfelt, or polythene plastic sheet.
* Regularly turn the compost over to discourage habitation.
* When starting a new heap you can place firne wire mesh such as canary wire under the bin – this allows wrms and good bugs in but not vermin.
* Avoid placing dairy products, meat and seafood in the compost.

Taking too long to mature
The rainy winter this year certainly is not ideal compost maturing weather.
* Firstly if the compost is not hot enough, consider moving you bin to where it gets sunshine as this will help speed the process.
* Secondly, investigate, or there may not be enough air or water.
* Add nitrogen-rich material, such as kitchen scraps or green garden vegetation.
* Turn the heap and add some water – I keep a small bucket under the kitchen tap for when I rinse veggies off and add liquids such as water I have cooked the rice in or dreg of wine.
*Cover the compost with insulating material in winter if it gets too cold.

Tip - A friend keeps an compost bin in her chook run so her gals can turn it over and add their manure as they look for scraps!

According to the good folk at International Composting Awareness Week, approximately 60 per cent the rubbish Australians put in the everyday mixed-waste ‘garbage bin’ could be put to better use in the garden as compost and mulch or could be returned to agricultural land to improve soil quality.

Seven Bin Composting
At the moment I am using seven compost bins; six static conical or square bins and one tumbler.
The clay soil was a surprise when I moved to seaside Jan Juc and has been a real challenge.

They resemble a squad of garden DALEKS but are a thusand times more useful.

So any time I find a plastic compost bin at the tip shop or in a hard rubbish collection, it’s quickly recycled and cleaned then pressed into action.

To breakdown excess grass clippings I also use five large steel rubbish bins to which I add water. After a couple of weeks stewing it make a nice sludge to balance out  the compost bins when I have heaps of dry material to add.

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