Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Compost - what I need to be doing!

Organic matter in your vegetable, fruit or flowering garden is an essential ingredient to keep your plants growing over the long term. Initial plantings directly into your garden quite often do well, but overtime your garden's minerals and nutrients become exhausted and the overall soil health diminishes. The addition of organic matter, particularly in the form of compost, is a welcome and worthwhile addition to any garden to allow the same successes over and over again.

With the addition of compost to your garden, you will increase the amount of nutrients available, increase the potential water availability, decrease the amount of nutrients made unavailable in traditional landfill, reduce greenhouse gases being generated unnecessarily in landfill, provides soil structure in your garden and increases soil microbial activity leading to healthier and more productive soils over time. 

(Source: Abi Homeschools)

In recent years, I have always had a compost bin and presently my bin is not being loved as much as it should.  I really haven't had a significant amount of time to dedicate to the established garden beds at my place and thus, I haven't been maintaining my compost with love and vigour. I do regularly add food scraps, occasionally brown "goods" (such as leaves and branches) and when I just happen to have some green waste (fresh leaves and grass clippings) in my hand as I walk passed these go in too. Another ingredient that I have added to my compost bin is a few bags of fresh horse manure. I just did this because my understanding is that it isn't great to add manure straight to the garden and horse manure also quite often contains a large of weed seeds and the composting process will kill some of these off.

Things I should be doing to my standard compost bin to allow it to be composting more effectively and in a shorter period of time, include:
  • aeration - I should be forking it over at least once a week (at present), to re-establish a bit of air flow and allow the breakdown process to become re-activated and mix the "ingredients" through each other;
  • checking the moisture levels - if it is too wet or dry, decomposition of materials will be significantly slowed;
  • getting a better balance between the ingredients - adding a significant larger proportion of brown goods over the green ones.
Once I have established a better routine for my compost, then it is likely that my compost bin will be more productive and the end product will be an ingredient that my garden will love in the long term.

So, what is stopping me from doing all this you may ask? Well, firstly time is a little against me at the moment, but I think the more important thing is that my compost bin is actually in quite an awkward location to access. As such, putting things into it is certainly a chore and attempting to do anything more than drop an occasional bucket of food scraps into it can in fact be quite dangerous (it is located on quite a steep hill on top of a small retaining wall). I think the re-location of my compost bin to a more appropriate location would re-engage me with my beneficial garden waste and overall inspire me to a new level of commitment to this nutrient recycling process in my garden.

Given that it is currently compost awareness week, maybe you can make a difference to your garden by re-engaging with your composting activities or establishing a new bin. Happy composting!

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