In the garden

The magic of composting

International compost awareness week is the 3rd to the 9th May, join in the fun here: International compost awareness weekor the home page here 

Did you know that compost sequesters carbon in the soil? Here is a comprehensive report if you want to learn more. I try to compost any waste that I can instead of sending it to landfill. If left to breakdown in anaerobic form as happens in landfill it actually adds carbon to the atmosphere. Compost is the key amendment to my garden, and best of all is the cost – free!

There are plenty of instructions as to how to make the perfect compost bin, or pile, but in fact composting is something that happens naturally, and you will just be doing it in a controlled area. I have a small garden, so do not have room for a great big hot compost pile, but that certainly does not mean that I cannot do my bit!

One of my favourite ways of composting is in a compost tumbler like this:

 and inside the tumbler:

A worm farm, everyone suggested…. I have only ever heard of one person with a worm farm in this climate.  A while back though, I saw an honesty stall with bottles of worm wee.  Hubby looked the other way when I went to put my coins in the jar and pick up a bottle.  He certainly didnt offer to take it out of the car when we were unloading…. just saying.  I dont think talk of worm poo or worm wee is one of his favourite subjects.  Soooo… I eventually discovered who owns the worms farms, and it is someone I know! I called and said I would love to get some worms and start of small with just a little worm tube.
On the way into Town on Sunday the plan was to go and pick up a handful of worms – I had a nice little turquoise bucket, with some shredded newspaper in the bottom…..

  Mr Worm sat down in front of one of his two worm farms and said “I want to give you this whole tray”….Oh no, I said, I just want a handful – just to get started you know.  I only have an in-ground bucket – just this size, see – and I heard they grow like mad when you feed them….. With his bare hands he began to scoop out mounds of worms, and poo,… and rotting vegetables, into my perfect little turquoise bucket….  I should have offered to help him – he is an elderly gentleman after all, but I couldn’t get past the fact that he was doing this with his bare hands…..I placed the overflowing bucket into a huge plastic bag and placed it in the back of the car…. Hubby’s eyes grew huge – “ummmm maybe we can pick that up on the way out of town?”  We left my package there, gave Mr Worm a lift into town,  and did our bit of shopping..   On the way home all the windows were open and I noticed Hubby was doing his best not to breathe unless he had his head out of the window – a bit hard since he was driving….
So, at home I filled the in ground bucket with the mixture, gave it a lid, and some shade, and the worms happily gobbled away everything I added. Wow!  I love the idea of all these little creatures and micro-organisms travelling around my yard.  I must say I was hesitant to add worms, having such a small garden and hearing stories about other gardeners in this area and the trouble they had with regular worm farms.  It gets very wet and humid in the summer and that is when worm farms can get slimy, smelly and infected with flies.  I did a lot of reading about in ground worm tubes and eventually added some to my garden.  What a great idea….they are insulated from the weather, and survived the flooding rains we had during the cyclone.

then I noticed that somehow the tiger worms had migrated into my tumbler. This did tend to make the contents in my tumbler wetter, but it was all processing so quickly. When I notice the compost getting wetter I can do one of two things. Add more dry ingredients like shredded leaves or newspaper, or move some of the contents into another location. This can either be into a trench in the garden, or into my stand alone compost bin.

 The stand alone compost bin is very basic, it just rests on the bare ground and you add material to the top. I turn over the compost two or three times a month, and water if it seems dry. adding a couple of buckets from my tumbler adds a few worms and microbes that get everything humming along.  Some of my bins favourite food is
mulched dried leaves from our lychee tree
shredded cardboard and newspaper
cut lemongrass leaves
seaweed picked up from the beach
beer waste from the bottom of the beer brewing barrel

 I dig the compost out of the bottom gate of that bin, actually digging a hole right into the dirt under the bin, since once I start mixing, the compost falls into that hole and the earthworms can start doing their thing.


I dont harvest the worm wee – I guess that just goes straight into the soil, but I alternate a top bucket between my two worm buckets, and as they move up I can then harvest all the lovely worm castings left behind in the lower bucket. Here you can see one bucket on top of the other.

  I have mostly just been adding this as a side dressing to my greens and they seem to love it.  I just add kitchen waste to these buckets when I have something I think the worms will find particularly tasty, the rest goes into the tumbling composter.

  1. Regarding the hot compost/cold compost debate, relies on enough surface area to hot compost. Not everyone has the room to have a huge compost bay, and that is where I fit in with my small garden.  A bin works best by being as full as possible.  As everything composts it reduces vastly in volume, so you need to be continually adding to the top and aerating the mix, but if you have two bins you can leave one to mature while adding to the other.
    2.  Air is so important!  I mix up my compost with a garden fork a couple of times a month.  I have seen spiral shaped tools for this purpose that look to be quite effective.  My five year old bin is breaking on the top edge because I do mix so much and so vigorously, but think in the end I get a better compost.
    3.  There needs to be twice as much brown dry ingredient as wet  ingredients. Leaves, shredded newspaper or cardboard etc.  These will stop your compost getting slimy and smelly.
    4.  Kitchen waste, plant clippings etc all make up the wet ingredients
    5.  A bin works for those who do not have enough space for a three bay compost system which is a really good way of composting large amounts.
    6.  You can grow certain plants as compost activators, such as lemongrass or this comfrey, or find seaweed on the beach, but check with your local council if this is allowed.

By africanaussie

I will be sharing the little things we can all do to make this wonderful world a cleaner, greener place to live.

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