By Susan Hely
magazine, April edition
Susan Hely is a compost true believer
People I know fall into two groups – those that compost and those that don’t. A friend shudders at the word compost as she can’t stomach the mess. While I’m not crazy about opening the lids on my worm farms and compost bins, I love the efficiency of organic waste broken down to rich fertiliser that is free for my garden.
Instead of sending it off to landfill, I put everything from tea leaves to vegetable and fruit scraps, eggshells, garden clippings, weeds, newspapers and cardboard into the compost bin. I recently poured in a bottle of out-of-date fish sauce. All up around 50% of household waste goes there.
The problem with organic waste going to landfill is that without oxygen it breaks down and turns into greenhouse gases – methane (54%) and carbon dioxide (40%). It forms a toxic mix known as leachate that seeps into the ground and down into the waterways.
For years I had one compost bin but compost takes a couple of months to break down. I have added another compost bin and two worm farms for liquid compost and casings. I recently invested $379 in a slick compost bin called Aerobin and I haven’t looked back.
You see, my garden thrives on compost. The micro-organisms make my sandy, nutrient-deficient soil healthier. Did you know that there are more micro-organisms in a teaspoon of soil than there are humans on the planet?
Ailing plants spring to life with a sprinkling of compost and liquid from the worm farm. More buds and fruit appear after a dosing of compost. The insects stay away from healthy plants and I spend less on bags of fertiliser and an array of pesticides. My garden is thick with passionfruit vines, bananas, sweet potatoes, olives and much more – largely due to unusually high rainfall and partly to compost.
Step by step
You can buy a compost bin or make your own using an old garbage bin, wooden boxes or build a simple pit. Some local councils give away compost bins and worm farms with a course on composting.
The winning formula for compost bins is layers of green materials (providing nitrogen) with layers of brown (carbon). The green materials are vegetable scraps and weeds while the brown are dry leaves, straw and newspapers. Some people add manure and lime. Keep the compost as wet as a damp sponge by adding moisture.
Regularly turn the mixture to oxidise the carbon and boost the decomposition.
If your compost loses its heat or becomes smelly and damp, a common cause is too much food and not enough dry matter. After 15 years of a simple compost bin, I bought an Aerobin and haven’t looked back. I no longer have to stir the compost. It is insulated, helping the biomass heat up and break down much faster. It has side doors that allow the compost to be efficiently removed. Check out
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