Composting involves the process of breaking down raw organic material (such as leaves and kitchen scraps) into a product called ‘Humus’ which is then added back to the soil to enhance the soil’s health.
By doing this, a gardener can enhance the nutrient level of the soil, reduce landfill waste material at local dumps, and helps the soil life (such as earthworms and other beneficial organisms).
There are three main methods of composting used these days.
- No-dig, no-turn, hole in the ground
- Heap method
1. No-dig, no-turn, hole in the ground
Raw organic matter is dropped into a single hole in the ground that over time slowly breaks down. This method will require new holes to be dug once the first hole is ‘filled’.
This is the slowest of the 3 methods and sometimes produces unpleasant smells.
Compost humus can be achieved in approx. 3 months or more.
2. Heap method
Raw organic matter is placed on a heap usually in layers. Time allows the mulch to ‘mature’ over a few months with regular digging over of the material to ensure uniformity of heat and moisture. If done correctly this is an excellent method of composting and is by far the most popular.
The secret for success is correct ratios of oxygen, moisture, carbon and nitrogen.
Compost Bins currently for sale from garden centres and councils fall into this category.
Another variation includes just piling grass clippings into a heap, and adding extra raw organic matter.
Traditional heap methods, have three side walls to allow containment of the compost and access from the front for ease of digging.
Composted humus can be achieved in 1-3 months.
Regarded as the fastest method to create the perfect compost humus.
These are barrel-like structures that allow raw materials to be added, then periodically spun/tumbled.
The spinning maximises aeration thereby speeding up the composting process.
The secret to success is correct moisture, carbon and nitrogen.
Compost bums can be achieved in 2-4 weeks.
For more information on composting, look for organic magazines and books.
Refer to subTropical Gardening magazine - Australia's only dedicated quarterly publication for serious gardeners in warm climates - www.stgmagazine.com.au