Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How to make Excellent Garden Compost - Living in Australia series

I was tempted to use a rude word to describe this - but I'll leave the obscenities for my accountant. :)

Living in Australia, most Singaporeans dream of buying a big home with a big garden.

What they fail to realize is that gardeners here are paid $20 - $30 an hour. And it usually takes about 3+ hours a day to make your garden look good. Real Good.

See the photo. That's the front part of my garden awhile ago. It took me personally a good three months plus over $500 in seeds to get that effect. And what an effect it is - it even totally awestruck TT Quah, one of the best preachers here.

But more to composting. Why compost? Because you need good organic material for your garden. Often the best way is to - do it yourself - so that you can eliminate adding extra weeds to your garden.

Sure, you can get free compost, or even pay for it. Its about $3 for 10kg - which sounds like a lot but actually isn't once you spread it onto the garden). However, invariably you'll be introducing new nasty weeds into your garden.

If you do it yourself - you can control what your compost has. The main thing to put into your compost bin are finely minced up garden clippings - with the same consistency of your lawn mower's clippings. It would help if you mow your lawn regularly- not only does it prevent the weeds from seeding - but mowing it regularly will give you compost material that does not contain weed seeds.

So how does it work? The finely minced up organic material kept in this dark container- will slowly decompose. The minute organic bugs will happily eat away - so long as its all nicely minced up for them. Adding earth worms will hasten the process and add extra joy to the compost power. As the worms chew and digest the organic material - they will leave behind an extremely good garden soil. It does not stink and its extremely rich in plant nutrients. In fact, good completed garden compost has no odor and smells very fresh.

The best stuff to put in are lawn clippings (that contain not much seeds), leaves, machine shredded black/white newspaper, hedge clippings etc..

Once you filled up the bin, close the lid and wait. The whole process should take about 2 - 3 months or so - depending on how well you did your compost. The heat generated inside the compost bin should also kill whatever garden seeds and weeds that got in. Whatever you do, do not throw in big and hard stuff like wood branches, etc..

If you throw in anything bigger or non-organic it won't work and will go wrong. You're going to end up with a bin filled with matted hard crap. So DO NOT throw in bones, egg shells, tree branches, twigs, hard plant stems, glossy paper, stone, nuclear waste, clothes hangers, cigarette butts, clothes, depleted uranium ammo, unshredded stacks of newspapers, and worse of all plastic bags.

They just won't break down at all, they WON'T! They'll just turn dry and start to fossilize. They'll also bind together to hinder the decomposition process and ruin everything. For goodness sake look at the worm, its got a tiny mouth- how do you expect it (and its microscopic companion buddies) to chew thru that big hefty cardboard sheet!? Its like giving a baby steak and chunky beef to eat.

If you work in an office and have access to shredded paper documents, it works wonders for the compost bin. All the endless garbage that they spew out during those mind boring committee meetings, CEO's memos, and human resource newsletters turns into excellent crap. But only if you shred them. If you throw them in unshredded- it will just overwhelm the compost bin and shut down the decomposition process, ie. constipation. lol.

I guess you could throw in whole fruits though. Apples, Watermelon rinds, etc.. But don't throw in citrus fruits ie. oranges, lemons, or even their skins, etc.. The worms hate them.

(Update: Jeremy just reminded me that chillies and capsicum are also not appropriate for compost bins. I guess the same goes for peppers, spicies, curry, etc.. They'll just kill the worms.)

Avoid throwing in cooked waste food though, gravy, fried rice, leftover pizza, KFC, especially meat. It will attract rats and maggots.

Is setting up a compost bin easy to do? Sure it is. But you have to be careful what you put inside- and where you position the compost bin. Put it next to a west facing wall and the Sun will kill the earthworms inside and you'll have a horrible mess.

You can get commercial (plastic) compost bins- that are about $50.  But basically you need something to contain the compost, and help it retain heat and moisture at the same time. Think of a bottomless pot- with a lid on top. You can't use a garden bin- its too tight and the oxygen will run out and the worms will die. So I guess you can build one yourself out of stone and wood.

Now did I make myself clear?


Althea Wong said...

if only i had a garden, i'd definitely try making my own compose.

Jeremy N said...

Don't use capsicums and capsicum scraps. Worms don't like capsicum at all. Same goes for chilli, but I seem to be the only Asian born that I know of that throws away chilli.

Yauming YMC said...

Yeah chillies and capsicums are absolutely no go. Same goes for pepper or spicy stuff- that'd just kill the worms.