Friday, 21 April 2017

Making Compost While the Sun Shines

"Compost is proof that there is life after death." ~Unknown

This is the starting point for the layered compost. Tumbling compost bin is
in the background.

Making compost is primarily about making good humus. A secondary benefit is that it helps recycle waste. Additionally, making my own compost saves money as buying commercial compost becomes expensive when large quantities are needed.  
Ideally a compost heap will be big. At least one square metre by one metre high is needed.  This will help the pile generate enough heat to kill any weed seeds.  

If you haven't made compost before you will be amazed by how much the pile reduces as it breaks down. As a general rule, a one metre square by one metre high pile of compost will break down to about 30 cm high by the time it is ready to use. This will make about one third of a cubic meter to spread on your garden. This amount doesn't really go that far if you are living on acreage or have a big suburban garden.

Shredded paper added to the compost pile

Now, I am not always strict about my composting methods, and I do use several different composting bins to store organic matter. I have tumbling compost bins to store food scraps. I have a black compost bin that sits on the ground which often only contains brown grass clippings . These grass clippings still break down over time. 

Whenever I can though, I get serious about composting. When this happens I make a proper layered compost pile.

So my layers are mostly brown (carbon) and green (nitrogen).  I do also add manure pellets as I don't have any manure to collect on site. I also use some soil or preferably compost as a starter in the pile. Other things I use are bran and molasses as both seem to help the pile break down quicker for me.

This is a photo of the 'ingredients' I used in a previous layered compost pile.
In the photo can be seen grass clippings, shrub trimmings that have been run over
with a mower, lucerne or sugar cane mulch ( I can't remember which),
manure, bran in the yellow bucket and molasses in the bottle.

So what sort of things do I use for the brown content? Leaves, dry grass, newspaper, shredded paper, mulched branch cuttings, lucerne, sugarcane mulch. Things of that sort.

For the green I use freshly cut grass. Sometimes I may add hedge and shrub trimmings that have been put on the ground and run over with the mower.  Some people add kitchen waste to this layer but that is something I choose not to do. Animal manure can also be added to this layer.

Don made our compost bin from recycled fence panels. We had been gifted these old fence panels by a local farmer a couple of years ago.

If my compost heats up to somewhere between 50 and 65 degrees Celsius, most weed seed and pathogens should be destroyed. My aim is to create dark, friable, sweet smelling humus. By sweet smelling I mean fresh and woodsy.


  1. Thank you!!!!

    My son/family next door, have just gotten chicks. And he wants to start a compost pile too. My husband has been researching the way to make the "fencing." They will both enjoy seeing this post.

    Again thank you!

    Luna Crone

    1. We are wanting to get some chickens too, sometime in the next couple of months hopefully. I am really looking forward to the fresh eggs and manure and chookie pest management. First though we need to concentrate on the training of two young kelpie/collie pups and then we need to spend some time re-organising the space in our garage.

  2. I woke up to the sound of light rain on the roof this morning, Sherri. No need for watering my seedlings today but I'll still be out in the garden still. You are right - compost can become very expensive if you have to buy it in. Compost is something we need to make a lot more of here too. We have two tumblers, a worm farm and I've recently built two small cylinders out of chicken wire we had here where I'm just putting layers of green/brown material. It will take a long while to break down but after it does I'll be planting on top of where those cylinders are currently sitting. I'm in no hurry! There's leaves from the plane trees (along next door's fenceline) that are beginning to drop so they will be raked up and stored for adding to compost tumblers - this is the brown layer that balances out the veggie scraps we put in the tumblers. Last weekend, we made a little investment and bought a mulcher to turn our shrub & native ginger prunings into finer material so it can be returned to the garden and break down more readily. I think fresh compost smells beautiful, like the Earth! Meg:)

  3. We have had some light showers too Meg. I am managing to dry some washing in between the showers. We have shredder/mulcher too. It is very useful, I especially like to send the dead banana leaves through the mulcher.

  4. I love composting and firmly believe that rot comes before recycle. Was staying somewhere recently that didn't have a compost bin. Couldn't believe how much went into the rubbish and also realised that l compost nearly everything.

    1. Good on you Jay. Every bit we can stop going to landfill saves the environment. It also makes so much sense from a home economics standpoint. As we spend so much of our income to bring goods into our homes the more we reuse the more economical it is.

  5. Love the recycling, both in the compost, and your recycled fence bin. We use to make compost in a heap, but never really had enough stuff to make a big enough pile. So now we have a compost pit, behind our bananas. We just dump everything in there, and let it feed the bananas.

    Anything you can do though, is better than having it carted off to the tip. All those nutrients are best served on your land. :)

  6. A compost pit is a great idea.

    We do have a lot of material we can use for composting. I now have the opportunity to make so much more than I have in the past.