Who doesn’t love compost? It’s the key to successful organic gardening, and it's a delight to see how it works. I first established my latest vegie patch 4 years ago, and over that time I have watched what was a fairly sad and impoverished soil transform into a super soil, rich in nutrients and teaming with worms and micro-organisms and it’s all due to barrow load after barrow load of good homemade compost. It's pure joy.
I make ‘heaps’ of it! And summer is when I really pick up production. There’s just so much good composting gear on offer, it’s all free and I don’t have to go far to get it. For starters, I have an endless supply of grass clippings … not just from my yard, but from my neighbours too (failure to talk them into making their own compost has had some benefits). And to make it as easy as possible for them, I have created bays by the fence where they can tip their loads straight in.
Then there’s the plant trimmings… everything grows like mad in summer… especially vines, shrubs and tropical ornamentals like heliconias and gingers. Regular trimming of soft sappy growth helps to feed all those hungry worms in my compost heaps while keeping these plants looking clean and growing vigorously. Anything that’s a bit woody gets chopped into smaller pieces so they break down quicker… sometimes I’ll run the mower over them to shred them even finer.
A big summer downpour of rain brings on even more options… weeds that can be easily pulled or chipped as well as leaves and other organic debris that can be raked from footpaths, drains and local parks. It’s all too good to waste, so go and get it!
You don’t have to have proper composting bays to take advantage of this summer abundance of composting materials… just find a free space in your yard or garden beds and start piling it up. And remember, a good compost is like a good lasagna… it needs layers of a variety of ingredients to make it work. Keep your compost moist too… that’ll keep the microrganisms happy and help built up the heat needed to break everything down. Don’t let it get too wet and soggy… cover it when there’s a lot of rain about. And when you’re feeling energetic, grab the garden fork and give it a good turn to aerate it and help it break down even quicker… you know it’s good for you!
First published: December 2011