Shortcuts to better soil

Easy composting
Photo: Phil Dudman

I love making compost, but when you think about it, there are so many processes involved… setting up an area to do the composting, building the compost bays, collecting ingredients, turning and watering the heap and then shoveling it all into barrows before it finally makes it to the garden bed. The other thing that troubles me about traditional composting is the loss of nutrients and beneficial microbial activity that occurs during the actual composting process… have you ever noticed the best pumpkins and tomatoes are often the ones growing out of that pile of semi-composted material in the corner?

I’d like to propose you try a simple technique that cuts out some of the laborious steps in composting while making the most of any goodness that is released… directly where it can be put to best use… in your garden bed. All it involves is making a cylinder of chicken wire to house your compostable materials wherever you want to increase soil fertility… in the vegie patch or under a fruit tree. Position your cylinder and use a couple of stakes to hold it in place then start piling in your organic matter in layers… dried leaves, grass clippings, kitchen scraps… whatever you’ve got, and be sure to give it a good water and sprinkle a little organic fertiliser every few layers.

Think about making use of the pile of organic materials as a growing medium. Throw in a few spuds, and keep piling more materials around them as they shoot, to encourage more roots and potentially more potatoes. As the materials break down, all the nutrients, microbes and moisture are released into the surrounding soil… so plant something at the base, such as lettuce or silver beet to soak it all up. You can also make use of the frame to support trailing and climbing plants such as cucumber or snow pea.

Keep watering and feeding your mobile compost cylinder with organic matter and fertiliser, then once you’ve harvested the spuds and other crops growing around it, lift up the cylinder, kick the compost pile to spread it around the bed and then set up the system next to it to start the process over again. It’s lazy but very effective!

If you like the sound of Phil’s shortcuts to improving your soil, you can hear more when he presents his ideas at the inaugural Celebrity Garden School in Brisbane on Oct 30th 2013. He’ll be joined by ABC Gardening Australia presenter and native plant expert Angus Stewart, top-selling organic author Annette McFarlane and OG’s organic cook Julie Ray. Bookings are essential: Celebrity Garden School

First published: October 2013

Related topics

Soil & Compost, Compost & soil
View all

More articles by Phil Dudman