We get this question a lot – why not just use a compost heap?
Well, we did that, but in the end went back to a very old method that works better for us. We started out in a little place with a small backyard and composting was easier said than done. We found in practice it required a critical mass of space and time we just couldn’t scale down. Now we probably wouldn’t go back. Whether you have food waste, garden green waste, or even just a great Bokashi System in your kitchen There IS an alternative.
Composted organics are vital to soil health. They are nutritious, porous, conditioning, structural, renewable and available to plants – the very stuff needed to feed yummy veg. It’s a totally good news story. #happydays
Composting is great in theory, but doesn’t come about by chance. It can be much harder to achieve in practice and take a lot more time, volume and management than well-meaning shows on tv might suggest. The reality can be messy, smelly, unbalanced, burdensome, slow and ultimately ineffective. #sadface
Our job is to make compost that is attractive to the most helpful microbiome (population of micro-organisms and tiny critters in soil). The process is better for plants if that little village is AEROBIC (airy, using oxygen) rather than ANAEROBIC (stale and compacted).
Mushy and smells like farts – ANAEROBIC
Fluffy and smells like fresh soil – AEROBIC
To get the plant-friendly aerobic village working, composting needs – OXYGEN, MOISTURE, NUTRIENTS, HEAT and TIME.
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- OXYGEN – requires lots of turning the heap, fluffing, balancing wet to dry ingredients and tinkering about. There are no shortcuts.
- HEAT – to keep the middle part of the heap warm enough (37 C+), it must be bigger than a cubic metre. Turning gives outside bits a turn in the warm centre. Any smaller and it just won’t break down properly. If you put weed seeds in it, even hotter 60 C+ is to pasteurise it. That can be metres and metres of material.
- INGREDIENTS BALANCE – Carbon and nitrogen are both important. In practice, this means the dry garden/paper waste mixed with the wet kitchen scraps in balanced measure.
- MOISTURE – too dry, and it just won’t break down because the micro village dies. Too wet, and the air can’t circulate. Attention is required to keep in the Goldilocks zone.
- TIME – at best, it is weeks until you strike gold. In cooler climates and winter months, it is months or even a year plus. Can you wait? In our experience, it takes 10 cubic metres of raw ingredients to make 1 cubic metre of good compost. That’s a lot.