A number items of interest are featured below.
“Two handfuls of healthy soil contain more living organisms than there are people on the earth. What these beings are and what they can be doing is difficult to even begin to comprehend, but it helps to realise that even though they are many, they work as one.”
Composting Awareness Week
This week, from 4 – 10 May, is international Composting Awareness Week (ICAW)
Almost half of the rubbish bin in the average household consists of kitchen and garden organic materials. 3% of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from organic material rotting anearobically in landfills producing methane gas (which has 25 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide). Most of this material can be composted. Direct sequestration of this organic material greatly increases carbon in the soil reducing the effects of climate change.
Turning food scraps and organic garden waste into compost can:
- Improve soil quality and garden vitality by releasing rich nutrients into the soil.
- Suppress plant diseases and pests, helping to reduce or eliminates the need for chemical fertilisers and manures
- Reduce the amount of organic waste going to landfill therefore preventing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Help soils retain moisture
- Help absorb and filter runoff, protecting streams from erosion and pollution.
A compost recipe:
Add the ingredients layer by layer, mixing as you can.
1. Brown material (leaves, hay, dry matter) – this cellulose material is the carbohydrate or “energy” food for the compost micro-organisms, who digest it to get the energy for their work.
2. Green material (grass, vegetable waste, manure, fertiliser) – which contains nitrogen compounds that are important in the growth of the micro-organisms. Layer the ingredients and mix with your fork to avoid odors.
3. Soil or old compost – is full of micro-organisms that kick off the process! Although composting will work without the addition of soil or old compost it helps speed up the process.
4. Ensure adequate moisture inside the compost pile. Water and stir the pile as you build it. Bear in mind that piles can get too wet – you might need to cover the compost during rainy periods.
5. Oxygen is required for the “slow fire” called composting. Without air, any biological activity will be severely limited and a shift to unhealthy bacteria may occur.
Mix all these ingredients and turn as you can. If the pile is cool but hasn’t turned to humus yet, it needs to be turned. A well built compost pile can get quite hot, killing weed seeds and pathogens in manure.
What to add in your compost bin:
Vegetable and fruit scraps, vegetable oil, prunings and lawn clippings, tea bags and coffee, grounds, vacuum dust, shredded paper and cardboard, used potting mix, egg shells, flowers.
What not to add in your compost bin:
Meat and bones, dairy products, diseased plants, fat, magazines, large branches, weeds that have seeds or underground stems, sawdust from treated timber, pet droppings, synthetic chemicals.
Many councils around Australia offer a collection service for garden materials. This material is professionally processed into compost-based products such as soil conditioners, mulches, garden soils, top dressing soils and potting mixes.