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Making good compost..

 

Compost can be made in many different ways for many different reasons. There are a few standard tips for making a compost that ‘works’ weather you are making compost for fertiliser, waste management or for a starter culture for compost tea or compost extraction.
 
Moisture
The organisms in the compost pile that will be breaking down the raw materials need adequate moisture to function. Without it they go into stasis or die. Too much water is not beneficial either. A tarp on a compost pile is a good idea in the rain - largely because the excess water cools the pile down too much.
 
Aeration
There are two ways to go here. Aerobic (with oxygen) or anaerobic (without oxygen). Aerobic processes are much faster and much less volatile. To keep the process aerobic - you must make sure you have enough different sizes of materials in the pile to allow airflow. For example - building the pile on a base of sticks and containing the pile with an open material such as a wire mesh or just straight piles on the ground. Vermin control is another issue - and is the reason why compost barrels in urban areas are closed and of the ground. It is very difficult to keep compost in containers like these from turning anaerobic (acidic).
 
2-of-the-Compost-Heaps-Marc 
Open air compost piles with straw ‘caps’ around the outside.
If the pile gets to a temperature over 65oC you need to turn it straight away to maintain aerobic conditions.
 
 
 
Jacks-compost-pile            temp-64-web
1m3 compost pile made for brewing a good compost tea - using 3.5 gauge wire in a 100mm x 75mm mesh.
 
Carbon to Nitrogen ration of 30:1
Thirty (30) parts carbon to one (1) part nitrogen. Good sources of carbon are shredded paper, straw, dry woody weeds, wood shavings, autumn leaves. Saw dust that is too fine is not so good in the aerobic compost pile because it does not allow very good penetration of water or moisture.
Good sources of nitrogen are: green lawn clippings, manure (by animals that have not been recently drenched), green leafy vegetables and leaves, prunings, coffee grounds, hay (as opposed to straw).
 
     green-waste-at-the-tip              green-lawn-clippings              Coffee-grounds
 
There are loads of resources at the tip... If you are going to use lawn clippings, collect them on the day you make the pile. If you collect them the day before - spread them out on the ground so they do not start generating heat until they are in your compost pile. Coffee grounds are an excellent source of nitrogen and offer good diversity to the pile. The more diversity of ingredients in the pile - the more diversity of organisms in the compost!
 
Temperature (pathogen control)
The temperature of a compost pile is most definitely not governed by the sun. The temperature is, of course, a result of metabolic heat - generated by the organisms that are feeding on the foods you provided for them and multiplying in your perfect conditions. You need to monitor the temperature for two important reasons. One is to make sure the pile stays aerobic (if you have chosen to make aerobic compost), the other - is to ‘heat treat’ the pile so that pathogenic organisms and weed seeds are killed. If a pile is over 650C - aerobic
organisms are killed off. Video coming soon with more insights into how to make good compost.
 
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