Monday, August 14, 2017

It was a dirty job, and I did it ...

And now, for my most irrelevant and deceptive opening photo to a gardening blog ...

Isn't this helleborus flower nice? It's a bit floppy eared and misshapen, but it is a new addition to our garden, springing into showbiz mode from a helleborus plant which just self-seeded into life in a new spot a year or so ago. Hellebores like to do this "traaa-daaa" stuff, and they are well-known for producing new, sometimes-wonderful and sometimes-weird, flowers from random seedlings.

Why is this irrelevant and deceptive? Well, it has nothing to do with compost, and that's what this blog post is actually all about. 

Last Saturday I spent more than an hour shovelling compost — lots of compost — from one bin to another. It was a dirty job, I was the only one prepared to do it, and it was all very worthwhile. Its main drawback as a blog topic is extremely ugly and dull photographs ... hence the helleborus to start ...

Pictured below is my ancient black "Dalek" compost bin now filled to the brim with beautiful, ready-to-use compost, which I made in my much more efficient tumbler compost bin.
Because you can spin it to aerate the compost, the tumbler bin breaks down the organic matter fairly quickly, but it's a devil of a job getting to the made compost inside the tumbler. So, once every 18 months or so, I do the "Big Transfer" job using a shovel and trug — and garden gloves — and all the made compost is moved over from the tumbler to the Dalek, where it is easy-peasy to scoop into a bucket and add to my vegie beds.

And now for an even more boring photo!

Here's the almost-empty tumbler bin, ready for me to add loads and loads and loads of clippings from the garden and vegie and fruit peelings from the kitchen. I always leave a small amount of made compost in the bottom of the tumbler as a "starter culture", as it has worms and all kinds of helpful bacteria down there that will multiply like crazy and get the composting process roaring along again.

And so that's what I did on Saturday. Nobody noticed, not even Pam, and when I pointed out to her what a useful job it was, she still wasn't especially impressed. Just another one of my peculiar enthusiasms.

I don't blame her. Compost is pretty boring, even if it is one of the most essential jobs you can do to improve your soil in the long run (not to mention earning brownie points for recycling, which I hope are eventually redeemable at Heaven's Pearly Gates).

Maybe I should see if there is a special society of unheralded compost makers that I could join? No, I'm sure they'd be really boring and would only want to talk about compost, which is too much for even me. I'm happy to talk compost once every 18 months. That's enough.

Next posting, I promise will have nicer photos and be about vegies and flowers, probably ... although I do have some thoughts on mulch I could share ...


Therese said...

Hi Jamie,
I have tried the tumbler to make compost. It was one big stinking failure!The stuff did not brake down but was wet and horrible. I cleaned the tumbler and returned it to Aldi. So, what is your secret????

Jamie said...

Hi Therese, I hope you and Peter are well.

One "trick" with all compost is to add some very dry stuff to it regularly. What I do every week or two is grab a handful or two of my sugar cane mulch from the bag and add it to the mix. This balances out the wet-dry ingredients. All dried leaves that I rake up go into the bin as well.

I find that most of us who try to do composting do so by adding kitchen scraps such as peelings etc from vegies and fruits, so they tend to be very "wet" ingredients as they break down. When they are too wet they turn into awful smelly sludge that will never make compost.

It's a bit like baking a cake. The sugar cane mulch is the flour, and the fruit/vegie scraps are the eggs. You need to get the balance right to "bake" a nice compost "cake".